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Question of the Week - Middle of the Night Tantrums

Update at bottom.

This week's question of the week comes from a comment mom2boys left in Friday's post:

"Anyone have a way they handle middle of the night tantrums? He used to wake up and want me to lay down with him but now he's waking up and wanting to get up - at 2 in the morning and pitching a HUGE fit when I tell him he can't. Hard to use distraction or just ignore it. I'm at a loss."

Middle of the night tantrums. My favorite! Sigh... We just got through a period of constant middle of the night tantrums, as in pretty much EVERY night. We are now down to the occasional one, which is much more manageable though still incredibly frustrating. I'm pretty sure it's a normal stage/phase of development, since I know of many around this age who have been through it.

In fact, last Friday night I got to deal with one. My absolutely fantastic SIL came over to spend the night, as she is doing one night a week to help us out. She took the bottles and bottle warmer and was on baby duty all night. I sent Londo to the basement to get a full night's sleep. And I was responsible for the Pumpkin. And of course she had a meltdown that night because she wanted her aunt to come put her back to bed, not Mommy! But her aunt was feeding the Pookie, and she had to just get over it anyway. So yeah, we still get these and I still have to deal with them.

The main way that I deal with them is by telling her what she CAN do (options are usually sleeping in her bed or in Mommy and Daddy's bed) and letting her have her meltdown. I stay nearby, and I make sure she stays in either my room or hers with the door shut (hoping to disturb the baby as little as possible). She loves to go in the hall and scream and meltdown there. Londo or I usually grab her and drag her into a room and shut the door.

The problem of course is that she just won't be reasoned with in the middle of the night. I pretty much just let her sob and protest, but insist that she be quiet and stay in a room--and that goes about as well as you think it does. Usually it doesn't take too long for her to simmer down to a reasonable level of upset-ness. Then I or Londo reiterate her choices, and she eventually picks one.

I guess it's pretty much the same as we handle them during the day, but with probably less patience due to being half asleep. And truth be known, during the worst of it we have just put on a TV show for her as long as she's in our bed lying down and being quiet.

How about you all? How do you handle those dreaded middle of the night tantrums? What does your kid scream about? What do you scream back? On second thought, maybe don't share what you scream back. This is a family friendly blog!

Please share any ideas, tips or sympathy for mom2boys!

Update: I meant to share a link with everyone, although some of you also regularly read Bella's site, Child of Mind. This post she devoted to dealing with temper tantrums.

Comments

happenstance said…
Tantrums? my favorite!

The middle of the night stuff is 'whack', ie i'm not comfortable offering any advice or anecdotal wisdom. My (now 15) 2-7 yo eldest had some horrible sleep, just horrible. Hard to get down, hard to stay down, constant wakings.. sometimes just a "mommy!!" but sometimes the insane half-conscious night-terror stuff.

..i was 24 when i had her, and i lived in an apartment and later with my inlaws, and i never gave CIO a chance due to nighttime "witnesses", but i'm sure i handled it horribly and contributed... sometimes shouting back, sometimes soothing, sometimes apathetic and cold-calm... i'm sure this "box of chocolates" approach made it worse.

When my twins came along, i was determined to not have a repeat performance (and a duet, to boot!) so by 6 weeks i was putting them down awake, and only going in to soothe until they got the idea that they should sleep. i was adamant, and they got the idea, and i would say by 2 years of age we had sleepers with only occasional waking (but again, i'm only going in there to soothe ya!)

now, i dig we all have different kids, parenting styles, etc. my way aint your way, and YMMV with any plan. But i think the big take away "secret" is: whatever way we deal with a behavior, just BE CONSISTENT. Action A gets result B each and every time. If it's a smack on the butt, a time out, a lengthy "here's your compromise my little actualized human" or whatever, as long as we set up that boundry and guard it, we're creating a healthy psychology in our kids.

For mine, they learned pretty fast when i say something is "unacceptable" its not going to fly, and if they continue with the behavior its going to get increasingly unpleasant. i nip stuff in the bud regularly this way. I cant think of the last time we had a tantrum. crying? every day! demands ("I want it!") you bet! But those are liveable: kids need to vent to.

It's kind of an empowering thing, i fyou think about it right: they learn they their behavior affects me, and their world. Their good behavior makes the world around them run smoother, their bad behavior opens the gates of hades.


also related, the concept i adopted with the twins: "We dont go backwards" I know this is going to contradict the subject of "regression" (which i never heard before until recently, and now i hear it 3, 4 times a parental conversation) but if regressions actually exist, then the way i've combatted them is to make a lateral, not a reverse, countermove. For example, the first time they surprised me by sleeping 5 hours in a row, i dropped a nighttime feeding. if they woke up the next night looking for that feeding, i soothed them back to sleep, and/or gave them water instead, until it was time for the new (later) feeding. If they could sleep without their pacifiers, then those pacifiers were outta there. If they later decided they needed something extra, i'd introduce the thumb (luckily never caught on) or a lovey blanket. It's not about not fulfilling their needs (crucial to do!!) but to fulfill them in ways you can approve of.

... none of which has to do with the topic, just stuff i'm thinking of as the time for me to be an aunt again approaches : )
Becoming Mommy said…
I know our kid is pretty easy, but our middle-of-the-night tantrums are generally about either fear or pain.

He's had a lot of nightmares lately dealing with Swiper or bad monsters and when he wakes up he's completely freaked out and disoriented and will scream if you try to touch him.

We just sit and talk calmly to him till he calms down, ask him what happened, and then he tells what is so obviously a dream. We've been working to address his fears and making him feel more secure. For Swiper, we banned Dora and told him that the dogs won't let any sneaky foxes come near the house (true. The hound has killed 2 foxes for coming too close). We put his plush versions to stand guard by the door. He feels safer. For monsters we told him that bad monsters don't like to go places where there are happy monsters. So he makes sure his Elmo and Cookie Monster are in his bed with him because that will keep him safe. Sometimes we get a freak out because he woke up and couldn't find Cookie, but that's quickly solved (he's usually lying on top of him).
For pain (growing pains, sinus issues, etc.) we do what we can so he's more comfortable.
Once in a while we have a fit because he didn't get the parent responding he wanted. We just assess if it's a fear (he thought something bad happened to the parent who didn't appear) or just brattiness. If it's fear, we go look at that person so he knows they are fine. If it's not...well, he just deals.
happenstance said…
oh, i also wanted to drop a hint to the moms at large in regard to mom and dad's santiy during nighttime (anytime!) tantrums: disposable earplugs. you can by them by the gross for about 15 dollars at any hardware store, and MAN, they are the biggest instrument of maintaining sanity i currently have in my arsenal.
You'd have to experiment to see how much noise gets through for you (for example, mine let me sleep thru "meh" tossing and turning, but i can still hear/be awoken from a real cry via the monitor) and it doesn't stop the distress of watching a meltdown, but it DOES reduce the stress on your own sanity.. if they're going to meltdown Anyway, does it do them or you any good to hear every agonizing scream to it's fullest pitch?!

i still use them, not for tantrums, but for just general loudness of two 3.5 year olds going about their day together: Loudly. I can usually hear the specifics of their conversation with them in, but it's like they have library voices to my brain.
paola said…
Can't say we have had the pleasure. Noah was never much of a tantrumer. Zoe saves all hers for the day. BUT, there are times that Zoe is inconsolabe when she wakes up at night. She wakes up crying and hysterical even. This has happened only a couple of times, but boht times there wasn't much we could do but leave her to her own devices. I know this might sound cruel. It isn't really, seeing we (I) try everything possible to settle her like, cuddling her, rubbing her back, offering something to drink, a ffavourite toy. I don't pick her up or offer to take her to out of her bed, but she doesn't ask either( we have neverco-slept and our bed is out of the question in the middle of the night unless someone is sick.)IN the end , walking out of the room for a moment is our best bet, once everything else has been exhausted. When I go back in, she is ready to settle and falls back to sleep. I have to add, my girl is a tension releaser. It's like she needs to have this 'fit' to wind down.
Geeks in Rome said…
Are you talking about night terrors? I never heard of night tantrums and my kids never did that (only during the day!).

But night terrors are a whole different beast and should be handled differently.

I found Babycenter.com was very helpful in determining if your child was having a night terror and what to do. All I remember now is you are NOT supposed to touch them, reason with them or try to wake them.

I would just lie there and make sure he wasn't going to hurt himself and say in a soothing voice if appropriate (trying to be a subliminal message) "everything's ok. Mommy's here. It's alright." or if his talk was weird irrational then I would mirror that softly "The red truck is parking now. It's ok. It's parking right now" but kept the talk to a minimum so as to not wake him.

Sometimes it would last 20 minutes, but as time went by they didn't last as long.

I hope that helps!?
hush said…
Yep, night tantrums are definitely one of those things that are apparently pretty common but we'd never heard about them until we started experiencing them firsthand! They can be so hard to deal with. It's the only time I have ever heard DH yell at DS. DH and I got into a big fight about how to handle it when DS started having a bunch over several weeks at 22 months - he'd wake up in the middle of the night and just be totally awake and start asking for random things, like "Halloween book!!!!!" was a frequent demand.

I should mention we cosleep. Our standard responses were to roll over, pat his back, and say "You're ok!" and/or "We have to wait for the sun to come up before we can wake up." If that didn't work (usually didn't but sometimes it did), DH would get up and carry him for awhile. But if it was a neverending tantrum, DH would go out into the living room and lay down with him on the couch until he went back to sleep. For some reason that worked, as a last resort. The biggest help to us was the realization that they weren't going to last forever, and we kind of just had to ride them out.
Cloud said…
We've been pretty lucky, and so far tantrums seem to be a daytime thing. The main thing for us in the middle of the night is getting to Pumpkin quickly so that we can get her settled back in bed before she really wakes up. If she really wakes up, it takes AGES to settle her back in.
Maria said…
Well, we don't really have those anymore thank goodness (never say never though… I'm well aware they may recur - possibly starting around age 12 or so?).

Actually, we didn't really have tantrums at those times. What we'd have was she'd either wake up at crazy hours (like 4am) or else just not go to sleep at all until after midnight or something (oh my Lord, the nights when she didn't go to sleep……) and she'd be all raring to go, where's the party, hey isn't this so much FUN! We should stay up all night EVERY NIGHT! Wheee!

When that happened, what I used to scream back was "GO TO SLEEP! DON'T YOU KNOW PEOPLE SLEEP AT NIGHT?? I HAVE TO SLEEP!! YOU HAVE TO SLEEP!!! GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW!"

For some reason that never worked. The only thing that did work was chanting under my breath "this too shall pass, this too shall pass" ad infinitum and letting her work it out of her system. At some point I gave up on trying to make her sleep or stay in bed or really do anything except maintain a reasonable amount of safety-consciousness, and I ended up letting her run around until she ran herself out.

My only boundary was that after bedtime I was not Mama the Entertainer, Conversationalist, Activity-Helper, etc. I was Adult Doing Adult Things like 1) reading a grownup book to myself, 2) computering, 3) dishes, 4) etc. My object was to bore her to sleep. It didn't really work, but with this mindset I was able to pursue my own needs or wants guilt-free, unlike during daytime hours.
mom2boys said…
Thanks all. It's definitely not night terrors. We've had those, too, and they are much different. This is wide awake "Let's get UUUUUUPPPP!" It can be at midnight, two, five, all of the above. No real pattern I can see. We talk about it before bed. "If you wake up and it's still dark out, mommy will put you back in bed." But that's sort of not true b/c it doesn't get light out until way past wake up time so I'm trying to teach him to recognize the number 6 on his clock. This morning we practiced staying in bed until the clock showed a 6 - which meant wake-up time. It was pretty miserable until we saw the six but boy did it make him happy to see it. :))
happenstance said…
mom2b, that was a very smart way to approach it. I bet he didnt like it much until he saw the 6, but i bet if you enforce that every day for a week, and then after maybe sweeten the pot to get him to self-stay in bed (and maybe even go back to sleep while he's waiting!) by offering whatever reward you might deem appropriate, you might get your early mornings back. Good Luck!

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