Kathy McCleary has heard it all at bedtime from Grace, her 6-year-old: "Read me another story." "I have to pee." "I need a snuggle." "We forgot dessert tonight." One memorable night, Grace even tried: "Can I stay up to help clean? I just love doing dishes!"
As the evenings dragged on later and later, the exhausted McCleary, who lives in Portland, OR, tried threats, rewards and even sitting guard in the hallway outside Grace's bedroom. Nothing worked. Her younger daughter, Emma, 3, caught up in her big sister's bedtime resistance, charged that McCleary treated the girls "like prisoners" because she insisted they go to bed.
"No, Emma," corrected Grace. "Prisoners can do things and go places. Actually, it's more like Mommy is our prisoner."
"She's right," McCleary sighs.
Many parents feel shackled by their kids' bad sleep habits. But while advice abounds about putting down infants and toddlers, there's little help if you're the parent of an older child. And you've got lots of company: A recent study of almost 500 kids from kindergarten through fourth grade found that more than a third of them suffered from at least one sleep-related problem, including bedtime resistance, sleep anxiety, and night waking.
This not only leaves us frustrated, but also chips away at the precious p.m. hours grown-ups need to unwind, do chores, and relate to a mate. Kids' sleep problems are linked to daytime crankiness, hyperactivity, depression, and poor school performance, says Will Wilkoff, M.D., a pediatrician in Brunswick, ME, and the author of Is My Child Overtired? Too little rest is a new epidemic among kids, he asserts. If you've asked yourself, "Isn't he too old for this?" get a grip with these tips.
Paula Spencer is the author of Everything Else You Need to Know When You're Expecting: The New Etiquette for the New Mom.