Parenting for Lazy People: The Napping House, Part I

Picture your household at 5:30 pm. What’s happening? How does everybody feel? What is each person doing? Is there chaos or contentment? If your family includes children under six or so, I bet the answer to that last question depends mostly on one thing – what they were doing three hours earlier.

Naps? Why Bother? Why should a lazy parent make the effort, and I know it is an effort, to see that her child takes regular naps? The answer is simple: good parents want their children to be truly content* as much of the time as possible, and child who naps is much, much more likely to be a content child for more hours in the day. Yes, I know that children can adapt to a wide variety of circumstances, including not having daily naps, but children who nap are consistently happier and more content.

I always feel sad when I see young children misbehaving because they are exhausted. In a way, being tired is no excuse for bad behavior (Beware if you find yourself often excusing your child’s temper or defiance with a lame, “He’s tired.”), but it is a fact that parents can make things unnecessarily tougher on their kids by not providing the sleep routines they need. That fretful, clingy, whiney late-afternoon/early evening misery does not have to be part of your days.

And don’t tell me your child will not nap, because I won’t believe you. I won’t believe you because I used to work in a large daycare facility where a couple of hundred six week to six year-old children napped every single weekday, like clockwork and without fuss. And I won’t believe you because I was a nanny at various times to several children who napped every single day, like clockwork and without fuss. And I won’t believe you because I brought up three children of my own who napped every day, like clockwork and without fuss.

You can teach your child to nap. The time you put in to train good napping and sleeping habits will pay dividends immediately and for years to come for your child and for everyone else in the family!

*True contentment is opposite to the kind of false contentment many parents settle for by providing instantly gratifying things and experiences to keep their children from complaining. That false contentment is precisely what “spoils” children. True contentment always comes from doing the right thing, the best thing, in the circumstances.

Parenting for Lazy People: The Napping House, Part I

Quote from a great-grandma friend: “The more they sleep, the more they sleep.” Photo credit: Lauren Bingham

Post-script: The next part of this article is the how-to, but I confess I am struggling to write it. Entire books are written about how to help children sleep. Most of them, while well-meaning, are not that helpful. Some of them are silly. I have my opinion, backed up by a good deal of experience, but I know some readers will disagree, perhaps strongly. So I am wondering how much to say and how firmly to express it. I want us to still be friends at the end, and most of all I want everyone who reads to approach it with as open a mind as possible. So, I’m going to stop and call this Part I and ask all of you to prepare your minds for Part II. Try to read it, when it comes, with fresh, seeking eyes. Can you do that? And I’ll try hard to write it true. Thanks in advance. If you have young children, between now and then it would be great if you spent some time observing them and their level of tiredness throughout the day. It might be enlightening.

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  1. Posted March 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post! We’re not nappers, but yes, I’ll read your next one with open eyes. My little one is five and hasn’t taken daily naps in a couple years. However, she does always sleep really long at night, and she doesn’t get grumpy/fussy in the late afternoon/evening. She does have quiet times, where she can go look at books or play quietly … so it’s a restful time, and time where I can get things done as I would if she was napping. So, I guess I’m curious what the benefits of naps would be in a situation like that? I might feel differently once baby #2 comes, though she will be about 6 then. Will be interested to read your next post. 🙂
    April Starr recently posted..A happy announcement for our family…My Profile

    • Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Also, I’ll be observing and looking for that particularly over the next little while, as you mentioned, as far as how time of day relates to behavior, it will be interesting to see!
      April Starr recently posted..A happy announcement for our family…My Profile

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        April, I would imagine your little girl is able to rest and recharge when she needs to without a designated nap/rest time because (as yet!) she doesn’t have siblings around her squealing, bouncing, playing, etc. “in her face.” I do know every child is different, and the age at which they stop needing an actual “sleeping nap” varies, but I think we tend, on the whole, to err on the side of not enough rest.
        Lori recently posted..Life for Lazy People – Defining the Vocabulary of Lazy ProductivityMy Profile

  2. Posted March 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    we are nappers around here, my kids definitely need them. Tilly doesn’t sleep every day but does the majority of the time. can’t wait to hear the rest
    melaine recently posted..Learning to let go. . . .My Profile

  3. Rachel
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Please hurry to part 2! I will personally be crabby at 5:30 each day until I read it!

  4. Sheila
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to read part 2! I totally agree that naps are necessary and beneficial to a child’s well-being.

    My girls both took naps and one even demanded them. However, my son was a different story entirely! We had a routine. We were consistent. We had a specific time. We were disciplined. None of that made a bit of difference. He was stubborn and as soon as he was able to express himself, informed us that sleep was a waste of time. Almost thirty years later….he still feels the same. He is one stubborn child.

    (PS. His sisters still enjoy a good nap!)

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  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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