anyone know what i should do with severe bedtime issues?

Brittany - posted on 01/22/2012 ( 52 moms have responded )

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I have a 2 1/2 year old son who just in the last week has been throwing some very severe tantrum like fits towards bedtime. he used to just lay there and kind of cry for about 20 minutes until he fell asleep. but about a week ago, every time i lay him in bed in his room, he starts screaming "no" over and over and over and pinching himself and running himself into walls, etc, and crying out "mama" and "afraid" over and over again. his father was abusive during our marriage, but our divorce was finalized last april and my son hasn't seen him since, so i have no idea what is bringing this on, especially suddenly. if you have any idea of why he would be acting like this, please let me know because this is absolutely heartbreaking. i sent a video (mostly just sound) to my fiancee and he cried because it's so terrible

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Honestly, I already thought it sounded a little alarming that your son used to cry for 20 minutes before going to sleep. Even if it's not trauma, even if it's got nothing to do with his abusive father - I would always take my child's fears serious. I'm a co-sleeper anyway, but even if I wasn't, I think in light of what the two of you have been through I don't think I'd insist on him sleeping in his own room. Clearly he needs you.

Also, did you talk to him about it? My daughter is the same age and I can actually talk quite a bit to her about feelings and the like. Maybe do it during the day, a long time before bedtime, when he is still calm and in good spirits.

Cathy - posted on 01/24/2012

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My son did the same thing. He'd throw himself into such a fit he'd throw up and we'd be making the bed all over and rushing him back to the shower to get all the yuck off. We eventually gave into (1) all laying down together until he fell asleep and (2) when that didn't work we'd let him watch a movie until he fell asleep. We chose to compromise, as the getting so upset to make yourself sick routine did not bode well for any of us.

Now we make sure he gets plenty of 'running' time through a day so he's ready to sleep when it comes time for bed. He'll even tell us it is time for him to go to bed now!

Valerie - posted on 01/24/2012

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Have you tried sleeping with him for a while? A lot of kids are scared of the night for reasons we as adults don't realize or understand anymore. I remember being a kid (much older than yours) and fearing that someone would give me a shot in the middle of the night. This obviously is no longer an issue, but lots of kids are terrified of going to bed.



Also, do what you can to help make the transition to bed easier. Read happy books, cuddle, sing songs, whatever makes your kiddo happy. If he seems upset about something in the room, then help your child by acknowledging that his fears are valid to him. Check for monsters, spiders, or whatever. Reassure your child, even if it's just temporary, that he can always come to you during the night. If having your kid in your bed isn't an option, try putting a mattress on the floor next to your bed. Sometimes just being close to mom can help a lot.



Would soothing music help or having a tv on? I used to find it easier to sleep when I could hear my parents up doing things or if I had the tv on. Or maybe try some type of security object.



If you still can't seem to help or figure out what is causing the issue, maybe try a play therapist. They help younger kids with issues through play. The idea being that kids will act out their problems through play. This is something you can try to work on with your kiddo as well. Kids this age aren't good at verbalizing their feelings but might hint at a problem through their play. For example, a girl might say that her doll is sad because she misses daddy. Chances are, she's upset that daddy isn't there but its hard to say.



Good luck. I'm sure this is very hard for you.

Britt - posted on 01/22/2012

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when my child was that young i let them fall asleep on the couch then carried her to bed in her toddler bed, this really helped she was a heavy sleeper, (slept 10 hours)..wasn't relaly hard to trasition her to her bed as she got older.

Brittany - posted on 01/22/2012

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Ive tried a nightlight. Low, high, medium. Different colors. I've tried all sorts of the picture projecting ones. I've even tried no light with the door open, closed, partial everything.

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Jessica - posted on 01/30/2012

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Hmmmm. Sad. I'm thinkin also it is related to the abuse he saw or heard. My kids both slept with me(I'm a single mom). My 15 year old is now in her own bed of course lol. My 3 year old still sleeps in my bed, in my room. He dosent even have a bed yet. Had a crib, stopped using it around 9 months old:( so I got rid of it due to the space it took up and lack of use. Don't know what your situation is in terms of being single or having a partner but if it were me, my kids come first. So my kid would be in my bed and hubby, fiance, or boyfriend, gets the couch or guestroom(if that applies). So I guess I'm saying my only advise as I have never been faced with this problem: Take your child to bed with you in your bed. When he/she falls asleep, creep back out of the bed:) if you can:) Good Luck!!

Lorraine - posted on 01/29/2012

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An abusive father (to you) then no father, then a fiance. You did not mention if the fiance spends some nights at your home. If so it may be the child fears the mommie abuse again. Or that the fiance is there then gone again.

I dont know that I would advocate your little boy sleep with you at this time, but talking and showing pictures of the man in your life might be helpful and if you marry, he will be there full time. So it will not happen overnight, but in time he may adjust if the new man is calm and loving to you and your little boy. it will be a great help to have family there and talking to him. my best advice is to find some help from them .Grama, aunt, etc.

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My daughter started doing a similar thing after her brother was born. I just started this method and thus far it has worked for her. It doesn't always ellimiate the crying fits, but it does tone them down.



First off my daughter is in a twin sized bed on the floor. She refuses nightlights and demands we take them out of the room. So we got her a push lamp (like those closet lamps). So she can turn on that light (instead of the overhead) at night and nap. I also gave her board books in a basket for her to read.



At night after the nighttime routine is finished, we kiss her good night and remind her of her books and light. Then we leave the bedroom door open (with the one rule that she stays in bed). After about 20-45 minutes of her being quiet we check in on her. If she is asleep we close the door.

Amy - posted on 01/28/2012

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Definitely get him to the pediatrician. The severity of what you are describing points to something like PTSD. Who know what could have triggered it? He might have seen a man on the street that looks like his dad, wore a shirt similar to one his dad wore or even smelled something that triggered a memory. But like one mom already said, don't take no for an answer. You both have been through a lot and your all he has now. Dig in, bring out the mamma bear and advocate for him. If you hit a wall, find another doctor. Good luck!

Eileen - posted on 01/27/2012

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I tried just about everything and then a friend said "how about just asking how he wants to go to bed". So I did and then I put cards with the ideas on a board with Velcro and each night we would go through our steps... Put on our pjs, brush our teeth, fill our cup with water, pick out a story , use the toilet, wash hands, brush teeth and then the finale... Snuggle and read stories! It's been almost 2 yrs and I so enjoy bedtime! (which I used to dread) :). Good luck, you are a terrific Mommy!

Ada - posted on 01/27/2012

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I think,screening what he watches might help. Keeping him from watching scary scenes and telling him sweet bedtime stories would divert his memories.

He may have watched his dad being abusive ,would have been better if he didnt see them.It has already happened but with time those memories will fade away. Mum just try and occupy his mind with sweet stories,lovely pictures and ryhmes,....he will adjust with time.

Ashli - posted on 01/26/2012

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I know exactly how ur feeling I was experiencing the same thing with my 2 year old I was told it was to do with separation. Because ur husband has left he is scared that if he goes to sleep when he wakes up your going to be gone to. What I ended up doing was sitting in his room till he fell asleep. I also put 2 monitors in his room and the other 2 in my room so if he woke up I could hear him but he could also hear me I would just keep reminding him mummy is just hear took 2 months but worked so well

Joanna - posted on 01/26/2012

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I dont normally suggest this but I would let him sleep with you maybe consuilt a doctor there could be a caouse u are unaware of do hope it gets better for you. He seems afraid to be alone so just let him sleep in the same room as u or when he sleeps on the sofa let him sleep there.

Claire - posted on 01/26/2012

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Just one other thought does your son still afternoon naps? If so try stopping them it might help when it comes to bed time as he is so tired that will go to sleep a little easier xx

Claire - posted on 01/26/2012

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My heart goes out to you, my son is 3 and has ASD and part of this is getting up in the night this can be anything from 20 minutes to 3 hours so I feel for you, I agree with asking him what he is afraid of and if is unable to tell you maybe ask him to show you if it's something like the closet or under his bed because of monsters maybe you could try making a game of it and say 'let's blow these monsters away' and choose a place where he feels is far enough away to feel safe that they are not going to come back. If it's something more serious like flashback then you need to get help for him immediately if you getting help after dealing with being an abusive realitionship maybe you could speak to your therapist or if it's a support group the group lead and tell her what is happened with your little one I really hope this helps and wish you all the luck in world x

Michelle - posted on 01/25/2012

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I had the same problem! I started by reading my son a bed time story. It worked for awhile until he realized the routine. I had to get a rocking chair and rock him after. That worked as well. Then he told me he was scared so I put a night light in there. He still wasn't satisfied so I started laying by his bed. For awhile I waited until he fell alseep. Gradually I started getting out when I knew he was almost asleep. I also give him a drink before he goes to sleep. He is fine now but it took a lot of work. I can kiss him now and he goes to sleep on his own. Try these methods. It's hard work but better than hearing him freak out. I know what you're going through. Good luck. By the way my son is the same age.

Heather - posted on 01/25/2012

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I have a little guy, 3 1/2 yrs old and he is scared at bedtime now too. I don't get in his bed with him, but after we have read stories, I turn off the light and sing to him and rub his back. I sit next to his little toddler bed and sometimes lay my head on his pillow with him. He eventually goes to sleep and I don't disturb him as much when I get up and leave the room. He also has a nightlight. In the middle of the night, he almost always wakes up, afraid of the "monsters." I have compromised and made a little "bed" using a blanket and pillow on the floor that he can lay down on next to my side of the bed and he doesn't have to feel alone. I am able to get my sleep that way too, instead of having him sleep with me. I personally, would see if there is a counselor that he can talk to about his abusive father. That could be very traumatic and sometimes takes years to get past that sort of thing. My best wishes for you and your son.

Elizabeth - posted on 01/25/2012

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None of the comments I have read here address the bedtime ritual. Do you have one? Children can be put to bed without having to cry themselves to sleep. You may need to invest a little more time at bedtime for a while to help him settle, he clearly needs more or a better quality attention from you. Try a soothing bath with some lavender oil (just a teeny bit for the scent) and spend some time reading to him before bed. I would also suggest laying with him for a little while. Children's behavior is how they communicate when they do not know the words to use, even sometimes when they do know the words.

Tina - posted on 01/24/2012

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IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE HARMING ONES SELF AT ANY AGE, PLEASE GET THIS LITTLE GUY THE HELP THAT HE NEEDS AND DESERVES. SEEK HELP

Hella - posted on 01/24/2012

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Try to sleep with him. Maybe he just really don't want to be alone (who does?). Let him in your bed. It is not gonna hurt anybody, and maybe it gives him some confidence .

Alexandra - posted on 01/24/2012

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this is an age thing. So, this is what we did with our babies:

night light

white noise

established routine while talking about bed time - at the end of dinner "now we are going to play for a little bit and then we are going to bed", after playing for a little bit "now we are going to read a bit of a book and then we are going to prepare for bed", after reading the book "now we are going to change the diaper and the clothes and we are going to brush our teeth, then we are ready to bed". This way your child knows what/when to expect at bedtime.

Hopefully things will be easier.

Now, about the fear. I would stay a little bit with him in the room reassuring him that there is nothing wrong, showing him his room corner by corner, and making sure he knows that you just outside of the room in the nex room. It will take a while, but I think this would be the best approach.

Renee - posted on 01/24/2012

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My daughter did that just after I came home from hospital with our second child, we ended putting a mattress on the floor, and laying with her till she went to sleep and gradually left the room earlier as she settled down, it took about 2 weeks

Tashina - posted on 01/24/2012

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Something might have triggered bad memories. I would suggest getting him to a child psychologist. See if you can try having a night light and some soothing music to help him get to sleep. Praying might also help.

Tina - posted on 01/24/2012

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I have experience with ptsd and children with ptsd the moment that a child is hurting themself it is NOT NORMAL, NOT TODDLER BEHAVIOR, they will NOT GROW OUT OF IT. To speed up your families healing process, call any abuse line and they should be able to get you in a little quicker to the kind of specialist that is needed. If you treat a child with ptsd like they are acting out, that is like spanking a child for having blue eyes, it is TOTALLY beyond their control. Your little boy was exposed to something out of his control, and is now suffering from it, don't punish him for the environment he was born into. Kudos for getting out of it but, now it's time to fix the damage that was done.

Emma-Louise - posted on 01/24/2012

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Don't worry!! It's nothing to do with trauma or anything relating to you or your ex! From the age of 2-3 childrens sleep patterns change, night tremors are common because they start to be aware of their dreams. Stick to a routine that suits you and it will calm down. Good luck xx

Cindy - posted on 01/24/2012

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my son started doing something like this - he is afraid of the dark. He filled his bed with his stuffed "guys" to keep him safe, he has a nightlight and his bedtime music. I even went so far as to take a body pillow and put it under his covers against the wall and tell him this is his safety pillow - it will keep him safe at night. Let him pick the stuffed animals that he wants to keep him safe at night. Let him know that if he is afraid you are in the next room and if he really reallly needs you to come in, you will. He needs to know his room is his safe place and haven to rest. Good luck

Theresa - posted on 01/24/2012

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I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but you might want to make sure your fiance isn't abusing him. It happens all the time. Men prey on women with children and no man around. I know you'll immediately say no, but check into it anyway. It's your son's life.

Valerie - posted on 01/24/2012

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Another thought after reading previous posts about PTSD. You mentioned that you had a fiance. If this is a recent development, and your son does have PTSD ( a very serious condition), then perhaps your son is being triggered by the fiance. He could think that this person may leave like his father or feel that he may cause abuse like the father.



Trauma is very hard for children to cope with, even at an early age. Babies who are adopted right at birth can feel abandoned despite having suffered no real trauma. They just know that someone didn't want them and feel that loss. I don't know what kind of abuse you and your child may have encountered, but generally trauma causes the brain to change. Learning is harder and children will need additional help and support to overcome this trauma and abuse. And it will not happen overnight or in a short time period. I used to work with abused kids and it is very hard for them to come to terms with the abuse and let it go. They hold on to it forever it seems like and remember the abuse, even when in a safe and stable environment.



You also mentioned this happening recently. Try to think if there have been any changes for you or son in the last week or two? Big or small, it can be anything. Perhaps this is the trigger. I agree that seeking professional help might be a good idea if your child is self-injuring. This is a cry for help and you should give it your all.

Tina - posted on 01/24/2012

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when a child is harming themself that is a red flag that there is more going on than a tantrum this is not a tantrum, this is serious this will not be easy, this child needs help, Any child exposed to abuse is not going to come away unscathed. It is very unfortunate that the abuse happened, now you need to be there for your son. He needs to know that he is safe and loved unconditionally. PTSD(Post traumatic Stress Disorder) can be triggered by any number of things, from a smell, to a place, to a voice, to you name it. This is not your child acting out of disobedience this is his call for help, he is traumatized and needs to be treated as such. It does not matter if the abusive father is in contact or not. Once a memory of trauma/abuse is triggered he will not be able to control himself because he is reliving it in that moment. He is sooo young that I'm not sure how to teach someone they are safe and that it is not happening in the present. Please seek a specialist for your son's sake.

Suzanne - posted on 01/24/2012

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hi had the same problem with my daughter when her so called father left us and because he left at night when she was asleep she thought i would do the same so what i did i put a chair in her bed room and sat there till she fell asleep and as the days went on i slowly moved the chair closer to the door and it finally got her to go to sleep and no more tantrams,

Tina - posted on 01/24/2012

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Depending upon what abuse he was part of and/or saw, he may have ptsd, 2years old is a very very impresssionable age that will make a difference for the rest of his life, I would talk to pediatrician about sensory seeking disorder especially hearing about the running into the walls. The sooner you can get him help, the better all involved will be.Sounds like he may be reliving some trauma he witnessed. You will have to be persistent and 'bang' on a lot of doors, it is very, very hard getting children help before age 5, I speak from experience, my son has sensory seeking disorder.

Theresa - posted on 01/24/2012

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I would think he's having flashbacks. Have you thought about taking him to a therapist? It may have been a long time since his father has been around, but now he's beginning to understand things better than he did when he was really little. If that's the case, he needs to get that out of him. And personally, I'm all for co-sleeping. It lets me sleep better, my kids sleep better. My daughter sleeps in her own bed as long as I'm in the room, and my son sleeps with me. I plan on sleeping with them at least until they're 5. My husband completely supports me. There's lots of studies saying co-sleeping is beneficial to both child & mother. Maybe you could put his bed in your room for now. Or try praying for him at night. My daughter often has nightmares, so we pray every night for God to help her not to have bad dreams and to keep her safe. We snuggle and I read her a friendly book so she focuses more on that. Actually, I just read books to her until she's asleep. I hope he's doing good soon. And kudoes to you for getting both you and he away from an abusive man!! I have a lot of respect for you for that!

Jennifer - posted on 01/24/2012

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I had the same problem with my son. Have you tried wearing him out, lol. Have him play & dance until he can't no more. Afterwards give him a nice warm bath try the soothing lavender bath soap & read him a book afterwards. I can guarantee this will work. I know it may be hard @ first but give it a few trys. Another suggestion is chamomile tea or lotion, giving him a nice lil massage will give him sense or relaxation & bonding & or security. My son is now 6 & he still from time to time has a problem falling asleep so he turns to nickjr. which have relaxing shows at nite that help him go to sleep. Give it a try & don't give up. Good Luck

Amy - posted on 01/23/2012

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never lay with your child when it comes to bed time, caz they it is hard to brake the habit. My son was sleeping with me at a young age and I started that because his father was in the hospital having his leg cut off so I was worried about my son. Then it took me until he was about 5 yrs old to brake him from sleeping with me . So never get in the habit of a child sleeping with u even if it's just till they fall asleep. There has to be something that will work.

Kim - posted on 01/23/2012

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Do you use his bed as a time out spot? I know some parents who use their kids' beds as their time out spots and the kids develop negative feelings towards it.



Do you have a bedtime routine? Bath, story, cuddle etc? Mabye try starting to mention that it's bed time soon and you need to go to sleep nicely for mommy and repeat yourself a few times before he is actually in bed. Read him a story and cuddle in his bed. Try and find a book about how mommy always comes back or something and make that your bedtime story. Give him a shirt or something with your smell on it and tell him that he can pretend it's you. There are story books that you can record yourself reading. Maybe get one of those and let him listen to it once you leave the room.



I used to let my son pick a small toy and let him play with it in his bed for 10 mins before sleep time. Try a sticker chart. He gets a sticker every night he goes to bed nicely and once he gets to whatever amount he gets a special reward. Day with mommy, movie, ice cream, small toy etc.



Does he nap? If he does, does he have this problem in the day as well? Does he play in his room? Trying spending more time in his room, even at night with just a lamp or something on so it's semi dark.

Amy - posted on 01/23/2012

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he probably is haven flashbacks on what happened. and he is scared that something might happen to his mother. he also might of been haven really bad nightmares, and is afraid to go to bed alone. have u tried putting on some soft music to see if that would help him go to sleep.

Heather - posted on 01/23/2012

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Probably afraid of monsters. He's at the perfect age to be afraid of them. Try leaving on a night light or two. And/or giving him a flash light to sleep with. You can also make some Magic Monster spray! Water in a spray bottle! Then he can spray away the monsters. Ask him what he is afraid of. If it's Monsters, tell him they live at the south pole or in Alaska or something like that, and it's too far for them to travel to where you live. Even show him on a map if you want to. We had to do that with our son when he was that age.

Ashley - posted on 01/23/2012

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My Daughters the exact same way. I personally have come to the conclusion it is a separation anxiety issue. My husband has worked away from home for almost a year now, and when he is gone, she doesn't sleep very well, But he'd be home a few nights a week and shed sleep fine. He has been gone since Jan 3rd and wont be home until March 26th. This is a LONG stretch and her sleeping habits are getting worse and worse, and myself being 27 weeks pregnant cant deal with no sleep its definitely taking a toll on me physically, mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to get her to sleep and stay there! Its very frustrating. My mother has suggested melatonin to calm her down before bed and to keep her asleep for the needed rest.



Good Luck! Let me know if anything you find helps!

Bec - posted on 01/23/2012

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try very gentle relxation music maybe play it before you put him down in the main area of the house with you both then move the music to his room at bed time gives him something to focus on and relax to also famillar to him after awhile but becarful not to pick dance music lol. some littleses like just the crackle sound of the sterio no actual music just fuzz noise on low the mono tone noise sends them into a relaxed state. that same old dragged out noise helps some get rest.

Brittany - posted on 01/22/2012

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Yeah i let him pick out lightening McQueen stuff. And he'll be fine with me rubbing his back in bed but as soon as I get up, it starts all over again

ADELE - posted on 01/22/2012

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If nothing helps find out if something has changed at his creash/ day care. Or els play calming music my son used to love music before bed

Tinker1987 - posted on 01/22/2012

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im sorry your experincing this,it sounds sad. have you tried letting him pick out favorite bedding or toy for his bed,something to encourage him to love his bed? if you stayed in his bed for 20 minutes rubbing his back and telling him its bedtime would he fall asleep?

Brittany - posted on 01/22/2012

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I'm more than willing to let him do that, but as soon as I pick him up, he wakes up. Even if he's been asleep for a couple hours.

Brittany - posted on 01/22/2012

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Its ok. I'm just trying to find a solution. It breaks my heart to see him like this. Nightlights aren't helping whatsoever and movies keep him awake.

Britt - posted on 01/22/2012

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probably night terrors...i used to help ease them by putting a nightlight, or a movie on for so long, that seem to help.

Tinker1987 - posted on 01/22/2012

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Try a night-light,sometimes kids develop being scaerd of the dark when they get older.my son used to sleep in the dark all the time but now that he is 14 months old i keep the hall light on until he is asleep.

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