Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/2 year old suddenly fighting bedtime


Hi James,

So like many other parents before me, I seem to have come across the dreaded 2 yr old who fights bedtime.  My son has always been assertive.  It took us upwards of a month to sleep train him (he was 6 months old) but thankfully we got through that period and had enjoyed and little boy who would even ask for "do do's"!  We thought we were well out of the clear and that sleep issues were finally someone else's problem.  What a rookie mistake (yes he is our first son).  About 2 months ago he started waking in the middle of the night at random intervals.  We had learned that the best way to get him to go back to sleep was to wait 5 minutes, see if he would put himself back and if not, go to him and give him a couple minutes of cuddle time.  After a few minutes of this cuddle time he normally asks to be put back in his crib and that is that.  Within the last few days the waking shave gotten more frenquent (every night) culminating in last night when he outright refused to go to sleep.  We would leave him in his crib screaming for 30 minute blocks then finally give in and pick him up.  He would then fall asleep on us!  We would try to put him back in his crib only to have the whole process repeat itself.  Suffice it to say my wife and I are running on fumes today.  My question is, is this type of sleep issue common among 2 year olds and what strategies can you suggest to bring back our happy "do do" asking little boy!!  Thank you in advance James!

Hello Ryan,
These kinds of sleep issues are very common in two-year olds. Almost all toddlers are awakened by bad dreams or by who knows what.
The trick as you've learned is to train him to go back to sleep on his own.
I would say you are doing everything right -- except for one thing. When he has cried for 30 minutes and you go to him, do not pick him up. If you can cuddle and comfort him while he is laying in his crib, you are better off. What you don't want to do is train him to go to sleep when you pick him up, which is what you are doing now. Go to him after 30 minutes, comfort him just enough so he stops crying, then say good-night and leave. You may have to do this over and over (sorry to say!), but he must learn to go back to sleep in his bed.
Any questions?
James Windell


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

©2016 All rights reserved.