The number one most misunderstood thing when it comes to parenting is the Terrible Twos. The number one most misunderstood thing when it comes to 3-year-olds is bedtime.
You see, when Mike and I were new parents, we heard talk of the Terrible Twos phase. You know, when your child turns two years old, she would throw temper tantrums and even though it wouldn't necessarily be ok, we would deal with it because, well, it was to be expected! Then when your child turns three years old, she would magically go back to being that angel that she was before the T2 phase! You know what I'm talking about, right? Well my friends, I'm here to tell you that it is all a big LIE!
The Truth About the Terrible Twos
- The T2 phase STARTS at age two-ish and lasts for at least two years.
- You will look back on those newborn nights when your baby cried for a bottle and then went right back to sleep and think, "It really wasn't that bad!"
- The child will NOT win the battle.
- The parent will NOT win the battle.
- Threats don't work.
- Rewards don't work.
- Punishments don't work.
- It is a battle... With no clear ending in sight.
- It will stop as suddenly as it started.
We are right in the middle of the T2 phase with Miss Taylor Max. She is stubborn, she pouts, she whines, she cries, she throws herself on the ground, she screams. The only thing is, she only does this at bedtime! For some reason unknown to all other humans, she hates bedtime. Apparently she believes that bedtime is just a myth and it is something that she doesn't believe in. She also must think that her family is pretty dumb to believe in the concept of bedtime, because she doesn't like to let anyone else in the house get a full, restful night of sleep!
When we talk about this with other people, the first thing we are asked is, "What time does she go to bed?" Bedtime is 7:30. Yes, it is early, but when you are a kid and need to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, 7:30 really isn't that bad. Actually, 7:30 is her sweet spot. Any earlier and she isn't quite tired enough and throws a fit because she isn't tired. Any later and she is overly tired and throws a fit... for no reason except that she is tired. We have the best chance of going to bed good if she is in bed at exactly 7:30. On occasion, Jaden gets to stay up until 8:00. Mostly to let Taylor cry it out for a half-hour or so, but also because she is past the T2 phase and "gets it." We've tried rewarding Taylor with staying up a little later and it backfires almost every single time.
Mike and I have tried it all. We have rewarded going to bed good. We have taken away her Dora movies, her Maxine, her blankie, her stuffed animal... it does NOT work. We have tried letting her cry. We have tried closing her door. We have tried reasoning with her. It doesn't matter. We have asked our parents, friends with kids, and even doctors for advice. The answer always comes down to, "It is a phase and she will grow out of it." We know this, but it doesn't make it any easier.
Jaden went through the same thing when she was 2½-3. She cried and screamed at bedtime. I remember it so well because Taylor was a newborn. Between the two of them, Mike and I were getting no sleep at all. I also know that Jaden grew out of it eventually.
So, Mike and I are basically at the end of our rope. We are about to lose it. It is the most frustrating thing in the world. I know that it probably seems like I am making mountains out of molehills, but I'm not. It is hard to handle. It is hard to know what is the right thing to do. Right now, it basically boils down to the fact that she doesn't want to be left alone. She wants either Mike or myself to stay in her room until she falls asleep. I don't mind doing that every so often, but I'm scared that it will develop into a habit that will cause more problems down the road. A few times this week, I have sat on her floor next to her bed and let her hold onto my finger. She falls asleep almost instantly. When she is snoring, I replace my finger with Maxine's (her favorite doll) arm. It works, but I'm afraid it is only making the whole problem worse, because eventually we will have to not do that. Then what?
I know that every kid goes through this. I know that we will all survive. I also know that she was pouting and throwing a fit off and on from 11:30-2:30. We got less than three hours of sleep last night. Tell me what to do next because I feel like it's time to call Supernanny!