A: I’m exhausted from reading this letter, so my first bit of advice is simple: Let’s stop. Stop the chronic and constant changing of routines, the manipulation, the rewards, the consequences — all of it. Not only is it not working, but it’s also causing more harm. And there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with anything you’re doing (please, no guilt), it’s just time to let go of these strategies.
And please know that many families have been dealing with serious sleep issues. Many children simply aren’t tired enough to fall asleep. They haven’t played enough outside or run around with their buddies; they haven’t moved their bodies at the park; and they have been in front of too many screens. You’re not alone, and the questions I always ask are: Has the child moved their body, and have we stopped screens a couple of hours before bed?
Let’s get back to basics. What do people need to rest and sleep? They need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Is your home a safe place? (I have to ask, because many homes are not.) Have there been any big or small transitions? Do you use punishments, the threat of punishments or harsh consequences throughout the day? Do you threaten to take your presence away from him? These threats, while common in parenting, can cause a great deal of upset for preschoolers. People need to feel safe, and they do that by staying close to the ones they’re connected to. If you’re threatening to remove yourself from your son, he is staying in a low- or even high-level panic. His nervous system is jumpy, and you’ll see behaviors such as jumping out of bed to follow you, clinginess and crying, just to name a few.