A mom asked me this week what do when your toddler won’t nap. I’m definitely not an expert, but I am a mom. And I am raising one of the most strong-willed, creative people I’ve ever met. (Side note: she and her friend got into an argument last week because Kaitlin didn’t believe Brynna is a mermaid. I asked Brynna to be a regular girl while she and Kaitlin were swimming – because how else do you respond when your kid believes wholeheartedly she’s half fish?! – and Brynna responded. “Ok. I do have powers even when I’m a girl, though…”)
That has no relevance here except to prove that Brynna has thrown me our fair share of curve balls over the past 6 years and sometimes you just try something. You go with it. You take a stab and if it works, you celebrate like crazy. If it doesn’t, you modify and keep trying. That’s pretty much the sum total of being a mom – issue, try something until one works, move on to the next issue.
That’s definitely the name of the game during transition times. Because every kid is different, every kid moves from stage to stage at a different pace. You just get the rhythm of best time to nap and they go through a growth spurt and throw the whole thing off. You finally get the hang of two naps and suddenly they only need one. And then there’s The Day. The one we dread – especially if you stay at home but even if you’re on the receiving end of the crazy after a long day at work. The Day the Toddler Won’t Nap.
That day came for me around 22 months. Yes, that’s right, my less-than-2-year-old decided she was grown and refused to nap. Refused. Shenanigans like I’ve never seen – climbing out of the crib, screaming at the top of her lungs, destroying her room when I thought she was laying down. It was AWESOME. I tried discipline. I tried shifting the nap to a different time. I tried moving bedtime. I even tried moving bathtime. (I know…sounds weird, but it actually did help.) Every kid is different and sometimes it takes a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t. After looooots of tried and failed attempts to manage the crazy and a very stressful year or so, I found something that worked for us. Hopefully it helps you too…
3 Things to do When Your Toddler Won’t Nap
1. Pray – I’m so not kidding. Pray you don’t do bodily harm, pray you keep your sanity, pray you stay calm even when you want to scream right back. Pray for a solution, and pray you find it sooner rather than later.
2. Get an Ok to Wake Clock – I don’t get paid to say this, so don’t think I’m trying to sell you something. This thing changed my life. It’s a clock. That changes colors.
So here’s how it works. You set a time for it to come on. When it does, it glows yellow. You set a second/change time, at which point it turns to green. And you set a time for it to go off. Brilliant. It was designed for and works great at night – the green color in the morning signals it’s ok to get up (as opposed to getting up at 4am and coming to mom and dad’s room).
When your toddler won’t nap, it’s a lifesaver even during the day. Brynna refused to nap, but I’m still the mom. So I would set her clock to come on at “resting time.” (Don’t you dare call it a nap. Don’t you do it!) I told her she didn’t have to sleep, but her head had to be on the pillow. On days when God smiled down from Heaven, she’d fall asleep once she let herself sit still. But that didn’t happen often.
Eventually, I set the clock to come on when it’s “quiet time.” (Sounds silly, but what you call it helps. Babies nap. Big kids rest. Even adults need quiet time.) When quiet time starts, Brynna has to be on her bed. She can have books only. I set the clock to change to green after 20 minutes, at which point, she can get up and draw, color, play as long as it’s quiet. My child can NOT sit still, but I can teach her how to calm her mind a bit. Allowing her to get up and use her hands but not leave the room is necessary. She can play but is not allowed to leave her room until the clock switches off, signaling that “quiet time” is over.
Hint: Allowing books/toys for certain times also gives you something to use as discipline. If you allow privileges, you show trust and have privileges to take away if the rules aren’t followed. That’s far more effective than yelling or punishing.
3. Help Yourself – Moms, we get in our own way sometimes. We want them to nap but we don’t give them enough to do early in the day to expend all that tiny person energy. We reprimand when they won’t stay in their room, but we don’t reward when they do. And the biggie – we tell them it’s resting time, but we don’t rest. We do the dishes, make a few phone calls, send an email… Not only are we not modeling what we’re asking, but we wear ourselves out. If they don’t nap, we’re exhausted from the process. If they do nap, we’re exhausted from all we did while they napped. Help YOU help YOU!
Don’t be discouraged when your toddler won’t nap. Say a prayer, try something and find what works for you. And get the clock. You gotta get the clock.