(My son Adam will be f0ur years old in a few months, so it’s somewhat misleading to call him a 3-year-old.) I have written many times before about our struggle to find a good sleep schedule/rhythm for him. We are still struggling with the pattern that involves: late nap, late falling asleep at bedtime, and waking up relatively early in the morning (therefore not getting enough sleep).
My latest tweak is to sort of micro-manage his nap. It has been a process that has evolved more and more toward micromanagement. A few months ago, we instituted a new rule that at naptime he had to stay in bed with no toys and no books (or just 1 or 2 books). This was a big change from before, when he was allowed to do pretty much anything within reason at naptime. Fast forward to now: at naptime, I sit outside his room and leave his door open a few inches. If he starts talking, singing, or fidgeting a lot, I remind him that it’s naptime. I wouldn’t say this is a magic bullet, but I do believe, based on the evidence, that doing this helps him to get settled down and to fall asleep sooner.
In my opinion, if he falls asleep at 2:45 instead of 3:00 p.m. or later, that is one small hurrah for a healthy sleep schedule. I’ve only been at this for less than a week, so we’ll see what the longterm effects are of this new practice.
In general, I do not think it’s a good idea to micromanage (a la John Rosemond’s parenting approach), but I also think that sometimes, a parent has to step in and do for a child what s/he is unwilling to do for him- or herself.