Dear Dr. Bill,
A few months ago our two-year-old went from being a great sleeper—to suddenly fighting bedtime with crying and tantruming. We have always been on a schedule and that hasn’t changed—nap from noon to two and nighttime sleep from seven p.m. to six a.m. He’s out of a crib and in a toddler bed for eight months now. What should we do?
You’ve got a major battle of the wills going on. Your little guy has his own idea of what he wants to do in the evening, and obviously sleeping is at the bottom of the list!
Here are a couple of suggestions. First, shorten his nap time. At two years old, he may not need a two-hour nap each day
You also might try putting him down a bit later in the evening. It may simply be that he’s not tired at seven, and that an eight or eight-thirty bedtime fits his body clock better.
If he started fighting the seven p.m. bedtime this past summer, it might be because until recently, it was still very light at seven in the evening. Very few kids want to go the bed when sunlight is streaming into their room and they can hear the neighborhood kids playing outside.
Establish a bedtime routine, and stick with it. This could include a warm bath followed by some quiet reading and cuddling time on his bed. In fact, for a while, you might even want to lie with him on his bed in the dark until he falls asleep.
But don’t make that a habit. You mentioned he was doing just fine falling asleep on his own until recently, so he’s obviously capable of it.
By the way, one of the best books on this topic is called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth.
Thanks for writing, Christine.
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