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My Boys Keep Each Other Up at Night!

QUESTION: I have two boys, ages seven and eight, who must share a bedroom. After I tuck them in at night, one or both of them will start making excessive noise or talking just to annoy the other one. Then I hear: "Mom, Jeffrey is bothering me" or "Mom, Ryan is making noise and I can't go to sleep." They used to go to bed just fine. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: Your boys may be competing to get your attention by creating rifts at bedtime, and/or they may be having a difficult time getting to sleep after an active day. Your situation may reflect a higher competitive energy between your two boys because of the closeness in age, at a time when tiredness increases irritability. Connecting with each one separately, in a quiet and soothing manner, can create relaxation, which may motivate them towards slumber instead of disruption.

First, try giving each of them 10 minutes of "listening" time before going to bed. Ask each to share his day, or tell you anything he wishes. Reflect back the important parts of his day, or simply enjoy his willingness to share himself with you. This kind of review at the end of a day can be very soothing for you, too, because it serves to connect you to your child.

Your "day's review" with each son can contribute to a psychological and physiological readiness for sleep. Your emotional availability offers a release from the day's activities. Like snuggling in a loved one's arms, family relationships generate relaxation, which your children will learn to internalize over time. Your individual attention can help them ease their way into the transitional realm of sleep.

Secondly, ask each of them what helps him to fall asleep. A gentle back rub, a short song or story can help them wind down from a busy day. Tuck each one in and say "good night," leaving them with a sense of calm. It is likely that if they are somewhat relaxed by the time you leave their room, there will be less ambient energy.

Perhaps helping them become drowsy will ensure that your energetic little guys do not engage one another in releasing tension from an active day!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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