Menu
4 gentle ways to deal with your child’s resistance to sleep

Many children go through phases where they resist sleep, either in the day, at night or both! "How can I get my child to nap?" is one common question parents ask. In a recent Facebook live with Kristen Volk, a mom's child refused to take naps because she could tell it was daytime.

Here are gentle solutions for children who are resisting sleep or sleeping alone.

1. Share your feelings and frustration with a trusted friend or support group

After a few days or nights of trying to tackle sleep issues with a child, parents are most likely tired themselves, and full of feelings about the subject. It's best to offload those first.

Find a listener who will let you let off steam, without judgments. (Our Parent's Support Facebook Group is a great place to find a listener if you are already familiar with Hand in Hand's tools and your children are 12 or under).

"You can get 'mad' at your child," in this space, says Kristen. "You don't want them to hear it. You don't want them to be a part of the listening partnership, but you can say in that listening partnership, 'Go to sleep!' she says.

Use the time to say what you'd like to say, to think about how you feel about sleep, to cry or rant and rave.

"It doesn't reflect who you are as a person, it's more about the feelings you have and the energy behind them," Kristen says. "Those feelings are there when we are with our children, they are behind all the things we say to our children and how we show up, and so when we can work on all those feelings we can show up in a different space, and we can set limits in a different way, we can set limits with support rather than setting limits with anger."

There's a huge difference there in how children experience and how they can move through what's hard for them, she says. "When we show up with frustration and anger or tiredness, they come back with more of that challenging behavior. It's more of a power struggle. When we show up in warmth they can butt up against it, but then they soften."

2. Turn to play 

Once you have made space for your own feelings, you are ready to move onto actively helping your child. A good first move is play.

"Play and laughter are incredibly powerful for loosening up tense feelings, for a child and a parent. We call it playlistening and with this tool you want to create laughter and follow it," Kristen says. Start when things are calm – rather than when you want them to go to sleep.

Get the giggles going by giving a child the more powerful role in play.

Try switching roles

"A simple playlistening idea around naps or sleep could be as easy as you laying on the floor, saying, "I'm just want to go to sleep, I hope nobody wakes me up," Kristen says.

"This prompt, of course, acts as an immediate invitation to a child to wake you up!"

In this role reversal, it's you trying to go to sleep and the child is going to stop you. To keep the laughter going, you try again.

"Try saying, 'Oh! I'm so tired, I hope nobody wakes me up.' The child sits or jumps on you and wakes you up, and you roll around, hugging and laughing.

In the midst of this physical play, you collapse, and snore, and be asleep again, inviting more laughter. Customise games to suit what appeals to your own child's sense of humor and makes them laugh, and let him keep coming and keep waking you up.

Play as long as there is laughter. This play can be great for breaking up the tension that both of you have about naps and falling asleep."

3. Spend some extra special time with your child before sleep 

Sleep is similar to separation anxiety. "If you think about it, sleep is a time when a child is moving into their own space all by themselves even if we are there, even if we are nearby and that can be scary. Especially at night, that's the longest time they are separated from us," Kristen says.

Doing Special Time has a similar effect as it does with separation anxiety—it fills up a child's "connection cup," so that they can have an easier time going from a more aroused state to a more relaxed state.

"Special time can be very useful. Have it on a regular basis. Have it on the calendar, so they know it's coming. Do what you can handle – if it's once a week, that's ok. There's no judgment. Ask what you can reasonably do that makes sense for you and your family, where you can have one on one time with your child," says Kristen.

4. Recognize, validate and support their fears

Lastly, Staylisten. When it comes to sleep, staylisten because you want the child to feel that pain they have about going to sleep at the same time they are getting support from you. (If you are new to Staylistening, read these posts first: The Science Behind the Hand in Hand Parenting Tool of Staylistening and What to Say During Staylistening)

To set it up you would say to a child that it's naptime: "It's time for a nap, sweetheart."

"With a warm voice, tell your child what is going to happen. Expect a child to have a fairly big reaction, because obviously there is resistance there. Stay with the limit," says Kristen.

"A child might say, "No! It's still light out, I'm not, I won't."

"Continue to stay warm. Stay right where you are, in the room you want sleep to happen, and make sure the child stays. Keep your child with you. Be persistent with the limit.

"It's light, but that doesn't matter to the sun. It's still naptime."

"You don't have to engage in a conversation about the sun, or about it being light because that isn't relevant. A child picks something like that as a pretext to stay stuck where they are. Focus on the limit, and stay warm," Kristen says.

"It's a good thing if your child starts to cry. You let them cry about the limit so that they can get your attention and support about the pain they have about sleep. That support helps them heal that fear they have around going to sleep."

Although the limit stays the same whether it is night or day, it might be easier to set during the day, Kristen advises.

By using these tools in tandem, you work on your feelings and you work with your child's feelings in partnership, moving together to work through a resistance to naps.

Originally posted on Hand in Hand Parenting.

You might also like:

These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News