Video: My Toddler is Resisting at Bedtime! What Should I Do?

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  • September 10, 2017
resisting at bedtime


Hi! I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and in today’s video I’m going to answer Claire’s question about her daughter who is resisting at bedtime. Here’s what she wrote in:

My daughter is 2-1/2 years old and she recently started crying at bedtime. She’s surrounded by her dolls and teddies and she repeatedly cries, “I’m on my own!” She’s always slept through the night and I don’t what I can do for her now.

So, a couple of points here, Claire.

Putting Yourself to Sleep Independently is a Learned Skill

My first question is, does your daughter know how to put herself to sleep from a wakeful state independently at bedtime? Did she used to know how to do this? Did you used to  hold or rock her and get her a little bit more drowsy than normal or more than what she needs? I am wondering if now, as she’s becoming older and more aware of the separation, she’s wanting you to put her down less awake. This could be a big factor in this change in her bedtime behavior that you are seeing.

Make Sure She Has an Appropriate and Early Enough Bedtime

Make sure your daughter’s bedtime is early enough and age appropriate. Most 2-3 year olds need 10-11 hours of sleep at night in addition to a nap. So if she needs to be awake at 7am for example she will need to be asleep by 8pm.

RELATED: Sleep Schedules: Your Two-and-a-Half to Five-Year-Old

Avoid Overstimulation

Turn off all screens at least one hour or ideally 2 hours before bedtime. And of course, take note of what content she is potentially watching on TV.

Give Extra Assurance

As you know, 2-½ (years old) is another separation-individuation stage stage. Always reassure her that “even when you don’t see mommy, I love you and I’m around and I’m here for you.”

Sleep Training Refresher

At bedtime you could do some gentle sleep coaching. For instance, sit by the doorway or sit in the hall in view. Then reassure her that:

  1.  “Mommy will stay here until you’re asleep.”
  2.  “Once you’re asleep, I’ll come check on you before I go to bed.”

Lots of times, 2-1/2 year olds feel very reassured by that.

Be Sure She’s Well-Napped

Finally, make sure that she’s well napped because, if she’s nap deprived, it makes bedtime harder and tends to cause more difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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