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how to handle middle of the night tantrums?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
DS is 3yo tomorrow. It's not unusual for him to wake in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once a night. Sometimes he'll have an incredibly frustrating tantrum at these times (like now). I get so angry because he wakes up the entire family. We have a 5mo and it's hard enough for me to wake several times with her, let alone be woken by a screaming, screetching, incoherent and inconsolable toddler.

At times, his tantrums are because he has leg pain (growing pains?) and obviously getting angry with him is not fair. But currently it's 1:51am and he's crying for a stupid truck he got for his birthday. I really can't take it and don't know what to do. He sleeps with dh in one room and I sleep with the baby in a room that's across a super short hallway and the doors don't really close, so we hear everything and wake up.

I'm at wits end with him at the moment and just screamed at him to stop screaming. Not smart, I know, but WTH is a smart way to deal with these? Trying to reason doesn't work.

AAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!
post #2 of 8
I don't have a lot of experience with night tantrums, but I do have a daughter who has had difficulties going to sleep - and I've definitely yelled because of that. Like many of us, I'm really not the best parent when I'm very tired.

Is there anything that is really soothing to him? Warm hot water bottle? Massages. Rocking? I know that dd sometimes needed to be rocked before she could calm herself. You could ask him in the daytime what helps him calm down and discuss which of these would work at night. Sometimes I would talk with dd before bed and discuss what we would do if she couldn't go to sleep. I've told her for a couple of years to relax her body...as I rub her back and sing to her. I think that she now knows what this means and can let me know what she might need to do to help her body relax.

Also, you said your dh sleeps with him - is your dh able to do some of these soothing things?

I love the rocking because I can sleep a little too. And it's somewhat meditative, once you let go of the anger.

Oh, and I see he is just turning three, so I don't know how verbal he is or whether he'd be able to articulate what would make him feel better...but perhaps he could show you?
post #3 of 8
Maybe some extra potassium will help the leg cramps? A banana as a snack before bed?
post #4 of 8
My DS does this from time to time as well. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that can calm him down when he wakes up tantruming in the middle of the night. He's really not awake, and therefore nothing I can say or do really helps him feel better. I usually just sit with him and talk in a calming voice, maybe rub his back or feet if he'll let me, and wait it out. At some point, he will either crawl into my lap or lay back down, and then I stay there with him until he falls asleep again. At times, it seems to help if I pick him up and walk around the room or out into the hallway with him - sometimes a change of scenery and the motion is enough to wake him and snap him out of it. But, he's our only child, and I can understand how this might not be practical when you've got another LO you're trying to keep asleep!

I know how frustrating this is in the middle of the night! Especially when it seems they've been dreaming about something that's upset them, and there truly is NOTHING you can do about it! I've gotten angry too, especially when the tantrums are accompanied by hitting and kicking. I'm certainly not at my best to deal with that when I've been woken up myself. I wish I had better advice for you, mama!
post #5 of 8
When my 3 yo DS wakes up at night, I've found it works best to be very sympathetic to whatever he's wanting--even if I think it's ridiculous. Last night he wanted to hug an empty plastic drinking cup while in bed, like it was a teddy bear. Well... okay, kiddo.

Since I'm not superhuman, I do get crabby some nights. But funnily enough, the night waking has decreased since I started concentrating on being really nice about it. It's the opposite of what I expected... but hey, I'll take it! I think that knowing he is able to get a nice, warm hug if he needs it--without being scolded--makes him sleep easier.

Have you been able to discern whether or not his requests are actually about what he says he wants? Often when kids this age are upset, they will start spouting off a bunch of random stuff. Especially if he's tired and disoriented, he may not actually be communicating what he needs. (And, obviously, if these are half-awake night terrors and not true tantrums, it's a whole 'nother ball game.)

Did you used to sleep with him before the baby came along?

I know in my house, daddy is simply no replacement for mama. His affections are appreciated in addition to mine, but never instead of. If DP were to sleep right next to DS, I am sure DS would still need me to come in and hug him myself. I didn't really like that at first, but now that I've resigned myself to it, I am rather flattered.
post #6 of 8
Does he seem like he is responding to you at all? My ds has night terrors and I would get so mad at him until someone made me realize that was what was going on. My ds does still wake up and is responsive at times, but when he is having a night terror there is nothing I can do for him. My friend whose son has night terrors told me unless they are hurting themselves to leave them alone. You can actually make it worse to try to console someone having a night terror. So, we have a sound machine that we turn up really loud and I bring my other son to bed with us that shares a room with my other ds and he will sleep on the floor. I hope that doesn't sound cruel, but there isn't anything you can do for night terrors. They don't even know your there. If it's not night terrors, I have no answer.
post #7 of 8
My DD went through a time when she would do this and it was so frustrating! Her requests were unreasonable sometimes and it was when I had terrible morning sickness on top of everything! What finally made then fade away is talking to her right before she went to bed about how the night should go. We ask her if there was anything she needed, talk to her about her previous demands and what to do if she woke up wanting or needing those things, etc. It seemed to help and sometimes she'd even wake up proud of herself for taking care of it herself rather than screaming bloody murder and not allowing anyone to sleep for 1/2 hour+!
post #8 of 8
I would have him take a calcium/magnesium supplement before bed to help w/sleep and the leg cramps. The liquid kinds come in yummy flavors and aren't chalky imho. I take it too!
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