My three-year-old refuses to go to sleep until we do – usually around 9pm or 10pm – and we have the worst time waking her up in the morning. How can I get her to bed earlier without a fight? 

The problem here with your daughter is that it is simply too late that you are putting her to bed.  I know, I can already hear your protests that it is her that is not keen on bedtime however to me the fact that she refused to go to bed until you do or comes in and out 100 times means that her bedtime is simply too late.  When parents describe this exact problem to me I explain to them that you have a little window of opportunity to get your child in bed.  It you have got them at the right time ie. in that little window of opportunity then they will, after your nice bedtime routine, of bath, dinner, books, teeth, toilet etc simply say goodnight, lie down and go to sleep without coming in and out.

Once it is too late, they either come in and out the 100 times, or have 100 excuses of what they now need… think drink, cuddle, tell you something etc. or become hyperactive/protest and go on for about another 1 ½ hrs or 2 hours until they fall asleep by sheer exhaustion.  This is what is happening for your daughter at the 9 – 10pm bedtime.

So to solve this problem, I suggest bringing her bedtime forward much earlier.  Yes this is fine, and despite your misgivings that nothing will change, it certainly will.  I suggest for a 3 year old, about 6.00pm to have all the bits n pieces done and to be onto story time.  Allow about 10 – 15 mins of time with each other, talking, cuddling etc and lights off, kiss goodnight by 6.30pm.

If she comes in and out by some chance then you need to get onto this straight away however, chances are that this is exactly the right time for her, and she will lie down, and go to sleep.  This is falling asleep in a different manner to what is currently happening.  She is relaxed, and ready to sleep and will go to sleep straight away.  You may have to tweak this time a little but I would expect her to go to bed between 6pm and 7pm no later at all.  You may need to adjust the rest of your afternoon to have dinner earlier etc but once she is asleep by 6.30pm and you and your husband have your nights together again, it will be well worth the effort.  I would expect her to sleep 12 hours so if 6.30pm it will be a 6.30am wake up time.  Gone also are the difficult mornings.

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