Overtired kids make for worn out, nerve wracked mommies. I want to share some tips of what I have found that works for me when my little ones have been overtired yet didn’t want to go to bed.
Usually I keep them on a good sleep schedule, but it does happen from time to time that schedules get blown to the wind and naps get missed. The other day Scarlett woke up at 6 a.m. and came into our bed, but instead of going back to sleep like she normally does, she stayed awake. By 11 a.m. she was ready to sleep but I knew that if she went down at that hour, she’d be up even before the other two went for a nap.
I tried to keep her up but she cried even more and kept begging to be carried. By 11:30 I’d had enough but she was too worked up to just lie down and fall asleep on her own like she normally does, so I had to put her to sleep myself.
Here are the steps I used.
#1 Hard as it is to do when your child is screaming or whining (especially if it has been going on for a while), keep yourself calm. This is the first step to calming your child. If necessary, go to another room for a few minutes and just breathe. Tell yourself that you are in control of your own emotions and you will get through this.
I made sure to keep myself calm while she threw herself and tried to get away as I put her diaper on. (She is almost completely daytime potty trained but still wears a diaper for naps and nighttime.)
#2 Go to your child, and in a calm, soothing voice, tell her it is time for sleep. As I got her ready for nap, I made sure to keep my voice calm. I have in the past let myself get upset because my kid was upset and all that came of it was an extra-tired child screaming and an upset, frustrated mommy angrily forcing them to sleep. Not a good combination at all.
#3 Lie your child down in her bed and sit next to her (if using a toddler bed) or sit in a chair next to the crib. You will want to sit as this part may take some time. Scarlett sleeps in a toddler crib that is rather low to the floor so I just sat on the floor next to her. It has removable bars so she can get in and out on her own. Make sure the room is darkened as much as she is used to for sleep, and close the door if there is noise in other parts of the house.
Alternately you could lie your child in your bed with you lying next to her, if you think that would work better. While I prefer my kids to sleep in their own beds, getting to lie in mommy’s bed can have a rapidly soothing, almost magical effect.
|See the bars? There were 3 but the plasic parts broke after being used by all my kids and at this time, I can’t put any of the bars in place, meaning Scarlett gets out of bed often at night. Excuse the walls. 🙂|
#4 At this point, your child may already be calming down, but if she is struggling to get up, firmly place one hand on her bottom and hold her down. At the same time, gently pat or rub her back with your other hand. Though it may be hard over the screaming, try singing her favorite lullaby or shush her by chanting “shh, shh, shh” in a rhythmic pattern. This is what I do. I find it works better for getting Scarlett to stop crying than singing, but sing if that works for you.
The goal here is to take control of your child falling asleep and at the same time let her know you sympathise with her tiredness and want to comfort her. Keep your voice calm and make sure you don’t show any frustration with how long it is taking. Actually, the calmer you are, the faster she will calm down. Don’t ask me how it works; it just does.
#5 Once she stops screaming and lies still, you can take your hand off her bottom, but you will want to continue patting or rubbing her back. You can either stop the vocal soothing or keep going, depending on how your child best falls asleep.
#6 Stay there until you are sure she is asleep. You will know she is in a deep sleep because her breathing will become rhythmic and she won’t open her eyes or try to get up when you move.
#7 You can let out that sigh of relief now. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. You just got your overtired toddler to sleep without becoming a bundle of nerves yourself! Take a few minutes for yourself and enjoy the peace.
Of course you may have other children to tend to and you may feel the need to get back to them, especially if they were coming into the room while you were putting your toddler down. I had to send Logan and Lila out several times, using silent hand motions and facial expressions so as not to disturb the atmosphere while I was putting Scarlett down. Even though I could hear them fighting and hurting each other, they had to wait as I knew it would be easier to deal with them once Scarlett was down. Thankfully they were quiet when they came in, but if your older children barge in and disturb you, calmly tell them they will have to wait ’till the younger one is asleep. Lock the door if necessary. Or just make sure your older ones are busy with some engaging activity before you go to put the younger one down.
These tips may also work with older babies (over 8 months) and even with children older than toddler age. Logan rarely naps any more, but some days I notice he is cranky so I lie him down and sit next to him and he will sleep faster than if I leave him to fall asleep alone.
What works for you when your child is overtired? Share it with us.