How To Deal With Tantrums At Bedtime

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It is Saturday night, and you’re thinking, okay I’ll allow my kid to stay up a little late today since she’s still very much awake and energetic even though it’s already her bedtime.

Then 2 hours later than her usual bedtime, you decide okay now it’s really time for her to go to sleep. So you give her a heads up saying you’re going to take her to bed in ten minutes time.

Ten minutes later, you say let’s go sweetie, it’s bedtime. And then you got a response, “NO! I’m not tired!

And when you put a loving limit to the behaviour by carrying her into the bedroom, she starts to throw a tantrum.

If you’re a parent to a three, four or five year old, I’m quite sure this scenario has happened to you about a hundred times right?

If you have a child younger than three years old, you might hear a no or you might get yelled at haha.

Well, I just described to you what happened with my daughter last weekend.. She had a huge tantrum and screamed, “Nooooo I’m not tiredddd!! I’m not sleeeppyyyyyy!!!” while she sat on the floor with tears streaming down her cheeks.

So how do you deal with tantrums that occur right before sleep?

There are several ways to prevent tantrums from happening such as:

  1. Creating safety in the bedroom
  2. Use play to diminish any anxiety or scary feelings she might have earlier say after dinner
  3. Stick to a routine
  4. Reassuring her that you’ll be back in five minutes to check on her

But today I’m gonna give you tips on how to deal with tantrums that still happen even if you have taken the prevention steps above.

Firstly, calm down. I know you’re tired yourself and dealing with tantrums is the LAST thing you wanna do. A helpful tip is to put yourself in your child’s shoes. Think about what happened that day – were there lots of activities and stimulation? Also, what was she doing at the point when you tell her it’s bedtime? Was she immersed into something and the sudden interruption frustrated her?

Whatever it may be, acknowledge her feelings that come pouring out. “I see that you’re upset sweetie. I know you don’t feel like going to sleep yet but it’s really late and your body needs to get some rest now.”

Allow her feelings to flow, but stay firm by limiting the behaviour – in this case if she insists to go out of the bedroom, you stay with her until she goes to sleep.

Secondly, use lots of physical contact when your child is having a tantrum. They may kick and push you away. But here was what I did that was quite effective.

I carried her up on the bed, laid down with her and put my arms around her while she thrashed about. I didn’t restrain her movement, she was able to move as much as she wanted but she was contained in my arms.

After a few minutes of this, her frustration cry turned into sad cry. She no longer fought me physically. She just laid there in my arms, crying and crying. I moved in closer to her, I kissed her and showed lots of affection.

Her crying soon stopped and she showed her “baby self” by babbling and snuggling up against me while being cuddled.

Lastly, once the tantrum is over, offer lots of compassion and affection that your child learned to deal with her big feelings – frustration, anger, disappointment – with you right next to her. And when her body is fully relaxed from the release during the tantrum, she can easily fall asleep within minutes.

I find that this is a more peaceful and respectful way to help our child to go to sleep when they have a hard time to do so. I gotta admit, there will be days when I yell and threaten but then I’d feel so awful after that. With lots of practice on mindfulness, it does get easier to do it this way.

I wonder how you feel about the tips I’ve suggested? Do they sound doable?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!