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Our 2 year old daughter gets really upset whenever sleep/bed is mentioned.

She usually wakes up about 7-8am, has an afternoon nap around 1-2pm (duration between 1-2 hours), and goes to sleep at around 8pm.

Our nighttime ritual pretty much always goes:

  1. Dinner
  2. Quiet Play
  3. Bath
  4. Milk + 2-3 Books
  5. Cuddles/Talk
  6. Bed

Before naps, its usually just 2-3 books then bed.

She sleeps in a bed, not a cot, but rarely has issues with getting out of bed. After her initial outbursts, we can usually calm her and get her to sleep. I wondering what things we can try to make her more accepting of bed/nap time.

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7 Answers

Kids like attention, especially that age. It's a hard thing to do, but your best bet is to just leave, don't comfort the kid when she is outbursting. It's a very hard thing to do, but kids will find a way to get what they want, and outbursting of some kind is a common method, which if left not handled, will affect them even to much older ages.

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Just try and avoid making a big thing of it - put her down and leave. Some kids will take longer to cope with just being left, but the more you comfort them the longer it will take, so for your sanity get used to it.

Crying and screaming doesn't mean as much to them as to you - so don't take it to heart, and don't get them used to you comforting them every time they cry at being left in bed - otherwise you will just reward that behaviour.

Soon they'll learn, and you'll have easier evenings.

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Thanks, we try to do this a bit. Will have to be more controlled about it. Although she will always call out for us to tuck her in. When we do go back in to tuck her in (again), we pay no extra attention to her, but she does use it against us. –  Jacob Apr 8 '11 at 4:50
    
+1 Worked for us. It hurt a lot a the time, but looking back I wish we'd known this much sooner. –  Jack Douglas Apr 8 '11 at 17:21
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Routine - routine - routine. My youngest daughter, now 13 was an extreme night owl. She would rarely fall asleep before 2am when she was a toddler. What I found out through trial and error was that if we put her to bed at exactly the same time each night, her body got used to it. Give her a ritual before going to bed, do it the same way each night. Once she is in bed, limit the attention, she will get used to the routine.

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I think we may need to get the times more precise, we used to use the fact that its dark (used to be 8pm) now with DST and going into winter, that's more like 6:30pm... so that killed that. Thanks. –  Jacob Apr 8 '11 at 4:48
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I agree with the "routine routine routine". We also bought a clock that lights up when it's ok to get out of bed. We just kept reminding him that it wasn't time to get up yet because the light hadn't turned on yet. Worked within 2 days.

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2 days? Wow. At what age was that? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 9 '11 at 17:49
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Does she sleep with a stuffed animal? If so, maybe you can model the desired behavior via the stuffed animal. It worked for us.

For our daughter (age 2) the micro-routine is:

  • Tuck her in - head on the pillow, blankets pulled up
  • Give her her favorite bedtime book, Goodnight Moon
  • Give her a high five
  • Give her a fist bump
  • Shake her hand
  • Kiss her forehead goodnight

This routine was something we sort of reached together (our daughter and us) through trial and error. Of course, like any 2 year old after enough nights of that routine she had enough and started to request something different, but here's where I think we outsmarted her: rather than mixing it up we let her know that this was the bedtime routine and then started the routine on the stuffed animal she sleeps with. Yes, we gave a high five, fist bump, etc. to a stuffed cheetah. Anywho, she sat there and watched us do this dance with her stuffed animal and then we said goodnight and started to leave. She immediately laid down and said, "High five, high five!"

Most nights she's pretty good about following the routine on her own and going to sleep relatively quickly and easily, but for those nights where she's having a harder time we find that if we just do the routine with her stuffed animal and then say goodnight and start to leave she hits the deck fast and pleads for us to go through the routine with her.

Hope this helps!

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We have a similar kind of routine, which I forgot to mention. She has 3 sleepy toys... one that plays soothing music and glows when you press its tummy (great, because she settles herself back down with it when she wakes up). And we have to make sure they're all there for her to sleep. –  Jacob Apr 8 '11 at 4:45
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The best way is two fold.

First is routine. Gotta make it the same every night for them. Second if they keep getting out of bed, you dont respond at all. You just take them back to bed. For the first time, Give them a kiss and say good night again. The Second time, just say good night after they are in bed. After the second time dont respond at all to them, just take them back to bed and tuck them in. DO NOT respond. They are willing to take negative attention because it's attention.

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I'd like to add an idea we introduced at DST when it was suddenly not dark outside at bedtime anymore.

We have roller blinds outside the windows (typical for Germany and Austria), and when you close them then it's really dark inside. In winter, we just closed the blinds some time during the evening; no exact time was needed because it was dark anyway. Now in spring, we built it into our bedtime ritual. (Yes, a ritual is essential!)

Just before lights out, when my son has put the story book back on the shelf, we go to the window and say goodnight to the street, the trees, etc. while we lower the blinds. He can see it's still light outside, but we're saying goodnight to the outside because it's bedtime. He can see that the room gradually becomes dark, and he can see it's because we close the blinds. So there's no surprise that it's suddenly dark. Now it's dark, and there's nothing else to do than climb into bed using just the dim light from the hallway.

Continue the tuck-in ritual from here.

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