Toddlers and naptime — on many days they go together like oil and water.

My wife and I have two kids and as they transitioned into toddlerhood we were faced with a dilemma at naptime — should we stay in our child's room and lay with them until they fall asleep or use some tough love and demand that they stay in their room alone and nap.

We did both. For our older child we ordered him to remain in his room and sleep. Many days it ended with tears, threats and locked doors. Scarred by that experience, my wife and I decided to try a different method on our younger child. We laid with him in his bed until he fell asleep.

Many of you probably have similar experiences. And for those of you about to enter toddlerhood with your child, this pro/con list might help you make an informed choice about handling the inevitable issues that arise at naptime.

Staying in Their Room

Pros:

  • Staying with your child as they fall asleep reassures them that you're there, rubbing their back or singing softly to them as they attempt to drift off to sleep. Your presence will likely ensure that your child will take naptime more seriously. It also means that you can lay down the law if your child acts up, making sure they stay in their bed, don't get distracted and focus on sleep.
     
  • There is also a bonding element to this method. Your children are only young for so long and a little quiet time spent together in the afternoons could be beneficial for everyone. Who wouldn't like a quick, refreshing nap in the middle of the day?

Cons:

  • The biggest negative to staying in your toddler's room until they fall asleep is that they will become reliant on your presence to fall asleep. It is a slippery slope and you probably don't want to be spending an hour every afternoon and an hour every evening helping them fall asleep.
     
  • Another concern is that your child will use your presence to stall the nap process and attempt to avoid falling asleep by asking you for more books to read, toys to play with or to take more trips to the bathroom.
     
  • Another negative is the frustration level that you might feel if your child is resisting sleep, playing games and making things difficult for you. Patience is key but the whole mess might be avoided by leaving them by themselves to sleep during naptime.

Leaving Them Alone

Pros:

  • By teaching your child to fall asleep on their own, you are giving your child a precious gift — the ability to soothe themselves to sleep on their terms. They can develop their own routine in their room, whether they play with toys, look at books or talk to their stuffed animals until they drift off.
     
  • Your son or daughter will soon realize that this is their alone time and develop skills to not only cope without mom and dad but to cherish the time by themselves.
     
  • Another benefit is that you will be able to look forward to an hour or two of alone time for yourself. After busy mornings chasing a toddler around, that is a welcome respite. You might come to rely on that time to get chores done, schedule phone calls or even lay down yourself.

Cons:

  • When your toddler is old enough and wants to explore her boundaries, she will challenge the naptime routine. She will get up out of bed, try to leave the room or try to get your attention by making her room a mess.
     
  • You can try the "when she comes out, march her right back to her room" routine. Prepare to do that 15 or 40 times. It can become a battle of wills.
     
  • This option can create a negative environment and reinforce negative behavior regarding naptime. You will need to remain patient and in control of yourself during these challenging moments.

Before you choose a particular method, discuss it with your spouse, especially if your spouse will also be performing the naptime ritual. You both must be on the same page and ready for the inevitable trouble spots that will arise. Also, be consistent. Flip-flopping between the two methods will be counter productive and will send mixed signals to your child. If one method isn't working for you, make it clear to your child that you are changing tack and stick to your decision. One way to handle any problems is to reward positive behavior to hopefully make things easier as you move forward.