Rejecting Bedtime


This is my plea for help!

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about getting rid of my 4 ½ year olds pacifier. It was a glorious win for us. That last step from babyhood into boy-ism took place and our little guy became a big dude. It’s still a win for us and Wyatt no longer asks for his pacifier (or a new toy in place of it). We were beyond thrilled, ecstatic to say the least, but here’s the kicker. Another war story begins… The Sleep Rebellion.

sleeping boys

Let’s start at the beginning. Ever since Wyatt was a newborn he has been a non-sleeper. I have extreme jealousy for all you moms out there that got your kids to sleep through the night. We just couldn’t get him on a schedule. Was it us? Maybe? But we tried it all. Ferber didn’t work (he literally started puking from crying so hard the first 20 minutes. Needless to say I never went back there). With our younger son Ferber still doesn’t work, he literally has been crying it out for 1 year. With Wyatt, rocking him to bed and gently placing him in a crib didn’t work. In fact he never slept in his crib (maybe 5 nights total). We thought maybe he was claustrophobic but who knows, it’s all a whole lot of theories. We swore we wouldn’t co-sleep from all the horror stories we heard as first time parents, and then we brought him home. We tried Dr. Sears and attachment parenting but with that he never de-taches and his needs are very high when it comes to the need to bond. I literally didn’t sleep for years. When we finally got him to sleep through the night (first time was at 2 ½) it was because I was pregnant and my milk dried out so he lost interest in nursing (he was currently still nursing twice a night/using me as his human pacifier) and suddenly he started sucking on that little plastic godsend instead. There was 6 months of bliss when he slept in a toddler bed but somewhere along the lines his little snuggly self decided that toddler beds were lame. And he would rebel against those too.

Here’s the thing. He’s a night owl. Wyatt has ALWAYS loved to stay up late. We push for routines but he rejects them. Every New Years Eve he is the last kid standing and would happily stay up until the ball drops without any moment of fussiness. He flat-out loathes going to bed. And let’s be honest, I’ve always been this way too.

Fast-forward to now and we are in a bit of a predicament. We took the pacifier away. We forgot what it did for those long nights of when we were sleep-deprived parents. But this time it’s not about waking up in the middle of the night. It’s about going to bed. He just won’t do it! We didn’t expect this repercussion but with the pacifier service as his only lovey he’s now wired with nothing to calm him down. We aren’t interested in giving it back, and here is what we have tried:

1} Set a bedtime routine, make a bedtime chart, and follow it religiously.

We spent a good deal of time taking pictures of his routine step by step and created a routine chart for him to follow. Every night we practiced the same routine starting at 8PM. At first it worked great, he was all about it. But it quickly fizzled out and he fights his chart and steps which end up prolonging bedtime. Don’t get me wrong, he still has those steps, but he does not want them to be ordered. Sometimes a book comes before brushing teeth or he wants to wear dress up instead of jammies. Those are rules that seem trivial to me in the long run (but maybe that’s my problem)! He’s always been our “stop and smell the roses” kiddo (ps – I love that article, you should read it), and I love that about him.

He’s just not one that enjoys schedules and we want him to march to the beat of his own drum.

Our other kid is super scheduled so it’s not that we haven’t tried, they just don’t seem to stick with Wyatt.

2} Play in his room quietly

This is one that a lot of friends recommended to us. Instead of pushing him to go to sleep we allow him to play quietly until he puts himself to bed and stays in his room. A sort of self-soothing / self-actualization for the child. Well this doesn’t work, he will just outplay us until we end up forcing him to go to bed because (1) we are ready for bed and (2) I’m pretty sure he would stay up passed midnight.

3} Take away his nap

This seemed like a no-brainer. But interestingly enough he STILL stays awake passed bedtime. It doesn’t matter what time the kid wakes up or whether he has a nap or not, when nighttime hits, he’s simply not tired.

4} Snuggle him to sleep

This is the one and only thing we do that helps him fall asleep. There is still a forcing of the hand for bedtime, lots of crying, and “I don’t want to go to bed” comments, but he will eventually go to bed and fall asleep (most often it’s after one of us have passed out in his bed but at least he stays there). There are positives and negatives to this one. He’s the best snuggler ever (sorry hubs). Some kids kick, go sideways, steal covers, etc. My little guy spoons you, rubs your back, puts his arms around your neck, and says “I love you” while sharing a million kisses and sweet sentiments. It warms my heart to it’s very core and I wouldn’t give that up for the world. But some nights, I also wouldn’t mind finding my way back to my bed from time to time. And I especially wouldn’t mind getting an hour back in my evening to hang out with my husband. I know he won’t be co-sleeping when he’s in college, really that’s just strange. And I also know that I will miss these night time snuggle sessions beyond anything I could ever imagine, but right now, I miss my husband.

With all of these options our best possible bedtime is somewhere between 9:30-10 (only if we force #4). We still start bedtime every night around 8PM but regardless of when we start that routing the sleep time doesn’t change. Some nights he will easily stay up until 10:30.

And there it is, what are we doing, or not doing, that could help our cause? Mommy’s of the world unite. This is my plea for help!

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Originally from New Jersey my family would frequent VT for ski vacations and always saw the green mountains as a second home. When my husband Jake and I were ready to settle down we quickly found Burlington to be the perfect home for us both. We have been in VT since 2008 and now have 2 wonderful, spirited, and busy boys (Wyatt - 4, Zayne - 2) and an absolutely insane puppy, Ike. I telecommute from my home in Williston and am on a constant quest to balance being a full time executive with the demands of being mommy. Thankfully I also carry some form of super power productivity gene that forces me to multi-task at an absurd level (also known as the mommy gene)! When I'm not working or saving the world one band-aid at a time I love trying my hand at gardening, pretending to workout, and exploring. My family loves Burlington and all the area has to offer through community, health, fun, and local and sustainable living. I am so honored to be a part of this amazing team!


  1. This will sound absurd and will take a week or so but I promise….
    Start bedtime at 7! No nap and 7pm start the routine, the battle, the crazies! Your time at night is so important to a healthy, loving, super charged, full , ready to tackle it all again woman. Good luck

  2. I don’t know how you feel about T.V. but have you tried letting him fall asleep watching a movie or cartoons? I know that helps a lot of little kids sleep but some parents are against it. If you aren’t crazy about T.V. then maybe try a soothing sounds machine. My daughter is almost 2 and I have to try a few of the tips you have offered because she HATES going to bed. She will only fall asleep on the couch with us watching cartoons after at least an hour..ugh. But we don’t have a T.V. In the room that we share with her so her falling asleep on her own in her crib isn’t an option for us right now anyway.

  3. Are you living at our house? Lol! We are going through the exact same thing! Our son is almost 3 and I had to cuddle with him (restrain him) in his rocker to get him asleep last night. At 10:30. Ug. We’ve tried all of your steps too. I’m interested to see if anyone has any new suggestions!


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