We’ve been dealing with a lot of temper tantrums in my house. As my youngest gets older, she gets more skillful at being hurtful.
“You’re the WORST! I hate you! You’re not the best mommy in the history of mommies!”
Followed by a more pitiful, “Why does no one love me? Why do you hate me?”
It all feels really unfair. Obviously, I’ve never said that I hated her. I adore her… most of the time. Occasionally, I don’t like her behavior and I tell her so.
She can’t see the distinction.
And so I remind her that I love her, always, and that I also need her to clean up her mess.
I’m starting work this week with the family of a three-and-a-half year old boy. They successfully sleep trained him as a baby but now he won’t go to sleep unless his father lies down with him. The boy -- let’s call him Oliver -- is clearly exhausted. He tends to throw massive tantrums. His mother said to me, “clearly we can’t do Cry It Out with a three year old.”
Sometimes children need to cry. Sometimes we all need to cry.
Crying is not a problem. Screaming is not a problem. Having a tantrum is not a problem.
Oliver is crying because he’s exhausted and he doesn’t know how to get the sleep he needs. He’s rightfully frustrated. But he’ll tell his parents that he’s mad because Mommy wants to do the bedtime routine, or he’s hungry (after skipping dinner because he was too tired to eat) or he wants to play one more game.
Oliver doesn’t know that sleep is what he needs to feel better.
Maintain the limit -- that it’s time for bed and he can’t have one more game/a cookie/Daddy when it’s Mommy’s turn to do bedtime. Let him get upset.
He also doesn’t know that he needs to empty his emotional backpack. Both he and his parents are a little scared of it. He may be carrying big emotions about quarantine, or about Daddy working from home and not being available to him, or Big Sister taking his toy in the sandbox.
Whatever it is, welcome the tantrum. It’s not dangerous. Embrace the storm. Sit quietly and wait for it to pass. Don’t try to explain to him why his feelings are wrong -- that never feels good. Sit on the floor next to him and make comforting noises if he allows it. He may not. He might not want you to even look at him.
Just wait. When the storm has passed, he will crawl into your arms and feel so much better. He will know that his emotions aren’t a problem for you, that you can handle them, no matter how big. That you are still his fearless leader. No matter what. You are the adult and you’ve got him.
So if I'm being honest, no, I don't love tantrums. They are really unpleasant. But I am practicing embracing them and letting them wash over both of us. I can see that things in our house are getting easier, gradually, as a result.
Ready to embrace some tantrums and get your family the sleep you deserve? Set up a free consult and find out how you can all be sleeping peacefully in two weeks or less. Schedule a Free Consult
I want to sleep train my two daughters, ages 5 months old and 2.5 years old, respectively, but I have a problem. I am scared that if I let either child cry, she will wake her sister. Two children awake at the same time, especially in the middle of the night, is my personal nightmare.
As a result, I am feeding the baby every 2-3 hours all night long, to keep her quiet, and I have to crawl into the crib with my older daughter several times each night to soothe her back to sleep. It can take up to an hour each time to get her sleeping again.
Also, my older daughter refuses to let my husband put her to bed -- she screams if he tries to help -- and I am exclusively breastfeeding the baby, so I have to do everything myself.
I am completely exhausted and I don’t know what to do. Please help!
Fear of waking a sibling is a common theme with the parents I work with. Many of my clients live in apartments or small houses. And many of my families with twins need or want to keep their children together in one room.
I get it. I've been there. I was in a one bedroom apartment until my older daughter was one. Then I had a two bedroom apartment until my younger daughter was two-and-a-half. And of course, my children still share a room whenever we travel.
So we have experienced a lot of room sharing in my life as a parent. It's challenging, no doubt about it.
Here's my advice: lean in. Embrace the pain. Don't try to keep one quiet to avoid waking the other.
Here's why: as long as you are desperate to keep one child quiet to avoid waking the other, your children are in control. And if they are a toddler or older, they undoubtedly know it. And will use it to their advantage.
Unlike new parents, children are designed to learn to sleep through their siblings' noises. There is no biological advantage to a sibling waking up to the sounds of another child, so with practice, they can learn to sleep through it.
This is especially true for twins but also holds true for siblings with an age difference.
Here's some more specific tips:
If you would like achieving this goal, or any other sleep goal, schedule a free chat and get your family the sleep you deserve.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.