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Fears > Monster Fears
My previously fabulously sleeping 2.5 year old girl has
recently started refusing to go to sleep and waking up several
times a night due to fear of ''monsters,'' which she must have
been told about at her twice-weekly childcare. She now needs
us to sit with her while she falls asleep and comes to our room
several times a night, either staying in bed with us or having
one of us carry her back to her room and put her in bed. We
wouldn't mind just letting her sleep in our room, but her 7
month old brother is there with us and is, to put it mildly,
not sleeping through the night. The two of them keep waking
each other up and we end up with very little, if any
uninterrupted sleep. Both she and the baby are exhausted and
we are a mess.
Anyone know of a way to put monster fears at ease. We've tried
talking about how they're just pretend, we've focused on nice
monsters like Elmo or Cookie Monster, and we've checked her
room and told her about all the special ways our house and her
room is safe. None of this seems to be working. She's very
imaginitive and verbal, but I'm not sure she gets the idea of
what is pretend and what isn't, and frankly, in all other
spheres I feel that her rich imagination is a wonderful asset.
She has lots of fun with elephants and rabbits and lizards that
come to play with her.
She moved herself out of her crib about 4 months ago after a
bad dream. She told us that there was ''steam in her crib and
she wouldn't go back in it.'' No idea where that came from, but
she slept happily on the floor for a while and then happily in
her new big girl bed. There were no more bad dreams, although
she's still occasionally mentions the steam in the crib and has
expressed concern about her brother sleeping there (which he
hasn't yet). We do plan on them sharing a room as soon as he
is sleeping better, but for now he's up way too much and I'm
breastfeeding at night. Our room is upstairs from her, which I
realize could be adding to the problem, but it did work fine
for about 10 months. Her room is very centrally located so
we're always just outside her door as she falls asleep, but
we're up the stairs in the middle of the night.
Any ideas? Thanks so much,
Four things really helped our son with fear of monsters: 1. I listened to his fears
without ever laughing. (When i was a kid i was afraid of ghosts in my closet.).
2.I filled a plastic spray bottle w/lavender-scented ''calming spray'' and
called it ''Monster Repellent''. When bedtime came we sprayed over his pillow,
the bed, around the closet and in the doorway (of course, lavender is a scent known
to aid relaxation). A friend made us a ''monster away!'' label which added impact.
3. We read ''Go Away Big Green Monster'' together. It's a simple picture book
really gives the kids control over making the ''monster'' disappear altogether. 4)
Lying down, right before sleep, we practiced sending away worries and scary
thoughts in big colorful imaginary balloons which in his mind's eye he watched
floating further and further into the distance.. until they were out of sight.
all need a lot of options in our toolbox for handling stress.... )
I had the same fears when I was little (apparently) and this is
how my parents handled it. They bought a can of room freshener
and told me it was magic spray that kept the monsters away. I
guess, since I could smell it, I could believe it. I am told
that it worked to ease my fears and allow me to go to sleep. Not
sure about waking in the night and being afraid, but it might be
worth a try. Since her imagination is so rich, you may have to
''fight fire with fire'' as it were and make up an imaginary
Advice passed on to me from veteran moms when my son was in the
fear of monster phase: Monster Spray! Basically it's a
good-smelling spray that you or she can spray in her room.
Monsters hate the smell, and will go no where near it! I called
up Body Time one morning and told them about Monster Spray, and
when my son and I went in there later that afternoon, he actually
got to help make some. It was their basic spritzer stuff scented
with soothing smells like lavender. It worked really well.
When my son went through this stage a few years ago some advice
on this network helped a lot--it doesn't seem to be included with
the other advice on monsters in the archives, so I'll summarize
briefly. Every night before bed we had a fairly elaborate ritual
of chasing out all the monsters from his room. We'd open all the
drawers, check under the bed, in the closet, etc., saying
something like ''Come on, all you monsters, time to get out.
Shoo, shoo, outside with you. Yes, you too. Yes, even the
little shy one hiding under the bed. I see you. Get going. R
needs to go to sleep now so you have to leave.'' We'd make
shooing sounds and sweeping motions, herd them to the front door
and push them through it. My son thought it was great fun and
his fear of monsters vanished. There are some other good
suggestions in the archives--just type ''monsters'' in the search
box. Good luck.
Our almost-3 year old went through (and still is at times) a
similar fear of monsters. We've tried a few different things and
some work some days, others on other days. We try to give her
control over the situation: we tell her that if the monster is
bothering her, especially when she's trying to sleep, she should
give the monster a timeout. We also told her that she can ''kick
him out'' -- before we settle her in bed, she'll open her door and
tell him to go away. We have a cat and a dog and we've explained
that they protect the house from all monsters and don't let them
in. Because of this, we don't use ''anti-monster spray'', but I've
heard that it works well. Fill a spray bottle with water and
spray her room before bed -- you can even leave the spray bottle
with her so she has something she can use in the middle of the night.
Hope some of these ideas work for you and that you get some sleep!!
Have you watched the Disney movie Monsters, Inc. with your
child? It helped my kids start seeing monsters as cuddly,
loveable beings (who are scared of kids!)
My daughter has a very active imagination, too. Although she
hasn't had a specific fear of monsters, she has been bothered by
bad dreams. One of the ideas that worked for us was to make a
dreamcatcher. There are a lot of websites that have instructions
to do this. I used the basic instructions at
My daughter decorated it herself--she colored the ''frame'' and
picked the types of beads, color of feathers, etc. I did the
''weaving.'' Then we hung it above her bed. It worked most of the
time. She could even explain to me in elaborate detail how the
bad dreams got caught in its web. When, on occasion, a bad dream
somehow managed to get through, we would add more yarn or change
its position. I think she really liked taking control and making
it, and having something real to keep the bad dreams away.
I laughed when I read your entry because it sounds exactly like
my 2 1/2 yr. old daughter! She says she is ''scared'' a lot, and
says ''there are monsters downstairs'' and wants the bedroom door
left open now and the light on. Previously she was fine w/the
door closed and the light on much lower. She is also waking up
much more at night and seems freaked out when she does. We have
pretty much resisted putting her in our bed, which she often
tries to do. Now that she can get out of her new toddler bed on
her own, she sometimes appears at our door, which startles me!
We have also discussed ''good monsters'' like Elmo and Cookie
monster and she refused to accept that Elmo was a monster. I
think that you need to be firm and not give in to your daughter
wanting to sleeping in your bed. Otherwise you will loose all
that you have achieved w/her being a good sleeper in her own bed.
I have to believe that it is a phase, just like all the others.
If you can come up w/some creative ideas for how to ease her
fears it would be best. Do let me know what you come up with - I
could use some new ideas! I am sorry that I don't have any good
suggestions for you, but I admit that just hearing that others
are going through the same experience eases my mind a bit that
the behavior is perfectly normal. As a matter of fact, I myself
had a very active imagination when I was a child and had a lot of
fears at home, which stemmed from watching scary t.v. shows,
probably. I think that my daughter probably inherits this from
me, and at least I can empathize. I ended up growing out of my
fears, and I know our daughters will do the same.
My (almost) 3-year old has recently developed a
fear of monsters in his room at night, and is
waking up several times needed to be comforted.
I would be grateful for any tips from parents who
have dealt with this, or an suggestions of
good books that offer advice on this particular issue
Here's a technique I used with my sons when they went through the
night monster stage. I got one of those spray bottles (like the kind
you use to mist your plants), and put a small amount of water and
perfume in it. My son and I then used the spray bottle to spritz
those monsters in the corners, behind the closet door, under the bed,
etc. every night before bed. The perfume in the bottle gave off just
enough fragrance to make the spraying noticeable and even after the
water had been used up, the air that came out of the nozzle carried
some fragrance. We went through this nightly ritual for a few weeks
or until my son felt that the monsters couldn't possibly be there any
more (they had been spritzed into oblivion!). Both my sons (who are 8
and 1/2 years apart) responded well to this way of dealing with the
I told him sternly "No monsters allowed in the house!" A 3-year-old
can understand this because there are other things that aren't
allowed in the house too (like throwing balls.)
I used anti-monster spray too, like Tamra. Another parent I know
whose child was afraid of monsters coming out of the toilet, put
"monster poison" in all the toilets (food coloring). Another thing
I did was to assure my son that I would come at once if he called
me during the night. This worked for me when I was little too -
I was afraid of ghosts. Even though it seems understood
that you'll go to your child if they call, it seems they like to
be reassured of this.
In response to the parent with the night monster:
My daughter at about age 3 began to fear monsters. I discussed this with
my pediatrician who recommended "There Used to Be a Nightmare In My Closet"
by Mercer Mayer. She LOVED this book, and literally memorized it cover to
cover. Not only did it scare away her monsters, but she has a great love
of books and reading. She is now 12, and still loves this book. I would
recommend it highly. Sherry
Hi, about fear of monsters at night: Try giving your child a small
flashlight, so he can see for himself that there are no monsters.
The only reason I didn't do this when my daughter said there were
monsters in her room is because she would have just unscrewed the
flashlight and removed the batteries to play with, probably delaying
her sleep as long as any fear of monsters would have done. But not
all kids do that kind of thing. I just read an article (Scholastic
Magazine, I think) about this, and it's also important to acknowledge
the fear; especially near Halloween, I guess kids have lots of dreams
about monsters, etc. Probably you'd do better to discourage any
scary Halloween costumes this year. Good luck!
This is for the parent who wondered what to do for her child who had
developed a fear of monsters. If you are a religious family, or belong to a
particular religious faith, you could give your child a religious item or
hang a religious symbol or icon on the wall of your child's room. If you
are not religious, feel free to ignore the rest of this message.
About a year ago my daughter started have nightmares. I gave her a
rosary to put under her pillow (which was the same thing that my mother had
done for me when I was a young boy having nightmares). I explained to my
daughter that there was no such thing as monsters per se, but that anything
that was "bad" would be afraid of something that represents the power of God
(getting that concept across to a 4 year old was a challenge, but that's a
whole other series of discussions). In any event, it worked. My daughter
stopped having nightmares. Of course, now she won't go to bed unless her
rosary is underneath her pillow, but it's a tradeoff that I can live with.
If you are not Catholic then you will want to use something other than
a rosary, but almost every faith has some kind of holy symbol that is used
to represent the power of God. Another advantage to come out of this whole
episode was that it helped me teach my daughter that good is stronger that
If you try it, please let me know how it works.
From my childhood, my mom would "pretend call" the zoo (on my play phone)
each night to make sure all the tigers were in their cages. This seemed to
reassure me and I slept through the night. Some books advise not indulging
the child's fantasy. It might work better, if you son is convinced that
monsters exist, to ask him who would know if the monsters were all in bed
for the night (or locked in their cages etc). Then to "call"them and get
reassurance. Good Luck.
Re monsters and three year olds: My son is the same age. Whenever a different
fear has come up, starting with fear of goats (because of the aggressive one
at the Little Farm), spiders, monsters, ghosts, I always tell him that I
checked his room first (I do, for spiders), and that there are none there.
Then, per my daycare provider's tip, I never mention them, deal with them
seriously on the spot, but don't make a big deal of it, etc.
Recently when he went to bed, he called me in and asked me to take down his
beloved plaster seagull mobile, AND to turn over his lamb blanket to the
plain side, as the lamb's big black eye was frightening him.
These fears seldom come up, seldom recur, and by asking him in the mornings
if he has good dreams, I've sort of inclined him in a direction away from bad
dreams. But it's good to know if there's a bad dream, then I comfort him and
cuddle him (even) more.
As far as any night waking: I think it's best to come in, don;t take child
out of crib, privide reassurance, and leave, telling them it's the middle of
the night and go back to sleep.
Hope this helps. Wendy
My husband's mother gave him a bell which he could ring if he had a problem.
This would help both to scare away the monster and to call her. He doesn't
ever remember using it, but now we use it as our dinner bell.
Does anyone have any tips on how to convince my 4 1/2-year old
daughter to sleep in her ''big girl bed''? She naps fine in her bed,
but is afraid of night-time...says she's scared of monsters. We
talk about it a lot and she sometimes says she's ready, but when
bedtime approaches she ''chickens out'' and comes back to our bed
(which includes our 16-month old daughter as well). I love the
family bed and it's worked out fine, I just feel that she should
sleep in her own bed soon!
When my daughter went through a ''fear of Monsters under the bed''
stage, I tried the following which seemed to help. I stood
beside the bed with her before bedtime, hands on hips, and in a
loud ''Mother'' voice said ''OK monsters, everybody out. Come on
out. All of you. I mean it. I want you all out. Yes, grab your
stuff. Hurry up. You too. Because you are scaring my little
girl, that's why. Come on come on. (looking under the bed) I see
you hiding in the corner. Yes you with the pink scales. Grab
your horn and your hat and move.'' Then I marched down the hall
and held the front door open for several moments and acted as if
I was ushering them all out. My daughter was delighted - at
first not sure what I was doing, then pleased that I was ordering
the monsters away and that they were going. I think it helped
that I took her fears seriously and that a grown-up could ''see''
monsters. We checked under the bed repeatedly every night (me on
my hands and knees with a flashlight to be extra sure) and it
gave her a lot of peace of mind. Eventually I even ''found'' a
pathetic little (imaginary) monster that was afraid to come out
and it became an instant friend to my daughter. I don't know if
any of these strategies would work for your kiddo, but it helped
us quite a lot.
(editor note: advice also received about Moving Child out of Our Bed)
this page was last updated: Aug 8, 2009
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