Is Your Toddler Too Angry to Sleep?

Is your toddler too angry to sleep? Read on to learn how to read the signs and get a solution. 

from the hand in hand blog(1)

By Lyra L'Estrange

Does it ever seem like your toddler is just unsettled? Can't be happy? Can't be playful? And definitely can't sleep?

Are there days where this carries on into the night, and your toddler wakes repeatedly?

You feel like something's happening but you just can't pin your finger on what…

Something is brewing…something unseen, unheard…

Hunting for Clues in Behavior

When that happened with Hand in Hand Instructor Lyra Estrange's daughter, she began some mommy detective work – and came up with surprising findings.

After collecting signals from her daughter throughout the day, Lyra discovered her toddler had anger stopping her laughing, playing and sleeping well.

She responded by making time and space to help. And once she did this, her daughter's mood returned to sunny and playful.

And she actually started sleeping better.

Lyra's solution was simple, but not standard, and speaks to the amazing power of actively listening to a child to guide them through difficult times.

How You Can Help Your Toddler Back To Peace and Playfulness

If you want to find out how Lyra solved her toddler's anger, read on.

She says, “My two-year-old daughter had seemed upset for most of the day.

She'd been crying a lot over small things and letting things get to her thatHelping normally wouldn’t.

She was getting very frustrated when she couldn’t do things by herself too.

I tried to help by listening and playing, but I wasn’t really feeling like I had much to give.

Instead, I found myself getting annoyed when her and her brother began fighting every time I turned my attention to something other than them.

We had recently returned from a trip and were all tired. I didn’t feel like I was able to listen or set limits well with either of my children.

Too Angry

But after dinner, I had some time alone with my daughter. I could see that she was tired so I asked her to come with me and get ready for bed.

She refused, which was another clear signal to me that she wasn’t feeling good – usually she is happy to rest.

By now, the chores for the day were done, I was more relaxed and I felt more able to listen to her. I could also see what a hard afternoon she'd had, and I was ready to try to help her out.

With all this in mind, I set a limit: “Yes. It's time for bed,” I persisted, using a gentle voice.

She started crying as soon as I got her nappy and pyjamas out.

We were sitting on her bed, and when I gently moved closer with her nightclothes, her crying got more intense.

She started yelling at me, “Go away Mum!” and in a low, hoarse tone.

Want more? Read How To Set Limits That Help Children Sleep

Angry Feelings Let Loose

It was quite intense, but I got the sense that this was what she needed to do to release all the upset and so I trusted the process and went with it.

When she asked me to go away, I shifted further away from her to respect her request, but I also told her, “I’m not going too far away because I love you and want to stay close when you are upset.”

She cried really hard for quite a while.

Her requests alternated between, “Go away Mum!” to “I need a cuddle!”

All of this indicated to me that she was working through her upset and that she really didn’t want me to go away at all.

Want more? Get this free guide to help you solve your toddler's anger issues. Click here. 

Too Angry To Sleep

I didn't try to offer solutions.

Instead, I focused on listening to her, using my heart, not my head. Concentrating on putting my heart first stopped me from getting offended by her yelling at me to go away.

I saw she didn’t mean those words and was just getting those angry feelings out.

I stayed with her, offering support and love, as all her yucky, hard, painful feelings poured out.

She was working hard by letting so much go, and I began to feel a sense of pride, knowing that she was doing what she needed to do, and knowing I was there to support her in the way she needed me to.

Her raging lasted about 45 minutes, and gradually subsided into large hiccupy sobs for a few minutes.

I was able then to help her get into her nappy and pyjamas.

Then she took a few deep calm breaths, looked right into my eyes and had a little giggle about something, and then fell asleep.

She slept the whole night through, rather than waking one or two times as she had been doing, and was much more peaceful the next day.

Try this the next time your toddler can't seem to shift a cranky mood. You may find that your toddler is just too angry to playing or sleep well.

And now you have a tool to help.

Find out why crying can help kids release fear and stress

Read how to use play before bed to help solve sleep issues.

Would you like to learn how to help your child sleep? Get practical tools and advice in our self-guided online course, Helping Your Child Sleep

Lyra L'EstrangeLyra L'Estrange, Certified Instructor in Queensland, Australia

2 thoughts on “Is Your Toddler Too Angry to Sleep?”

  1. Ohhh, I love this. Just beautiful
    I did some thing similar the other day with my son. He was tired, but it was too early for bed, crying over everything and nothing. So we sat on the couch and cuddled for about 20 mins, then when HE decided he was done, he got up and not another tear. And bedtime was a breeze.
    It was quite an epiphany for me, that all he needed was some contact, mama time and cuddles to recharge him to last till bed <3

    1. Lyra L’Estrange

      Hi Anna,
      I loved hearing your story, thank you for writing! Yes, it is amazing how some close connection can change things so quickly. I’m so glad you had an easy bedtime.
      All the best,
      Lyra

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