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Tantrum or terror?
how do you tell the difference?

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#1 sakura73

Posted 01 November 2012 - 09:56 PM

I have posted in the sleep forum but was hoping for some advice here too!

DS (14 months), who was previously a good self-settler, has started absolutely screaming when he is put into his cot. To me it sounds like a scream of terror, and it doesn't pass whether he is left alone with me coming in every 2 minutes to soothe or whether I sit next to him and pat. Only being picked up works, and he'll scream again the minute he is put down. Tonight I held him from 8pm to 10pm before he was finally deeply enough asleep not to notice being put into the cot (yes I know that is creating bad habits but one does what one must!)

Like I said, it sounds like terror to me. But DP thinks it is 'just a tantrum' and that I should not reward the behaviour by picking him up.

I feel like 14 months is too young for a tantrum. And to be honest I would probably pick him up anyway because the sound of his screaming makes me feel so ill.

But - how do you tell whether your child is scared or just cross? Does it alter how you respond when they are screaming for you?

#2 poss71

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:04 PM

OP, I asked in your other thread just now and I'll ask again here: what could he possibly be terrified of?

Logically, it's highly unlikely that he's even remotely terrified.

Doesnt necessarily mean the only alternative is he's having a tantrum though.

Somewhere in the middle, is much more likely.

#3 sakura73

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:08 PM

Thank you for your replies! I don't know what he could be terrified of (nothing bad has happened in the cot in the last couple of weeks, there is been no big change to his schedule) and I know it sounds a bit over-dramatic to use the term, but both his nanny and I feel like that is what the cry suggests.

But even if it is something less than 'terror' it is fear - seemingly fear of being in the cot.

#4 squirt081

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:13 PM

A terror cry is very different from a tantrum cry.. When DD (3yrs) is scared of something and screams/crys it is a blood chilling screaming cry, DS is 21mths and has just started tantrums but hasn't had a  terror cry yet. Maybe your DS is having nightmares and going to bed is scary.

Yes I respond differently to terror then what I do with tantrums. With terror I cuddle tight and tell her it's ok, I will protect her, keep her safe and that nothing is going to hurt her.  I do it really softly, gently and I recognise she is scared. I stay with her until she has calmed down and the fear has gone. With a tantrum I tell her what she is feeling, that it's normal and will pass. I also tell her to take a deep breath in and out, another one is think of pretty flowers and butterflies.

OP I would trust your feelings esp if you are the main carer, Oh and 14mths isn't to young for tantrums

#5 poss71

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:14 PM

Trust that you are there to protect him and a cuddle from mum can fix almost anything. If you believe there's nothing to be scared of, then he will come to recognise it too (if that's the reason for the cries).

In any case, keep up the cuddles but don't feed this with fear/concern. You can be sympathetic yet still quite matter of fact about it being bed time. (this, coming from someone who used to sing a silly OTT 'happy bedtime song' carrying DD1 down the hall as she screamed her difference of opinion about bedtime lol)

Unless of course, it appears he is in pain or discomfort, in which case I would offer Panadol/nurofen as appropriate and if he fell asleep without further fuss, a trip to the GP first thing in the morning would be in order.

EFS: neurogenic instead of nurofen, iPad, really?

Edited by poss71, 01 November 2012 - 10:16 PM.

#6 Lazycow

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:32 PM

My 19mth old done a similar thing at around 16-17 months. She would wake up screaming, sometimes a cuddle would be enough to settle her, but other times even holding her was impossible, she would scream, stiffen up then start lashing out, whilst screaming (she actually punched me in the face one night) ohmy.gif. Anyway I thought maybe she was having nightmares and waking up scared, which resulted in the next few bedtimes  being a nightmare. I spoke to the MCHN and she told me it was unlikely to be nightmares or being frightened because she was too young to understand the notion of  being scared.

This carried on a few more nights, and about 10 days after it started I noticed her back teeth had started to come through, and this was what was most likely to be waking her up and in turn she perhaps associated bedtime with teething pain. So before bed she would have a dose of Nurofen and after 4 nights she started sleeping better and once her teeth came through, touch wood things have gone back to normal. original.gif

Hope this helps.

#7 treefalls

Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:49 PM


My son is 2y8m and has only just recently experienced night terrors. It is definitely quite different from his usual screaming and carrying on that happens quite a lot!! He has been a terrible sleeper at times and, although I don't know your child, I can say that sometimes screaming is a think they 'discover' and play with... just like any other fascinating thing. I think a lot of kids go through a phase of experimenting with the sound of it and the power of it, not to mention the spectacular reaction it produces!

For us, waking up crying/screaming is something he tends to do when he's really tired and loses grip on himself... so I think the context of sleep/tiredness can really turn this into a pretty tiresome habit. But as the parent of a couple of screamers, I can definitely assure you that screaming can be something that a kid does for pretty much no reason and there may not be much you can do about it if that's the case except concentrate really hard on making sure they get plenty of sleep and don't work themselves up into too much of a state.

I wouldn't think it would be to do with the pain of teething, but probably the sleep disturbance from teething that would play into the issue.. so you could  definitely try Neurofen if you're open to it, just in case it helps.

Good luck!

#8 Froger

Posted 01 November 2012 - 11:09 PM

You're his mum, I think you would know. If he sounds terrified he probably is.

14 months is very little to be sleeping by himself, maybe he can sleep with you on the lounge or something until you go to bed, then take him with you to your bed when you go? For what it's worth, in my non-expert opinion, I don't think anything "bad" has to happen to a tiny child to make them terrified of going to bed alone and screaming until their mum comes in to hold them. 14 months is still so little, it's completely natural to want to be held and cuddled by your mum instead of being by yourself in the dark.

#9 BearBait

Posted 01 November 2012 - 11:21 PM

DD 2.5yo doesn't seem to have any problems with her cot, The Dark etc. However, she has discovered that howling like a banshee or yelling 'PeePee in the cot' tends to bring us running. All she wants is cuddles & playtime.

#10 poss71

Posted 01 November 2012 - 11:31 PM

QUOTE (BearBait @ 02/11/2012, 12:21 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
DD 2.5yo doesn't seem to have any problems with her cot, The Dark etc. However, she has discovered that howling like a banshee or yelling 'PeePee in the cot' tends to bring us running. All she wants is cuddles & playtime.


Also, 'mummy, I need a bucket for my vomit' - courtesy of Miss 3.5, who was NOT even close to vomiting, merely hanging face down half off her bed inspecting the underside and not yet ready for sleep (in her opinion).

#11 littlecat

Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:17 PM

We went through this a couple of months ago. She would cry and scream when it came to bedtime and even if we settled her with cuddles etc as soon as we went to leave the room she would lose it again. It was really tough but one night we just walked out of her room, shut the door and let her cry. It really only lasted for about 5 mins or so and after that she didn't do it again.
It could just be a phase? That's what I put it down to  original.gif

#12 sakura73

Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:52 PM

Thanks all for your experiences and suggestions. I did try leaving him to it today but after 20 minutes he had become utterly hysterical and I gave up. He thus missed his afternoon sleep and fell asleep much faster tonight (but in my arms; I wasn't up for any more screaming).

I am sure it is a phase, and I don't begrudge him the time it takes cuddling him to sleep. I just wish I could help him find his way back to self-settling, because he used to love his cot so much.

#13 treefalls

Posted 09 November 2012 - 10:44 PM

QUOTE (sakura73 @ 02/11/2012, 10:52 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am sure it is a phase, and I don't begrudge him the time it takes cuddling him to sleep. I just wish I could help him find his way back to self-settling, because he used to love his cot so much.

He will again Sakura. You sound like a very patient and loving mummy... all of these phases gradually morph into the next thing and sometimes disappear altogether. It's great if you can soak up the cuddles while there are still plenty to be had!

#14 L&E

Posted 10 November 2012 - 04:55 AM

14 months is very young, and I agree that your intuition as a mum is usually spot on.

Who is to know why the cot now "scares" him. Maybe he has come to realize you're not there and finds being alone scary. Maybe he finds going to sleep a bit difficult at the moment and this is his way of communicating. Maybe he is teething and just needs more comfort.

Please take solace in both of my children, who were cuddled to sleep (and usually slept in our bed) until well older than 14 months. Now a little lay and cuddle with the two year old and most nights he will happily fall asleep on his own after I leave the room. Habits and routines come and go with little ones, cuddling him to sleep may be what works for him right now and in a few weeks or months he will feel more secure with you leaving before he drifts off.

#15 DrFeral

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:04 PM

I went through something similar with DD at the same age... Hers was a real terror/pain scream and she would fall back asleep in my arms but as soon as she touched the cot it was back to screaming again. After doing some looking at her diet we found the problem was dairy food (and I had been giving her custard after dinner... she was breastfed sand it all didn't really start until she ate a packet cake for her first birthday that made her sick (whey powder)).  No dairy ... no screaming at night.  It might be worth checking if you have introduced any foods which might be a problem... especially if it continues past a few weeks (as the sleep deprivation will drive you crazy!)

#16 Natttmumm

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:15 PM

He sounds scared. Maybe let him play in there at awake time. Jump in there too to show him all is safe.

#17 kissy10

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:28 PM

Sounds like night terrors to me, http://www.babycenter.com/0_night-terrors_142.bc

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