Tantrums Before Bedtime

Updated on June 02, 2009
J.G. asks from San Diego, CA
4 answers

Hi ladies! My daughter, Maya, who will be 3 in August, is starting to throw tantrums at night when she knows the bedtime routine is about to start. These are no controlling her, all out, kicking and arching the back, crying hysterically tantrums. She even takes all of her clothes off and throws them!!! She NEVER used to be this way. I have no idea what has gotten into her. Her routine hasn't changed at all. We thought that it may be a good idea to make her a bedtime chart where she would earn ice cream if she had good behavior at bedtime, which worked for a week or so, but now we are back to the same thing. My husband and I have no idea what to do- whether we should let her cry it out or what.... any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J.:
You received A couple of excellent responses from Susan.I certainly couldn't have said it better myself.J. M

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answers from Honolulu on

3 is a hard age... harder than 2 yrs. old.

But granted, its not easy.
its good you have a regular bedtime routine.. but you need to stick to it.
Sometimes... kids this age respond well to talking it out... versus having punishments/rewards tossed in front of them.
At least with my kids, this has worked well.

Adding this:
*"Reward/punishment" methods are incentives only... NOT a "cure" for a behavior... at least this is my philosophy on it. To me... a "reward/punishment" just stops a behavior for a time... then it starts again. BECAUSE it does not "teach" a child anything...it does not teach them analytical skills, it does not teach them to think in other ways, it does not teach them that THEY can have "input" too on a subject, it just teaches them that 1+1=2. But it does not teach them WHY... or HOW COME... nor any "coping" skills, nor anything about communication or identifying their own feelings nor getting any feedback nor talking it out. It just teaches them that they must do "A" if they want "B." And if they don't do "A", then they will not get "B" AND will get punished. This is why, after a time, kids get DE-sensitized to reward/punishment charts. Because it does nothing to teach them about inner valuations and their ability to discern situations, nor about respect/compromising/empathy/teamwork etc.

For my son, as he got older, he started to like to be more autonomous before getting into his bedtime routine... ie: he liked to be able to go upstairs and hang out with Grandma first (she lives with us), then he'd like to hold his own flashlight and turn off the living room lights first... THEN, after that he'd return on his own and hop into bed. BUT... I found that if I tried to "force" him into a the bedtime routine, without "allowing" him to see Grandma first and do the lights... he would full-on get upset. I think, for us/him... it was his budding developmental changes, and him wanting to have some sort of "input" into what he did before bedtime. So actually, we learned FROM him about this. We learned, how to KEEP to our bedtime "routines" for our kids... BUT, allowing for their changing developmental 'needs' and communication and whatnot.
For my kids, the "cue" word "In one minute..." works well with them... if they are hung-up on an activity PRIOR to the bedtime routine... I "allow" them "one minute" to finish up, calmly, and that they ask "nicely" and they WILL say "please Mommy can I finish this first..." and then I say "Okay, but in one minute we go downstairs and get ready for bed and the routine..." So as we (us and the kids) show MUTUAL respect...then we both get what we want.
So this works for us. My kids have learned that.

I also learned that my kids do not like to be "rushed" before bed or the bedtime routine... so I ALWAYS give a head's up first... like 45 minutes BEFOREhand... that the bedtime routine is coming up. THAT way, they are less apt to balk and grumble about it. I ALWAYS forewarn them.... then we turn off the lights, change into pajamas, get a drink or whatever, brush teeth, settle down and (my kids like to talk story in bed before they sleep), and we keep everything keyed down and calm beforehand.

If anything, at this age... communicate WITH her, without criticism or judgment and just try asking her "Why do you feel upset before bed?" Then, whatever she tells you, sound sincerely caring about it (even if to you it's nothing) and talk it out, until she feels better and KNOWS that you understand. My kids really respond well when we do that with them. For my daughter, I learned that she needed more one-on-one time with me (since she thinks I am too busy with her brother) before bed. So she told me that, and I really really learned FROM her... instead of just scolding her or thrusting "reward/punishment" charts on her. (some kids do not respond to that).

A great book is "Your 3 Year Old" which you can get from www.amazon.com
Its a book on each age-set... and what their characteristics are like. ALthough written years ago, it is still very pertinent and insightful.

Kids... get frustrated when they feel no one understands them... or when they cannot express their feelings... or that they can't. So they need us to help them. At least, that is the way my kids are, and what we teach them... that no matter what, EVEN in the midst of a "storm"... we can always talk about it and WE will listen... and together we will talk it out... but yes, we do have boundaries and "rules" for our kids.

And, sometimes kids get like this when they are simply OVER-tired. Does your girl still nap? My daughter, at that age, got like that when she is over-tired. And at that age, my girl still napped... we had and still have a routine for naps, for both my kids. The naps REALLY helped her feel better. Also, my daughter gets like that when she is hungry. As most kids are.

Just some ideas.
All the best,

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answers from Reno on

just said this on your other post than saw this one and this is another problem we were having with our son. on becoming child wise. the book has changed my son back into the little man i always want to be around. it is hard but well worth it.



answers from Los Angeles on

my daughter does a mild form of this as soon as i say lets brush our teeth lol.. i just continue with the routine and tell her that just because she crys doesnt mean she can stay up.
what i would do when she throws her clothes is say ok dont sleep in jammies tonight thats fine. just continue with the routine. if you read to hear let her pick the book (my daughter will want the same book every night). be firm with her this will pass.

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