I just came out of Aviya’s room for the second time in the last hour. It’s afternoon nap time and today, she’s fighting it. She has told me she has slept enough, but I’ve heard her chattering and singing for the last hour so I’m certain not a wink of sleep has been had. Also, the tears she is shedding give me a hint that she is actually tired, even though she insists that she is not.
I have found that my children respond to my saying no much more negatively when they are tired. It might be my asking them to wait for a snack for five more minutes or telling them we’re not going out the park at that moment. Be it large or small, my kids have a meltdown if they are tired and I don’t give them the answer they want. Don’t get me wrong, I know toddler and preschool meltdowns happen for any reason and no reason. It’s bewildering, right?! But, I can definitely say that it is much more likely to occur when my kids are tired.
And today was no different with Aviya. When I explained to her that she had not slept yet but that she needed to stay in her room until she had, she burst into tears and wailed. You would have thought I’d just pulled the head off her beloved unicorn stuffed animal right in front of her big blue eyes. So, it was time to stand my ground, stake my flag, and determine to win the nap time war.
And I did.
She’s quietly snoozing just a few minutes later as I write this. Well done, mama.
Can I share with you my key strategies for making sure my little nuggets take their naps?
We Don’t Miss A Nap…Ever
Ok, this might seem a little extreme, but it’s how I roll when it comes to nap time. I find that once you give these little sweeties an inch, they want a mile. All it takes is for me to allow a missed nap when they say they aren’t tired once, and I will have a constant battle over nap time on my hands. My kiddos can always remember ‘that one time’ I let them do something out of the norm.
Now, what I’m not talking about here is missing nap time because of a special occasion. There are times we are out for the day on a family outing or we have something that takes much longer than we anticipated and there is just no going back for nap time. That’s life and we can handle it. In fact, we tend to do just fine with these situations because I have well rested kids. So, a missed nap to do unforeseen or special circumstances goes over well. We all need this flexibility.
So, the situation I’m talking about is in our typical day. If we are home, we stick with nap time because that is exactly why I have well rested kids. And, if the words ‘I’m not tired’ escape anyones lips, I remind them that we take our afternoon nap and that is not changing. It’s not something I have a conversation about or even entertain. Therefore, it rarely comes up or is squashed very quickly.
We Don’t Leave Bed Until the Correct Time
I have taught my girls two very important numbers. 7 and 3. Seven is the time they can come out of their room in the morning and three is the time they can come out after a nap. I use a digital clock, then cover the minutes with a piece of paper on which I’ve written the number. I switch the number depending on which sleep time is occurring. Then, the girls can compare the hour number with the number I’ve written. When it matches, they can come out. There are also other ideas that are already done for you…like the clock that changes colors when its the right time. Living outside the US, I haven’t found one of those so I had to make my own version.
It doesn’t take long for this to catch on and it has worked well. So well, in fact, that we don’t need it anymore. We used it for several months and found that they could do it without the reminder number.
Also, we don’t need it at nap time as much anymore. It is more useful when some sort of training is taking place, like when the problem of coming out from nap time without actually sleeping starts. Then, use this trick to help train your child not to come out of their room until they see the appropriate number. Because, most often, my girls are taking their nap without issue, they don’t need to wait until they see the three. They can take the length of nap they need and come out when they are done. My youngest daughter does still ask if ‘it’s the three yet’ occasionally. But, she often takes a great, long 2-3 hour nap and wakes up around three or I have to wake her up so that she will still be ready to go to bed on time around 6:30pm.
We Have Something To Look Forward To
After nap time, we usually always have something to look forward to. Often times this is the time of day we are going to have friends over, run an errand, or go to the park because my baby boy is still napping in the morning. Also, if we are home, this is the time of day the girls get to choose a show to watch. They request a snack (and I’m happy to provide what they ask for within reason) and pick out a show for the next 30-60 minutes, depending on what we have going. No matter what it is, we always have something to look forward to right after nap time. This is helpful because I can remind them that we have something to look forward to, but we aren’t able to get to it until naps have been taken. This is a great motivator and also a great practice in allowing the girls to be obedient, knowing they have something fun after.
I Relieve the Pressure
Today with Aviya, I relieved the nap time pressure. She didn’t want to admit she was tired but nap time still needed to happen. So, instead of just telling her to go to sleep because she has to, I cracked her drapes just a little and let some light in. Then, I gave her a few books and told her she could look at the books until she felt ready to go to sleep. I bet she didn’t even get through one book, honestly. As soon as the pressure is relieved that a child HAS to sleep, they tend to relax enough to actually sleep. They can calm down and choose to go to sleep because they want to, not because they’ve been told they have to. And as a child gets older, spending all or part of nap time looking at books as a quiet activity is a great option.
These are the four things that have helped me most when it comes to nap time. It has worked well with my girls, so give them a try and see if they help you end your nap time battle! After all, day time nap is of primary importance and helps our little ones get the rest they need as well as be ready for all that night time sleep they need!
If you need help lengthening this afternoon nap into a gloriously long and restful time for you and your child, check out my Lengthening Short Naps post.
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