Desperate Need of Help Getting 3 Year Old to Take Naps and Listen

Updated on February 20, 2009
H.W. asks from Winchester, CA
6 answers

My son has been a complete nightmare lately. He is not responding to any sort of disciplne anymore., Up until age 3 we were doing time out for his age (2 min for 2 year olds), and he would learn his lesson and move on, even if it took a few tries. Now at 3 he is not reponding to timeouts at all, he will do 5 or 6 in a row for the same thing. Also, he screams things at us from his room just to be mean. He tells us we are bad mommies and daddies and he hates us, he wants new parents. All sorts of things.

Nap time is absolutely the worst time of the day. He will fight for 45 mins to 2 hours over going to sleep. I have tried everything, extra stories, rewards for going straight to nap time, special trips to the park if he is good and goes straight to nap.I have also tried soap in the mouth for name calling and screaming, as well as taking away Tv and trips out of the house, when he is bad. I also have a 5 month old daughter, which he adores, but definately will bring her into the drama. He tries to wake her up everytime she sleeps, because he knows he is not suppose to. I am just at my wits end. I dont know what to do to get nap time running more smoothly. I try to spend as mauch quality time with him as possible, we play all day and cook together, we go to the gym which he enjoys, and do family trips to pizza night, the park, all sorts of things, but lately I am having a hard time wanting to do these things when he is behaving so badly. He also throws horrible fits when he has to leave anywhere. He is perfectly happy and has a fairly long attention span when doing what he wants to do, so I try to limit the things he doesnt want to do as much as possible, like no grocery shopping, or boring errands, but there are still things he has to do, like sleep, and I dont know what to do.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for the great advce. Knew I could count on all you moms out there. Several of the techiniques such as talking and explain I have also tried, but I just need to remember consistency and of corse an underlying tone of love ALWAYS. Sometimes in the moment it is hard to remember just how much they have going on in those lifes of theirs. I know he is having a hard time with all the things he has going on in his life, like potty training and sleeping in his own bed. I will definately be trying alot of your suggestions and am hoping for a positive outcome. We are starting our scheduled routine today and I know he is excited. If after a week or 2 he is still fighting the naps I may just start pushing back his bed time a 1/2 hour and skipping the nap altogethter, if that's what he needs. I would also like to clean up that by soap in the mouth I am using a soap that is made without harmful chemicals and out of oatmeal. I will however stop doing so and try out the other suggestions I have received. Again, thank you all so much!

More Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

I'll keep this simple as you've recieved some great advice. With a 3yo, you need less talk and less emotion when you are disciplining. Two things that I've been exposed to recently that I think would help you are 1) The book 1.2.3 Magic. Most of it is good and helpful, they give a few examples that I don't agree with but they explain to you why a child does x,y,z and what you can do (very simply) about it. They give clear and concise instrutions. 2) Sandi Schwartz's parenting class. It's free!!! It's at Mt. San Jacinto Comm. College right off of the 215 in Menifee. It's a 6 week class that meets once a week for 1.5 hours (day or eve. time avail) and she starts off explaining tempermant and what you can and cannot change in a child (hardwire - can't change!! - but we all try so much and fight fight fight). Anyway, you aren't too far from Menifee, right? If not, I highly recommend it. Her website (radio talk show) is I'm looking for my information regarding the class. The next one start in March and it's Thursday's at 1-2:30 or 5-6:30 (I think.. I'll update this message once I find my info on it). Here is the info off of the flyer for you or anyone in the Inland Empire who may be interested!

Funded by First Five Riverside, there is no charge for these parenting classes. Starting January 29th, the classes will be given at the Menifee Valley Campus of Mount San Jacinto College every Thursday by Sandi Schwartz. Sandi Schwartz is a nationally respected educator and parenting expert, as well as an entertaining speaker. There are two sessions of one hour and a half to help best meet your schedule: from 1:00- 2:30 p.m. and from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Parents, grandparents, foster parents and teachers will greatly benefit from them. If you can’t make it for the series starting in January, there is another starting on March 26th. Parents who have attended reported that they are grateful for what they have learned and put into practice and they feel better about themselves. To register call ###-###-####


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Julia gave great insights and articulate observations for kids this age. A great book is: "Your 3 Year Old" and you can get it at It's a fast easy read and simply explains what each age-set is like so the Parent can understand THEM. I recommend it.

Okay you seem to have tried everything.
Bear in mind, that 3 years old is actually harder than 2 years old.

ALSO, gosh there is a baby in the house. He seems to regressed because of it? "Regression" in a child, means they are stressed. It's the way they cope, since at this age they don't have "proper" coping skills. Maybe he is just not adjusted to it all yet? Or he is not happy with the "expectations" upon him, as an "elder" sibling? Sometimes kids just feel "pressured" too by that, and they can't explain it.

Next, have you tried just talking WITH him and asking him what's up? For whatever is it worth, at his age and his ability to communicate or express his feelings... let him. Just listen, don't judge and see what he says. MANY times a child just has to get their yah'yah-s out... and they don't feel they can... or that anyone is really listening to them or that they are not "allowed" to express their feelings.

Next, teach him about "feelings" the names of it AND THAT EVEN ADULTS have bad days and grumpy moments... LET him express himself... BUT, emphasize that "We are a family... everyone has bad moods, but we TRY not to take it out on anyone..." Or, "We are a TEAM... can you try your best to HELP Mommy?" ie: this way, you are INCORPORATING him into the "solution."

Next, when he behaves this way.. .give no raised voices to it either, nor attention. If he flips out in public, say nothing, gather everything up and him included and go back to the car. Then sit there, he will probably be screaming... and repeat "Mommy loves you... but I don't like the screaming. We are going to sit here and relax now...can you HELP me?"

OR, you use a "toy time-out." ie: when he flips out, you put his favorite toy away... where he cannot get it. You CALMLY explain that his toy is on time out/or he can't play with it... until everything is calm. Then when he calms down, sit him in your lap, hug him, and talk with him saying "do you think your toy can come out now? Is everything feeling better? What do YOU think?" (this way you are 'teaching' him empathy and how to reflect on himself and problem solve and tell you his feelings...doing it together with you).

Next, is he just copying what other kids do? Does he go to preschool? Is he happy there? Does he have any problems? Ask him.... he sounds stressed and frustrated to me, for some reason. If he does not go to Preschool... PERHAPS he needs something just for him, and he may benefit by going part-time even, to Preschool? After all, his day is basically... Mommy with baby, Mommy nursing baby, baby crying, baby needing "more" of Mommy, baby baby baby... and him being maybe an after-thought. Although I know you said you make time for him... but maybe even that is not enough... and as A Mom with 2 kids myself... a child can feel "rushed" indirectly, even if you are just playing with them. ie: My daughter will SOMETIMES tell me "Mommy! I need are always in a hurry because brother... can't you just sit with me? I want to talk stories... just put him to nap already..."

Next, he seems to have trouble "transitioning" from one thing to the next. Which is common in kids. SO, for him... you might have to give him some head's-up and a "warning" that something is coming up AND what you expect of him. ie: "in 15 minutes, we are going to the store... can you help Mommy and get ready? Clean up? Put on your jacket? When we get there, please help me and stay close to Mommy and hold my hand when we are at the store..." This way, you are clearly telling him what is coming up, what to expect, and how you 'want' him to behave... for some kids, this helps.

And, if he cannot behave, then simply do not take him to the park for example.

He needs to learn boundaries like any kid. The thing that helps, is a ROUTINE. CONSISTENTLY. Some kids, need more structure... including for naps. Then over time, they LEARN what is expected, what is coming up, and it provides them with "cues" as to what they will be doing.

As for naps: put your baby to nap FIRST. Have a nap routine and a consistent nap time for baby, daily. (this will help you later in the long run). THEN, after baby takers her nap, be with him. Let him wind-down first to nap. Me, I make everything quiet, make the rooms dark, and it takes me about 1/2 hour to wind-down my kids for nap, before they actually go to nap. Kids NEED to wind-down first, AND need a verbal head's up about it. ie: In 20 minutes, we will get ready for nap. Put your jammies on." Don't give him a choice about it and say "Do you want to nap?" Just make a statement about it, letting him know what you expect. Then, IF he fights for naps...then just stop. For me, what I do EVERY SINGLE DAY... is, we have the same nap time and routines. And the same for bed. If my kids put up a protest (which they rarely do because I have been doing this routine since they were babies), is I stop. BUT, the rest of the afternoon is a QUIET time....and I keep everything quiet and I tell my kids that "It's Mommy's nap time.... so help me. No noisy activity..." or something like that and then I do NOT engage in adverse behavior. Period. They KNOW that about me. They keep to the "routine."

It's hard... but you NEED to do THE SAME THING EACH TIME. It is about repetition, routine, consistency, and for the child to learn and KNOW what is coming up, what is expected of them and then reinforcing it. For me, I do not use treats or rewards and do not like to "rely" on that. Only once in a blue moon will I do that. When I am desperate.

Another thing you can try is make a cute "chart." On that, make columns with the days of the week... and simply make a child friendly "schedule" for him. ie: Monday= wake up, eat breakfast, play time, help put away, read with Mommy, nap time, park time, music time, crafts time, etc. THEN, he will "know" what his day will be like and what is expected of him and what he will be doing. AND, when you look at it WITH him, you are 'teaching' him how to 'read' how to understand a 'schedule' and what not. Some kids like "structure" like this.. .and it' makes them feel special and knowing what it is for "them."

Well just some thoughts/ideas. I know it's not easy.
All the best,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on


First, take a deep breath and be calm for a sounds like you guys are at each other throats and just challenging each other, and not enjoying the time you do have together.

Julia and Susan gave you great words of wisdom, and I will take notes or print their responses. But, I just thought I'd share a bit of my own thoughts to add to what they've shared.

My son is 30 months and seems to grow and more 'in charge' of his own mind and path everyday. But, while I adore his independence, I must also encourage him to respect me, his Dad and those who take care him like my Mom. We have limits and rules, and their are clear cut consequences. Like Susan suggested, we do 'toy timeouts', if he's throwing his blocks or cars or banging his train against the goes into a box in the closet. We set the time for five minutes and he doesn't get it back until the bell dings. If he's continuing with the behavior and not listening, the timer gets set again. Being consistent and following through has helped us enormously.

Naps are a point of contention here and there. It's about making choices and asserting themselves. Learning the word 'no' is empowering, especially when it makes Mommy flinch and they can tell. We have a routine that is the same no matter if it's nap or bedtime. Even if he's not tired, he has to 'rest' and I've explained that rest MUST happen. We've started this week on the days when he is with his Dad and catnaps in the car, with setting a timer for 'rest' so that he knows when he can be done. I don't lock him in his room or make idle threats, I talk to him explain things to him.

Now, you've got the baby too. So, that's tougher! But, I think Susan gave you some super good points to think about.

Also, I kind of agree with Julia. My son is in 'preschool' two days a week for four hours and it's made such a a huge difference in his communication skills and gives him a chance to bond with his peers. You might look into some kind of program where he can be around kids his age, and get some socialization. Plus, it would give you a break.

Oh and I love the books that Susan suggested...I just bought and am reading the 3-Year Old book and they are full of great information about development and stages.

Whatever you do, just be patient and consistent. Don't let him see you sweat! Kids sense tension and anxiety, and it can manifest in their behavior, sleep patterns and diet.

Good Luck! And, keep us all posted.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi H.:
First, you should do a search on line,or purchase a book explaining what your son is experiencing at this stage in his life. At two or 2 1/2 years old, toddlers become very active. Not only are they physically very active, but mentally they're very stimulated.Imagine the adrenaline rush,you might get on a roller coaster ride.Now,picture someone forcing you to go to sleep right after experiencing such a ride.Your son is on a high all day,because his little mind,is absorbing all sorts of information,pictures and words. As much as you want that free time to yourself,its time to come to the realization,that your son is getting to big for naps.If your desperate for that time, then maybe you could let him atend a preschool a couple days a week,to give yourself a break, and allow him time with children his own age.This also would be a good time, for you to decide, wether you want your son to respect you or (fear you)? Soap in the mouth,is considered abusive behaviour. Yeah, I know....Your parents did it to you....and you turned out fine. That didn't make what they did to you right. Call your local poison center,and ask them what you would do, if your child swallowed soap.They will tell you, that soaps have lye,poison,and other toxins in it,and your child not only can die from ingesting it, but it can create problems with his intestines and kidneys. Anyone,seeking respect,must earn it.He doesn't respect you. He fears you. If you want his respect,than you need to change your tactics. Pick your battles. Don't nit pick,about every little thing he doesn't do correct,or every little slip-up he makes.If he screams or uses a nasty word,you should be blaming yourself. He most likely heard it from your mouth or his dads, as you never mentioned him going to school or being around other toddlers.If your son is tired, he will sleep.If he's hungry he'll eat.You don't have to force it, simply because its convenient for you.I wish you and your son the best.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well as far as the naps go - he may just be ready to not take naps anymore. Some kids still need a nap at the age of 4-5, and others don't need to nap anymore by the age of 2-3. Maybe you can try "quiet time" instead of nap. Tell him he has to play by himself for 30-45 minutes in his room, QUIETLY, if he does not want to take a nap. That way you'll still get a break - without the "fight" to get him down. Try getting a kitchen timer and set if for 30-45 minutes, put it in his room, and tell him he has to be quiet and stay in his room until it beeps.
As for the name calling and telling you that you guys are bad parents - he doesn't mean it. Trust me, kids this age don't really "understand" exactly what that means. All he knows is that it get some kind of reaction from you, and that is usually what they are looking for (good OR bad). When he does this, just try (its hard) to stay as calm as possible, and tell him that it hurts your feelings when he says things like that, that it is not nice, and please don't say that anymore.
It is a really hard age, but as like all other phases - it will pass!! Good luck to you guys :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Reno on

i am in a very similar boat. my son will be 3 next week. we also have a 17 mo old and i am due with our 3rd in 10 days. my 3 yr old has been an absolute terror for the last month. time outs don't affect him much. we had to move him out of the room with his brother because he started getting out of bed and waking up his brother. he would turn on the lights and play with toys at 2 in the morning. before this he had never gotten out of his bed and would sleep from 8 pm to 10 am. naps have been difficult for him lately as well. when we moved him into his own room we put all his toys in the walk in closet and locked the door so he cant get to them while he is supposed to be sleeping we also took the light bulbs out of the socket so he cant turn on the ceiling light. we have gone to a very strict routine when it comes to him. he is not allowed out of his room till 8 so if he wakes up i tell him it is not wake up time and bring him some books to read until mommy comes back to get him. we have meals and snacks on a schedule now also. he does not get to watch TV regularly however an hour before nap time I have been letting him watch the land before time movie than we read 3 books and off to quiet/nap time he goes. if he cries that is fine but he is not allowed out of the room until i say so. in the evenings we have dinner at six bath at 7 books at 7:30 and bed at 8. the routine has helped out a lot he has stopped crying and throwing fits at bed time naps are still hard some days if we don't watch the movie but i am seeing improvements. good luck let me know if you find anything that works.

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