Crying Fits at Bedtime.

Updated on June 24, 2011
A.S. asks from Dallas, TX
11 answers

For the last 2 months my 2-year old has decided that bedtime is for the birds and has a screaming/crying fit when we tell her it's bedtime. She instantly gets crocodile tears and says in her wavering 2-year old voice "No". And will fight us when we put her in the crib. The bedtime routine hasn't changed in months. 1/2 cup of juice (sugar free) - she has to take with medicine she gets - then her gummy vitamin followed by teethbrushing (her sister has been doing this routine since she was 1); then story, prayers, and bed. She was fine up until 2 months ago. We haven't had any guests, no real change in routine. My husband went out of town in May but this started before he was out of town. I asked about this at her 2-year checkup but I am figuring this is behavioral. She sleeps 11 hours, straight through, no waking or restlessness. We have a baby monitor in the room still. If we lay her down, crying, and cover her up she will stop crying almost as soon as a shut the door. We had a night light on in the room when she was a baby but as soon as she turned 1 she would talk for almost 2 hours before going to sleep so we took it out and she didn't have a problem with it. I can't really think of anything other than she has started to realize that her sister - being older of course - stays up a little bit longer. We have tried switching off but she does it with both of us. Her sister has gone to be before her to see if that helps. We have tried joining in on the routine - brushing out teeth and getting into our pajamas. I hate seeing her so distressed at bedtime but she doesn't do this at naptime. Any suggestions on what else I can do? Anyone else experience this? Is this something she just has to grow out of and how long does it take?

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answers from San Diego on

My 2.5 yr old started screaming too. (and it's hard b/c she shares a room!) She wants to keeping looking at her books even if I give a time warning or slowing dim the light out. She won't lay down for me. She will cry and scream for a ~1 - 5 minutes after I leave, but if I go back in she'll fire back up. So I just decided to close the door and leave. If she screams, she'll get tired of it. I told her sister (age 3.5), which whom she shares a room, to ignore it and that mommy can't go in there or her sister will scream again--which she understands now that we've done it a few times. I think ignoring it is the trick.

It could also have to do with naps, sleep needs changing, or summertime.

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answers from Wichita on

It sounds like you're doing all the right things. Have you tried asking her why she crys at bedtime? You may be surprised to hear what she says. She may have started having some nightmares that make her more scared to go to bed.

You also might try talking to her ahead of time about your expecations for her at bedtime. This seems to work really well for us.

Also try doing a countdown before bedtime, "Suzie, we're going to go to bed in 15 minutes; 10 minutes; 5 minutes; 1 minute." You can even set a timer so that she knows when it goes off that it is time for bed.

Good luck with things!

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answers from Honolulu on

You said the bedtime routine has not changed.
BUT, she has changed. In many ways.

From this age onward, a child starts to have night-time 'fears', and nightmares.
It is developmental based.
Sometimes they cannot express that. At this young, they don't know how to fathom or analyze, all of this. A child's emotions are not even fully-developed yet at this age.

At this age, they COMMONLY have sleep tweaks. Their minds and imaginations, are changing so so much. And we cannot turn 'off' a child's imaginations or dreams or cognition.
And they do not have, at this age, keenly succinct deductive reasoning.

It is hard at this age... once things are dark.
They do get night time fears. To just anything. Even if it does not make sense to us as an adult.

Again-- At this age, they commonly have sleep tweaks. Nothing is engraved in stone.
You need to ebb and flow, as they ebb and flow in all their groping at emotions. They don't know how, yet.
Sure some may say they just try to manipulate the parent. Sure.
But for me, I KNOW if my kids are manipulating or if they are genuinely fearful or scared or anxious or need just plain ol' comfort from Mommy.
It is no big deal.
A kid WILL go through sleep phases.. .it is not finite.
They will, go through sleep difficulties, or not.
They will, change as their age juncture changes too.
It is not static.
It is not finite.
One day, they WILL go to bed... without any disturbance. At all. And then... you will 'miss' those times of them needing you.

For me, it really is no big deal if my kids get scared at night or need comfort or have a hard time sleeping sometimes or wake.
It is not a big deal.
As a child gets older... they will naturally... sleep all darn night and without waking and not calling you at all.

Your child is very young.

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answers from Norfolk on

my boy did the same thing shortly after turning 2, and what worked with us was just continuing to stick to the routine like glue. It took him about 5 weeks to snap out of it when he realized nothing was going to change. He was having night time fears though and kept getting scared. If your daughter goes to sleep immediately after laying her down and leaving, then it doesn't really sound like she's very scared of her room though. So I guess my only advice is to just keep sticking with your routine and not giving her much attention when she does this

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answers from Chicago on

I know you said you've kept up the bedtime routine, but are you letting her "wind down" and transition to "bed time"? Are you "interrupting" her in the middle of an activity to tell her she has to go to bed? I know that my 2 year old daughter does much better when we let her know that she has "x" amount of time before she has to get ready for bed instead of just saying "ok, now it's bedtime."

Also, I've found that recently my daughter will pitch a fit about getting her bedtime routine done if she's too tired. As weird as it seems, she's been needing to go to bed a bit earlier than she used to. Not sure if it's because her brain is busier as she gets older, but what used to be an 8pm or 8:30pm bathtime has had to be moved up to a 7:30pm bathtime otherwise she screams and cries the entire time.

Good luck!

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answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter is 2 years old and has been doing the same thing for the past few weeks, except she does not stop crying right away. She will fuss for 15 minutes or so. I asked our pediatrician about it and she said not to let her cry - to get her up and distract her with an activity - then try again in a few minutes. The only problem with this is that my daughter will literally stay up until midnight or later if you let her! She does not nap during the day anymore, so when bedtime rolls around I know she is tired. She just wants to fight it. My guess is this is just a stage. I think you are right about her realizing her sister gets to stay up later, and she is probably afraid of missing something. ;) I let my girl take a flash light with her bed tonight and she cried for less than 5 minutes. She already has a couple tiny nightlights in her room, but maybe she needs more. I don't really know, but if it works, I'll do it. lol


answers from Los Angeles on

My guy is the same age and does the same thing at bedtime, but he runs to his room for naps, lol! I also took his nightlight out because he thought it was a playlight.

The only thing I do differently is play a CD for him that sounds to me like Japanese music with chimes, etc., that puts him to sleep within a couple of minutes. Sometimes when he's crying I'll tell him I'm going to put his "music" on and he yells "No!" because he knows it puts him to sleep. Maybe you could try playing music softly for her to see if helps relax her.



answers from Detroit on

If she stops crying as soon as you shut the door, I would not worry about it. She probably just does not want to have to stop doing whatever it is she is doing when it's time to go the bed and is realizing bedtime as the end of her fun time - oh well! I would just stick with what you are doing, because it is probably a phase she is going through and she will eventually just need to realize that nothing she does (crying, etc.) changes the fact that she needs to go to bed. How long that will take - who knows? She's at that age where she's going to be testing her limits and trying to see if at any point you give in - and she might be more persistent in her personality than some other kids might be. Some kids have a hard time with transitions. Any chance she is actually overtired and therefore more apt to be worked up about bed time? If yes, maybe getting her to bed sooner might help? Also, giving her choices (limited to 2) about anything you can - choice of toothbrush, story, pajamas, etc. It might give her a bit more of sense that she is control. A CD player with lullaby music might help too, or try some extra cuddle time or a back rub to help her calm down.



answers from New York on

You lay her down, cover her and she goes to sleep. I would be happy with
that. She will eventually give up the screaming, but if she does not, just be
happy she does go down once in her crib.


answers from Santa Fe on

You are so lucky! She cries but stops as you shut the door and goes to sleep! I have never ever been able to get either of my kids to do this. I shouldn't answer you bc I have no advice to give you. I just feel like you have it so good and I wish I could get my daughter to go to sleep so easily. If I put my toddler daughter down and walk out of the room she cries so hard she throws up and she does not stop crying for a long time. I was advised to quickly clean her up and put her back in bed but she just continues dry heaving and crying for over an hour. I can't do it. I just put her to bed by lying next to her in my bed till she falls asleep. This takes an hour. It is maddening how long it takes. Then I finally can put her in her own bed. And then she's up about 4-5 hours later. My son was worse. Naps are the same. I just don't understand how to get my children to just lie down and go to sleep on their own. My son still has an extremely hard time falling asleep and he is 7 years old. Anyway, it sounds to me like you are doing nothing wrong. Probably she wants to stay up later like her sister and is loudly voicing her disapproval. But since you never give in she knows to go to sleep.



answers from Little Rock on

I used to have a terrible time with my daughter who will be 3 in September. As soon as she was big enough to come to my room in the middle of the night I knew I had to figure something out. I bought a $2 chart and listed a couple of items on it. One being "going to bed without a fuss" and "sleeping in her bed all night". I explained to her if she did these 2 things, she would get a sticker on her chart the next morning. We actually do a sticker on her chart and she gets to stamp her hand with a flower stamp. I started this about 2 months ago and it has worked like a charm! Now, each morning she comes to my room when she wakes up and says "mommy, can I have a sticker and a stamp please. I slept in my bed all night!". We also play music for her and she has a night light. About this age I think they start being scared of the dark so you might try a night light again and see how your daughter does with it. We've still had a few nights that she doesn't want to go to bed but I don't stress over it. I let her lay on the couch with me until she falls asleep and if she doesn't lay down and be still I tell her she has to go to her bed. I hope this helps. Good luck! It used to sometimes take 2 hours to get my daughter to bed so I understand :).

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