Subject: disrespectful 3 year old
QUESTION: My 3 year old just started sleeping in his own room. Last night he woke up 4:30 and wanted me to come sleep in his room - which I did. He then went back to sleep only to wake up 10 minutes later crying for me. I went into his room. He wanted to watch cartoons and I said "no, go back to sleep. It is not time to get up yet". Not giving me a chance to do anything else, he, right away, had a temper tantrum. He stared crying, hitting me in the face, trying to make me laydown with him (I was already sitting next to him), hitting me with his stuff animal, punching me continuously. He was 1/2 sleep and really tired at the time (which is no excuse). I tried reasoning with him, trying to accomodate his every wish just to calm him down. Nothing was working. Finally, I had to spank his rear-end and that did not work because he kept hitting me back. I tried to hold his hands down and that did not work. Nothing worked for me to gain respect and calm him down. Was spanking him appropriate in this situation. Normally, his tantrums and not this bad but I could not gain any respect from him to calm him down. Please tell me what I did wrong.
ANSWER: Dear Anonymous,
First of all I make it very clear in my introduction that I do not support any type of violence against children. You asked me what you did wrong and there is NO appropriate time to hit a child ever! All he learned was that it is wrong for him to hit you and it is okay for you to hit him...if he even made that connection. What he probably learned was that you hit him and your bigger and can hurt him more than he can hurt you. Is this really a childhood memory you want for him to remember in 20-30 years? Now having said this clearly lets move on to some solutions! I think you will find these suggestions very helpful. Hopefully, neither or you will ever have this experience again.
Children learning to sleep alone is very frightening for some children. Often it upsets their nightly routine. Children do not have the same sense of time that we do...for them it is very slow and actually telling time doesn't happen for most children until they are 7 or 8 years of age.
He needs more patience with this transition. I suggest that parents plan about an hour to an hour and half for a bedtime routine. Getting the atmosphere turned down (lights down, noise down, etc.) and then reading, bathing even massaging the child to sleep. When they wake up massaging usually relaxes anyone. There are wonderful cd's with soothing heartbeat music that you can play in his room. I can't even stay awake when this music is playing. Good for the whole family.
I recently purchased a build a bear for my grandchildren who live far away. Building the bear meant that I could record my voice saying loving and soothing things to my grandchildren and they can squeeze the beat hand and comfort himself to sleep.
Children sometimes need a soft night light to make them feel less fearful of the dark. Remember they have very active imaginations. I can still remember seeing shadows at night that terrified me!
You can give him a stuffed animal or a blanket or something that smells of you and let him fall asleep with it next to him. Just your smell maybe more comforting.
Next time he acts out like that you both need a time out. Walk away for a few minutes and deep breathe. He may get worse however you need a minute to collect yourself.
Do remember that bedtime routines are routines not schedules and need to be consistent. Skipping a step because you are behind schedule can set some children off.
M Kay Keller