Dear Dr. Meg,
I am not sure if you are able to answer these are not, but I must say I love your books. I have a 3-year-old (4 in December) girl who is incredibly well behaved until bedtime. It is a daily battle and she will scream in her room for an hour or two every night. Any thoughts?
Troubled At Bedtime
Dear Troubled At Bedtime,
Bedtime issues in kids are tough but I want to reassure you that they are very common and don’t mean that there is anything seriously wrong with your daughter. Here are a couple of thoughts.
First, do you think that your daughter is afraid of her room or of being alone? Many children who live in large homes or who sleep on a different floor from their parents don’t like being far away from their parents. If this is the case, then either move her closer to your room or make some changes in her room like: put a new lamp in there, new stuffed animals or anything that would make her room cozier and more comfortable. Also, if she has an older sibling, I would have her share a room.
If these are not options and you think she just doesn’t want to be alone, then you could try putting a roll away bed or a sleeping bag in your bedroom. Put the toll away in the corner of the room and try putting her to bed there. Once the screaming goes away, then put her back in her own room. I know that this seems like you are rewarding her, but in my experience, many children are afraid of the dark and once you get rid of the fear, they fall asleep much easier.
If you believe that she isn’t afraid and that she’s just developed a bad habit, then I would stay the course. Put her to bed with a short (15 minute) routine each night. When it is time to leave, try playing a CD with a story on it that she has to listen to. This will help her focus on the story, not on you being gone.
Keep the routine the same and then when it’s time to leave, just go. Don’t keep going back into the room or else you will lengthen the time that she screams. I know this seems cruel, but if her screaming were simply to get your attention, then I would let her cry it out. It really will stop because if she is simply having temper tantrums at night, once she realizes they won’t work, she’ll stop. Hang in there.