K.S. asks from Springfield, VA on May 06, 2009
Tantrums at Bedtime
My almost two year old fights going to bed, to the point of tantrums that last 20 minutes or more. On top of that, when he gets frustrated he hits and throws things. I have no idea where this behavior is coming from and if this is the terrible twos, I'm doomed. I've tried routines before bed - bath, pajamas, warm milk and reading and he still fights it. I've also tried time out for the hitting and throwing but he just climbs down or out of the chair. What am I doing wrong????? Is there a deeper problem I should be concerned with? Please send any tips.
So What Happened?™
Thanks everyone! Tonight was much better. No tantrums. We did do A LOT of running and playing which I think helped wear him out a bit. He's in a crib and I think it may be time for a big boy bed so he doesn't feel "trapped."
I also got the book "Hands are Not for Hitting" from the library and we've read that quite a bit. I think he is finally understanding.
Thanks for your great support.
S.M. answers from Washington DC on May 07, 2009
For hitting or throwing: not every hit deserves a time out. If it is only one hit, just a redirection to being gentle might work, "We touch other people gently," and model and help him touch the person with a gentle stroke. If he hits again, then do the time out. A time out in a room you can keep closed is a good idea. Likewise for throwing, "We only throw balls," and model and help him throw a ball afterwards. He'll feel better learning what he can do, rather than what he can't.
To help avoid tantrums, it might be helpful to make bedtime fun -- for example, I say, "I'm going to sleep in the coziest bed in the house!" and run to pretend to sleep in my daughter's bed. She runs to try to get there first. (Do reading books in another room to make this work best.) Back this up with shutting the door tight for a few seconds if she slips up in the slightest from the correct behavior at bedtime, and increase the time of the door closed for repeated infractions. Also, the routine doesn't end with a closed door, but with falling asleep. I've learned to put off doing dishes, chatting, or other noisy and interesting activities for 10 minutes past the door closing time.
F.B. answers from Charlottesville on May 07, 2009
First of all and most importantly, 99% chance there is nothing deeper wrong. Children don't want to go to bed, they don't understand they're tired and going to bed will help, they just think they're going to miss something, like you. Second, my pediatricin recommended trying to put him to bed earlier when my son went through this, turns out he was right, we pumped it up 30' and it help a ton, my son was overtired and it's harder to go to sleep, thought he really didn't show any signs of it. We stopped doing time-out in a chair because my son did the same thing, got down, wouldn't stay. We started putting him in his room and closing the door (he doesn't have toys except for stuffed animals and books in his room). He would open the door, so I held it closed and now he stays in there and it really does seem to help. I would make sure you have a strict routine, eventually it will trigger sleep better. And just know, kids fight it, you may once you've done everything you can, leave and let him throw a tantrum by himself (removed anything dangerous to throw, stuffed animals survive, but make him pick them up the next day). If you don't respond to the tantrum, then they'll stop because they do it for attention, even negative attention is attention and you're still there dealing with him, so the tantrum in his mind is working. We shut the door, with a child saftey thing on the inside so it's not locked but he can't open it and once he calms down and the tantrum is over, we'll go in and kiss him good night (now we shut the lights off like he's in bed for the night). Now, we do the routine, lay him down, kiss him and leave, he goes to sleep on his own, which is important. That way when he wakes at night, he doesn't need us to come back and all children wake during the night, everyone does some what. Good luck and remember you're not alone, we've ALL gone through it!! :-)
M.S. answers from Washington DC on May 07, 2009
It might be that his bedtime is too late and being overtired might be contributing to the tantrums. The other issue may also be that he is having too much fun and knows that getting ready for bed is the end of playtime. At this age they can start to understand some things if you just explain it - I tell my daughter that if we don't get enough sleep then we won't have energy to play the next day and that its not fun - she seems to get it. Also, are you giving him enough heads up prior to starting his bedtime routine? What I found with any activity but especially for bedtime was that if I give my daughter 10 min, 5 min, 2 min warnings before we have to stop doing whatever is going that it help eased the transition. In general toddlers can have a hard time going from one activity to another very quickly and they like to know whats coming next and what to expect. I use the "warning" method for lots of things - end of playground visits, getting ready to head out the door for wherever we are going, mealtimes, etc.
R.H. answers from Norfolk on May 07, 2009
Stick to the routines put them in stone. Don't flex at all. No matter what he does do the steps put him to bed and leave. If he gets up or comes to the door or whatever don't say a thing. Go in pick him up, put him back in bed and say "It's time to go to bed"
You will have to do this everytime with no reaction to this tantrum. It might take several days but he will give up. He's checking to see if his actions make you let him stay up. Good luck
E.E. answers from Washington DC on May 07, 2009
We had the same issues with my daughter. It turned out that she was not getting enough sleep. She was over tired when trying to put her to bed so she was a disaster!! We moved her bed time up and stuck with it for 2 weeks. Now all is harmony!!!
K.H. answers from Washington DC on May 07, 2009
You are not doing anything wrong. Your little one is just tired and doesn't want to sleep or maybe to separate from you. I found it easier to fall asleep with my kids who loved cuddling at bedtime. When I was too tired to read more books, we used recorded stories and music with the lights off. Jim Weiss is an amazing story teller with a couple of cds for the youngest kids. The kids would have listened to the same stories every night - I was the one who got bored. Even the Seuss books have been recorded. I enjoyed that time with the kids. That was often my favorite time of day because it was the only time they were still.
Some moms find that starting bedtime early - even as early as 6 PM which means dinner and bath are moved up too - makes bedtime easier. And lots of outdoor play and a good nap help too. We couldn't do the early bedtime because of work schedules but I've seen lots of families do well with that schedule and then the parents have the evening free.
I've found that when I step back from the arguments, most of the tantrums can be prevented with enough sleep, nutritious snacks and meals. exercise, routine, and not just for the little one but for the parents too! The tantrum would start and I'd realize that it was 2 PM and we had skipped lunch and nap.
Good luck. No one is perfect - not the kids or parents - but your son sounds perfectly normal.
A.F. answers from Washington DC on May 11, 2009
Is your son afraid of the dark or of being alone in his room? Is fear the reason he fights going to bed? Or is he just being naughty? If he is acting in rebellion then you must not give in to any tantrums. Pray for wisdom on this. AF