Q&A: 6-year-old won’t sleep at night

Anonymous writes:

"I am at my wit's end. My 6-year-old will not sleep at night. He has never been able to sleep by himself, and I thought it would get better when he was older, but it hasn't. He sleeps in a twin bed in the same room with his older brother, and there's a nightlight right next to his bed. But he stays awake and won't fall asleep. And when he does fall asleep he wakes up to crawl in with his brother or to come into my room to tell me he loves me.

We're only in the second week of school, but the school nurse called to ask if he was on medication because he's falling asleep in class. So clearly he's exhausted. But he just won't fall asleep. We do all the stuff of no TV before bed, calm, relaxing time before sleep, regular bedtime routine, etc. But it's like he just can't fall asleep at night.


My first suggestion would be to look at what he's eating in the 6 or so hours before bed. Kids can be affected really strongly by all kinds of things, from caffeine to artificial colors to artificial flavors to preservatives, etc.

So for the next week, have everyone who's with him write down everything he eats or drinks from after school until bedtime. Take a look and see if there are any things that jump out at you, and see what happens if you eliminate them.

If it's not something he's ingesting, I'm kind of at a loss. It just doesn't seem possible to me that a person could be unable to sleep during a certain stretch of hours. So there's got to be *something* that's causing it. I followed up with Anon, and this has been happening for years, in different housing situations and family dynamics. So it's not something in the immediate bedroom environment or some new stress.

Has anyone been through this? Any ideas of things she could look at?


I'm glad it's raining today. I'm cold and my feet are wet and it's going to be a long, sleepy day, but that's so much better than having that feeling of fear and nausea clawing at my stomach all day in the background the way it has every year this day is sunny and crisp.

Friends in California were talking about the fires last week, and how it just smells like smoke everywhere, and I immediately flashed back to the smell of the flaming towers, burning flesh and metal. I said that, and another friend–who lived in New York eight years ago but doesn't now–said he hadn't thought about it in years, but as soon as I mentioned it the smell came back to his nose and punched him in the gut.

There are some things that never go away, I guess. The anger is one of them. I'm still angry whenever I take my damn shoes off at airport security. This is all we've got? Seriously? You're telling me that the best security the United States of America can throw at this is underpaid, undertrained hourly employees and making me run my shoes through the x-ray machine. OK, then.

And the sadness. That it happened, and that we don't seem to have learned a whole lot that we're applying to internal politics or foreign relations.

My church moved to a new space in 7 World Trade, right next to the hole. So I walk past the hole every Sunday, and I observe that all it is anymore is a hole. With no plans that we know about to build anything there. Too much in-fighting and politics. So it's just a big hole, with an ugly blue fence around it.

Back when it was still raw and exposed and fresh, we thought this was a turning point. That we were learning a lesson that would never leave us, about loss and unity and progress and healing and strength. (I think of the optimism I had on September 11 last year…)

But all it is is a hole.

We should be doing better. In so many ways.

Where do we start?

(In memory of Colleen Supinski, coworker and friend, who died September 11, 2001.)

First day and I’m a wreck again

Second grade. Why does the first day of school still freak me out so much? I like the school, trust the principal and parent coordinator, have heard nothing but good things about his teacher this year, and was head over heels in love with his teacher last year. But his Kindergarten year still haunts me.

How long before I don't freak out and freeze up?

Will I ever be able to write an Ask Moxie post again on the first day of school?

How do I forgive myself for not fighting for him sooner and getting him out of that classroom?

Q&A: book on toddlers/preschoolers

Neil writes:

"So here's something: many have said, as a piece of advice to peoplehaving their first child, that they should buy just one parenting
book, and stick with it.

My question is, if you could buy only one book (general, specific,
esoteric, etc.) about raising toddlers, what book would that be?"

I actually think that that first piece of advice, to stick with one
book, is well-intentioned but crummy. Because what if the one book you
pick doesn't work with your kid? For instance, if you pick Dr. Sears
but your kid needs to cry to create enough white noise to get to sleep,
you're going to feel like both you and your child are failures because
all the sling-carrying in the world won't change the fact that your
baby falls asleep better by crying for 5 minutes.

And what if you use Hogg, but your baby likes to be carried around, and
gets anxious when left alone during the "play" part of the regimen?

There are just too many different ways for babies (who are just little
people) to be to think that the likelihood of lucking onto the exact
book that fits your kid's temperament is going to happen.

I like to repeat what I've heard a ton of times (many of them here from commenters): Read either all the books or none of them.

But we're talking about toddler/preschooler books here. And the nice
thing about those is that while certain authors are still on the
"should" train of telling you if you don't do things a certain way your
child will turn out All Wrong, a much higher proportion of authors
writing about that age are just trying to give you tools, based on
observations they've made about how to make things go more smoothly for
everyone involved.

Having said that, the toddler book I recommend is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.

Ha. No. Of course not. But it sometimes really does feel like a battle,
doesn't it? The book that honestly helped me the most during this stage
wasn't even a toddler book, and most of its strategies are for older
kids, but it flipped my thinking around from looking at it as an
adversarial situation to seeing it as my task to help my child grow up.
I push this book constantly: "Between Parent and Child" by Haim Ginott.
(Two other stellar books that come directly from Ginott's work are
"Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen and "How To Talk So Kids Will
Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk
" by Faber and Mazlish.)

Reading that book made me feel just a little calmer, more assured that
we could do this together, less convinced that I was failing somehow.
That the toddler years were a few pages, not the book.

Once you've read that book and need some help for the minute-by-minute stuff, go see Sharon Silver at proactiveparenting.net.
Read her site, and subscribe to her Twitterfeed, which is full of tips
for dealing with small moments in a way that helps you *and* your
child. She really does seem to see the entire relationship between
parent and child in our interactions in a way that most authors and
experts don't. I think my entire parenting experience would have been
easier if I'd known about her work when my older one was a toddler.

What would you recommend, and why?

New to having two

I’m getting some calls for help from moms who’ve just had a second child. Nothing specific–the general questions of “Why did I do this?? What am I doing? How do other people do this? Does it ever get better?” And I could give my long treatise on it, but honestly, those early weeks and months of having two just aren’t as clear in my memory anymore.

I’m not sure if it’s simply the passage of time, or that my mind is too full of school supply and class list and work issues to have room for that memory on the front burner. (I suspect that I’ve submerged most of that time the way I submerged a lot of the time I was married.) But you! You are still there on the front lines with two or three kids, or you’re so far out the other end that it’s all coming back to you now.

So please help our friends who are just entering the tunnel of having two kids. What do you wish someone had told you:

1. Before you had your second?
2. In the first six weeks of having two?
3. When the baby was a few months old?
4. When the baby was a year old?

I’ll start:

1. It’s all going to be OK.
2. It’s all going to be OK, so just keep everyone fed and you’re doing an awesome job.
3. It’s all going to be OK, but you need a break! Swallow your pride and ask someone to take the kids while you sleep or do something fun.
4. It’s all going to be OK. Soon they will both be in school.

Now it’s your turn.