Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Staying in bed


Hello.  I'm the mother of a bright very communicative 20 month old girl.  With a new baby on the way due in June, we decided to take a shot at transitioning our daughter to a toddler bed.  We did it gradually, leaving the bed in her room until she decided she wanted to sleep in it.  For two weeks, she did great!  She slept through naps and through the night.  After a brief illness this past weekend, it all came crumbling down.  She won't stay in bed for naps and we are only successful at getting her down initially at night because she is so exhausted. However, sometime in the middle of the night, she awakes and begins playing in her room or yelling at us demanding we come in.

We did a bit of sleep training around 7 months. She has never seemed to be a child that would fall asleep in our arms or with us in the room even.  She usually took 20-30 minutes (sometimes longer) of quietly playing in her crib with a doll or book before finally dozing off.  I suppose it's dawned on her now that she can get up and play in her room. Most of the advice I've read in books suggests calmly walking child back to bed every time she gets out of bed (we have video monitor). This doesn't seem to be working and just feels like a power struggle that frustrates us and furthers her from a calm state in which needs to rest. I thought about just letting her play in her child proofed room and ignoring her night waking for the time being.  Problem is she lays down right by the door making it difficult for us to enter. I feel like that's a safety hazard.

I'm ready to throw in the towel and bring the crib back.  My husband thinks that's backtracking and wants to continue talking to her. I have no doubt she comprehends a lot, but I don't think we can reason with her. In desperation I set up the pack and play in her room in the middle of the night and put her in it, telling her this is where she will sleep if she can't stay in bed.  I doubt that makes sense to her.  Very tired and very frustrated.

Finally, she throws tantrums around other issues as well.  My typical response is to ignore her.  When she calms down I ask her questions about what she needs and by then she's ready to cuddle and move on.  Can't seem to apply that here,  Any advice?

Hello Sarah,

 What typically happens when children experience a setback, such as an illness, is that they really are set back. That is, they revert to an earlier stage of development. So, if she had made a transition to a new bed, the illness caused her to go back to an earlier stage -- not being comfortable in a new bed.
Of course, the books and advice are right. But, it often takes much longer that you expect for things to work.
I don't believe that reasoning is the answer. Putting her in her bed and leaving her there is the best approach. Of course, if she ends up playing in her room and then sleeping next to the door, it might be a safety hazard. But since she is two years of age, I believe in an emergency you could push the door open even if she is sleeping next to it. That is probably less of a concern then helping her get used to sleeping in her new bed again. That may take a few weeks. And it will take a lot of consistency and patience on your part.
Just hang in there and be patient. She will make the transition again. You'll just lose some sleep and get frustrated, but if you stick with the approach, it will work.

Any questions?

James Windell


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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.

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