What To Do When Your Child Won’t Nap

How often have you told your child that it’s naptime only to be met with complete disapproval?

We know our children benefit from a rest midday, and may of us look forward to that window, either to get things done without another small person demanding attention, or just to rest up and prepare the afternoon and evening ourselves.

So to hear a resounding “no” when naps are mentioned can be doubly frustrating.

As we imagine the day stretching out before us in our minds. We see an increasingly finicky child in need of sleep, and a mounting list of chores left undone as we try to placate them. Argh!

Why Won’t My Child Nap?

Try and notice what it is about naptime that your child is refusing. Does it come after mornings apart, at daycare or with other caregivers, perhaps after you’ve been to a friend’s house to play, or you have been busier than usual just getting through your to-do list?

Sometimes these breaks away from their primary parent causes a sense of disconnection for a child. Talking of naps only suggests more “alone time” that can be upsetting.

Or maybe resisting naps has become a regular occurrence, with your child constantly battling sleep.

Take a Time Out Together Before a Nap

Either way the message is the same. If your child is saying no, she is also saying, “I need you.” If we believe that all children are good, then we can also believe that their offtrack behaviors are less acting out and more reaching out.

So, what can be done?

In times of disconnection, an injection of a parent’s close, warm attention really boosts a child’s sense of safety. At Hand in Hand, we find that regular sessions of one-on-one time, letting the child lead an activity and delighting in them doing it, is often immediately effective in feeling closer and getting more cooperation.

Over the longterm, regular special time gives a child the space he or she needs to be seen and heard, leaving them calmer and more co-operative. We normally recommend at least a few times a week for Special Time, but with routine-loving toddlers a daily session can be really useful. If you are facing a nap issue, timing can be important.

Scheduling a daily Special Time a little ahead of nap can work wonders.

Here is a story about a mum struggling with getting her toddler to take a nap, and how Special Time helped.

“My daughter is two years old, and she hates to take a nap. But she really, really needs one. We went around and around for weeks, with me trying hard to get her to nap, and her resisting in every possible way.

Finally, I thought of a new tack. Instead of trying so hard to get her in to the bedroom and in her bed, I would do Special Time for 5 minutes right around nap time, and then let her know that it was time to go to sleep.

I just got down beside her, and told her it was time. I didn’t move her anywhere, didn’t make her take off her shoes, didn’t get busy ‘making it happen.’

I stayed with her, and gently prevented her from doing other things. Finally, she burst into tears and cried for a good fifteen minutes.

I tried to be warm with her, but when she would begin to pull herself together, I said, “Are you ready yet?” and she would cry hard, again and again.

This lasted about 15 minutes, and finally, she said she was ready. We went to the bedroom together, and she lay down and slept very quickly.

This happened three days in a row, and since then, naps have been easy.”

Why Special Time Works:

Special Time is a way to help fill your child’s need for attention. To begin special time a parent sets a timer for between three to thirty minutes and agrees to pour their attention in for that time. If you’d like to find our more about Special Time, this free video series and checklist will show you how to set it up.

If you are wondering how crying ties in with Special Time, it’s a good question.

When you begin Special Time the burst of love and safety your child feels can be enough to let them offload their stored tensions in a good cry. In the story above, the little girl felt her mom’s limit about napping as a wonderful connecting time came to an end.

Since we value tears as the body’s wonderful resource for clearing stored up worry and tension, we use a tool called Staylistening that gives the child our full attention and permission to cry and work through the issues causing their upsets. You can read more about Staylistening in this post, The Science Behind Staylistening.

If, unlike your non-napper, you have difficulty saying no to their requests, or you wind up yelling or threatening when they ignore your limits, you can get our booklet on Setting Loving Limits for free here.

If naptimes are a struggle in your house, try this Special Time and Staylistening combination for three days, and see how things change.

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