East Dulwich (Mobile) Forum

Bedtime battleground with a 3 year old


I'd appreciate some advice on overcoming the bed time battle.

I've got a beautiful, funny, creative, energetic 3.5 year old girl.

She's a typical 3.5 year old. But the bed-night routine has become a nightmare.

We've had a simple routine of Night Garden/Peppa, bath, bottle, books x 2 & sleep.

For the last few months that seems to have changed - but only when I put her to bed.

We go through the routine, but she won't get into bed, when she does she doesn't stay there, and currently I'm lucky if she's asleep by 9 - the routine started at 7.

She just says no!
I've been the calm mum.
I've taken toys away.
I've been the shouty mum (made her cry and felt guilty)
I've tried the star chart

She usually has an hour sleep at 1pm. If she doesn't she will fall asleep at 5ish.

Any advice would be welcomed.
We are in a similar position.

We have had to drop a nap even though he isn't really ok to go through the day without it / otherwise he is up until 10!

Maybe try a nap every 2 days or cut it to eg 20mins or replace with quiet time in the couch?
Help! Exactly the same age. Exactly the same problem. It's making me very cross and I ended up shouting last night.
She hasn't napped at all for months, meaning she's now down to 10 or 10.5 hours sleep overnight and that's it. Still wakes up early, 6 or even earlier.
Hi Lucy,
I think cutting the nap could be way forward, my 3.5 year old only has a nap when we are visiting rellies in Italy where he is expected to be awake until later (meals out with family etc). When he dropped his nap I remember that there were a couple of days where he fell asleep at 530-6 but soon adjusted after a few weeks. I fed him dead early, 1630, so I knew he hadn't gone to sleep without eating. She will probably wake up again at 7pm thinking that she was meant to be having just a nap, but just explain that it's night time and go back to bed. In my experience sleep issues usually take a few nights of hell but work out in the end. if she keeps getting out of bed then I would keep putting her back to bed with eventually very little communication (it's bed time) . Exhausting I know, but worked here! Best of luck!

As a side note I believe that like adults, different children need different amounts of sleep. My 2 generally do about 10.5 hours rather than a full 12.
I would definitely cut out the daytime nap as she is 3 and a half and then cope with the side effects later to help with the going to bed routine. Also try to curb the bottle use (is it milk?) and not to introduce any liquids that would interrupt a sleep pattern.
She's establishing a new routine, as you have described above, so you need to knock it on the head.

I would cut out the daytime nap and set up very strict routine.

When she says no, just continue. Don't engage in discussion/ argument.
When she gets out of bed, tell her - It's bedtime now and put her back. Next time, just put her back and don't speak. And keep putting her back every time she gets out.

Your reaction is her reward....she's getting more time with you and getting to stay up later.

Does she really need a bottle before bed? If she has her dinner and a drink she shouldn't be hungry, so water should do. Perhaps it's a comfort thing?

Persevere, but keep to your routine.
Thankyou everyone.

I'm going to persevere and be strong.

The milk is probably a comfort thing as she still asks for it, but will consider reducing that.

Can I ask you guys for your routines? I'm wondering whether interaction with the TV is a problem, but to be honest that's what help wind her down.
It is a difficult stage as others have said, but definitely drop the nap. Feed earlier (I have a funny video of my son falling asleep at the dinner table while my baby daughter is screaming the background) so you can ensure she eats well before going to bed. Maybe also keep the activities to a minimum for the first few days so she isn’t too exhausted generally. Then if she still needs a nap every 3 days or so you can do that to get her used to it – I always found a nap in the buggy to be good. I’d be careful about telly too late in the afternoon too as she may fall asleep in front of it. She will soon get used to it and I reckon within 3 months you’ll have a child who happily goes to bed when you want her to. Good luck!
If it's any help, we're strict about turning the TV (and phones etc.) off at least an hour before bedtime - and my girls are teenagers!

It's had an immediate positive impact on sleep - my eldest was not sleeping until midnight is now asleep by 9.30.

Mornings are another story altogether....... but one things at a time :-)
Thankyou Lula & Jules-and-Boo

I'll give your tips a try
on milk - we still offer milk at 3 and 5yo.

either at the table in a cup or on the sofa/bedroom in a sippy cup (prone to spillages)

we ask them if they want it, the 3yo always does (or says no and then changes his mind, grrrr) the 5yo about half the time.

good luck x
Thanks Convex

I was going to ask about milk. It's a real comfort thing for our 3.5 year old at the moment, so think it will be quite hard. But will ask if she wants it, I'm sure the answer will be yes!
is she still using a bottle? if its in a cup there is no reason to reduce it really.

even if its a bottle just ask the dentist to check her teeth - if its once a day and she isn't falling asleep on it its might not be an issue to keep it.

we only just gave up the dummy for the 3yo though (at request of dentist) so I'm possibly too relaxed about these things...
Sounds really tricky for you all, I would support suggestions to stop or limit the nap to 20 mins never sleeping after 4pm. I would also stop screen time after 5 if you are still having problems. We've been in a similar position before and that was the professional advice we received at that time. As I understand it even if children look like they are relaxing with a screen it has really detrimental effects on their ability to switch off. We now have slipped back into our old routine again of TV pre bath and at the moment sleep is ok, if we go through a tricky patch though we readjust TV time as one of our first steps. Good luck
We've battles too. She's 4 end July.
Routine (with baby brother) is Night Garden/story/nighttime song (so they know it's bedtime) if there is a bath its earlier.
PJs, teeth, brother goes straight down and she has stories and then it starts either wants to sleep in loft (where we are at mo so just carry her down asleep later) or shouts for water/stories/stay with me/need a poo, it goes on. Says not tired. So we're saying you can play for a little then go to bed just stay in room (mixed success)
When it gets bad and we know we're going to end up wound up and shouting usually do silent return which does get results after 5-12 times! Just go up, pick up (from her spot shouting on landing) and put in bed and walk out. Repeat. Do not speak. Like someone else said it means you don't give attention.
Dreading when her brother is out of a cot and no longer captive!! Her shouting has started triggering him a bit last few weeks too ;(
We talk about "last night was a bad bedtime can we have a good one tonight" with occasional bribes. And she doesn't like disappointing so try to point that out. Can't do this at the time (especially can't say "no treats tomorrow" as that will just exacerbate an already bad situation)

Hoping it'll stop soon...!
Good luck
I would add that on the YouTube you will find Lucy lots of practical advice on Nanny 911 and Supernanny. They usually tackle bad sleeping habits with good success.
Good luck
It's the time of year and the heat too. Midsummer madness. We are mammals after all, more active during summertime. My son is 7 so I can't remember anything helpful but he's been awake till 10pm for the last week or so. Nothing I do or say makes any difference, he's just too hot and its too light for him to get to sleep. We might just need to wait for the earth to start tilting away from the sun again before bedtimes return to a more civilised hour.
I would definitely drop the nap, we had to do this with my son when he was just over two years old. Otherwise, he wouldn't fall asleep until close to 10pm!

Our bedtime routine goes like this:

Toilet visit (he's very regular and usually 'goes' just after eating)
2 stories

I/my partner sits with him until he falls asleep. He's only 3.5, and still needs that closeness. It won't be forever. We don't have any TV in the evenings. Watching bright images on screens activates their minds, they often go to bed thinking about what they've seen. Maybe a screen-free wind-down before bed might help?

He doesn't have any milk. Never took a bottle, and hasn't been particularly keen on any form of milk since he stopped breastfeeding late last year. I do make sure he drinks plenty of water before bed though, as he often wakes up thirsty otherwise!

Good luck :-)

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