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Tantrums, not terrors?

514 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  ~Megan~
Our 26mo daughter has, on a couple of recent occasions, woken up in the middle of the night and had a tantrum.

I don't think it is night terrors because she seems conscious of her surroundings and verbalizes requests like "downstairs!" or "nurse on couch." or "up!" She knows who she is talking to also. ("No, Daddy!", "Mommy, downstairs!")

Last night, she was very upset and basically impossible to console. She screamed and cried almost to the point of gagging and she wouldn't even take a sip of water. She would not lie back down in bed. We tried the range from consoling to stern with no real effect. I (I'm Dad, by the way) brought her downstairs but she remained upset until Mom came down too. She fell back to sleep only when Mom actually did nurse her on the couch.

From what I've read about night terrors, they say the child is still asleep during the episodes, but it really doesn't seem like our daughter is sleeping when this happens. Other than that, however, her behavior seems to have most of the characteristics listed in the FAQ on the site. She does seem frightened. It does seem to happen within 2 hours of falling asleep. The episodes do seem to last between 10 and 30 minutes or so.

There have been other changes around sleeping and bedtime too. We had a bedtime routine that worked for a long time, but she has recently started having tantrums at bedtime and stalling for as long as she can. Brushing our teeth was a big part of our routine and one she seemed to always enjoy a lot, but now it has become a chance to stall.

So, we're wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences, whether or not these should be considered night terrors, and if anyone can offer advice on managing these episodes or eliminating them altogether. Any advice on getting back to a working bedtime routine without tantrums and stalling would be very welcome too.

Thank you!
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Hi, sorry to hear you have been going through this with your daughter. My son, now almost three, has had similar waking and crying/screaming/thrashing episodes since he was just over a year, I think (can't remember exactly). I, too, have never been sure whether they were true night terrors, since he seems mostly aware of his surroundings. OTH, I know sleepwalkers can carry on conversations while not fully conscious, so I guess talking doesn't prove he is awake.

In my son's case, it seems the tantrums (for lack of a more precise word) begin if I respond at the wrong time to his cries. Sometimes he wakes only partially and cries out. If I go to him immediately, I catch him in some sort of in-between state and he loses control. I have found that if I wait just a few seconds, he will often resettle himself. I don't advocate CIO (crying it out), however, and if he is really awake and crying, I will go to him. I usually place my hand on him and talk to him gently till he calms enough that I can pick him up. Then I tell him I will pick him up and hold him till he is ready to lie back down again. If he says he wants to go to another room, I just repeat calmly that no, it is time to sleep but I will hold him till he is ready to lie back down. If I get tired of holding him standing up (he weighs about 38 lbs. now), I will sit on the bed with him in my arms. He does calm down eventually. Often after he lies back down, he will ask me to hold his hand for a while, which I do. Usually after a minute or so, he will motion me towards the door and I leave. BTW, these night wakings happen much less frequently now than they did.

As for the stalling before bedtime, we've never had much problem with this. I do sit with my son while he falls asleep, though. (I use this time to read or write letters. etc.) I think it is easier for him to have this transition time, and he doesn't feel like he is missing out on anything by going to sleep, since all I am doing is sitting there in semi-darkness. I don't talk to him at this point beyond saying "um-hmm," or "Mama is resting now." The only time we have had any break-downs around bedtime is when he is over-tired, so you might want to consider this possibility. Hope this helps.

ETA: It just occurred to me that my son always wants to talk about his daytime crying episodes after the fact ("Why did I cry?") but he never mentions his nighttime wakings. I don't know whether this means he really *isn't* awake during nighttime tantrums, or if he simply forgets about them after a good night's sleep.
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teething? My dd is teething and has similar habits to what you've mentioned.
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