We’re paying our kid to sleep through the night

Well, really, we’re offering our kid stickers to sleep through the night. We’ll see what happens. We gave him three stickers tonight and told him that each time he calls us and we have to come in, we’re taking a sticker back to bed with us. Whatever’s left in the morning he can keep. Whatever we take away gets back onto his bookshelf to try again the next night.

Because seriously, this shit has to stop.

For the record, when he’s scared from a nightmare or cold or hurt, I’m happy to go to him. It’s my job. It’s called parenting. No, we didn’t co-sleep. Couldn’t do it. Variety of reasons. Be gentle with me. I know what follows is not nice. But we’ve tried everything except letting him cry, and I’m hoping bribery is slightly better long-term.

And I know paying him to sleep is totally against our parenting ideas. A child who wakes at night and really needs help, we say, is a child who gets our help. We’ve tried just letting it go. We’ve tried the pediatrician-recommended straight talk express: “Your body needs sleep, mommy’s body needs sleep, daddy’s body needs sleep. When you call for us at nighttime for a cuddle, you wake us up and we don’t get much sleep. If we don’t get much sleep, we get cranky. You don’t like us cranky, so let us sleep. Cuddle your doll and don’t call us.” Didn’t work. He tried hard. But he can’t help waking. He can, however, control whether he calls us or not.

Yeah, well, last night there were seven times between 3am and 4:30am when he NEEDED his socks pulled up and NEEDED his tucked-in covers more tucked in and NEEDED to find a place to put his tissue. So needed them so much that he called out, then called out, then cried, then sobbed. So I told him, each time that he cried enough to convince me he was awake and genuinely sad, and I got out of bed and onto freaking crutches in the wee hours, that he did not need me for those things, and that he was old enough to do it himself. From his doorway I refused to help. Bad parenting awards can be sent to 123 Years I Haven’t Slept, NotNiceParentville, Crappy Parentland, 01234.

And so help me, the seventh time I went in, when he, fifteen minutes after visit number six to his doorway, asked, then begged, then cried, then sobbed that he needed his socks pulled up again, I yelled at him that if he woke me again he’d have to sleep in the yard. He cried. “I don’t want to sleep in the yard.” He’s two and a half. I’m not nice. I’m going to parenting hell. You don’t threaten your kid with sleeping in the yard. That’s not attachment, that’s disordered. I don’t want to yell. But he is capable of sleeping through the night. He’s done it before. He’s just pushing my buttons, and I’m out of patience. I haven’t slept in three years.

Hence the sticker bribe.

I don’t know what else to do. When he was tiny this was expected. When he was wordless, it was still normal, if hard. Now he’s big enough to do most things on his own, if not well. We respect him all his waking hours, but have lost the will to live from 10pm to 5am.

So we’re paying him to leave us alone at night. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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6 thoughts on “We’re paying our kid to sleep through the night

  1. you are definitely not a bad parent. i had to deal with two separate crying for no apparent reason episodes last night/early this morning. changed pants, gave them hugs. then fifteen minutes later, i hear mimi howling.

    when it is for a good reason, i too go into the room to find out what the f is going on. you are not a bad parent if you need to get some sleep and your child is abusing his boy who cried wolf powers to keep you from that important sleep. sleep deprived parents are more likely to beat their children than well-rested parents. i know, i have felt the need to beat, but have been too tired to do it. ha. waaaah!

    the third howl last night a pillow went on my head and bad mommy got an hour and a half of sleep she wouldn’t have gotten if she’d left the pillow off. next time i’ll just get someone to put the pillow on my face and sit on it. then i’ll get some serious sleep and someone else can get up in the middle of the night to wait on the princesses.

    you are not a bad mother. YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOTHER. he’s lucky you are trying really hard because not everyone can do it on no sleep. you are doing a great job. maybe he needs a puppy?

  2. You are NOT a bad parent! You need sleep, he needs sleep, and you are trying to find something that works for all of you…I hope this works.

    My kids both went through phases like this, where they just woke up alot and wanted us to comfort them or do something for them. (You said he’s 2.5? Maybe he’s getting a molar or is going through one of those fear patches when they just want to be with mom and dad as much as possible?) We just dealt and eventually it stopped (not very helpful, advicewise, but maybe it helps to know you aren’t alone?).

    And don’t feel bad about the “sleeping in the yard” thing (you’re going to laugh about that story one day, if you aren’t already). My normally calm, sweet, and very patient husband once told my son who was acting up in the store: “If you don’t calm down right now, I will NEVER take you ANYWHERE EVER AGAIN!” (Picture me laughing off to the side.)

    Parenting is hard. We all do the best we can and that’s all we can do, you know? I am wishing you all a peaceful night’s sleep…

  3. J, I’m laughing my ass off at the puppy suggestion. I’m sure THAT would really help things in my house. Maybe the puppy would at least eat the cat who yowls from 4am on.

    Outside, I wish it were a tooth–he got them all early, predictably, and horribly. He had two teeth by four months all his teeth by 18 months. Teething, incidentally, is why he moved out of our room at 3.5 months—we thought we were waking him when he started waking ever hour all night. Everyone told us—dentist, pediatrician—that it wasn’t teeth. I wish we had caved to the Tylenol Liver-Selling Campaign for Kids because maybe that set him up for sleep failure forever. Your point about a phase it totally appreciated, since we’ve moved twice this fall and he just got a big bed two weeks ago. It’s probably totally normal and okay, but I may lose my patience soon. ;-)

    Thanks, both. I feel awful telling him he has to pay us for attention at night. But we give it freely, willingly, and excessively during the day. And I’m all Sears-y about parenting at night until it’s the seventh time in 90 minutes. Then the Nebraska save-surrender fiasco comes crashing into my house.

  4. My first daughter did that the entire time I was pregnant with my second child and about 6 months after she was born. (From about age 2 – 3.5).

    During most of it I was pregnant and working, so I don’t need to tell you how angry I was by the third or eighth time I had to go into her room for variously rediculous reasons. Sometimes she’d just start yelling, “I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING” and then have nothing to say when I got in there. Or she’d wait until I was in the room to kick off her sheets and demand her blankets. (Yeah, right.)

    We let her cry it out a few times but she’d hit the 1.5 – 2 hour mark and I’d just want to go back to sleep so bad I’d calm her down. Which, of course, defeated whatever the purpose was that I wanted to accomplish in the first place. It’s hard to make sense out of anything come 3 in the morning.

    We tried stickers, taking things away, adding activities, snack treats, toys, candy. Everything worked at first, but then she’d lose interest and prefer to scream. Eventually she just grew out of it.

    I think.

    I’m not too sure what happened, to be honest. Maybe it was the stress of the new baby? (I’m great at making excuses.)

    But the memory of it sure came back after reading your post…

    Seriously, if we could have paid her cash to sleep through the night, it totally would have been worth the investment.

  5. I feel your pain. Mine would come into our bedroom, usually trying to get to the bed. Even after the second one was born, who slept through the night. Finally, I had enough and stayed away, putting him back, over and over again. Eventually when he didn’t get up and started sleeping through the night. I think it took like nine days.

    Of course, my mom beleives that when the kid starts really playing hard, running around, and such about 2.5 and 3 is when they sleep through the night. So maybe a game of soccor evey afternoon?

  6. Pingback: Freaking exhausted | Naptime Writing

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