Two Year-old Cries Every Single Night When Its Bedtime

Updated on February 16, 2011
K.H. asks from Ankeny, IA
10 answers

We have a daughter who just turned two in June. She has always had a solid sleep routine and aside from a short time after a move last year she's gone to bed easily. Well - easily in the sense that once we put her down she drifts off to sleep on her own with no fussing. However, she has always hated two things: diaper changes and getting ready for bedtime. Every single night when we tell her its bedtime she starts to cry and doesn't stop until she's gone through her whole routine and we sit down to read her book before she gets in her crib. Then she just sulks. This is the same situation we encounter when its time to change her diaper. Its always, always been that way. Anytime we have to change her diaper she cries and fidgets all over. We don't know how to change this behaviour.

We've tried everything we know - and normally our daughter takes discipline and direction very well. After any time-outs she actually always tells US what she did wrong and why she got placed in TO! But when it comes to diapers or bedtime we're at a loss. We've tried setting expectations by telling her ahead of time that its going to be bedtime or time for a change and telling her exactly what will happen; we've tried being stern; we've tried being funny and making it fun; we've tried explaining to her that crying and getting upset every time does not change the outcome (i.e. it will still be bedtime, she will still have to be changed, etc). Nothing works. After two years of thinking she'd eventually grow out of this I'm wearing thin. I dread each diaper change and bedtime. Help!

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So What Happened?

Just wanted to make a couple comments: 1) We are working on potty training but she is just not ready yet and I'm of the camp that you don't push a child on your schedule - you work with theirs when it comes to PT. 2) She LOVES her crib. She talks about it - asks to go get in her crib during naptime, and when we put her in the crib at night is the only time she finally calms down. We're also going to be moving in 6 weeks and I don't think now is a good time to start major changes such as a toddler bed. I tend to agree with those moms who have mentioned its part of a toddler's need for control.

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answers from Rapid City on

The reason they call it the terrible twos is because this is the age that they want to have more independence and yet cannot vocalize their feelings as well as they like too. She probably doesn't like the diaper changes because she doesn't like to change what she is doing until she is done doing it. My suggestion there is to get out the potty chair and tell her when she thinks she is a "big girl" she can start using the potty chair and get rid of the diapers soon. They love to be big girls at this age and she probably will like it for a bit, but might find that she doesn't want to so much.. she also may just go for the potty training full force. My little granddaughter did just that. She loved the going potty and not having to take time for diaper changes with being wiped down so she potty trained pretty easy.

Bedtime means that all the playing is done for the day. Warning her ahead of time seems to cause more stress, so my suggestion is to read her a story about bed time. Elmo's bedtime book is a great one which tells about getting ready for bed. That will calm her down, then get ready for bed and let her pick out another book. That way you are starting off with a relaxing positive and ending with a relaxing positive. Quiet night time music cd's also help. My kids loved going to sleep to sound tracks to their favorite movies or Raffie songs. There is a lot of lullaby cd's out there. It relaxes the mind and if a child has a busy mind, it is hard to sleep on their own. I know, I have one. As i got older I learned that day dreaming helps relax me enough to sleep and gives me a good direction for my dreams. While growing up I talked to relax me.. talked and talked and talked which always got me into

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answers from Minneapolis on

Apologies for a late reply. I just read your post and had a couple of ideas not yet mentioned.

With the diaper changing, could you do some of them while she's standing up? Some kids are okay with that when they're not okay with laying down. Otherwise, have some toys that are diaper time only. One idea is a greeting card that makes a noise when you open it. Regardless, something new that would keep her attention for two minutes till you could get done.

With the sleeping, have you tried just starting the bedtime routine without announcing what you're doing? Even talk about other things and do the bedtime stuff in the background.

The other idea would be to take a long evening or two and let her process her emotions. You'd start by saying it was bedtime. Then sympathetically listen until she stopped crying. Then repeat saying it. Do that until you can say it without her crying. Slowly work through the different steps allowing her to process her emotions and get her crying out. I know several moms who've done this with different things and have had great results. You'd repeat the next evening, but it should take considerably less time and eventually disappear.

Good luck with the move!


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answers from Minneapolis on

I have the same problem with my two year old!
She used to go to bed so great. Now it just stinks; lots of crying, whining, etc.

I have solved the diaper changing problem by telling her that when she is ready, she needs to get the mat, the diaper and the wipes and set it up wherever she wants her diaper changed. It usually works like a charm. She barely waits a minute and then gathers all the gear and lays down on her mat. I think for her, it's a matter of having some control over the situation.

I still haven't figured out bedtime...

Hope this helps you out!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with Cindy. Also if you do tell her in advance, before you do this incorporate her diaper change with, 'what toy would you like to bring with you to get a diaper change?' etc. Maybe she feels out of control and toddlers want control!! Maybe make up a silly song and sing the same one at diaper change or while you're getting ready for bed and sing it every time so when you start singing that song she knows what's going to happen and eventually she'll start just singing along with you and forget that she didn't like that activity. My only true advice is just make it a positive experience. If you get frustrated one bit they pick up on that! At bed time, let her in 'be in control'. Ask her to pick out her jammies, or does she want to brush her teeth first or read a book, does she want to hold the diaper or the wipes etc. Think of something and try sticking to it for at least a week, if not try something else, either way she'll eventually grow out of it. (hopefully!)



answers from Charlottesville on

I don't know what you can do to change your daughter's behavior, but I do hope that you can change this: "I'm wearing thin. I dread each diaper change and bedtime"... Since you say this behavior is so consistent, and since you have no reason to expect her NOT to act this way at diaper changes and betimes, would it be possible for you to let go of the idea that it shouldn't be happening? Now that you've tried everything you could to change things, could you find it in you to be accepting that this is just what she does?... Clearly you are an attentive, thoughtful, devoted mother - you are doing everything you can. Maybe just let this one go. Step back and say to yourself "I'm so interested to see how she's going to work this out!"...



answers from Des Moines on

she is 2, if you are wearing thin then why is she not potty trained? Get her out of the diapers and 1/2 your problem will go away. As for bedtime, when my 3 year old cries that he doesn't want to go to bed and continues it or whines he doesn't get read to. You have let this go for what a year now? It will take a lot of patient, consistent and firm behavior for you and your husband to break her habit.

Good luck!



answers from Davenport on

Have you tried a sticker chart, they work great for my son when he was potty training. You could use the same idea and have a diaper changing chart. Everytime she doesn't cry during a change she gets to put a sticker on the chart.

I would stop giving her a warning that bedtime is coming. That is her que that the screaming begins (it is part of her bedtime routine). Maybe try to change her routine a little. Maybe try reading her some books first, then get her ready for bed. It might be enough to confuse her so she forgets she is supose to be crying.

Good luck.



answers from Boca Raton on

I Have the IDENTICAL situation with my son. He is 13 months now, but has done this since I can remember. The older he gets, the worse it gets-EVERY diaper change and EVERY night. It's so exhausting! He goes to sleep just fine once the getting ready for bed part is over and the books are being read. We, also, have followed the same soothing bed time routine since day one so, you would think he would be used to it by now. Other than giving him a bottle to drink while we change him, put his lotion on, brush hair, pjs, etc.. I haven't found anything that works..and that doesn't work every time for us. I'm sorry I don't have better solutions to give you...only my sympathy. I pray they out grow this eventually and our poor nerves will hold up! :)



answers from Minneapolis on

You can't change her, but you can change yourself, and when you do that, the other person will often change too. I would suggest that you first of all get yourself truly OK with her crying. (This might take some time.) You could say to her, "I love you, even when you're crying. It's OK to cry" and really mean it. And when you feel really loving, you can gently ask her why she's crying. Maybe she'll tell you. And be OK with whatever she says--don't react. I'd love to hear what she tells you!



answers from Minneapolis on

My 2 year old son is the same way with diaper changes. He has hated diaper changes and getting ready for bed. He is getting better now. Now he like to help so i let him undo his diaper and open up the new one and he likes that so that helps a bit. If she is sulking and not wanting to get in her crib mabye it is time for a big girl bed. We switch our son right before he turned 2 and loves it much more than his crib. Mabye she's trying to tell you shes ready to be out of the crib. You could try it and see how she does. If it dont work go back to the crib but it might help. Good luck. Just stay calm and she will eventually grow out of it.

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