Q. Under normal circumstances, which are rare, our 4-year-old son goes to bed uneventfully by 7:30 and is usually asleep before 7:45. He never sleeps past 6:15 the next morning, and I can tell he's tired by early afternoon, but he refuses to take a nap. As a result, he's a little monster by 4 because he's so tired. Then, if I put him in his room for bad behavior, he falls into a very deep sleep. If I wake him, his behavior is atrocious, so I let him sleep, which means he has difficulty falling asleep when he put him to bed at 7:30. How can I get out of this vicious cycle?
Your son is having difficulty establishing a waking/sleeping routine for himself, so you're going to have to provide that structure for him. The solution to this problem is simple.
Tell your son that his doctor says he doesn't have to take a nap, but he does have to go to his room at 1 for two hours of quiet time, during which the whole house has to be a quiet place (meaning no television, stereo, long/loud phone conversations, and the like).
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He can play quietly in his room, but he can't come out until 3. If you set a timer to announce the end of quiet time, he won't be inclined to stand at the door asking “Is it time yet?” If he's asleep when the timer goes off, wake him up. He'll get into a new and better routine fairly quickly.
Q. Whenever our 11-year-old son has a friend over to play, our 15-year-old daughter interferes in ways that eventually reduce our son to tears. Mostly, she'll make fun of him or make him the butt of cruel jokes. Is there some way of making her understand how hurtful she is being? Does our son simply need to ignore her?
Your daughter is not going to stop bullying her brother because you try to help her see the error of her ways. Expecting your son to simply ignore his sister's taunts is equally unrealistic.
Your son has a right to have a friend over without being victimized by his sister. Since she obviously derives a great deal of perverse pleasure out of doing so, she's not going to stop until you step in. The most effective way of doing so is to inform her that for the next month, whenever her brother has a friend over, she has to go to her room, shut the door, and stay there until the friend leaves.
At the end of her stint in bullying rehab, tell your daughter that if she's ready to act her age when her brother has friends over, her life can return to normal. Inform her, however, that the next incident will result in a three-month rehab period.