Naps for Kids over 3

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Children 3 and 5 won't nap for me - ineffective parent?

Oct 2004

My children, ages 3 and 5, will not nap with me. I have always been the more lenient parent and I am now suffering from it - my husband believes that their not napping with me shows that I am not ready for parenting - he has even asked me why I chose to be a parent if I can't control my children?

The question I want to ask is, is napping the litmus test for effective parenting? It is true that I find myself cajoling and bribing them much more than he does - he is much more absolute in all his discipline and they do tow the line with him. Is this the desired result?

I find that my weekends always end in conflict because the children don't nap, my husband checks out on me and I am beside myself because they are not listening to me. Are there books out there that anyone finds helpful? At my wit's end

I sympathize with your sleep/nap problems. In our household, they have been some of the most difficult issues with kids. I must say that your husband's reaction seems a bit extreme, hopefully the result of being tired and frustrated. Let me say, first off, that my 5 yr old stopped napping when she was 4, and I don't know too many of her Kindergarten friends who nap anymore at all. As for the 3 yr old, my 2.5 yr old does take naps, and sometimes does not want to stop playing with his sister to do so. Perhaps you could assess whether the 5 yr old really needs a nap, then focus your energy on being consistent with the 3 yr old. You might even consider a later napping time (my little one recently switched to the afternoon). been there

When I saw the ages of your children, I wasn't surprised that they don't nap. My youngest gave up naps when she was 2 1/4. She still needs one once in awhile, and definitely has a tired period in the day, or is exhausted by the end of the day without napping. I try to have a quiet period where we read or cuddle to at least give her some rest, and if she is very tired occasionally she will fall asleep. I know that this year of outgrowing naps has been difficult.

I feel for you when I read how you doubt your own effectiveness as a parent, and are challenged by your spouse. I wonder what you can do to boost your own confidence as a parent and learn additional skills. I have received a lot of guidance from classes in Non-violent communication, offered through Bay NVC in Oakland. They have a web-site, offer classes and have books on Raising Children Compassionately (

When you say that you are at your wits end when your children don't listen to you, I wonder if you are saying that they don't do what you want. Making a child take a nap, is pretty much impossible. All we can do is create an environment in which they could fall asleep if they are tired, but there is no way to force it. I am just hoping that you can find the right support to develop your own parenting style according to your values, and find methods to be with your children which both respect their needs and yours. I am also hoping your spouse could be more supportive of your different parenting style, giving you some space to figure things out on your own without disapproving.

Parenting is a very difficult job, and I just wanted to reach out to you and encourage you on! Mom of two

HI! I think you have three separate issues here. First, many children have completely given up naps by age 3. Some will continue, but your kids may be telling you that they don't need them anymore. Give up that battle and get them in bed by 7 sharp! Late afternoons will be hard- they'll be cranky and tired and hungry, etc., but that is typical- the witching hour is typically from 4:30 to 6- where kids are really at their worst.

Second, being a lenient parent is a parenting style- sometimes more effective, sometimes less. Depends on your children's temperaments. I suggest taking a parenting class- Rona Renner at Kaiser Richmond, runs one for free to everyone. You learn a lot about your child's temperament and your own and discipline styles that will work for you. I fyou google Rona Renner, you'll find her contact info. Third, your husband sounds hostile. I don't know if he's right or wrong, but the comment you said he made is hostile. Families with young children have the second highest divorce rate (first year of marriage is the highest). Don't ignore what he's saying because it's a sign that he's angry. Consider getting a little marriage therapy too. Good luck! Diane

Usually kids give up naps when they are about 3 years old. Your kids are too old for naps. sunsol

You'll likely get a lot of responses on this one -- so I'll be brief. Good grief, NO, getting your child to nap is not a litmus test of you as a parent! At 3 and 5, they may well be ready to give up a nap. Even hard core sleep advocates say that if a child refuses a nap at age 3 or above, it's often because they don't need it anymore. That said, naps are ALWAYS more difficult with the parents, and often mom -- kids know they can push your buttons, and they are more persistent in their refusals with you. I won't belabor the point, but your husband seems like he is being quite critical about this and about your parenting in general. That seems the more important issue to be dealt with. Sabrina

Check out two books: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Children the Challenge by Rudolph Dreikurs susan

I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone, and that napping is not the litmus test for effective parenting. I have had a lot of trouble getting my children to nap (ages 1 and 3), and I have experimented with being strict and lenient. I've found that really the best way to get them to nap is to put them down at the right time - sometimes it is really hard to tell when the right time is, though. Sometimes my 3 year old tells me that she is sleepy and then I have about 10 minutes to get her in bed before she goes into the overtired, trying to keep herself awake phase. Routine also helps - same thing every day. What I have started with my daughter is rest time. If she is not sleepy she can stay in her bed and read books for an hour. Then she can get up. Good luck with the naps -- but ifit doesn't work don't take it personally, and tell your husband to give you a break. If he thinks he can do better with naps then let him do it. A lot of kids nap at daycare and not at home. Also, I read in ''Healthy Sleep, Healthy Child'' that many kids stop napping between ages 3 and 4 so maybe your kids don't need naps? jen

You'll probably hear this a lot. Your kids not napping with you seems to pale in comparison to the lack of respect and support in childrearing you're getting from your husband. Please discuss this with him and get counseling; your kids should not get the impression that you're a bad mom because they won't nap with you. My son will NEVER nap with me; it's much more fun to be up and awake. He's in the process of giving up his nap entirely, which is completely normal at his age AND your kids' ages. There is nothing wrong with not napping. anon

#1 - Your husband is being a jerk and has a cruel way of telling you that you need to toughen up with the kids. NOBODY is ready for parenting, and he should tell you what he does rather than judge you.

#2 - I recommend not accepting ''no, I don't want to'' for an answer when it comes to what they need to do, including napping. You can be firm without being cruel or a drill sergeant. I ask my daughter to go to bed a few times, and if she doesn't cooperate, I tell her that I will not allow her to play with a favorite toy unless she cooperates. Sometimes she says she doesn't like me (she's 3 and a half), but I don't take it personally because I'm doing my job as her mom. If she doesn't want to brush her teeth, I tell her she can't have any more treats until she does. Again, she sometimes cries about it or she'll go a day without brushing, but she mostly just says ''okay'' and picks up her little toothbrush. In any case, we have enough playtime and tickle time and fun time that any disciplining I do counteracts the ''I hate yous'' I get when I'm teaching her to be a good girl and when I need to help her take care of herself (like making her sleep). Be loving and lenient, but not about everything. They need to respect you and they need to know that mommy gets mad, too. Loving, but firm mommy

Well, there seems to be a lot going on in your message, but I would first point out that A LOT of 3 and 5 year olds are DONE with their naps at that age, especially on a consistent basis, so I would start working on transitioning to a daily schedule that does not include a nap. Incorporating a quiet time (where kids play separately and quietly) is one technique if you need to calm the house down but naps aren't working. But aside from that, it is important to remember that kids will know if both parents aren't behind ''your plan'', so if your husband isn't behind you, you can expect that carrying it alone with the kids isn't going to be easy. A nap isn't a litmus test-- responsive kids come from parents that parent together. Good luck. luisa

Two thoughts:

1) Maybe they don't need a nap? My child stopped napping at 3. 5 years old is pretty old to be napping everyday.

2) If you're convinced that they need a nap, then my other thought is: You didn't say whether you work during the week or not, but since you mentioned weekends, I'll assume you do. Rather than view this as a negative--that you aren't a good parent (which I find ridiculous!)--how about viewing it as a positive? Maybe the children are so attached to you and so enjoy your company that they want to spend as much time with you as possible? They're telling you that they love you and want your attention. So, with this in mind, some strategies would be to 1) be completely focused on playing with them all morning so by the afternoon they are more relaxed 2) lie down with them and read stories, so you're participating with them during the napping process 3) last resort: go for a ride in the car so they sleep. Napping ISN'T a litmus test of parenting. Happy, curious, centered children ARE. In my mind, your goal should be to have a wonderful relationship with your children, not try to control them. If you have a strong relationship, they will blossom as individuals and will respect you and want to please you. A parent

First of all, there is no litmus test for parenting. It's not like there are 2 kinds of parents, effective and not, and you're either in one group or another. Why do people even say such silly stuff??? Different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and you and your husband are probably effective at different aspects of parenting. OK, with that off my chest, several things to consider:

--Your kids may be past the age for napping. Many kids have given up their naps by 3, most by 5. They could possibly benefit from a ''quiet time'' spent with books or quiet activities in their rooms, but they very well may not need to sleep.

--Bribing and cajoling are not always the most effective strategies. Setting consequences, which you explain in advance to your children, making it clear that it is their choice, and then follow through with, calmly, is usually a more effective strategy. Perhaps: ''I'd like to go to the park this afternoon. However, if you do not stay quietly in your rooms for one hour, we will not be able to go.'' Then follow through calmly and consistently.

--The book ''How to behave so your preschooler will too'' has a variety of strategies which may be effective with your kids, and would probably be worth a read. Karen

Reading you message, I'm wondering if there's a problem with my parenting. My kids, 2 and 4, don't nap, unless they happen to be doze off in the car or had a long night up the previous night. And neither my wife nor I tried to nap with them when they were younger. Am we the bad parents for not even letting our kids nap, let alone wanting to nap with them? More probably, there're nothing wrong your parenting or mine. To answer your question, napping or co-napping must not be in any way a measure of good parenting.

But to your concern about kids not listening. You may be blaming lack-of-sleep for a very normal behavior. Little kids just don't listen well, whether they've slept all day or not. Show me a parent whose 4 yr old listens well and I'll show you a repressed 4 year old. Poor listening/compliance is just a side-effect of being little, and being 'programmed' to explore and test people and surroundings. Isn't it? Normal too

If getting a child to nap is a litmus test then my husband and I failed that one miserably. Our daughter stopped napping on the weekends when she was 16 months old -- meanwhile, she continued napping all week at day care!

Notice I said ''my husband and I'' -- it's a team screw-up in our house. Moreover, it is *not* OK for either one of us to ''check out'' on each other when it comes to dealing with conflict. Cool off? Yes. Check out? No. Sounds like you've got a few things going on...1) you two are not on the same page regarding disciplining the children, and 2) your husband has a very mean way of dealing with this disagreement and if I were you I'd tell him that questioning your parenting hurts your feelings and, moreover, is *not* going to motivate you to change. I wish you luck with this! Happy to be one-half of a team

My daughter stopped napping at age 2 1/2. And I had a terrible time trying to get her to nap (her daycare was more successful)...I had to put her in the car to get her to sleep. Success with napping is certainly NOT a litmus test for successful parenting. Your husband's attitude seems to be more a test of his aptitude for being a supportive husband...and I would say he is failing.

Do you kids have to have a nap...what if they don't nap...are they okay...maybe they are growing out of it. Will they go to bed a little earlier? Another thing I've heard of is if your child won't nap, you can simply require them to have ''quiet'' time in their room. They don't have to nap, but they have to play quietly in their room. Good luck. Anon

I'm pretty firm in my parenting and yet my son, who is only 2, often won't go down for a nap. It his latest thing. I've tried everything, from lying down with him, to trying to ''make'' him sleep (ha ha). So it is not necessarily anything that you are doing in your parenting that is causing them to not nap. Kids start losing naps around 2 or three from what I've been told. Besides, you can't make your kids sleep. If someone tells you to sleep, could you just drop off?

Suggest to your husband that he put them down for naps. If they go down, great. If not, he'll see the reality. If he threatens them to get them to sleep, I think he is setting himself up for a very difficult relationship with his kids come teen years, when they can really talk back. Good luck. kim

I don't think you situation is that unusual. My kids never nap for me as well as they do for babysitters or at school. My guess is that they are more active at school or with a babysitter who can spend all their time playing and focusing on them. When I'm alone with my children, I often do errands, chores around the house, etc., which, although necessary, doesn't wear the kids out as much as active play. Also, a caregiver is paid to focus just on that child, so they can more easily steer the child towards a nap. Finally, they're probably happy to be with you, and want to spend time with you - - so don't take it as a failure, take it as a compliment (even though it's exhausting!) I don't think your husbands comments to you about your parenting skills are fair at all. I think your situation is pretty common. If he's this judgemental about your parenting, and you don't see eye to eye on how to deal with the kids, I'd suggest counseling, or at least have him go to some talks by child development professionals (such as Meg Zweiback's talks at Bananas) so he can see that your situation is quite normal. Good luck and don't let anyone tell you you're failing as a mom! a mom whose kids won't nap for her either!

I highly recommend the book ''How To Behave So Your Children Will To.'' The goal isn't to ''control'' children, but your job as a parent is to teach them how to make good choices. As you have learned, cajoling and bribing doesn't work for anyone. Helena

Three-year olds and especially five-year olds do not necessarily need to nap during the day. Try putting them to bed earlier in the evening instead. Please do not punish yourself for this completely natural development, which has nothing to do with your way of parenting. For example, it's very common that children nap much easier at daycare than at home with their parents. Does that mean that the daycare people are better at parenting? No, of course not. Maria

Yes, I have a book for you! It's here: This book changed my relationship with my 4-year-old....we now fight less and the fights that do happen aren't as bad. My sister, who is a family and child therapist, gave me this book and told me that it's the ONLY parenting book she routinely recommends. cheuy

It is not unusual for children to stop their nap somewhere between 2 and 3 years of age, and I know very few 5 year olds who take a nap at all. My own 2 1/2 year old stopped napping altogether around 2 years old. In my opinion, whether your child will still take a nap at 3 and 5 has nothing to do with your is part of your children's own development. So cut yourself some slack, load the kids in the car or go for a walk and do something fun - anything to get out of the house in the afternoon when the kids get cranky. anon

I have a 3 year old son and I completely understand your struggle. I struggled ( and still do) with not wanting to ''control'' him and yet I know he needs limits. I really like the book Kid Cooperation by Elizabeth Pantley. It helped me develop the skills to better set limits for my son. My son is happier now that I'm better at limit setting. He likes knowing that I am in charge and I won't let his behaviour get out of hand. I think it's appropreate that I'm in charge of his behaviour at this point. I think he will internalize the behaviour I expect of him and be able to behave on his own as he gets older. Good luck, Kristin