5 yr old Stepson having trouble going to bed with out tv before 10pm?

Christina - posted on 11/30/2013 ( 3 moms have responded )

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My Stepson spends 3-4 days out of the week with me and my boyfriend and whenever its time to go to bed all HELL breaks loose. After work I cook dinner and me and my boyfriend like to relax and watch a tv show or two. We only have one tv in the house so we watch tv in the living room and I put the laptop in the room with my SS to watch some cartoon on netflix and play with his toys in the room. Around 8:30pm I tell him that its almost time for bed and that we'll have to turn off the cartoons soon.

At about nine I tell him lights out and turn off all the lights in the room and tell him to put his toys away and lay down for bed and watch the movie he is watching. My bf usually backs me up but just chimes in "YES TIME FOR BED " or "LISTEN TO CHRISTINA." As soon as I turn off the lights though he FREAKS OUT and starts wailing, when I leave the room he turns on all the lights again and sits and plays with his toys still. Every 10 mins he comes out the rooms saying "Can I give my dad a hug?" "I love you" or "I need to tell you something." I tell him over and over again, love you too now please lay down, or not now its time for bed, please lay down, etc. When I finally tell him that's enough and I'm turning off the movie because he abused his privilege and did not lay down for bed he proceeds to SCREAM like he is being murder.

When I mean scream, I mean he throws him self around, tells us he hates us, to take him home to his mom (who we can never reach and sometimes she doesn't call for days), he'll run outside of the room and say that hes going to sleep in the living room and literally shrieks that he will not go to bed and he is gonna watch tv.

I know that me putting him down for bed with a movie is somewhat enabling him... however during the whole day that is the only time we can get away from him to relax and plus the movies he watches aren't completely useless, he is really fond of dinosaur documentaries and animal shows! He is perfectly fine up until the minute I turn off the movies to go to bed. If he falls asleep with the movie he is fine, if he isnt asleep before the movie ends he wants another and he will stay up ALL NIGHT SOMETIME UNTIL 2 AM until he goes to sleep!! My boyfriend barely helps, he'll chime in but usually when the screaming gets too loud my boyfriend will go into the living room and watch tv with him until he falls asleep sometimes staying with him until very late...

How can I tell him enough is enough without totally cutting off tv from him or having him through a fit! Im afraid he screams so loud that our neighbors will call the cops or think were abusing him!!

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Christina - posted on 11/30/2013

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Kelly! Thank you so much for your response, and actually I find 100% of what you said very helpful!

One thing i'm still concerned about is that if he goes to bed the whole house has to go to bed. If we put him to bed and stay in the living room watching tv, working on the computer or just talking he HAS to come into the living room too, he cannot just stay in the room and lay down. 8 pm is really early for my boyfriend and I to go to bed but I dont want to keep him up by staying up as well. I guess I just have to put my foot down and enforce what I say and insist that he stays in bed? Of course I have trouble with him listening to me and doing what I say so maybe that will be something I encourage my boyfriend to reinforce?

I will definitely encourage my bf to implement the 20 mins everyday just doing what my SS wants to do, WITHOUT TV of course lol I just dont want my SS to have a habit of relying on the tv/movies for the rest of the life..remember the good all days when we used to pay outside until it was time for bed and we just knocked out for the night?? ;) Once again thanks for your reply Kelly!! Really helpful...

Jodi - posted on 11/30/2013

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Yes, you are enabling him. You need to stop, otherwise of course he will keep doing this. Let him know that if he can't go to bed when asked, the TV will be banned altogether. And follow through with it. Also, just be aware that having the TV to watch before bed is probably stimulating his brain. A much better way to establish a healthy bed time routine is to read some books WITH him before bed and then maybe allow him 10 minutes to lay down quietly and read the book on his own (even if he can't read, he will "read").

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You need to swap the way you are doing it.
Instead of having him put away his toys and turn out the lights to watch a movie, have him turn the movie off, but still allow him a dim light and small toys.

Watching a screen - like a movie or video game - stimulates parts of our brain that inhibit serotonin and melatonin production. Serotonin and melatonin help us regulate our emotions and sleep, so when their production is inhibited, not only do his emotions go into overdrive, but he is unable to sleep. When this happens repeatedly, you have long term fatigue also contributing to the emotional outbursts.

9pm is a little late for bedtime for a 5 year old. Try turning all screens in the house off at 8pm. At 8:30, tuck him into bed and dim the lights. Tell him he can play with certain toys (stuffed animals, small action figures--nothing with lights or sounds, etc.) as long as he stays in his bed. Simple toys will not inhibit production of the hormones that he needs to sleep, so he will drift off naturally when he is tired.
If he gets out of bed, put him back. I find it helpful with my son to hang a list by the bed of all the things he needs to do before bed -- Hugs, Get a drink of water, Use the bathroom, etc. I also put a small notebook by the bed so that if my son thinks of something he needs to tell us, he can write it down and tell us in the morning.

Last but not least, you MUST get his father to stop watching TV with him until he falls asleep. This is teaching him that if he screams loud enough, dad will watch TV with him.
Honestly, it sounds like he wants some attention from you & dad--he is demonstrating all of the signs. In addition to the above, try to have his dad spend 20 minutes each afternoon focused 100% on the child. Let the child decide what to do, and follow his lead. I know it feels like the two of you are always focused on him until bedtime, but if you look at it from the child's perspective, you are always focused on other things and he is fighting for your attention. If he is confident he will get your attentions on a regular basis, he will stop fighting for it when you need to focus on other things. About 2 weeks into spending the 20 minutes a day with him, you will notice he is less clingy and more agreeable.

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