HELP! My 2 Almost 3 Year Old Will Not Go to Sleep Now & Also Is Getting Naughty!

Updated on September 06, 2008
A.M. asks from Norwalk, CA
17 answers

HELP! I have no idea what to do! I have two issues with my 2 1/2 year old! First,he has always been so well behaved in the past but in the last two weeks has been awful. The naughtiness started a few weeks back (before our recent move). He'll be three in October and he has started to hit me and talk back to me, and do anything else that he knows he's not supposed to do. I've tried time out, and telling him in a firm voice "we do not hit" and other Supernanny type things, and he just seems to be getting worse. I have been trying to give extra praise and it's just not working! I don't know what happened to my well-behaved boy! My husband says it's because I'm too nice to him! He does not treat my husband the same way!

Problem two: I feel like an awful mom who has no control over my two year old. He is very happy during the day and is great during our nighttime routine and seems ready to go to bed. We moved out of our house for a few months after my younger son had major surgery while we were renovating (to avoid the dust and mess of the house post surgery) and just moved back in. Before the move when the boys were about 29 months and 5 months we moved them into the same room. There were a few "rough" nights of crying but no real naughtiness. Now I put the baby down first and then we tip toe into the room. The first two nights in the room after moving back were great but then the trouble started. My oldest started yelling, screaming, throwing his books all over the floor. He climbs into his brother's crib and starts jumping around, kicks the wall, (man he sounds awful!) and turns the light on. Sigh. This goes on for up to two hours with me or my husband (if he's not at night school) dragging him back into the room, or holding the door closed, going in and trying to calm him down, talking to him "firmly" and telling him to go to bed. I start back to school tomorrow and will have lesson plans to write, papers to grade, and a house to keep up and I can't spend all of my free time trying to get my two year old to go to sleep, plus I know that he needs the sleep! Help! I am out of ideas.

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answers from Los Angeles on

He either has a case of the terrible twos, and I bet anything this is just want it is, thats why they call it terrible twos.. as most say this to shall pass... so he doesnt want to go to sleep let him stay up in a play pen, give him some toys to play but he cant get out, give him some toys to play with in his crib, if he is crawling out of his crib you can lower the mattress so the rails are harder to climb over, most people dotn realize you can lower the mattress. Keep with the time out, but dont say anything to him, you know super nanys ways they do work, Hang in there MOm , its just a case of terrible twos, it will pass..

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answers from Honolulu on

Okay yes it's a terrible time for all.
He's in the 2's stage too.... and a recent move and change in routine for him.

Main thing is consistency. And boundaries. It takes time... sometimes a month even. And then as they get older, other phases erupt too. LOL.

Well it's not easy. But, you have too keep on reinforcing things as you see appropriate. At this age...for our girl... we would tell her that if she is grumpy... she can go in her room, by herself, and scream all she wants... then come out when she is feeling better. That she could not take it out on others... it's okay to have grumpy moments... but not to take it out on others. Sure, it took a learning process. But now at her age... when she is grumpy... she goes in her room (ie: her safe zone) and can scream all she wants. Then she comes out, and will tell us she feels better. It takes practice.

We also taught her about emotions... and talked about it with her, in a way that didn't judge her or "blame" her... this in time gives them a foundation to understand abstract feelings later.

Also, your son is the "eldest" child... this is a lot of pressure being an "eldest." So, at his age, they are not yet ready nor mature enough to handle everything... thus he is acting out. He can't express his frustrations in a "grown up" way. He needs help to navigate through it. Kids act out many times in reflection of frustrations or something they are not getting. So reflect on this.... Also, eldest children are often expected to be "perfect" and not make any trouble and are the first to be punished or scolded or corrected or told "no." All they hear is negative things... this creates stress for them internally. They then act out. Or they act up just to get attention even if it is negative attention...

Eldest children have a whole set of "problems" just being the oldest. They are still a child as well, and need understanding. They are tender emotionally as you can see... and need to know that their parent(s) are there for them and can trust them... for anything.

Well you seem like a caring patient Mom... and it's not easy this storm he is going through... but try to see what he is lacking.... and making him so angry....

Maybe he needs his own room too? His "own" things... his own special place and room.

there are so many factors involved. Have you tried just talking with him, and letting him vent and seeing what he is saying? What he is feeling? What is bothering him? At this age, in their own way, maybe he can verbalize it... then offer him non-judgmental responses so that he knows he is "understood." Sometimes, just that alone would make my eldest girl feel better and closer to Me. She just NEEDED that. My girl just needs to talk sometimes... it's her way of connecting with us, and feeling better. We never scold or judge her when she is chatting, but give her this special moment to feel "safe" in telling us anything about her day.

All the best, sorry I don't have any magic answers, but just some thoughts,
Good luck,

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answers from Honolulu on

I have the same ages and my older one turns 3 in Oct! We're dealing with the same thing, him having these "naughty" behaivious out of the woodwork. It's easy for your hubby to deal in a firm way and him listen b/c he's not the one with him all the time so he'll listen. I just heard in a parent class that whoever is having trouoble with a kid, to go out and do something fun with that child, that way there's more to the relationship besides the struggle. So in all your spare time (ha!) maybe your husband can stay with the baby and you and your son can go out and do something fun... even if for 30 min??? On the sleep thing, it doens't sound good that they're in the same room... does that have to be the case? Also what's pre-bedtime like? Is theTV on/ lots of stimulation? Is there windown time? (our son usually runs thru the house after his bath being a wildman, or does head stands on his bed and "surfs" on pillows before story time. He needs to be able to go to his room and make noise. This is "what they do" at this age and it will only make it worse to tell him to be quiet. Try to pick your battles and be consistant. You're doing a GREAT job. Good luck this school year.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You are the parent. He is the child. You make the decsions, not him. He knows you will "try to calm him down", "talk firmly to him" etc before he has to listen to you.

Set up the boundaries and stick to them.

Use words like, "we don't act like that in this house", "our family does not hit", "we don't yell" etc.

Do not tell him what he is doing wrong, because in his eyes he is doing nothing wrong, he is doing everything he needs to do to get your attention.

Start from the time he gets up until the time he goes to bed, address the behaviours that you expect.

BREAKFAST: "Which will you enjoy and eat more of this morning, your protein smoothie of a fruit salad?" Give hime a choice.

PLAYTIME: "Which toy will keep you happy the longest, the trucks or the farm set?"

LUNCH: "Which would you like more of today so that you can eat a healhty lunch, chicken and pasta or chicken and potatos?"

BATHTIME: "Do you want your blue boat or the red one so that you are having fun in the bathtub tonight?"

BEDTIME: "Before you go right to sleep, would you like mommy to read you a story on top of the covers or underneath?"

TELL him your desired outcome with EACH activity. He does not know how to behave, you keep telling him what not to do, the mind does not hear negatives so every time you tell him to STOP THAT, he hears the "that" and continues right on doing "that".

This is what I do, I teach families how to be in harmony.

If you want to chat...

B. H, B.A.;B.Ed.
Family Nutritional Coach

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.:
Your sons behavior,is not out of the ordinary,under the recent circumstances.Most important,he is 2 and 1/2 and thats a difficult stage for children. They experience all the same feelings you do, but are unable to express them,because of their limited ability to communicate those feelings. They get extremly frustrated as a result,and begin acting out. The important thing for you to realize right now, is that he needs your patience and understanding,while he is attempting to get those feelings across. You need to help him find the words, and while we all know, its not always a very easy thing to do, you need to convey to him, that you care that hes upset, and want to help. You need to try and stay calm.I've never believed anyone needs to use physical force, to get a point across.(especially towards their own child.)Children need to be nurtured, loved,and taught...Your a teacher.How far would you get with your students,if you slapped them each time they answered a question incorrectly?I'm not suggesting you would do such a thing,but there are those,that lack in specific areas,such as understanding, logic and tact,so they result to the teaching or treatments rendered by their own parents.I won't argue, that one who puts the fear or threat of having the upper hand against a child, would in time break them down,thus creating submissive behavior. We are our childrens teachers.Do we want them to love and enjoy learning? Do we want them to respect us,as individuals,or respect us (out of fear? I read your request over a few times,and besides his young age,and the problem communicating to you, he recently experienced his baby brother going through something scarry. I'm sure he knew his brother was in the hospital.He may not have understood exactly why, but just the same, it was the not knowing that may have frightened him.He saw you and dad making over him,and worried about him,so he knew something was wrong.You moved out for a while, and that also can have an effect on a child. Yes, even if you did move back in.He lost a sense of security during that transition.Dads gone at night school, he loses a bit of security there as well.When you mentioned holding onto the door knob so he couldn't open the door of his room, I sympathized with your desperation,and his as well. He appears to me, to have alot going on in that little head of his right now,and you need to try and take the time to find out what it is.If your son was fine before all these incidents occured,then you have to assume something is troubling him.Don't punish him for having problems.follow your motherly instincts,put your arms around him, tell him your there to help him,and then try your best to soothe his fears.Your attitude,your caring ways,will give him comfort,and calm him down. I wish you and your darlin son the very best. J.



answers from San Diego on

Let me tell you I was right where you are like 1 month ago! I think its like they are turning 3 so they go a little coo coo. he he I still sometimes get her sassy-ness when at walmart in front of all and she hits me too. So we no longer take here near florescent lights unless needed so no stores for her. I think they make her go a little coo coo, shes ADHD so its kinda sometimes happens I read. So we noticed she behaves more with less lights around the house just sun light.

Try this,

Here is a modification plan that has worked with ADD or ADHD students in my classroom when medication was not an option.

First: The children must be on a regimented schedule that may not vary more than one hour from day to day. I stressed that bedtime could never be later than 9:00 on a school night or 10:00 on the weekend. Always allow at least 10 hours of sleep each night, preferably 11-12. Never allow children to nap after 5:00 PM as this should be dinner and family activity time. Once the girls get in the routine of being in bed by 8:00 or 9:00, you and your husband will have some alone time.

Second: The girls must awake no later than 9:00 in the morning. This allows for appropriate breakfast and then lunch time. Beginning this routine by age 3 makes it much easier to move on to an earlier wake-up time once school starts.

Third: Break the day into time slots that go with the girls’ needs. For example 9-9:30 one daughter eats then gets some reading time; one daughter eats breakfast and calm play activities such as coloring, playdoh, reading AFTER they eat. Limit the TV and computer. These have been proven to over stimulate children with behavior problems. For each activity verbalize simple, precise directions and expectations. For example: “You will sit and eat breakfast now.” If she gets up again say “Rosie, this is a warning. If you get up again you will go to the “naughty” chair.
If she does sit, reward her with a sticker on the behavior chart. Say, “Good girl. You did what I told you. You get a sticker” If she does not sit, use the “time out” or naughty chair.
“Time out or naughty chair: Firmly put her in the seat (or spot) Get down to her level, look her in the eyes – say “You will sit here for 3 minutes because you (simply state what she did). At the end of 3 minutes, go to her and ask her to say she is sorry. Once she says she is sorry, give her a hug, say “I love you” and let her go back to what she was doing.
Some children go to time out willingly at first, and then they fight it. “Time out” is not finished until 3 successive minutes have past and an apology given. If she gets up, put her back and start the process over. Sometimes it will take over an hour before a successful time out. Some children have taken 2 hours. This will only work with consistency – one parent can not be the “bad-guy” both have to stick to the plan.
You and your husband must decide which are the most important behaviors to control. Start with those and add on.
For example: 1) Always keep you hands and feet to yourself (that means no hitting or kicking)
2) Never go out the door by yourself.
3) Always do what mom or dad tells you to.
Always make sure Rosie understands what is expected before giving a time-out. Do not say – “Rosie you know you cannot throw toys. Say “we’ll play with ________ now. We will not throw _________. If you play nicely you will get a sticker”
Then if she throws anything “Rosie, that’s a warning. You can not throw toys. Next time you’ll go to time out.” If she throws again, tell her what she did, put her in the naughty chair.

Fourth: Sticker chart: Each time a positive behavior is observed, verbalize it and give her a sticker. You will need to do the same for each child, so no one get's jealous.
Explain at the beginning that when the chart is filled she will get _____________. (A small reward, toy or game with mom and dad) Since she is so young, give her plenty of opportunity to get a sticker. For example: “Rosie, you shared your toy. I’m so proud of you. Put a sticker on your chart.”
There are 25 boxes. Break it up into time frames for yourself. You want her to be successful by the end of the first day. You can give a sticker for something you know she does well, like eating all of her ________. Never take stickers away; this part of the plan is positive reinforcement. Never say “You were bad today, you did not fill the chart” Say “We did not fill the chart today, we’ll try harder tomorrow.”

Five: Tentative schedule

9:00 -11:30 One child eats and then you read to them, other daughter eats their breakfast and quiet activity time.
11:30 – 12:30 Active indoor playtime
12:30 – 1:00 Lunch
1:00 – 2:00 Active playtime, outside if possible
2:00 – 4:30 one daughter nap. the other – nap and/or quiet activity - coloring, reading, board games or both if they no longer wish to nap.
4:30 – 5:30 Active indoor or outdoor activity
5:30 -6:00 husband’s home – active play with girls while dinner is prepared.
6:00 – 6:30 Dinner with everyone sitting at the table. Include all kids so they doesn’t feel left out.
6:30 – 7:00 Cleanup and bath time.
7:00 – 8:00 Reading and /or board games as a family. Calm, quiet time before bedtime.

In the beginning only focus on the girls behavior. Do not try to get work done around the house when the girls are awake. Any chores can wait until both parents are home, so that an adult is always with Rosie until her behavior is under control. Do not try to go out shopping with the girls when you are first putting this plan into action.

How to enforce time out, pick a spot or room that is safe no glass or things to break in there! And enforce this! You need to stay on track daily or they will go crazy. :) Just remember you need to stick to a schedule adjust it how you want but the bedtime is what works for nannys, and us. We have one ADHD child and a special needs child. This was made for us by a teacher of 30 yrs kindergarden experience with special needs to normal kids. So this has worked for us so it should work for you. :)

Also dont raise your voice we were told this maker them wanna fight you more. I have noticed a difference I am a loud person and have tried hard to tone down. When I get over stressed by 6 pm two 3 yr olds I am done! So I take a time out go to the store, get coffee, just a walk something for 30 mins - an hr. I come back for bed time and I am more relaxed. I call it mommy time out time, and my kids are like ok be good on your time out mommy. he he

Also have you started potty training we wait 2 weeks then started and now my stubborn one is getting there dry store trips even. :)

Good luck I hope it helps. Also we limit toys and activity's and also lots of park time if you have one near you.

Also the meanness or crankyness or screaming will be from lack of sleep. My daughter does this after 4 pm so after that she needs to be home in her room for wind down time. Or I have to put with her being cranky. She no longer naps shes tried to drop it at age 2 but by 2 1/2 we got her to nap once a week. Then that stopped and this started so she is to sleep from 8 pm - 8 am at the least if she wakes up we send her back to sleep we know how she needs that sleep and she could use more. :)



answers from San Luis Obispo on

Dear A.,

Does he take an early afternoon nap? He should, maybe he just gets over tired. That does happen. He will have to cry and have a tantrum until he gets the idea that he has to rest or sleep for a good amount of time after lunch.
But it is worth it. Children need to rest until they are 6 years old, but no one pays attention to that nowadays. They would have happier family lives if they would require resting.

Hold his hands very tightly and say You are not to hit me !!! none of that 'we' stuff. He will cry and scream, and then you take him into a room where no one else is and let him cry. when he finishes, then clean him up and take him to where you want him to be and don't talk about it anymore. (until the next time, of course)

You are not a bad Mom, for heaven's sake. C. N.


answers from Los Angeles on

I like what the other mom's wrote - you ARE under a lot of stress and it's understandable!
I also thought of this too-

A lot of kids act bad because of:
1- too much TV
2- bad diet
A lot of husbands let the TV do the babysitting and hate to cook.
It's a big job. If you want to help him, give him a chore chart for the kids to follow (and make sure they have no tv or candy during the week). You can provide the ideas, and can get some fun behavior charts that are free at:
More power to you,



answers from Los Angeles on

For my children after their getting ready for bed time I would spend time reading at least one book ( I would let them have more as a treat for good behavior earlier in the day), scratching their back ( or belly, their choice) and the singing of one or two little songs. When my kids were still having a little problem falling asleep, I would kiss them goodnight and tell them that I was going to read on the other side of the room. (We left a light on in the bathroom until they fell asleep until they were older - some feel strongly against this but I feel it is more important that children learn to fall asleep calmly). I would read for about 10-15 minutes and they would be asleep. If they weren't I would still excuse myself and they would fall asleep. If they tried to talk with me while I was in there I would tell them that I would have to leave unless they were quiet. I used this for four children over almost 20 years (my youngest is 6) and have not regretted one moment of it.




answers from Reno on

I truly do not know why they call it the "terrible twos"...two is not terrible at's three! I do not have any great advice...I'm not sure how I got thru it...all three of our kids were like your son at times...I have two girls and a boy. Our son is close to four now so it's getting better...HANG IN THERE!!!



answers from San Diego on

My son is the same age and just last week we finally solved his sleeping problem. It had been some nights an almost 2 hour routine to go to bed. What we've found that works for our son, start the nighttime routine early which was a mental block for me... I knew he needed to be in bed by 9pm so we started getting ready at 9pm - once we moved the pre-bed routine up to 8:30 its been much better. I think its because once he crosses that imaginary too tired line he fights even more to not go to bed. We do the same thing every evening (PJs, brush teeth, two stories) and then lights off and bed. The trouble for us came from the initial fighting at everystep (fixed with starting sooner) and then also once the lights were off we couldn't leave the room until he was asleep. We tried the walking out sooner every night, letting him cry, music/no music, night-light/no night-light. What it finally came down to was we had to leave his door open so he could hear us in the next room and see a little light from the hallway, before we would close his door so we wouldn't disturb his sleep. Granted our situation is easier with only one!! It just takes a little experimentation to figure out what works best for your son. Also, if possible you might want to let your husband be in charge of bed time for a few weeks while you figure things out. Our son always listens to my hubby the first time instead of 5 minutes and time out later with me because I"m the pushover. So for us there are always less problems when hubby puts him down. Although now that we've figured out the right combination I can finally put him to sleep with no problems.
Hopefully this helps and good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.!

I have a similar problem with my 2 year old son that we have been working on. In fact I posted a request and got some good responses! What has been working so far is a bedtime routine that starts at 6pm to have my son to sleep no later than 8pm. The kids get their evening bath and story. Then I put my son to bed and let my 3 1/2 year old daughter stay up and color, read books, etc. until my son falls asleep. It took some work (he likes to get out of bed) to get him to stay put, but eventually he does fall asleep in his bed. Then I put my daughter to bed so she can go to sleep undisturbed. Maybe try putting your 2 1/2 year old to bed first and then when he is asleep put your youngest to bed. Be patient, be consistent, and be firm. That is why I started the earlier routine so I would have the patience to deal with the issue. Good luck, I know it's difficult to handle.



answers from Los Angeles on

I feel your pain. My nearly 4 year old daughter goes through this too, while her older sister almost never did. I finally figured out that my youngest wasn't acting naughty because she's bad, but because she's tired. I started the bedtime routine earlier and got her to sleep earlier. Plus I made sure there was no TV or computer or roughhousing or any stimulating activity at least an hour before bed. Just bath, cuddling, reading, talking. I also made sure that I spent at least 10 minutes a day focusing only on her. It's made all the difference in the world. She's still highly spirited, still very active, but she's better rested and better behaved. There are nights when she has trouble falling asleep still, and I lay down with her, count to 100 in my head, and whether she's awake or asleep, I leave. Bedtime can be stressful for children. They don't want to be separated from the people they love most, or miss out on any fun. Our job as parents is to help them make the transition to bedtime, and to teach them that our bodies need rest. Yelling, forcing, doing the cry it out thing causes them more stress, and prolongs sleep problems. Meet him on his level, acknowledge his feelings, comfort him, and remember that this too shall pass. Check out the book "Sleepless in America" - it's been great for us. Good luck.



answers from Los Angeles on

I'm thinking that he's acting out because of the disruption of you moving out of the house and the attention your younger one has received while having surgery. He's probably acting naughty because he's craving your attention. I know, it's hard, I have a 3year old and an 8 month old myself. BUT I would suggest trying to spend some time alone with him doing an activity that doesn't involve the younger sibling.

In the last year he's had a new sibling, moved out of his house, dealt with the stress of his brother having surgery and the attention going to him, then moving back at home, and then dealing with all the pressures of beinga 2 1/2 year's a lot to deal with!

Give him some alone time and be comforting to him and I'm sure things will calm down.



answers from Los Angeles on

it is possible your to nice. We love our kids but sometimes they have to know who is in charge.
Continue the one warning and to the time out. It's hard to tell but you must be missing something or not following through the discipline. It is not something that is fixed overnight like on TV. I personlly believe in a good spanking every once in awhile gets there attention but many do not.
Never hold the door closed. I have to keep taking him back. repetition and he will get it. You have to get it or you will not any control of the younger one either. You may want to move the crib out so he doesn't disturb the little one. Just until he behaves. Find out what dad does and work together on this. A must! Good Luck



answers from Las Vegas on

I have a three year old boy who acts the same way. Everyone always says that the two's are terrible, however I disagree! It is really the three's! I say just hang in there it will get easier. He is just starting to learn how to express himself and feeling you out. My son always wants what he wants and there is no reasoning with a three year old..
I also can't get mine to take a nap. It takes at least an hour if not more, but now I have a 7 month old so it is ten times harder to spend that time. What works for me at night is if I lay down with him in his bed. If I am there he is less likely to get up. I also found this nightlight that they can hold at babies r us. And he seems to really enjoy holding on tho it as he falls asleep. It is called Tyke light and it comes in a few colors. Good luck, I hope this helps.



answers from San Diego on

Hi A., I think you are having the problems you are having becasue, there is no REAL discipline going on, and instead of you showing your son that you are in charge, it sounds more like he is in charge, don't go in his room, don'y go calm him down, he knows his bad behavior gets you in the room so he does it, I guarenntee if he thought you were going to come in there, and give hime a good firm swat on his butt, I be he would think twice about miss behaving. Some kids will do what ever they an get away with, if things are not niped in the bud early, ungly behavior just gets uglyier, becasue what i have read right here, you have no control over your son. so you and your husband need to get on the same page start some constructive discipline and I'm sure you will start seeing some improvment. J. L.



answers from Los Angeles on

He either has a case of the terrible twos, and I bet anything this is just want it is, thats why they call it terrible twos.. as most say this to shall pass... so he doesnt want to go to sleep let him stay up in a play pen, give him some toys to play but he cant get out, give him some toys to play with in his crib, if he is crawling out of his crib you can lower the mattress so the rails are harder to climb over, most people dotn realize you can lower the mattress. Keep with the time out, but dont say anything to him, you know super nanys ways they do work, Hang in there MOm , its just a case of terrible twos, it will pass..

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