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I love my daughter so much but she is destroying my marriage. I cannot get her to stay in any bedroom when it is time to sleep. When she was younger she would at least allow one of her brothers to lay down with her but now she demands daddy.

If I walk out of the room she starts screaming and crying as if someone was murdering her, shortly after she comes out of the room. This wouldn't be so bad if she went right to sleep but she takes an hour to fall asleep which ruins our night. To make things worse, lately she has started waking up in the middle of the night and if she realizes I am not there she resorts to screaming and crying then hunts me down.

I have tried walking her back calmly with her screaming and crying and immediately getting up hunting me down. We have stopped allowing her to watch any screens before bed. She used to drink warm milk before bed but she doesn't want that anymore.

What do you do with a daughter who will not stay in the room and screaming bloody murder?

Bedtime Routine:

  • We usually try turning off all screens 30min - 1hr before bed time.
  • Attempt to have any screen time before bed time light hearted, she is huge on those surprise egg youtube videos.
  • We do not have a big song and dance before bed, usually it is change her diaper, if she doesn't have PJ's on put them on her, and we have a short good night kiss tradition passed down.
  • "I love you", kiss, "Sweet Dreams", kiss, "Good Night", bunch of kisses! [Just in case anyone is looking for one :)]
  • She used to request her "binky" (pacifier) and a glass of warm milk but she hasn't asked for it in over a week (since she got sick, she is better now)
  • She then says "daddy, me" and pats the pillow to ask me to lay down. I have tried not entering the room, asking her if she wants mommy or one of her brothers but she will only accept me. (this is a love/hate thing lol)

Other Details:

  • She seems to always have a hard time breathing, her finger is always up her nose or blowing her nose.
  • She refuses all medication, liquid or chewables of any types. When she gets a fever the only thing we can do is give her a suppository. I wish she would take allergy medication, at times I can get her to chew one buts its rare.
  • She is big into monsters, Hotel Transylvania, Monster University, Monster Inc, Nightmare Before Christmas. I was leery at first but I kinda feel they teach her that monsters aren't anything to be afraid of since they kinda "humanize" them. She does watch other light hearted stuff as well though, more so than the monster flix.
  • She snores most of the time, she also seem to always uncover herself. I have tried dressing her lighter and putting less blankets on to ensure she isn't getting too hot.
  • Generally she stays asleep once asleep but lately she has been waking up looking for me.
  • She sleeps in our bed, she has a bed and we have tried laying her down in her bed but she just tosses and turns and moves around until we put her in our bed.
  • When she sleeps with me, most of the time she snuggles up so close to me, i usually turn on my side facing away from her so she can burrow into my back.
  • I attempt to put a pillow close to her when I sneak out so she still has a sensation of being next to someone.
  • She not only screams and cries but she gets up and leaves the room over and over again.
  • We got her a nightlight to see if that helps, only 1 day in with that, it is a subtle yellow dim light.

Hope this additional information helps answer my plea for help :P

~ exhausted father

Follow up: Daughter is 5yo now. She still falls asleep in our bed but if she wakes up when I am moving her she doesn't mind going to her own room. Finally getting personal time. Getting her to sleep has been easier as well. I unfortunately could not stay consistent nor patient enough to most of the suggestions here.

My recommendation is, do not start letting them sleep with you to begin with or you may be in for a long term damaging situation.

  • Welcome to the site! It might help if you give us an idea of her bedtime routine; that way those who answer can avoid suggesting something you're already doing or have tried. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Nov 4 '15 at 5:29
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    thanks @anongoodnurse i have added a bunch more details. i was trying to keep it short and simple so people would read it lol. – Tony Nov 4 '15 at 14:53
  • question: Why does she scream when you are not there when she waked up? Our kids, both of them, goes to our bed in the middle of the night. We do not prevent it. They usually don't wake us up. Does she scream because she knows you will reject her? Or she can't find her? To us, getting peace is the highest priority, and since they don't wake us up we all get our sleep this way. (Not addressing going to bed without you, that is a different topic). – Ida Nov 4 '15 at 19:24
  • @Ida, good question. She just started doing it this past week. I have to lay back down so she can go back to sleep. I have been lucky for the past 2 nights but she did it 4 days in a row last week. – Tony Nov 4 '15 at 21:02
  • Anyone reading this, I suggest not letting them even start. 4 years later and she still wants to sleep in my bed. I refuse most nights but it takes an hour or two for her to go to bed. I recent started letting her use a full size body pillow so she can imagine it is me and it seems to help a little but I would recommend just avoiding it all together. – Tony Jul 15 at 21:04
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My 3 year old developed this habit (needing us to sit in the room with him while he fell asleep). Having us in there was a double-edged sword, in that it would keep him from screaming (and waking his 3-month-old sister) but he'd interact with us (questions, want us to rub his back, etc) which kept him awake for an hour or more.

Over the last week or so, I started doing the whole bedtime routine, then when he lays down (when I would normally sit down with him) I told him I was going to stand outside his door for one minute, then come sit down. The first night I left his door cracked so he could see me. The second night I closed the door. Third night we made it 2 minutes, then 3. By the end of a week, he'd go over 5 minutes, just lying there calmly. I always made sure to go back in before he started fussing, so it wasn't seen as a reward/reaction for fussing.

Last weekend, our schedule didn't work for him to take a nap (he had been taking a 1.5-2.5 hour nap every day). So we figured rather than try to jam one in, we'd skip it and see what happened. Lo and behold, he didn't turn into a monster all afternoon. And the best part - when he went to bed, I stepped out for my 5+ minutes, and he fell asleep all on his own. I made sure to tell him that he could fall asleep while I was outside his room, so that he wouldn't wake up later and be upset that I hadn't come back.

We skipped the naps both Saturday and Sunday and it worked great. On Monday he was back at daycare and took a nap, so we were unsure how it would go. We did the same routine. He took a little longer, about 10 minutes, but fell asleep on his own.

So, the TL;DR version: Start working on baby steps - leave for 30 seconds, then extend it a bit each day. It might take 2 weeks or more before you get to 5 minutes. Once she's comfortable with 10 minutes or so, wear her out. Whether that's no nap, or going to the park then the swimming pool then a playground then for a walk - make sure she is physically exhausted when it's bedtime. And make sure you talk to her about how it's okay to fall asleep when you aren't there, to help combat the midnight waking and being upset that you aren't there.

It takes a lot longer to break the habit than it does to make it, but consistency is the key. And suddenly you'll have your evening back, and it will be wonderful, but you'll miss those snuggles too.

  • Nice suggestion I will have to give this one a whirl! – Tony Nov 4 '15 at 16:17
  • I really like this as an alternative to cry it out. – Ida Nov 4 '15 at 19:25
  • So I did start this process kinda last night. Currently we lay down together in our bed. Last night I laid her down in her bed, and I did not lay down with her. Instead I sat down near the door while she was laying down. She did not like it much... but she did eventually lay down. I was there for an hour and she didn't go to sleep. Though I consider it a win that i went so long without having to lay down with her. I will try and repeat this every night and work into the leaving the room part. I'll keep you updated. In the end, she ended up in our bed, but it was a small step forward. – Tony Nov 5 '15 at 15:05
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    @Tony I usually bring along a book to read while sitting in a doorway or hallway waiting for a toddler to sleep... and possibly also a pillow! – Acire Nov 5 '15 at 15:07
  • @Erica, good idea, I was on my phone with minimum brightness. I felt the nightlight would drown out the light but maybe it was making her anxious even though she wasn't moving so I will try a book. – Tony Nov 5 '15 at 15:18
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Well, here is what my doctor told me to do for my toddler and it worked. At the beginning, she couldn't sleep alone and our nights were horrible. Finally, she sleeps all the night and goes to her bed by herself (2.5 years old):

  • The hardest thing is to let her cry.
  • When it is time sleep, just put her in her bed without any routine : just a kiss, a song, or a story, but no light, no door open, no milk, no 24 plushes... and go ahead.
  • If she cries, go back after 1 minute and tell here you are here and that she has not to worry. Then, go back.
  • Wait 10 minutes, and if she still cries, go to see her again, just for a short moment, then get out of the room.
  • Next time, you'll have to wait 20 mins, then 30 mins. In my case, it worked after 20 minutes. It was difficult to let her cry (you think she suffers and/or could die, really), but kids are great actors.

Your daughter has a bad habit, and it takes 7 days to change. So, stay strong during 1 full week. You may explain her that you have to stay with your wife, your bed is not her bed, etc, but I think you should already have done that. If you repeat it again and again, she will finish to understand.

In brief, you have to stay firm. It may be difficult at the beginning, even in the middle of the night, but it is sadly the only way...

  • I like this answer, I will give it a try and see if we have any luck. I will probably let this stay open for a week and mark the best answer to see if anyone has other good feedback. – Tony Nov 4 '15 at 14:54
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    We tried this approach (aka cry it out) as well, and it's brutal. You have to read the kid and see how they are reacting. The classic cry it out plan says they'll only cry half as long each subsequent night - our second night was 15 minutes longer, which was a bad sign. We made it 4 nights before we gave up. Each kid is different and some are stubborn enough that this won't work before the parents break. – Drew Nov 4 '15 at 15:23
  • Sure, it may not works for all children. The goal is not to be brutal, but firm. Maybe you could prepare him, by telling him : tonight, you won't wake up at night, you'll sleep in your bed, you're old enough, etc, trying to turn it into a positive challenge for him. – Seb Nov 4 '15 at 16:07
  • I can handle the crying (sorta) but she does blood curdling screams and comes out of the room constantly :/ – Tony Nov 4 '15 at 21:03
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    In our experience, letting a child cry is only going to work if the parent is consistent in the rest of the child's life. The child absolutely understands the parents button and that the child eventually gets her/his way, then they will push that button for hours or days. Consistency is key, and start now, because inconsistency will result in you screaming blood curdling screams when she's a teen. :) – Lance Nov 7 '15 at 7:21
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About 2 years ago I saw something that might help you. I picked up my not quite 3 yo grandson from his daycare early one day. There were about 15 kids taking naps, all within about a year of his age. I asked the person in charge how she got them all to bed down and sleep at the same time. She said that when they wake up she gives them a candy if they had gone to sleep nicely. Now some of these kids were basically preverbal. But they all had figured it out. For a small amount of candy they happily went to sleep and when they woke up, they happily asked for their candy.

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Have you taken her to an ENT? I wonder if she has some sort of swollen tonsils or other physical reason her breathing is obstructed. If she experiences this it would be worse at night, and it might be causing her to panic. My 2 yr old daughter had tonsils so swollen she was snoring and sleeping in a contorted position with head thrown back because she couldn't breathe. Her primary care doctor said it was "nothing to worry about" and prescribed antibiotics, but an allergist that we took her to told us to take her immediately to an ENT. We did so and her tonsils and adenoids were removed and she immediately stopped snoring and had no more trouble sleeping.

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At the risk of sounding cliche'...

3 steps to a sleeping 2-6 year old... In THEIR bed:

  1. Run a warm bath and let them soak and play for 30 minutes before washing.

  2. Give them something warm to drink. Apple cider or warm milk (plain or flavored) are perfect.

  3. After they're clean and their tummies are nice and warm, tuck them into their bed with pajamas on and read to your child. Use the most soft, slow, sleepy voice and the longest, cuddliest, most boring book you can find. The "Little Bear" series, or "Peter Rabbit" are perfect choices.

With the breathing problem, please seek medical advice. But for the rest, this should work perfectly. A child that feels safe generally doesn't awaken to night terrors as often and being there while they fall asleep adds an element of security.

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