The "I Don't Want to Go to Bed" Meltdown

Toddler tantrums take a turn for the worst at bedtime.

“MommEEEE, DaddEEEE!!! Fwoggie, fwoggiee, FWOGGEEEEEEEEE!”

This would be the sound of my daughter in her bedroom hysterical after over two hours of .  It’s a new phase and I can’t say I am a fan.

Also, I should add, I don’t know why she is calling for a froggie this particular evening, but I’m trying hard not to fall for the game of being curious enough to go and find out.

It seems every time I enter to calm her down, it only results in a brief period of composure during which she gathers enough gusto to carry on for a good 30 more minutes. Well, two can play this game.

And just when I have resolved that I can outlast her because I am the one that is supposed to be in control, I hear the inevitable, “But Momma, I have to go POTTY!”  Gets me every time.

When she was a baby and I heard friends with kids lamenting about “The Terrible Twos,” I braced myself by way of nodding my head and grimacing inwardly while counting my stars that we weren’t quite in that “terrible” phase yet.

As we entered two-ville, I started to experience for myself the dramatic and perplexing nature of toddler tantrums. I started to think I understood what my friends had been through.  But then, they were all, “Oh don’t you know three is the new two?”

Yeah, it gets worse.  We will have a three-year-old in a few weeks and I am shaking in my boots.

is at sweet as they come. She hugs me, gives unprompted kisses and tells me I am her “best friend” regularly. She even attempts to soothe and calm her little brother when he is sad offering kisses, his favorite toys and telling him, “It’s okay, Jack Jack!” while patting him endearingly on the head.

But lately, come bedtime, it is the Jekyll and Hyde show at our house. It starts with the usual delay tactics that are our new nightly ritual:

Phase 1 - The Whining  (“But I don’t WAAANT to…. go to bed, put my PJs on, brush my teeth,” etc.)

Phase 2 - The Bargaining ("Just one more book" and other various requests.)

Phase 3 - The Crying (Mostly indecipherable words and moaning.)

Phase 4 – The Kicking and Screaming (still accompanied by crying, of course, and more unintelligible language.)

Phase 5 – The Complete and Total Utter Meltdown (This is when Mr. Hyde shows up and I almost do not recognize my child.)

I have to admit I can deal with Phase 1-3 without batting an eye. Phase 4 is a test of patience and parenting tactics.

It is Phase 5, the manic, red-faced, convulsing screams of pure rage that I am just not sure how to handle. Luckily, we don’t reach full-fledged Phase 5 that frequently, but when she gets there, it isn’t pretty.

I know this resistance to bedtime is a phase and it will not last forever. At least not at this extreme (I hope?) I know she is entering a time when she is continually trying to assert her independence and control over more of her world each day.

But this is bedtime. It happens every night and I am starting to dread it far more than she does.

The tough part is I think she needs more sleep, but how do you get an overtired crazed child who does not want to nap or go to bed to actually fall asleep when they are fighting it with everything they’ve got?

Any parents out there have any ?  What worked for your children in getting them to go to sleep?  Or just tell me I’m not the only one dealing with Jekyll and Hyde everyday.

Roxanne DeBord March 08, 2011 at 03:22 PM
I know this meltdown all too well! It seems like the more tired they are, the worse it gets. One thing that has really helped my son is a complete routine. Make sure you stay on a schedule, get them to sleep around the same time and start reading books. I've noticed that the books have helped more than anything. Let them pick out 2 books and get in bed with them to read. By the time I finish with book 2, my son can barely hold his eyes open. :) It's a tough phase to go through! I wish you luck. We definitely learned from our mistakes with our first and our second is 1 year old, can be put down without crying before asleep, and sleeps all night without an issue!
Vanessa McManus March 08, 2011 at 10:51 PM
We do have a nightly ritual but I'd say it might require some fine-tuning on our part. Thanks so much for your suggestions, Roxanne.


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