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My 21 month old has had a very regular bed time routine for a long time now: dinner > bath > read books > sing a song > lay down in crib (awake) > say goodnight, love you, and leave the room. This has worked fine for a long time. She often lays in bed awake for up to an hour chatting with herself but eventually falls asleep.

The last couple of weeks, things have completely changed. She protests going to sleep by begging for "one more book!" over and over until I finally give in and turn on the light. I have a relatively low cry tolerance but I do try for a while to keep the light off and calm her down (I don't like putting her in bed if she's in the middle of a hard cry). After a while I eventually give in to help calm her down because she's just hysterical, crying bloody murder.

The weird thing is that she doesn't seem to protest at all with my husband or with grandma (at nap time). And our routine is exactly the same. Why is this only an issue with me?

Additional notes:

  • there is nothing significant that has changed and I feel we're doing all the best practices (dark room, regular bedtime routine, etc).
  • I've been the primary parent to put her to bed her entire life since my husband's schedule is pretty crazy. Luckily for the last week, he's made it home in time for bed time and has taken over the bedtime routine.
  • once asleep, she stays asleep until mornin.
  • she concisely naps for about 2hrs during the day

Also, I found this question but this points at the parent bringing the toddler into their room and neither of us do this because she has never slept well with us in bed.

  • Does she seem afraid or happy/excited when she's performing this behavior? – nick012000 Jul 14 at 17:06
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First: You're doing a great job. New parents often don't hear that enough.

It's difficult to put a specific reason on why, but here are some things to consider:

  • You are mom. Children always have a special relationship with mom that doesn't transfer to other people. She may act differently when you put her to bed, because if you're there, that means you are available. If you're not actually there at bedtime, then she might not consider crying for you. (Eventually she will figure it out, for example my 3.5 year old sometimes still cries for mom even if mom has explained that she has to go out before bedtime and has already said goodnight.)

  • Your daughter may need to reduce her daytime nap time. There are more factors here to consider, so she might not be ready yet, but to me laying awake for an hour means she's not quite tired enough at bedtime. My 3.5 year old is usually asleep in 10 minutes (the 7 year old takes a bit longer, but not an hour).

  • Like all things, this will change. When your husband has more chances to put her to bed, she might shift to preferring that he doesn't leave after the song. Right now she might be slightly uncomfortable with him doing bedtime and wants to hang on to you as long as she can when you do it.

It's great that you're trying to do everything "right", but as your daughter gets older you will find that she will start to tell (or show) you what's right for her. Parenting is a long-running game of adaptation and compromise. Your daughter's brain is growing much faster than yours is right now, and she's eager to fill it up and understand the world. Soon she'll be telling you how she wants the world to be.

Good luck, you'll get through this.

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    Thank you, this is encouraging. I hadn't thought about reducing day time sleep. She's playing all day, goes on walks etc albeit is not back in daycare yet so she's not as exhausted by the end of day. I'll keep an eye not that. – Afrodeezy Jul 10 at 3:21
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As Greg said You are doing a great job. There are always going to be bumps in the road.

It seems to me, that your kid wants to spend more time with you and more time with the fun books. Which is a reasonable thing to want. When you say no they get upset. Again this is a reasonable emotion to have, in a suitation like this.

But here's the thing, emotions are like the fuel that drives our engine, and gets us from A to B. As an adult we have learnt (hopefully!) to steer where we let our emotions take us. This is something that takes practice and your kid hasn't mastered yet. Reasonable given they are only 22 months old!

So imagine sitting in a car and all of a sudden the engine is reving and no one is steering. You freak out, the engine revs even more and you go careening all-over the place. This is the situation your kid is in. A small upset, builds and builds; and they end up hard crying.

They just haven't learnt to steer yet. However the good news is that they are old enough to start to learn! Although perhaps they have learnt a little bit already. That by letting themself get into a hard cry, they find when the dust settles, they are where they wanted to be. With another book, Hazzar!

Oh wait, that's not what you (OP) want though. Trying to get someone to take the emotional wheel while they are caught in a loop is very hard (Trust me as a parent I know!).

So I suggest you try something like this:

Before you start reading a story, talk through how you don't like how it feels when [your kids name] gets upset, after you say good night. And that "I don't think you like the feeling either, do you?" (You are building rapport, of a shared feeling).

Maybe ask them how it feels (Hint: being able to describe and understand one's own feelings, is valuable life skill as a kid and as an adult. It is also something that takes practice)

Then negotiate a deal. If your kid doesn't demand a another book after lights out, you will read them two books tonight. Ask if they like the idea of that. Once they agreed, tell them that if the break the deal, say that it will make you feel sad and you will not be able to have any stories tomorrow night. (Once you have got through this stage, you can move back to just 1 story/ night).

(Hint: Being able to negotiate it a super important life skill! Start practicing now. Make sure you let them get the better end of the deal sometimes so they are encouraged to practice)

Now this is the really hard part: You have to hold the line and not back down. (Be strong! You can do it!) Be kind and comfort them if they get into a hard cry state. It may take a few goes. (But in my experience not many).

Now just to be clear, I am not saying to try letting your kid cry themself to sleep. Doing that has been shown to be bad for their long term mental health. So comfort them, but don't back down from what you have negotiated with them.

As to why your kid behaves this way with you. You were probably the first one who your kid tried this gambit out on. Bad luck, sorry! Or maybe they tried with grandma and grandma just gave them 'that look' and your kid knew the 'one more book' just wouldn't happen. (Grandma has played this game before!)

Your doing well, keep heart.


Bonus tip: If you can get them to take some deep breaths when they are hard crying, it helps calm them down alot.

The trick I found is to practice when they are not upset. Make it a big game. Pull funny exaggerated faces as you breath in and blow out.

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    Thank you for the thoughtful response! These are great tips. I’ll give them a try! – Afrodeezy Jul 11 at 14:39

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