naptime power struggles: there must be a better way! (long!) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 04-17-2006, 08:48 PM - Thread Starter
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I am sick of naptime power struggles. In my experience, everything goes smoother if you can keep it from being a power struggle. But sleep has always been a power struggle between dd and I, and I can't for the life of me figure out how to undo that. I'm hoping you wise mamas will have some ideas.

DD has always had trouble sleeping. She hasn't laid down on her own volition since at 4mo she learned to sit up on her own from lying down. She's 25mo now and naptime is my own personal hell. Her problem is she is incapable of being still. If she can stay still for 5 min, say strapped into a car seat, she's out like a light. But my challenge has been and still is teaching her to stop moving. I used to lay down with her to sleep cuddle her and in effect hold her still. When her brother was born 6 mo ago, I had to teach her to lay down without me 'cause I have to be available to take care of him. It's worked for the most part.

Our routine goes as such: When I see that's she's tired, I ask if she wants anything else to eat. We have lunch and I prepare her that naptime is next. I carry her to wind her down. I go into her room, turn out the light. I sing her a song and rock back and forth. Then I lay her down on her bed and stroke her head and try to encourage her to lay still. I tell her to breathe and I tell her I love her. It all takes about 5min. Then i stand in the doorway facing away from her until she's settled, or until I need to go attend to ds. I then keep checking in at her doorway while she winds herself down, squirming under her pillows, talking to her animals. If she takes awhile, I pick her up and give her another song and lay her down again. If all goes well, this will be the end of it, and she'll go to sleep.

But more often lately, the routine has continued like this:
She is unable to wind herself down. Squirming under her pillows becomes sitting up becomes standing up and throwing her pillows and animals on the floor. At intervals I try to intercede with songs and rocking, But instead of calming her like usual, she squirms in my arms until I get frustrated and just put her down.

When I see it heading down this path, I have tried two different tactics: Micro managing her and leaving her alone. Micro managing her involves putting a soothing hand on her chest or forehead and a firm hand on her hips to hold her still. I then coach her in breathing deep and I close my eyes and tell her to close hers. This works more often than leaving her alone. That usually turns into her calling to me and when she had me in sight, she shrieks with adrenaline and dives for her pillows. Or leaving her bedroom (closing her door on the way out to indicate that she's done with her room) and coming to find me. Either way, if this goes on long enough, my patience runs out and I pop. I end up yelling at her with this scary monster voice, "I said sleep!", she ends up crying herself to sleep (or not). It's a fiasco. I'm sick of it. I dread naptime and I'm not entirely sure she doesn't as well. I didn't decide to stay home with my children so that we could have daily power struggles. This isn't good for either of us.

I have tried waiting later, but it just gets worse. The more tired she is, the more wired she gets.

Some of her friends are out growing naps. I don't know if she is, but I do know that she doesn't have the stamina to go all day without one. If she doesn't nap, she is one long melt down from 2pm on. If our daily naptime struggle is bad, those days are worse. If she's not going to nap, then she at least needs quiettime. That's the catch 22; if I could get her to stay quiet in her bed, then she would pass out.

So today I tried a different tactic. When it was clear that she was going to fight sleep, instead of plugging away at it until I'm am fuming, I decided to try to enforce quiet time. There's only one way to enforce quiet time with a 2 year old. I spanked her. I did it consciously and I made sure that I did not do it in anger. I did it because I did not know what else to do. What is the logical consequence to leaving your bed? Beign put back on your bed? What is a time out, but enforced quiet time.

I put all of her pillows and animals back on her bed. I put some books on her bed. I told her that she needed to stay quiet on her bed if she wasn't going to sleep. I told her that she was to stay on her bed and not get off. I then set up camp in the living room where I couldn't see her playing on her bed, but I could see if she got off it. when she started to get off, I told her she needed to stay on. When she tested it again, I told her that if she got off, she was going to get a spanking. She of course tested it. So i spanked her. She then stayed on her bed and fell asleep.

This isn't the brand of parenting I sign onto. That's why I'm writing for advice. Spanking is the logical conclusion to power struggle parenting. I need another way.
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#2 of 7 Old 04-17-2006, 10:06 PM
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Will she nap with you (and baby) while you nurse baby to sleep?

DS is about 28 months old, and music totally calms him down. Waiting too long makes it harder. When he is tired, it's time for the nap, not more food, so I try to pre-empt and offer lunch earlier (this is easier, b/c I have a KGer who needs lunch at 11 am). Sometimes the singing is multiple songs, up to about 6 or 7, and yes, he wiggles, lumps around on his stuffed animals, etc., but he settles. I also go to sleep, so sometimes I "fake it" if I need to get back up. If he's tired it will take only 1 song. Sometimes I have to lock us both into the room. or he'll "escape", but that hasn't happened for a while.

My friend had twins who would NOT settle after 2 years old, but would fall asleep in the car, so she just _planned_ it that way. She took a book or cross stitch or crochet and after they fell asleep (about 15 min of driving), she'd come home, park in the driveway and sit quietly in the car for an hour or two while they slept. With a younger sib this might be harder, I have 3 and getting the 1st 2 to nap simultaneously was SO hard.

I don't know if these things will help--they have worked for us or for our friend. Hang in there. It can be really hard! Some of our friends have started outgrowing naps after 2 y.o., but all my kids napped into their fourth year, and ds (current 2 y.o) only gave up 2 naps at 20 months old, so I think he's good for at least another year, as he's following same pattern as his sisters.
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#3 of 7 Old 04-18-2006, 10:59 AM
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Well, this might not be helpful, but rather than get into power struggles about it, we just stopped naps at home (she will nap 3x a week at day care, for some reason.) We really tried a number of strategies first, just like you, but finally, I had to let go of it. If she's super tired, we drive around in the car and she will conk out.

At first, she was pretty cranky later in the afternoon. Now, she does great until bedtime. Is her bedtime nice and early? On no-nap days, our daughter falls asleep like a brick at 7:00 pm or so and sleeps all night. On days she naps, she doesn't usually fall asleep until 8pm or so.

Best wishes - it's hard to hear about folks whose kids are still napping at age 4 when you have a "no napper." A kind friend of mine told me it was a sign of giftedness...
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#4 of 7 Old 04-18-2006, 11:12 AM
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I would quit the naps. The first week will be really hard but she will either decide for herself to adjust her bedtime, agree to nap, or learn to live without one. Dd gave hers up a few months ago but will occasionally need one. As long as it is her idea, she goes right down, often all by herself.
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#5 of 7 Old 04-18-2006, 04:50 PM - Thread Starter
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thanks. She goes to sleep in the car like clockwork. But I don't want to have to drive her to sleep. It gets complicated with a baby who may be napping in his bed when she needs to sleep.

I tried laying down with both of them to nap when he was first born. Boy was that a failed idea. DS would get frustrated and start to scream, nurse or no nurse. DD was completely distracted by the fact that he was there and that I had to attend to him rather than just cuddle her.

I was really hoping there was some other answer than just "let it go". A friend of mine is doing that right now and she is miserable and so is her son who is sudenly a sullen tantrumy reck. he seems unhappy all the time. DD without sleep is bad news, so i can only imagine her the same way.

I dunno if I'm ready to give up naps. What happens if this is just a phase, but if I give up on naps altogether we're done for good when we could have naps until 4 if we just ride this phase out? Have there ever been any no-nappers that started taking naps again?
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#6 of 7 Old 04-18-2006, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Yooper
I would quit the naps. The first week will be really hard but she will either decide for herself to adjust her bedtime, agree to nap, or learn to live without one. Dd gave hers up a few months ago but will occasionally need one. As long as it is her idea, she goes right down, often all by herself.
Originally Posted by starbarrett
Have there ever been any no-nappers that started taking naps again?
Same here....I've never been able to dictate my son's sleeping schedule. It's always been his way...period! He went almost a whole year without a real nap.....since turning 3, he naps everyday. He falls asleep on the drive to dropping my husband off at work, and stays asleep from the car to the house. He'll take a 2 hour nap.
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#7 of 7 Old 08-04-2013, 02:13 PM
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I can see this is OLD and I hope that all of you original posters have nap free and pleasant gradeschoolers! I imagine that this is read frequently as naptime is slowly lost to a new generation of Twos and Threes. I thought I'd share something that has been working often (though not always, hence google brought me here) for us- and maybe some of you will chime in and help me solve the days when it doesn't work.


I have a 34 month old dd and a 11 mo ds. We moved while I was pregnant and lived in a hotel while movign for 10 weeks (oy!). During that time, my dd got out of an every single day the same routine for naps and into a more randomly timed car nap. That worked for me- I slept too. Then we moved into our house, she got a big girl bed and her own room AND a new brother. Naptime has been a struggle since then. When ds was very young I still drove her to sleep. But that became a longer and longer drive and he started to stay awake sometimes- or she'd wake him. In short- I needed to reclaim the at home nap. DS has always been a good sleeper, except when teething, but I think that's fair.


What worked for us after trial and (much) error, and then consultation with a parenting coach, is that her door is open at night ONLY IF she stays in her bed. This was hard a few nights because she was so sad and I imagined, terrified to be alone. I spoke with her through the door and started nightly reminders of "How do you keep your door open? Stay in bed quietly." (Now she says the second sentence back to me.) And when we have to close it- "I'm sorry you chose  to get out of bed, we will try again tomorrow."


The naptime version is this: 20 minutes with the door closed of room play to wind down with lights on and calming music. Then I open the door, turn out lights and she gets in bed with books- and soft veggies and a small skillet. She likes to cook as she goes to sleep, she's often sound asleep with her hand wrapped around the skillet handle. We'll work on that as she gets older.


Usually, a reminder from down the hallway that I'm coming to close her door will get her back in bed, but sometimes a power struggle still ensues "NO!"- but at least I have a precedent that allows me to contain it behind a door and walk away knowing she's safe. That's important to me. At those times, I usually find her asleep on her floor, surrounded by toys.


Sometimes she plays for hours. That usually means we didn't get enough activity and outside time in the morning. Physical activity is absolutely key to my dd's sleep.


I'd really like to hear how other people are managing naps- what a great community to learn from.

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