Toddler Bedtime

My daughter doesn’t like going to bed at night – she’s fine for nap in the afternoon. She’s three and a half. She wants to stay up and play or spend time with me at night instead of going to bed. I’ve tried using the method of asking her why she doesn’t want to go to bed and having a conversation with her to help lead her to why bed is the best option. But she still just doesn’t want to go to sleep.

I have started getting stern with her because I don’t know what else to do, I make my voice a little more intense and she cries and tells me that she’s sad and her heart hurts because I’m yelling at her. Then she asks me to please stop yelling at her.

For context, she stays with me during the week and visits her dad on the weekend. I know that the transition is hard for her.

Consequences don’t seem to work, they just continue to make her sad and I don’t want to teach her that if you’re not doing something that someone wants then something gets taken away. This approach also just makes her have more of a meltdown and when she’s not at my house she will get treats, for example – which is what I’ve tried to take away. I want her to learn that it’s ok to feel sad about going to bed, but it’s what we have to do.

She gets up out of bed many times for multiple hours after I’ve put her down for bed. She often gets up to give me a hug or talk to me. I lead her back to bed over and over. Where I feel stuck is that it seems like the only thing that remotely works is getting stern with her. She will look terrified, start crying, back away from me, and then tell me that her heart hurts, she’ll start screaming, and will then absolutely refuse to get in bed, until I get firm again, at which point I will hold her while she’s crying and after a while I’ll be able to lay her down. She still gets up after that, but she’ll at least get into bed. It’s awful.

Any suggestions about what to do or how else to approach it? I try my best to be curious and unconditionally loving through it all. Thank you!