How to Survive Toddler Tantrums at Bedtime

And why they go hand-in-hand

July 22 2016

How fascinating is it that they have the ability to choose what seems to be the worst time (usually in public or at bedtime) to have a meltdown.


Here are some of the reasons why toddlers throw tantrums...  

Sometimes tantrums are baffling and often incomprehensible. It is, indeed, difficult for us to fathom what our toddler thought was “gross” yesterday is good today. Don’t despair! Their actions and responses are considered by researchers and pediatric behavior experts to be perfectly normal.


At this stage of your toddlers’ lives, they are learning that they are separate from you and they are developing their own set of needs in their own time slots, these being totally out of sync with your timetable.


Exhaustion can be a trigger  

You may have collected your toddler from daycare or playgroup; perhaps he didn't get enough naptime, as all toddlers have varying needs in terms of sleep. In comes the dreaded feeling of total fatigue for your toddler, who does not yet have the understanding of his feelings and even less the verbal acumen required to express them. So, instead of simply saying “I am tired” - it's more like, ‘KABOOM!”  –– TANTRUM TIME.


Your toddler throws a wobbly. It’s getting close to nap/ bed time. He hollers and shrieks, kicks and screams at decibels way above that which we can actually hear. When you think that you have now reached your point of total frazzle, having coped with your other daily pressures and your toddler’s meltdown, they might take you to a level of tolerance above and beyond, merely by whining and whimpering and sometimes even simply refusing to move or respond to a reasonable request. This could make you want to throw your own tantrum. Please don’t!


How to deal with tantrums at bedtime

The most effective way to deal with exhaustion is to get your child fed and ready for bed as quickly as possible in the calmest way you can muster. The tantrum could continue on a less assertive level as even though your toddler is over-tired he could resist going to sleep at the risk of missing some family action.


If frenzied outbursts become prevalent at nap or bed time, check that your toddler is getting enough rest during the day. Adjust nap times or discuss his napping habits with daycare or his caregiver. You could further make bedtime a little earlier.  Always bear in mind that, although your toddler may fight against sleep, SLEEP is precisely what is needed in that moment. 


Cheryl Fingleson is a paediatric sleep consultant. For more advice or to book a sleep coach consultant, please visit