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Advice needed- should I be softer with very tired toddler??

(29 Posts)
wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 13:49:33

I am kooking for advice on whether I should be strict or soft with DS when he is tired....

DS is 2.5, he is a wonderful lively boy with a strong personality. Since reaching toddlerhood I have found for the most part that a firm consistent approach has worked with him and although very spirited he is happy and generally well behaved. I feel that without this approach he could quite easily become a real handful as he gets older. However, I am beginning to feel unsure as to whether I am being unfair on him by sticking to my guns at bedtime when he is sometimes exhausted.

I work 3 days a week and it tends to be on these days after either nursery or a day with Granny that he is tired (I suspect he doesn't get much of a nap but I think they do their best). Things start to unravel when we do teeth, bath, PJs etc at first he gets very negative, then tears, then full on tantrum. My usual approach of staying calm, no attention for the bad behaviour, no means no and following things through (e.g. PJs go on despite a big struggle) doesn't seem to work- my my head tells me to continue lwith this firm approach but my heart tells me to be softer with him as he is just so exhausted.

Yesterday he didn't want to clean his teeth ended up crying and refusing to open his mouth, I did my best to clean them and decided against a bath and tried to change him into PJs- this sparked a massive tantrum as after refusing to clean his teeth he then wanted to clean them. I stuck to my goal of getting PJs on and a massive tantrum ensued: full on hitting, screaming, stamping and kicking- totally out of control. I told him he needed to stay in his room until he could calm down and then we could have a cuddle and a story.

Usually when he is not tired he calms down when he realises his tantrum is not getting him anywhere. However, this time he lay on the floor for 25 mins crying, I checked on him regularly reasuring him that as soon as he could calm down we could have a cuddle- he got more wound up everytime I checked on him and kept telling me to go away. I managed to stay calm and stick to my guns for 25 min but then picked him up and said I was going to tell him a story to help him calm down- this worked quite quickly.

Can anyone tell me if they think I should stick to my fairly strict guns at times like this- my head tells me not to give in to his tantrums or he will be rulling the roost in no time, but my heart tells me when he is exhausted and I should be softer????

MmeLindt Mon 24-Aug-09 13:53:27

Could you rearrange your day so that he has a shorter bedtime routine?

Perhaps a quick supper rather than big tea, no bath, that kind of thing.

If he is really just exhausted then I would let is slide a bit, tbh.

wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 13:57:51

Yes thanks- thats a good point- he goes to nursery twice a week and its these days when he tends to be more tired so I will try to get one step ahead and simplify things on these days.

Sometimes though, I realise too late that he's really tired and all of a sudden he's lost control........

CatIsSleepy Mon 24-Aug-09 13:59:39

i would be softer
tiredness has such a big effect on behaviour
do whatever you need to do to ensure a swift, calm bedtime!

mawbroon Mon 24-Aug-09 14:09:58

I would go softer on him too.

Tantrums are frightening for children, he needs reassured I think, rather than ignored.

I find at bedtime, I just do what I have to do to get ds to bed, with a minimum of teeth and jammies. Some nights he doesn't even get any kind of a wash at all and then I'll bath him the next day.

KnickKnack Mon 24-Aug-09 14:11:57

skip the bath on the tired nights

put on pyjama's about an hour before bedtime (while he's not tired). I sometimes still do this with my two age 5 and 7, we call it cosy time

I would also skip the story if he is exhausted, or read it earlier.

wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 14:15:56

I will def plan tired nights better, skip bath and do things earlier. However, if I fail to 'head it off at the pass' & find myself in the midst of a whopping tantrum that I feel is caused by tiredness whould you guys think its OK to be softer than usual and give in to him???

PinkTulips Mon 24-Aug-09 14:20:44

Skip bath on those nights, do everything possible to get him into bed as quickly as possible and if he breaks down and starts tantruming i'd personally just sit and cuddle him and try and sooth him.

There's a difference between a toddler crying with exhaustion and a toddler tantruming to get their own way imo and the need to be treated differently.

RhinestoneCowgirl Mon 24-Aug-09 14:21:11

wheresmypaddle - DS is now 3 and still has the occasional overtired tantrum. If he's really tired I find that ignoring sometimes doesn't help and that the tantrum escalates - he can't calm down by himself. When it's like this I would offer a cuddle to calm down, combined with calm quiet voice explaining exactly what's going to happen. It's a v different type of tantrum from paddying for an ice-cream I think...

Definitely agree with the simplified bedtime routine too, e.g. DS doesn't bath everyday.

mawbroon Mon 24-Aug-09 14:21:12

go softer on him, yes. And I don't believe that it is "giving in" to him either.

MrsBadger Mon 24-Aug-09 14:21:54

yes to all previous posters

actually he is of an age where you can start asking 'ds, are you tired?'

DD (24m) has just got the hang of this. If she has a tantrum or even a minor grump any time within an hour or so of normal bedtime, I say 'dd are you a tired girl?' and if I get a yes: 'would you like a splashy bath and a [favourite character] story?'
Sometimes she is firm: 'no bed, just grumpy', but maybe 4 times out of 10 she says 'yes, bath and [character]' and we start bedtime immediately.

Sticking too hard to the clock and not obeying their cues is unfair all round - they get overtired and you get a screamer.

RhinestoneCowgirl Mon 24-Aug-09 14:23:03

yy to MrsBadger - DS sometimes even asks to go to bed now shock

MrsBadger Mon 24-Aug-09 14:25:36

yep
also for midday naps - in extremis she runs upstairs and rattles the cot bars howling 'bed! beddddd!'...

FairyLightsForever Mon 24-Aug-09 14:28:11

"I managed to stay calm and stick to my guns for 25 min but then picked him up and said I was going to tell him a story to help him calm down- this worked quite quickly."

I personally would cuddle him sooner if this happens again. If the melt downs happen when he is exhausted, then a cuddle can make all the difference. Tired toddlers seem to lose all rationality and ability to cope very quickly and just need reassurance that everything is ok and that they are loved.

As long as you are consistent and strict with him the rest of the time, I don't think you'll risk him getting out of hand.

As the mother of a 2yr old DD, you have my deepest sympathies! grin

oneopinionatedmother Mon 24-Aug-09 14:36:07

erm, well he still needs his jammies on though doesn't he?

I'd cut things down to the bare essentials though not give in though (so, if he fussed about teeth they still get done, but skip everything after that apart from jammies then bed.)

i agree you don't want to give in, but also avoiding unnecessary confrontations seems sensible.

of, course.you could try to get him to bed earlier (work etc allowing?) more time for you to play

wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 14:37:12

Everyone has suggested I take a different softer approach with the 'tired' tantrums (and to avoid them with better planning)- thanks everyone - guess that is what I wanted to hear but was resisting I as didn't want to become inconsistent or too soft (something the in-laws have made me a little sensitive about).

MmeLindt Mon 24-Aug-09 14:39:11

My DS went to bed without jammies on last night.

Granted, he is 5yo and he wanted to go without jammies because "Papa does not wear jammies" but I don't argue about that kind of thing.

Getting him to recognise that he is tired and that he will feel better the quicker he is in bed is a great idea at that age. My 7yo DD still disappears up to bed in the middle of the day for a snooze if she feels tired.

MrsBadger Mon 24-Aug-09 14:41:47

this isn't 'too soft' in the a discipline sense though - it's a physical need.
As rhinestonecowgirl says, it's very different to an 'I want an icecream' tantrum.

If he was (eg) crying in the pushchair because he was too cold you wouldn't think twice about meeting his physical needs and improvising a blanket out of your scarf, would you?
Or if it was boiling hot and he was crying for water?

this is not 'soft' parenting.

wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 14:46:24

Fairylightsforever you are right I have been expecting too much of him and should have given the cuddle sooner I just felt at a loss what to do because he was punching and kicking at me I didn't want him to think that was acceptable.

Oneopionionatedmother has a very good point though- still needs jammies on- he actually ripped them whilst trying take them back off- like a mini incredible hulk!!!

wheresmypaddle Mon 24-Aug-09 14:52:06

Mrsbadger - sorry if this is an obvious question but what was his physical need? I am guessing at reassurance?? But he was hitting, kicking screaming and telling me to go away.......

Maybe though he did need reassurance but didn't know how to express that.... and I totally failed to read the signs.....

Or more obviously maybe it was sleep he needed- that was my where I was trying to get him to be.

MrsBadger Mon 24-Aug-09 14:58:06

yes it was sleep he needed

but he needed it an hour before you decided it was time to offer it to him, resulting in him being too tired to behave rationally

sorry, that sounds harsh, but I hope you see what I mean

despite our best efforts dd still melts down like this occasionally after really exciting days, and I'm afraid I resort to brute force to get the bare minimum done (clean nappy, attempt at pjs even if she rips them off later, sometimes not even teeth blush) jsut to get her into bed asap so she can start winding down.

oneopinionatedmother Mon 24-Aug-09 15:00:38

punching and kicking is not acceptable. though when dd does it at bed time it just means she finds herself in bed alone very quickly without a story.

if i have to go in later and make sure she/s clothed that's ok...
toddlers!

sympathy about pressure from outside though..i don't think having your style criticised is helpful.

whatever works for you.....

FairyLightsForever Mon 24-Aug-09 15:16:57

As for pjs, I find that dd is (mostly) happier to be dressed, on my lap, having had a cuddle and calmed down a bit. Doesn't always work, but worth a try...

stealthsquiggle Mon 24-Aug-09 15:19:09

I agree that almost everything can be deferred to the morning in favour of getting straight to bed at the end of a tired day.

However, sometimes over-tired tantrum can't be avoided. I sometimes vary my approach with DD and instead of leaving her alone, I hold her tight until she calms down if I know the hysteria is 99% tiredness. It does backfire somewhat as she has taken to whining "I'm tiiiiiired" when she senses she is about to get told off.

She fell asleep at/on the table in mid-strop last night, though blush.

Pitchounette Mon 24-Aug-09 16:32:08

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