My 2-year-old wakes up in the middle of the night and whines for an hour or two and won't tell me why or go back to sleep. I have to work and this can't keep happening. Also I am worried about him.

  • Sophie - please read the posts in the Related sidebar to the right. I reckon some of those posts will help you.This is common to most children.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 8, 2018 at 9:31
  • 3
    The first thought when I read this title was "Only hours? When i wake up, I whine the rest of the day till I can sleep again." Jul 9, 2018 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


My technique:

  • get into their bed with them, or get into a sleeping bag on the floor next to them and hold their hand.

  • be very boring: no talking, playing, singing. Just your presence and physical contact. Put on calming music if that helps.

  • go to sleep yourself. This provides an example for them to follow and means you’re super-dull from their point of view. Also you get to catch up on sleep, which every parent of little ones needs.

If you can’t actually get to sleep then pretend to be asleep (and if you’re as tired as most parents you will probably nod off anyway).

All kids are different but this method worked with both of ours.


This can be rough. As a foster parent, this is often a problem that I have that is usually tied to an underlying real problem, but it can often happen with no "problem" at all.

Regardless of the reason why, here are a few things that work for us. Keep in mind that all kids are different and that some of these things will work while others won't

  • Ignore it. This almost certainly is not for you, but for us, it's important to understand that it's ok to cry when you're sad, and your our kids sometimes may only feel comfortable enough to cry when no one is around. I put this one first because it's the least likely answer to help you. Keep in mind that if you do go the ignore it route, you need to address the "sad" in some way.
  • Monster Spray. Google it. If they are afraid this stuff works very well. Remember it's not about allowing the fear, they already have that, it's about mitigating it.
  • Boring Dad. "I see your awake, go to sleep, I'll sit here." Then sit still, and do nothing. No books, no tablet, no games, no tv, no Netflix, just sit. Sometimes they just need to know your there, but you don't want it to become fun time either.
  • Toddler clock. It's a clock that changes colors. Red means sleep, green means wake up. There cheap and really helped us with a few kids that would not sleep the night.
  • Walk-bys. It's bedtime, I will check on you in 5. Then set a quite timer to 5 mins and peek in. Again a lot of time they just want to know they are safe.

Then try to address before bed issues. The whining is a sign that they don't feel safe. That's normal. There are tons of reasons for it. Try night lights, soothing music, noise machines, hallway lights, special blankets, bedtime routine adjustments. Then try some early wake-up routines. What do you do if you wake up and it's dark out? Go potty, hug a bear, drink water, cover up, apply monster spray. Make them in charge of their own "safety" so when they feel unsafe they have something to do other than cry.

Keep in mind that this is 100% normal and common. Everyone goes through it in one form or another.

OK to cry

This is important to note, I listed it here because we as parents often think of crying as a sign of bad things. But it's not true. Go watch old yeller' and see if you don't cry. Crying, in that case, is normal. Being sad is normal, and a way that kids and adults cope with it is crying. Crying at night is ok, and should not be a panic button by its self. If you want to stop crying at night the solution is often crying during the day.

  • You've seen Old Yeller? When it came out-ish? Jul 17, 2018 at 11:33
  • I saw it on vhs which is almost bad enough.
    – coteyr
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:16
  • Lol, that's pretty funny! I saw it in the theater... :( But I was young. :) (But I never forgot "the scene".) Jul 17, 2018 at 22:51

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