Are You Trying to Convince Your Child to Sleep?
Typically the more you discuss sleep with your three-year-old, the more they act out around sleep. Many parents try to convince their kids that sleep is good for them and that they need to listen. Parents wonder why their child is making bedtime so hard. Why does toddler sleep feel so tricky sometimes?
Your three-year-old is still a three-year-old at bedtime. Acting out and testing boundaries are pretty standard at this age. The most important thing for you to understand is that she needs rules and boundaries to feel safe and secure.
Suggestions or convincing where a rule needs to be in place can create insecure feelings. You may be trying to convince your daughter that sleep is good. Sleep should not be something you convince your child to do; it is a rule. We need to sleep just as we need to eat. It is not optional, and really it is not a choice - to sleep or not to sleep.
Imagine every time you got into the car, you spent half an hour convincing your child that sitting in her car seat was great. You may find yourself standing by the car for hours before you can go anywhere! Remember that convincing never really works. Convincing your child to do something they do not want to do will get you locked into a negotiation with your child. Negative attention is still attention. And while that may seem odd, kids will happily take negative attention over no attention any day of the week.
Ask yourself, is sleeping up to my child? Does she get to choose? Is it a rule you, as the parent, set in place? Is it a "try this veggie, you will like it, please try it?" kind of moment or an "Everyone in the family eats vegetables." You can then feel free to put the why on end. "Everyone in the family eats vegetables. We eat them because they are good for us."
Less negotiation is better. In my book, sleep is not a choice your child gets to make. Asking a three-year-old that is testing you, "Do you want to go to sleep now?" is opening yourself up to a sleepless disaster. Negotiating, convincing, and getting mad are all ways to have your kid think, "Wow, they have no idea what they are doing!". Stay grounded, remain calm, and don't play into a game or drama. Is the convincing keeping you engaged in the dynamic you want to avoid?
Decide your views about sleep and what your child gets to choose. Is sleep a rule or a choice? If it is a rule, create a plan of action for the bedtime routine, be consistent, and stick to it! Remember, your child needs you to be the parent.