Skip to content

Your 3-Year-Old Won’t Sleep? Are You Making Any Of These Mistakes?

Getting a child to sleep is no easy task, especially when you could be contributing to their sleepless nights. If you’re having trouble getting your 3, 4, or 5-year-old to sleep through the night, you may be making one or even all of these common mistakes without knowing it! 3-year-old won’t sleep | toddler sleep | child won’t sleep | #sleeptips #toddlersleep #toddler #toddlerlife #preschool

Your 3, 4, or 5-year-old might smile like a champ in your Facebook pictures… but you know the hidden secret.  The secret sleep challenges that have been driving you nuts for months or even years.  Each night is a horrible groundhog’s day.  The same old battle every night.  The hours it finally takes your child to sleep… Your child is always getting out of bed.  He needs you to stay with him.  He gets out of bed at night… many times.  You have to sleep with him.  You are surviving each day as a mom-bie (part mom part zombie), half in the bag and chugging coffee like it’s your new job.  You’ve had enough that your 3-year-old won’t sleep.  You don’t know what to do.

Who wears the pants in your family (or is in charge?)  There is a good chance that your child does.

#1:  Does A ToDDLER CravING MOre Attention from you MESS UP SLEEP?

Your child needs to fill up in the parenting love department every day.  And when their tank gets low, they will start begging, pleading, and probably throwing a huge fuss to get what they want.

Bring your relationship to the forefront. Strive to spend quality time with your child each day.

Ideas:  Carve out 10-30 minutes each day of “special time.” It doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t need to involve treats or food.  It just needs to be a phone-distraction-free chunk-o-time just dedicated to fun.  Bonus points, this will give your child the attention that they desperately crave.

#2 IS YOUR TODDLER In Control?

I’m right there with you.  My child is for sure the one that since birth has been in charge in the family.  My then 2-year old ruled our roost. Her mood affected us all.  For sure!  But, that is wrong… so wrong, and I know that I’m here to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake.

It wasn’t until I read Beyond Time Out from Chaos To Calm that I realized that the imbalance of family power was way out of whack.  Our child has way too much control.  She dictated everything.  Like, everything.

It was my job as the parent to take back the control.  I had her best interest in mind, and it was my job to lead.  Not to follow.

Guess what?  Taking control is not yelling – belittling – punishing.  It’s about communicating and setting limits.  And boundaries.

Once you, as a parent, have limits and boundaries set (during the day too), you can establish nighttime limits and boundaries when it comes to sleep.

CASE STUDY:  A 3 Year Old Gets Back On Track (With My Help)

Meet Matt and Felix.  Matt booked one of my personalized consults after looking to google trying to get his 3-year old son, Felix, back into a good sleep routine. Matt stumbled upon this exact article that you’re reading now and he reached out since he thought my tips made sense.  Matt lost control.  You see, Felix was a good sleeper for years, but at 3 years old, Felix started pushing his parents’ buttons and “no” was a common response.

Felix didn’t want to sleep alone, or nap so his parents thought they were doing the right thing by bringing Felix to their bed and now, no one was sleeping!!  The day before our sleep consult, Felix was up at 10 pm and out of desperation, Felix was eating meals in the middle of the night.  Matt needed help, ASAP!

With my plan (a super detailed plan), we got Matt confident that he was in the driver’s seat to get back control in a very loving way.  Through a family meeting, Matt laid out what was important for Felix. He made sleep rules and bedtime book to make things fun for Felix.  During the implementation of the plan, Felix was always checked on during the night and as hard as Matt stuck with it. 

Felix went back to napping within just a few short days, getting 12.5-13 hours sleep per day. Even though Felix still says “no”, Matt is so relieved that things are back on track!

Ready to become my next case study?  Book a sleep consultation here!

#3: IS Your 3 Year Old Getting Enough Sleep?

Many children just aren’t getting enough sleep.  They are going to bed way too late and waking up way too early.  The AAP’s guidelines for healthy sleep for a 3-5-year-old is 10 – 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

The problem is that many parents of 3-year-olds are complacent when their child is only getting 10 hours of sleep at night and saying “hey, it’s in the range” when in reality that range is pretty large.

So, here’s a good guideline to work with for each aged child:

3-year-old:  12+ hours of sleep (10+ hours overnight + 2 hour nap)

4-year-old:  11+ hours of sleep (including nap)

5-year-old:  11+ hours of total sleep

sleep needs by age | how much sleep does your baby need | #babysleep #toddlersleep #sleep

It’s helpful to get a target and if you are targeting more asleep than less…you are on the right path.

“At Age 3, Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say Is So Important”

#4 IS YOUR FAMILY Prioritizing Sleep?

Your family isn’t focusing on sleep enough.  Eekk… I said it.  I know it probably didn’t feel good to hear that and I’m sorry.

This blunt piece of advice is always a tough one to swallow.  Yes – parents need to focus on sleep to get out of the sleep rut.  It means giving some dedicated time and energy to make sure you’re doing everything you can.

Now is not the time to keep your kids up late to do a family sleepover.  It’s now the time to un-enroll in late-night activities (beg for money back).  It’s the time to have a nice family dinner and start working on an enjoyable bedtime routine that can get you enough time to get your child to bed sooner than later.


So many parents have the perception that “crying it out,” and fixing sleep is the same.  Oh, friends, that is not even close to accurate!

Let’s talk mom-to-mom for a second, anything that you want to do to help your child learn how to sleep is OK.  You’re the parent; you set the rules.  But as the parent, you need to ENFORCE the rules, which is easier said than done.  

This is the time that you have to follow through on what you say.  Say what you mean, mean what you say.  

If you want to let your child come into your bed at night sometimes and not others your child is getting mixed messages, and it’s no surprise that they will keep trying.  But, if you’re looking for your child to stay in their bed, then you must come up with a solid plan.

If you decide to walk your child back to their room each night, great!  Now, every time your child attempts to b-line it to your bed, you must walk your child back for as long as it takes!  It’s not easy, but it’s necessary – since this is when behaviors change.  Even if it means that you are going to walk your child back 1,000,000 times – you must be consistent.

If you’re not going to be consistent, what’s the point of starting in the first place? 


OK, please tell me which mistake you’re guilty of making. We are a judgment free-zone so don’t worry if you’re guilty of doing something wrong (we’re right there with you).  Are you over the fact that your 3-year-old won’t sleep?  Now, what are you going to do to make things better?

Susie Parker is founder of Sleep Baby Love and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. When Susie's not ridding the world of sleepless families, she loves spending time with her two girls that have given her a ton of real world sleep experience head on.

Back To Top