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The Competent Parent: The nap monster

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

The Nap Monster

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My 2-year-old sometimes fights naptime.  We used to have a nice routine – lunch, diaper change, stories and snuggles, then a solid two hours of sleep.  Now it’s hit or miss if she sleeps at all.  Sometimes we whine and fuss with each other for an hour then I give up and let her go play.

I Need A Nap




Dear INAN,

Naps can be very refreshing.  The trouble is, a tired person is not very good at problem solving.  This is why both your daughter and you get so irritable when the other person is posing a challenge. So naps need to be exceedingly routine.  If you, too, are tired, then this is not the time to be trying to decide how to handle your nap resister.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I sometimes faced a similar scenario with my 2-year-old.  “Quiet Time” happens in a child-proofed room of the house – we used the living room.  We followed the same sequence as you described, but after books, I told him I had to close my eyes for a while because I was so tired.  He could lie with me or play quietly.  Books, puzzles, and other quiet toys were accessible.  We didn’t use television, but this would be a reasonable use of an age appropriate children’s video to gain you some rest and possibly lull an almost-napper into a snooze.  Half the time I awoke to find him nestled fast asleep close by.

Pregnancy and the rapid growth phases of infancy, toddlerhood, and adolescence are stages that require more sleep.  Even at other ages, naps help one to get through the 24 hour cycle of each day.  Not only do cells regenerate during sleep, but learning and germ-fighting happen as well.

If 20 minutes of zoning out is all she needs, that’s all the rest you’re going to get, too.  If you don’t get the hour or two of sleep that you need in the afternoon, scale back your expectations for yourself for the rest of the day.  Have re-heated leftovers as opposed to a gourmet meal from scratch, for example.  Make do with a quick email exchange rather than a face-to-face meeting about the community yard sale this weekend. Competent parenting requires a level of commitment that includes adjusting other demands so as not to compromise a child’s needs.  (She doesn’t need you losing your temper!)  There will be a period of outgrowing a nap during which your daughter would probably fare best if her days could sometimes be shortened to 20 hours, but since that is not possible, you just have to face this transition as best you can.

Meantime, see if you can catch some extra z’s for yourself courtesy of a supportive friend, family member or babysitter.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com.

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