3 Year Old Stall Tactics Before Bed Has Gotten Worse

Updated on August 19, 2010
J.P. asks from North Aurora, IL
9 answers

Ok so here's some background. My 3 year old daughter has always had a hard time going to bed and staying asleep since she was a baby. There was one brief time from about 15 months to 2 year where she would go to bed nicely and wake up at night but put herself back to sleep. Since we moved her to a big girl bed when she turned 2 1/2 she started waking at night and we've been coming in her room and rocking her for 10 seconds and then putting her to bed and she would be fine. Recently though, she's been saying before bed, "I have to go potty." and then smiling, and crying no hold me, one more hug, don't leave me! I've had her "cry it out" but she will cry for more than 40 mins and not give up. Sometimes even after crying for that long I'll come in and we'll do our same little dance again and then she starts crying again and won't give up until we do that again. She still wakes up every night pretty much about 2-3 times a night. Sometimes it only takes 10 seconds and other times it takes about 5 minutes because she starts crying again dont' leave me, no one more hug...and at 3am I really dont' want to wake the other kids (a 4 1/2 year old and a 19 month old), so I give in to her then. I am at my wits end though...usually nap time she would go down fine, play for a 1/2 hour or so and fall asleep, but was always pleasant to put down, but now we fight every nap time too, and yes she usually will still fall asleep eventually. Any suggestions? Give up the hug and not talk to her at all? I love putting my 4 1/2 year old to bed, we talk for a bit and then give a hug and kiss and then we say goodnight and everyone is happy. I wish I could have the same thing with my other daughter, but instead I'm always mad and frustrated with her at bedtime, when she's very sweet during the day.

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So What Happened?

I tried last week to sit in a chair in her room and said I would stay there as long as she stayed in bed. After over 20 minutes and her not falling asleep yet, I got up and she cried then said I would leave the door open as long as she stayed in bed. I sat on the stairs and she eventually got up out of bed and looked out the door. I got up and closed the door and she cried. I waited only about 30 secs. told her calmly to get back in bed and the door would stay open. "Ta da!" It's worked every night. She doesn't even get out of bed anymore! Every once in awhile she asks for more hugs and starts to cry but then I say I'll leave the door open as long as you stay in bed and she smiles and says, "ok! Night!" I read the Healthy sleeps habits happy child book and it said that 3 is the age that having the door closed scares them. I just wished she would have been able to tell us earlier. I also just started yesterday eliminating her nap to try and get her to go to bed earlier as the sun is setting sooner, I'm hoping this will help with an earlier bed time as well. Thanks again for all your info!

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answers from Chicago on

I haven't looked at the other posts, but have you ever thought about minimizing or eliminating nap time (I know ugh, that might be a break for you) and putting her to bed earlier? Sometimes children get tired, then overtired and voila they are not necessarily going to sleep when their clock is ticking-or feeling actually sleepy.
I hate to say this however, I was always a light sleeper and it hasn't seemed to change in my entire life. Could just be her. So in that case will she look at books or something peaceful by herself for awhile?

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answers from Dayton on

Hi J.,

It sounds like you need some consistency in all of this. It's gonna be key in setting up some kind of routine. I know it's tough because it sounds like the reason you give in is not because you think she's in any kind of distress (which, of course, she's not) but because you are trying to be fair to your other kids and you don't want their rest disturbed.

First come up with a bedtime you are comfortable with. You can even put her down before the other two kids so her acting out is less disruptive to them. It might help to give her about 20 minutes of undivided attention. After she bathes and is ready for bed, read to her, talk about her day for about 15 minutes and then give her 5 minutes for just back rubbing and affection. Then a hug and a kiss and leave the room. I would make sure there is a drink by them bed (a small ammount of water in a spill proof cup) and that she has gone to the bathroom. I would use an egg timer and set it for the 20 minutes so that she knows there is a finite ammount of time and that is it. Then let her fuss. It's the fact that you go in eventually that gives her that ability to go the distance. In her mind she's thinking, "Eventually....."

When she wakes up in the middle of the night, make sure that how you handle that is the same thing every time. Put her back to bed in as unstimulating a way as possible. It's not about ignoring her as much as it is about not engaging her and that really active little brain she has. Don't speak, or make eye contact. Put her back to bed and walk away. If she disrupts the others make sure you deal with THEM and not her. She shouldn't get attention for negative behavior. That's what she's wanting so that is the last thing she should get because even if it's negative attention it's a payoff. Reward her good behavior and her efforts lavishly. Make sure that attention she is seeking is given to her for all the right reasons.

Let her know that she is going to bed earlier so that she doesn't bother her siblings and that if she wants to stay up as late as they do she is going to have to go to sleep cooperatively and quietly.

Hope this helps,


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I feel your frustration, my 4 year old went thrugh the same thing. We stopped nap time but have quiet time as long as my 10 month old naps she has to play quietly in her room. This is something you can try. Kids do better with a visual object. Try giving her 3 gold coins. Just print and cut out and stick them on her wall. Tell her she has 3 bed time coins to use as she likes. Whether its for a extra story, hug, drink of water. She gets to say but every time she ask for something you take on of the coins away. When there is no more coins she has to stay in bed and you won't come again. That way she has some control over her routine and you don't have to fight, just not show up. It might take a few nights to sink in but she will get the concept. Its hard at this age as they seem to think they are missing some fun when they are in bed. Good luck. It does get better but it takes some practice.



answers from Chicago on

I am a big advocate of "no crying" way of putting kids to bed. Every child is different some need more security than others. Sometimes the child acts upset but not crying - then I would say, hold to your guns. If a kid is in disstress - something needs to be done, she needs more closeness than you are willing to give. I see that you have other kids and it is difficult to ballance, but try to give her a peacefull bedtime, maybe lay down with her for a while count to some mutualy agreed number, hold her, kiss her and then leave. My kids were/are both slow to give up being close with mommy, I like that time when I can be in the bed with the little guy, just the two of us. I am in no hurry to move him anywhere...My 12 year old wants me still to lay down next to him in the evening. He cannot sleep with me any longer because he is simply just too big but when my H travels he brings the inflatable bed into my bedroom and sleeps on the floor. I just think how fast they grow up and trying to hold on to them as long as possible.
Hope you will find some middleground with the bedtime routine for your daughter.


answers from Milwaukee on

My daughter is a little like yours. What we ended up doing is not giving her a nap during the day and then putting her to bed by 7:30pm. I would sit in a chair beside her bed just so she knew I was there until she fell a sleep... normally only took about 10 minutes before she fell asleep. Gradually each week I would move my chair a little further away from her bed until I was outside her door. Sure it took us about 2 months to finally get the chair out of the room, but she isnt screaming for me to be with us at bedtime any more. Give that a try :)



answers from Boise on

For me, I would say this is the bedtime routine, and stick to it. My son also likes the tactics, but he knows that after stories it is a cuddle and kiss, then into bed. We usually give high fives and blow kisses. As we close the door, there are some nights that he will start crying, and especially calling out, "mommy, mommy". We stick to our guns and stay out. He is a good sleeper and is just pushing boundaries right now. That has worked up to this point.



answers from Chicago on

Try the no cry sleep solution. It has worked for us! It is a book and you can purchase it :)



answers from Chicago on

Sounds like my 3yo before we decided to eliminate the nap. It is hard (for mom) to give up the nap, but our little girl goes to bed and is asleep within minutes...sometimes she even asks to go to bed early.



answers from Kansas City on

Welcome to the Big Girl Bed. This question seems to have popped up a lot in the last week or two, so maybe search it and see what other moms have said, but in the end, yes I think you need to stop giving in. It's hard. It took us months, and months, and months to get our daughter to stay in bed. Hopefully your situation won't be that extreme, but I feel your pain. We did the "Supernanny" method and it was hard b/c there were many tears and everyone was upset but we had to stay strong and it worked. It's a powerstruggle and ultimately you have to decide if you think you should win. Good luck.