The 5 Stages of Getting a Toddler to Nap

Nap time, or really any get your toddler to sleep time, can be harder than wrestling an alligator. Unlike the way us adults work (ie: tired + place and time to sleep = sleeping) little ones falling to sleep is a delicate balance of when and where. I will be honest, prior to becoming a mom myself I would roll my eyes at those parents who speedily packed up their life and rushed off when their children started yawning. At the time I was thinking “seriously nap time has to happen right this second?!”. When truthfully I was ignorant to the beast a tired, fighting sleep child can become.

Recently while fighting my own tired toddler beast I realized the process of getting a toddler to nap seemed vaguely familiar to something else and then it clicked…

The 5 Stages of Getting a Toddler to Nap:

1. Denial – how your child presents in this stage will vary from child to child, but one thing is true for all tots…this is the NO MOM I AM NOT TIRED stage. For my child this sometimes includes literally shaking his head no when I try put him up in a wrap, pick him up, or even mention the words “nap-nap”. Perhaps your child will run from you, roll around whining, or find some other way to tell you “nah, it ain’t happening mom”.

2. Anger – this stage is my least favorite and for some, it may be their first stage of toddler tiredness. This is when my little guy yells, cries, and arches his back and pushes away when I try to wrap him. I notice sometimes at this time little man has a very short fuse and will become seemingly irrationally angry at his toys, shoes, cup, or who knows what else. This stage may include “melt-downs” or “fits” and is generally a powerful clue that sleep is absolutely near and very much necessary.

3. Bargaining – this stage didn’t really come about until recently as my son has become more communicative. He is getting really good at signing and his vocabulary has exploded recently so now when he is heading down that road to Dreamville and has decided he doesn’t want to go he will make the signs/motions for songs we sing: the Itsy-bitsy spider or Wheels on the Bus. Or he will talk about “pup-pees”(puppies), “ish” (fish), ask “uts dis” (what’s this). I consider this bargaining because I feel like he is saying “hey mom, what do you say we skip the sleep thing and do any of these other things?”

4. Depression – this stage is usually when you know it will only be a minute longer before they are out. They begin to do that low humming cry that isn’t really a cry, it’s more of a fuss or last ditch effort of telling you that they really don’t want to go to sleep. And before long that humming will lead to the last stage…

5. Acceptance – and finally the little tots give in to the wonderful world of sleep! It is at this time that a bit of that parenting magic takes over and we stare down at the angelic faces of our little one and somehow forget about the all the stress-sweating, craziness we just endured to convince this little one sleeping was a good idea.

This was the transition from bargaining to the depression phase. His eyes express how tired he was but he wouldn’t let go of pointing out all the “caas!” (cars).

Ahh, sweet, sweet acceptance. He is no match for the wrap sleepy dust!

*Disclaimer: this post is solely for entertainment purposes. I am aware that grief is a very real thing and this is in no way to downplay the significance of that.


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