3.5 Year Old Fighting Bedtime Every Night and Mama Needs Help!!

Updated on March 05, 2013
H.W. asks from Altoona, IA
9 answers

Hello moms! I am looking for advice today on how to help my son with his bedtime. We have been using the same routine for about a year and in the past few weeks bedtime is a real struggle. He sleeps in a big bed all night, without getting out of bed, but getting him to bed is our issue. Each night we prep him, lets play farming for 15 minutes, the nits bedtime ( or whatever activity we are doing) and he agrees. Mathern when we tell him the time is up or the timer rings, boom, meltdown city! He kicks and screams while we get dressed, then we read Bible stories, then I lay with him and scratch his back. It seems like no matter what time we start this process,it is 930 or 10 before he is asleep. Sometimes he wants one more story or me to lay with him for one more song, typically I don't. He naps every day for about 1-2 hours, and fights with me a little n that also. He goes to preschool 2 days a week in the mornings and I do in home daycare 3 days a week (those kids nap). Tonight, he yelled and kicked while I dressed him, after that I sent in daddy to read the Bible stories, son didn't want to, so daddy said good night and closed his door. He layed in there calling for us and crying until 945p, we started this at 840p. I don't know if I should cut out naps, let him cry for a few nights.....I am out of ideas, but spent on fighting every night! Thanks in advance for all your suggestions!

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answers from Washington DC on

I sincerly doubt the bedtime is too late. 8:00 or 8:30 is right on par for a 3 year old. I'd drop the nap before I moved the bed time later. Kids that are over-tired have a very hard time settling down and going to sleep!

Anyway, we have struggled wiht this before with my 4 year old. Consistancy is key. Set the expectation for him clearly - for example: you take a bath, read 3 books, 2 minutes for hugs/kisses/snuggles, and lights out. NO exceptions. Ever! Once they know you will read 1 more book or say 5 more minutes if they beg or cry for it, they will continue to push to get it everynight. Because they know its possible. The first week will be rough. He will cry and throw a fit everynight. But you will stay calm and stick to the rules. Keep repeating what he gets when he tries to deviate from the routine: bath, books, hugs, lights out. Once he finds that you mean business and that no amount of crying will change the routine, he will start to go along with it better. I also found that it was never a good idea for me to lay down with him. If I did, he would try to stay awake longer to hang out with me!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Daddy was right, he chose not to have stories so it was bedtime. Don't engage in his fights. Repeat this whenever he yells and cries, it's bedtime, walk out. Ignore his crying until he tires and learns from your consistence each night that you're not playing his game anymore. During the day when he's calm talk to him and explain this is the bedtime routine, one, two, three, and that once he starts yelling, screaming, kicking, or fussing it's bedtime, he gets stories and songs otherwise. His routine should take 30 minutes max.

As far as naps I'd have him lay down for one hour and have him be quiet, his body needs rest even if he doesn't sleep. Also, no TV or electronics after dinner, quiet everything down to prepare him for sleep. If he doesn't take a warm, relaxing bath before bed add that to his routine, read or sing while he's in the tub, then it's jammies and to bed only afterwards.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that you have a consistent routine doing the same things in the same order every night. And when he fights you stop the routine and walk out of the room. Tell him ahead of time that you're going to do this and then do it every single time. Tell him you'll return when he's quiet and ready to take the next step.

Do not fight with him to get his pj's on. When he kicks and screams, it's a temper tantrum and the best way to deal with them is to ignore him. Walk out of the room each and every time.

I suggest that the first few nights will be hellish but he will learn that his fighting does not get him attention and he'll quit.

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answers from Amarillo on

Maybe you should take dad's lead and cut out the bible stories. Have him take a bath and relax a bit, put on pjs, and go to bed. Save the bible stories for the weekend. No tv shows after dinner that stimulate the senses.

No one says you have to read before bed. Make the routine short and sweet, a hub a kiss and good night. Turn off the light and clsoe the door.

It may be a bit in the beginning but continue and in a few days it should settle down. If need be cut out the nap. Whatever you do it will be hard but stick to it. Don't back slide or it will be forever to get him to go to sleep.

the other S.

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answers from Buffalo on

either cut out the naps, let him cry himself to sleep without you or your husband responding, or let him stay up til he decides he's tired and in the morning make sure to force him to get up at the normal time (no time to be grumpy the day is starting).

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Let him go to bed later. Maybe his bedtime is just too early for him.



answers from Lansing on

My daughter has also had issues getting to sleep. It took a while for me and her to change that. I decided at 3.5 the old routine wasnt working, so I changed it a bit. She doesnt nap during the day, and we follow our new bedtime routine: take a bath, brush teeth, read a book and go to bed. Maybe find something your child wants to read at bedtime, maybe the bible verses could be done as family thing right after dinner and when its time for bed, let him choose what book he wants to read. I've learned that if you give children choices, they are more willing to do what is expected. Needless to say, I no longer have problems with my 4.5 year old. She knows she gets bedtime privileges only if she cooperates and goes to bed like a good girl, she doesnt get them if she throws a fit. Seems to work well for us. Good luck



answers from Minneapolis on

My first suggestion is to cut out naps. My little girl (at age 3) also would not fall asleep until 9:30pm or 10pm no matter what time we started the routine. I got to the point where I didn't even see the point of starting the routine at 8pm and fighting for an hour. It was just easier to start the routine at 9pm. Then we quit naps. What a change. She is in bed, and usually sleeping by 8pm at the latest! My second suggestion is to make it a game to get ready for bed. I think it's hard for kids to stop the family fun time and get ready for bed. Here is what we do, but I'm sure you could be creative based off of what your son enjoys. We start off the bedtime routine with a 5 minute (or so) game. It can be anything she chooses; hide and seek, tickle dragon, swing in a blanket, pretend princess fairytale, etc. Then we have a race to her bedroom and the first on there gets to choose her pj's or book for the night. In order to get the teeth brushed, whoever can open their mouth the widest gets to use the princess toothbrush. If it's a bath night, whoever gets naked the fastest (yes, I pretend to be trying to take off my clothes!) gets to pick the bath water color (using bath color tablets.) And of course, stick to the routine of 1 story, 1 song, 1 book, etc. and don't fall into the "just 1 more" trap. Hope this helps.



answers from Los Angeles on

Since you say he's still napping, he's probably fighting bedtime because
he's not tired for bedtime yet. His bedtime is early plus w/the nap.
I would make sure he gets lots of activitiy so he'll be tired for bedtim and
secondly move his bedtime a bit later. If he naps, he's most likely not
tired enough for sleep that early. Even if he has to get up early.
I say move down his bedtime to 9:30. Start with that.
There's a reason why he's fighting the bedtime and it's not just that he
doesn't want to do it.
My son never fought bedtime. Ever. And I think it's because I changed
w/his ever changing needs and growth.
Also, can you read him a different story at bedtime and maybe reading
the Bible story earlier? Just so he doesn't read that time as a cue for
bed since he's fighting it & giving him something new to change things.
Giving him something to look forward to and take his mind off of it.
Still if you change nothing else, moving his bedtime a bit later when he's
actually really tired should help more than anything else!