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How can I get my child to nap? (Q & A)

Here’s another question I received from a friend, reprinted with her permission.

Our daughter is 2.5.  She naps really well at school, but only gets a nap about 40% of the time on weekends.  At home, she hummssssss with energy, and she doesn’t calm down. We have tried:

  • Recreating the day care environment with nap mat, music and dark curtain
  • Recreating our night time routine that works great – books, songs, etc.
  • Holding her and rocking her, this helps some
  • Consequences for not napping, mostly time-outs
  • We have tried desperately to not lay down with her, sleep with her or drive her around to get her to fall asleep, but we have done all of these things in emergency situations.

She is a cranky, unhappy child when she doesn’t get her nap. I get sad too.

My questions: 1) Is there something else we can do to calm her down? 2) What is the consequence for getting out of bed?  For #2, we use time-out for other things and it works, but the time out area is her bed in her room, so that doesn’t work so much at nap time. Later consequences (you will have to go to bed early if you don’t take a nap) don’t work.

Do you have any parent coaching tricks?

From a child’s perspective, school and home are as different as apples and giraffes.  Plus, different relationships = different behaviors, so I encourage you to give up on the idea that since she does something at school, she can be expected to do it at home, too.

Your comment about how she hums with energy strikes me as a spot-on Mommy intuition.  I think you’re tuned in to the source of the problem already–weekends are soooo exciting!  You and Daddy are there!  All Day Long!  And sister, too!  WOWWW!  Asking her to stop being with you, and to calm down enough to let her body relax into a sleep state–well, that’s a pretty challenging task for such a little girl.  Sure, her body needs it, but learning to listen to our bodies and make good choices in how we care for them is a lifelong process–challenging even for most adults.  So, cut her a little slack.   (by which I mean, remind yourself that this problem is soooo normal and age appropriate!)

A word about consequences.  Decades of research into behavior modification has unequivocally proven that a purely consequence-based system for shaping behavior is NOT effective.  In other words, we have to do something other than punish unwanted behavior, if we want that behavior to actually stop.  I go even further, because I believe that consequences and punishments can sometimes escalate into bigger problems, like an endless loop of frustrated parents and children who experience the bulk of their parents’ attention via punishment, which often leads to a damaged parent-child relationship.  Also, using consequences (delivered later) to a small child where the problem is her not settling in to sleep is almost guaranteed not to work.  It’s really, really, really hard to force someone to sleep… try as we might, a person kindof needs to accept sleep–to allow sleep to entice them in to settling down.

You mentioned that you have tried “desperately” not to lie down with her for naps, but you also said that you have had success with holding her and rocking her.  That, by the way, strengthens the argument that her weekend time with you is just much more valuable than sleep… so consider that one solution would be to help her combine the two.  She will stop napping in a year or so anyway, and I promise that you won’t be lying down with her when she’s 16–a little naptime snuggle for the next year is really about as painless a solution as I can imagine.  You don’t have to stay in there the whole time (unless you fall asleep yourself, which of course happens all the time to tired parents!) but lying with her will help her body relax, and plus it gets the two of you some sweet snuggle time.

When she gets a little older, and she is able to control herself a little bit more effectively (2 year olds are wild monkeys!), you can start giving her an option at nap times: lie down and sleep or stay in your room for X minutes.  Then you just redirect her back to her room if she forgets and tries to come out, and you make sure to set a timer, and plan to put her to bed a little earlier to make up for lost sleep, but without making a big deal of it.  Plan to repeat the redirection back to her room about 1000 times.

One more thought:  She may be giving up her nap.  It’s a very difficult and sometimes extended period of time that parents hate.  When kids transition out of a nap, ya just try to make the best of things.  Help her nap every other day, maybe.  Run her ragged in the mornings on the days when you think you can get her a nap.  Put her to bed early when she doesn’t.  Try some Benadryl.  I’m kidding about the Benadryl.  :^)  Good luck!

A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf was on the required reading list when I was in college, and the piece I remember best was the famous “A Room of One’s Own,” in which she argues that a woman must have a room of her own (with lock and key!) and her own money in order to write fiction.  Lately, I’m been thinking about how this is completely relevant advice for modern parents, too.

I’m like most parents of young kids, I think, in that I mostly get things done after bedtime or in stolen moments here and there.  But some things just cannot be done in little stolen moments or after bedtime.  I had a very real-life experience of this some months back when I was able to have several hours in my house without anyone else there, especially my (beloved) children.

Once my alone time began, here’s what I did:  I started a load of laundry, picked up the house a little, defrosted some meat for dinner, and wasted time on Facebook. (sound familiar?)  This all took about as long as I usually have to myself.

But on this day, I knew that the rest of my family would stay gone for much longer.  So I waded in to my email inbox and cleaned that out, balanced the checkbook, did more laundry, visited a blog I like, and wrote down some memorable stories about the kids.  And then, only then, could I feel my brain clearing out a little to make room for the creative work I had been procrastinating for weeks.    Then I was able to sit down and begin working on the task that required focus and creativity.

This is an issue of self-care.  One of the hardest things I’ve encountered in motherhood is looking for balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself.  But if I am going to be the best mom I can be, I have to be the best human I can be, and that requires enough sleep, good nutrition, physical exercise, mental stimulation, connection with others, and… time away and alone.  And not just little stolen moments.

What can you do to get a few hours to yourself this week?

What mountain biking and children have in common

When mountain biking, you learn not to look too long at the obstacles in your path. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true. 

Here’s how it goes the first zillion times before you learn this lesson:

You spot a rock.  You look intently at the rock because it is big and bad and a little scary.  You look at it, thinking about how you Really, Really don’t want to hit that rock.  You try to steer away.  You can’t.  You hit the rock and fall over.  Ouch.

Okay, but how is this like children?

Because they do it, too.  They do it in life, with their own behaviors and with yours, too. 

They create the outcome they fear.   WE create the outcome we fear.  Or, to put it another way: we create the outcome with our fear. 

So instead of looking at the rock (or expecting the unwanted behavior, or fearing the broken plate, or the rude comment), think about, focus on, expect the positive outcome.  Ignore the (small) negatives.   Focus on the positives.   And enjoy the ride.  :^)

Snow Day!

Austin has a small chance of snow later this week. As any good southern city should, things completely shut down around here when white stuff–in any quantity–lands on the ground. Sometimes this is fun and sweet and a bit like a mini-vacation… but if you think you aren’t likely to feel that way… start your engines now.

  • Go to the library and check out a couple of their kid DVDs,
  • Stock up on easy-to-prepare meals and healthy easy snacks
  • Plan a craft
  • Figure out an indoor physical game (wrestling, lava pit, mini trampoline)
  • Find your stash of chocolate, bottle of wine, or calgon–(whatever your thing is!)

If you work outside the home, also consider clearing at least part of your day… so that if schools really do close, you won’t feel as worried about what you are missing on top of everything else.

Good luck!

Time to start dating!

Quick thought for the day: schedule an appointment with your kid for this weekend… a playdate for just the two of you.  If you have more than one kid, make multiple appointments, so each one is just for you and one kid at a time.  Children need regular doses of our undivided attention (which means you and I also have to leave the smartphone turned off, too), and one of the best ways to spend that time & attention is through play.

So: go biking together, hike a local trail, play your child’s favorite board game, toss the football, make cookies, or wrestle.  Have fun, get connected, be silly, play, and enjoy that beautiful, precious kid of yours.  It will do you both good!

(Today’s post inspired by my preparations for the upcoming workshop: Your Parenting Toolkit.  There’s still a couple of spots if you’re interested!  Email me before the weekend and I’ll send you a coupon code so you can still register for the earlybird price.)

Back in the Saddle

My computer died in October (boo!), and while I did get a replacement that same month, some technological to-do items got really, really back-burnered.  I finally dug up the login page for this blog, and have sorted through the mounds of sp*m comments (delete, delete, delete) and am able again to post.  So, if anyone is still reading, thank you and stay tuned!  :^)

Dealing with Bullies

School started back this week in Austin.  Backpacks, new clothes, anxiety, excitement… it’s everywhere right now. 

Sadly, going back to school means dealing with bullies for many kids.  The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 50% of all kids will deal with bullying in their lifetime, and at least 10% will struggle with it on a regular basis.

World of Psychology has a great post on bullying today.  Click here to read about the signs of bullying, what to do, and where to go for more help and information.

Trim the tree…

…and the gift list and
the card list,
the menu,
the social calendar,
the travel itinerary…

Do you feel stressed during the holidays? Well, no wonder. Our jobs,
our lives, our families still require our full participation in
November and December. And yet, we generally find a way to add in an
amount of work equivalent to a part-time job on top of everything!

The best way to get the holiday you want is to focus on your values
and priorities. Chances are, not all of your holiday activities are
aligned with your values. Identify one action that neither matches your
values nor brings you joy. Start there.

Involve the kids-both by telling them that you want to shape the
holidays to better match your family’s values, and also by having them
help decide how to do that. Remind yourself that change is an
incremental process, and then… make a commitment to change! Reduce,
alternate, get creative, or just say no. I bet you’ll be glad you did
it. Let me know how it goes!

Note: I teach a class called “Simplify the Season” during the
holiday/Christmas season. It’s a fun, interactive workshop that helps
to identify your true values and priorities for the holiday season-and
helps you figure out how to celebrate in a way that is in line with
those values. For more information, visit the website at