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How do I stop my toddler screaming at bedtime?



  • The health visitor pronounced it an attention seeking phase and to ignore it until she grows out of it but its not so easy when you are listening to it every night for 7mths.  I've tried having one on one time with her, keeping her up a bit later than her sisters until 7.30 but no joy so far. I am longing for the day when she outgrows it.

  • my nephew is 3 and half and is an absolute terror at bedtime (actually he's a terror all the time, but at least if he slept properly his parents might get an evening to themselves). 

    he won't stay in bed, he screams the house down, often until past midnight!

    i have suggested that we used controlled crying/comforting on our kids at 6mo and they've slept through ever since, but his parents are too weak to do this method.

    my issue is that i don't want to pile more pressure on them as parents or suggest they should do as i did.

    does anyone know any good resources i can gently nudge/direct them towards. i think they are starting to unravel as parents and as a couple.

  • Hi everyone, just new to this and really need advice. My 20month old has always slept really well untill 2 weeks ago. He will just wake up screaming ( like tantrum screams not just crying) several times during the night. I used to give him a bottle milk or even just his dummy but now that doesn't even work. It's also a challenge to get him to get and never used to be. I am so stressed out with it now and can feel myself getting angry which I don't want to do. I'm just so tired now as my partner works away. Any advice would be great!


  • I am so thankful that I found this forum!  My 2 yr old has always been a brilliant sleeper with a great routine we've had since he was a baby. Never any issues with bedtime or naps. 10 days ago he woke up screaming bloody murder so of course we went in to comfort him. I think he had a nightmare and he would not fall asleep again without one of us by his bedside. The next day for nap time, i couldn't even leave his room without him freakjng out, so I ended up sitting beside his bed until he fell asleep. Ever since then, this is now our reality and he also wakes in the middle of the night seeking us out. We tried going the route of comforting him and letting him fall asleep with us in the room and then we would just end up sleeping on the floor!  We realized we just can't keep doing that so we are now leaving him to cry. It just breaks our heart listening to him. He is so stubborn though, that for nap the other day he screamed and banged on his door for 2 hrs and ended up missing his nap. Just like everyone else. We are at our wits end. I'm now listening to him scream for almost 40 mins. 

    when he wakes in the middle of the night, it's the same thing. We can't get him in bed without him screaming and we have an 8 month old who he will wake up, so what we do now is let him come into our room and sleep on a mattress that we put on the floor beside the bed. It's the only way any of us gets sleep!  Really hoping he'll cry less every night until he stops altogether. But his perseverance is astounding!! 

    Good luck to everyone else going through this. It's one of the hardest things my hubby and I have had to deal with :(

  • hi my2gs, i just read your post and wanted to reply. I'm by no means a sleep expert and can only tell you i went through something similar with my daughter who's nearly 3. 

    your little boy could be having night terrors as they tend to start about 2-3 years old. It's like they're awake, but not actually awake. Maybe you could take him shopping for a lovely night light, so if he wakes again screaming, you just stay with him until he calms (i found getting my daughter, once she had calmed down to recite her ABC's helped soothe her back to sleep)

    Do you think he might want to drop his afternoon nap too? Also, google the gradual retreat method too - that's a good one too. Good luck - you're so not alone! We've al been through something similar! 

  • I am having this problem just now my eldest daughter is 20months and has only started screaming at bedtime in the last week. 

    It breaks my heart to hear her screaming so much but I feel I have done something wrong. Whenever her mum puts her to bed she is fine has a little resist but goes down fine (not as well as she used to) but if I do it she gets up screaming opens the bedroom door (we have a stairgate so she can't get out) and stands there for about 20mins screaming. Our second child is not even 2months so obviously having this screaming happening now isn't helping our situation. 

    We have a video monitor in the bedroom so we can see if she is sleeping or not which we have used since she was 6months and at the moment all she says is watching pointing at the monitor. Not sure if she is scared of the monitor or just being intuitive but it only happens when I put her to bed.

  • Dad2cul my 15 month old goes through this but his dad lets him get away with it and brings him down stairs or sleep with us 🙄 where as I’m stricter and he settles for me but children do go through sleep regressions 

    is your daughter jealous by your newborn this could be another reason maybe laten your daughters bedtime by 1 hour?

  • I've got two older boys 10 and 12 and I've recently got a 19 month old boy as a package deal who came with my new wonderful partner.   My partner is tired.. her son, SS (sleepless son) doesn't like sleeping, he screams his head off at the thought of sleep.  He screams and makes whining noises (anything to keep himself awake longer) at mid day nap time, night time bed time and getting back to sleep during the night.  

    He is a busy sleeper.. he jolts and moves his arms while sleeping which wakes him up.. he then screams very loudly and cries like he's scared or hurt.  He can wake 6 times during the night quite often..if he's not waking 6 times he's waking 2 times.. each time waking the house and the house next door up.

    Then just when we're out cold in zombie sleep from exhaustion at 5 am.... he'll wake up for the day.. with no intention of going back to sleep. 

    So.. to recap.. its been a mission to get him to sleep..ive spent all night awake gently rubbing his arm or soothing him as he's on the edge of waking all night long.. I've endured screaming and crying every hour and I'm then woken up 2 hours before any sane person should be awake.  I'm tired too.  

    It's like he has night terrors or very vivid dreams and then waking up he lets us know he's really not happy we made him sleep.

    He seems tired.. I'm thinking he's over tired and needs more sleep. 

    He still wants boobies (most men do) but he's not getting them, he's well looked after, got a good routine. 

    I don't remember my 2 kids being like it and I haven't got a clue what to do... any help out there ?? Thanks.

  • Good for you for asking on their behalf... they need to toughen up and deal with it or they'll have a brat on their hands.  

    I feel sorry for you, you obviously care more than they do.  They're obviously tired and at their wits end but hiding their heads in the sand is not the right thing to do. 

    I know this reply is far too late but writing it made me feel better.  Tell them I said they need to toughen up and be more responsible parents and pass on my email address if they're not happy with my comment. 

  • Hey Kirstie, Julie and everyone else.

    You're all amazing and doing great guys. 

    Kirstie, yes it's great you share bedtime routine with dad.

    Julie, you mentioned that baby gets anxious just realising that you're heading to his bedroom. Looks like he has a negative association with his room. Does he spend any other time in his room? Try to have some play time/quality time with him in his room. That might make him a more positive association with his room. Bedtime story for example.

    If there's younger child at home it might affect older one's behaviour despite you doing everything right. Just make sure that the oldest child gets quality time with both parents without younger child interrupting (if possible).

    Children are indeed the best manipulators in the world. And it can be just a phase and will be in most cases. It is scientifically proved that toddlers as young as 2 care for other people opinions/reactions and they change their behaviour depending if an adult is present.

    Try to start settling toddler for sleep an hour before bedtime: dim the lights, keep the toddler away from any screens, no crazy play. You can also try to get your little one excited about bedtime story and see if you can get him in bed with excitement. I wouldn't advise milk before bed as it gives a toddler an energy. 

    Most importantly is that you understand that there's nothing wrong neither with you or your baby. And every night of tantrum brings you closer to the end of this period.

  • Desperatedan,

    There's something causing it. It is a child's reaction to something. You need a professional help (children psychologist). Otherwise, it will damage your relationship with both your children and partner.

    Sometimes something as simple as moving to bigger house/space can cause a child to be scared to go to bed. In that case, it can be dealt with by muffling child in a duvet or putting pillows around the bed to make a child feel safe and separated from big open space.

    No medication, it will deal with symptoms, but the cause will ruin that little child from inside.

    Hope you'll manage to resolve it.

  • So glad I found this thread. My 20 month old does not want to go to sleep on his own!

    it started about a week after bring home our new baby from hospital. We assumed it was a jealousy thing but he isn’t cravingbour attention from the baby at all any other time.

    when it to bed he stands and shouts mummy mummy before eventually crying. Then there are several night wakings where the same will happen. in the past when he has cried we can do the walk in walk out method and he will eventually lay down and go to sleep but he seems to refusing to lay down and will fall asleep standing up and then wake up and cry after a little while.

    the only way I can get him to sleep is to be in the room so I’ve been trying the gradual retreat/withdrameal method and am now sitting outside his room on the landing but it doesn’t seem to be improving And I don’t know what the next step is.

    we have a strict bedtime routine of bath milk book etc and I don’t want to change that as it has worked since we started and I know this is only a phase. It’s just been going on for 4 weeks now and I don’t want to instil any permanent habits from what we are doing. Please help!

  • Hey jbutcher

    Sorry to hear u are dealing with this.

    You are right to stick with your normal routines don't change anything it can confuse the child even more.

    My daughter who is now 2 passed the phase of screaming after a few weeks. Staying outside the bedroom isn't helping you. They will expect you to stay there until they fall asleep all the time if you continue this.

    The best thing I found doing was just reassuring them you love them and you will see them in the morning.

    If they do get up and have a little scream give them a few minutes and put them back to bed they will tire of it and eventually the night screaming will stop.

    It's a really annoying stage but when my daughter was going through it we spoke to the health visitor and they said it was just a part of development most children get it.

  • Thank  for the reply. I just feel like we’ve tried the reassuring and it didn’t work. The crying just intensified until he Was nearly sick so we had to stop. Feel completely lost

  • Hi Jbutcher,  

    I hear what you're saying.. it is such a desperate time, the screaming seems like it won't ever stop and it puts everyone on edge.  

    In my opinion the child is being naughty, not all the time.. I understand they are going through a seperation anxiety issue but at 18 months, 2 yrs old or whatever, that child understands No, they understand Stop doing it, they understand No need to cry or scream because mum and dad love you... they understand Chips or Lollies so they also understand NO blah blah. 

    We spoke to specialists who said he didn't understand when we said No.  That's rubbish.  So he's gonna run onto the road and under a truck... he'll sure as hell understand No if we said it in that situation so why the hell is it ok for him to not understand it when he's putting us under the same stress?

    @Dadtocul is right by saying walk out of the room, let them cry for a while then go in and reassure them you're there and there is nothing to be afraid of.. it makes sense doesn't it?   The only thing is.... it doesn't work.   We tried a form of cry it out like this..  we'd stand in the lounge and leave him to cry/scream/breath fire for 3 minutes before going in and comforting him and reassuring his it's ok and it's bedtime.. time to sleep, then 4, then 5 then 6 then 7 and finally 8 minutes at a time before going in to reassure him, putting him back in his bed and telling him it's ok, it's bedtime and we loved him.  After the 8 minute screaming sessions it was unbearable.. there was claw marks and drewl down the bedroom door and eventually he would even open the door and come out like a blubbering mess.  It was traumatic !  He'd made what was a simple relaxing bedtime routine a terrible, stressful, traumatic experience..... the child had made it into that.. not us.. we were just trying to teach him there was nothing to be afraid of.. we would always be there.. always go back.  But he wanted it his way. He wanted to rule the roost. He was being naughty and would only sleep cuddled into his mum.  Even then, when she was cuddling him All night, he'd still wake up with a fright, saying mumma mumma or screaming and wanting boobies.  It literally didn't matter what we did.. he wanted it his way.  

    The specialist said there was no quick fix.. rubbish.  I believe it is possible to change these kids.  

    Both parents need to want to change it though.. in my case the mother to the child also had seperation anxiety and couldnt leave her child to cry or couldn't see him in a stressful situation without giving in to him. She would give into him every night.. on the rare occasion she didnt end up cuddling in his bed we would get more sleep... but because he'd made her so tired from waking every hour through the night and only sleeping a 2 hr nap during the day she couldn't help herself .. she would get in with him automatically.   That was like a huge kick in the balls for me and a massive backwards step in our progress every time she gave in to him.   

    I was getting 2 hrs sleep a night because of him.. if I was lucky to have slept at all.  

    It's shit.. In our case the mother had made their bond too tight from when he was born.. he basically had her boob in his mouth all day long.. front pack and boob in mouth whenever he wanted.  She gave him what he wanted when he wanted it.. even cuddles throughout the night whenever he wanted it.. ie he worked it out that if he woke up and screamed or said mumma she would cuddle him.... she had made this problem but wasnt able to admit or help change it because 'She loved it'.. she loved that someone Needed her.   Her son couldnt handle that when I came on the scene he had to share his mum at bedtimes with me.  So he'd pack a sad and he scaled up all this crying BS.  In the 1.5 years prior to me coming on the scene he would cry and keep his mum up through the night.. most of the night every night.. with me, we saw progress.. but them Damien decided he wasn't going to be beaten so he'd start screaming instead.  Damien isn't his real name but fitting as it's the child off the horror film The Omen.

    I was fighting a losing battle and also losing my mind.. I was getting too stressed and would get anxious around her child.. wondering if he was gonna call out for his mumma every time I saw him. (He wouldn't even let her leave the room without calling mumma and running after her).  It was ridiculous and I was fighting this battle alone.  

    So, I wish you both all the good luck in the world and I hope you don't end up like me.. single and alone and still shaken by the whole situation.  

    P.s. I'm better off in the long run but I am sad to have lost a great caring partner and what was generally a nice child too. 

  • Can anybody offer any advice, my 18 month old wont go to sleep by herself and if she wakes up won’t go back to sleep by herself or wakes up when I put her back in her cot. I have tried leaving her to cry but she will cry and cry and cry until she throws up everything and then I have to get her out to change bedding etc. Also have a partner that works so can’t leave her to cry all night when he has to be up for work. Have had a routine as much as possible but there’s only so much I can stick with it with how she is being at bedtime. Still has milk at bed time will also take water but doesn’t make a difference. I have another due so I really need this to stop it’s unreal and becomes really really stressful. 

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