Childhood Diseases

Posted by: Mom of Toddler | 2009/04/17


Tantrums and Crying

Hi Dr
I have a 20 mth old and he is nearing the terrible twos. He is still not sleeping through and wakes up every other night to get into our bed. He does not want to drink anything, just attention. Some nights he wakes up crying and then when I try to console him he starts throwing a tantrum or screaming hysterically. I don' t know what is wrong, I check and offer him everything I can think of and this crying while he is fighting to get out of my arms can go on for two hours until he eventually gives in from exhaustion. I hate my baby to cry but when I read up on this forum archives I see you promote the crying it out method when it comes to bad behaviour and sleep issues. My baby, pinches, bites and hits as well as throws tantrums. Is it safe to leave him in his cot when he is screaming at night and walk out the room. Can this have a pychological impact or any negative emotional issues. How long should I leave him to cry before going back into the room. I have never in 20 months left my son alone when he is crying but I am getting worried that his screaming at night and tantrums are going to worse and I won' t be able to control him. Please help.
Thank you.

Expert's Reply



Your son's main aim at this stage is to get into your bed.He knows that if he cries and performs that you will appear and if he puts on enough of a performance he will succeed in his aim and get lots of attention as well.The only way to sort this out is to go through the controlled crying method. You should let him cry for at least 5 minutes to start and then only go to him to reassure him and leave the room immediately. Now add another minute to the time before going to him the next time and so on each time adding a minute. This technique may take more than one night to get right.Your son will not be able to injure himself in his cot. Make sure that there is nothing that he can hurt himself on in the cot.

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user comments


Posted by: Linda | 2009/04/17

Hi there

I experienced the exact same thing with my son. He would wake up crying and it would eventually escalate into a full-on hysterical screaming episode that I am sure had the neighbours thinking we torture him at 2am.

Sometimes it looked as if his eyes were sort of glassed over - like he was not actually awake but rather in a strange state of sleep. I have heard of night terrors, which are common at this age and which usually include hysterical crying and physically fighting the parent off.

Good news is that he grew out of it and yours probably will too.

We had exactly the same questions you did at the time and usually ended up just letting him get it out. The more you fuss, console, reprimand, shout the worse the fit becomes.

I don' t think the child (my opinion) suffers emotionally when left to cry as much as you suffer as parent. Looking back now (mine is 5 now) I regret leaving him like that. Whilst it' s horrible at the time, they are only small once and I just always worry that one day he might not be there any more and I' ll end up regretting those nights I left him to cry. I' m probably not helping you AT ALL am I :-)?

Good luck!!

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