You might be thinking of me...... I have a 2.5 yo and about 6 months ago we really let go of managing dd's sleep. Things were bad in that dd never wanted/needed to sleep when we thought she should. That meant hours of laying with her while she squirmed every night and naptime. Very frustrating for everyone. We just decided to let go one day. We try to be non-coercive with dd and while she never got upset about bedtime, we did feel that perhaps she needed to be in charge like she is with most everything else that pertains to her body. I will tell you two parts of the story.
First what sleep looks like in our house now. It is really not much different than most houses with toddlers except that we have no set bedtime. Each day is different based on when we woke up, what activites we did, and where we happen to be around bedtime. We watch dd for sleepiness. The universal stuff....rubbing eyes, yawning, etc.... At that point we start to ask periodically if she is tired and wants help with teeth and pjs. At this point, she usually agrees on the first asking. Rarely she is doing something that is more important to her than being tired and she chooses to defer until later. She no longer naps. However, we have gotten tot he point now where if she is sick, we have a party to go to at night, or she had a bad night, she will alomost always take us up on a suggestion to try for a nap. And occasionally she will just decide to curl up with a blanket and take a nap. She now knows the consequences of being tired and also knows how to read her own cues and choose to sleep. So far (in 6 months) she has not wanted to stay up later than both dh and I. Dh is a night owl and is as happy as can be to have a companion to watch movies with. So on dd's latest nights, dh and dd have ended up faling asleep on the couch. But we are pretty flexible about that kind of thing.
The second part is how we got here. Since birth, dd has been sleep challenged. She did not fall asleep easily, even as a tiny baby. Putting her down once she was asleep was nearly impossible. She woke hourly for most of her first 18 months (when she night weaned), then more like once every 2 hours after that. At 2 yo it was taking us 2+ hours a night to get her to fall asleep. At that point, my dh travelled a lot of business. I have insomnia problems myself and I was at my wits end. My mental health was at risk. We had to do something.
As it happened, my dh lost his job and our lives went into chaos. And at the same time, I started to have a revelation about control. We have always tired very hard to not control dd. And it had never occurred to me that our problesm might boil down to her being or feeling controlled. Or more importantly that we were causing her sleep problems by not allowing her to read and react to her own cues.
So we let it all go. There was no discussion at first. Just one day instead of saying "time for bed" we said "do you want to go to sleep?". Dd was quite astounded and reacted in the typical way. She binged on late nights and was a big crank for about a week. She basically fell asleep somewhere playing at like 2am. We did not even mention naps. We just skipped them. After about a week, she seemed to see that this was for real and it was up to her. She never did pick up naps again. She started to tell us when she was ready for bed. She then only took 1/2 hour at the most to go down. AND she decided she wanted to sleep in her own bed. She still does come into the family bed during the night but this was still a shocker for me. As she started to trust us more, we did discuss it occasionally. We explained that people need sleep and that it is a good idea to sleep when you are tired. Then we started discussing how naps can make a late night party easier for everyone. Just stuff like that. We still discuss it regualrly.
What was shocking to me is that it turns out that my dd only needs about 10 hours of sleep a day. She will sometimes go entire weeks on 8-9 hours a day and still be fully functional and happy during the days. When we were attempting to "manage" her sleep, we were having her take 1.5 hour naps then putting her to bed at a time that would have yielded another 11-12 hours. No wonder she would not fall asleep!
We did have to re-evaluate "us time". I need as much or more sleep than dd so many nights there is no "us time". But somehow that is OK. We only needed the "us time" before because we were both so frustrated trying to get dd to sleep
I cannot say this will "work" for all kids. I guess it depends on what one thinks "works". For us, "working" really means that dd is learning the ins and outs of sleep just like she does eating, breathing, climbing, etc..... It happened to have the nice side effect of being easier for us to live with. However, most people say we are nuts to allow our dd to only sleep so little and not take a nap. They think we should make her. I have come to the opinion that had we continued the struggle, we would not only all still be miserable about sleep but dd could develop sleep issues BECAUSE of it.