Stopped the bedtime tantrums running life like a game show

Star Stickers from Pixabay user RawpixelLife’s been pretty rough the past two weeks. 4yo’s explosive temper transitioned from school directed to home, was pretty easily able to track it to sleep related at home, but damn if she’ll sleep. She’ll stay awake until 1am if given the chance and be up and exhausted at six.

When she’s exhausted, everything is fire to her gasoline. Take plate of food she’s not eating away, don’t have a soft enough belly for her to plop on, didn’t realize she was playing a game with you by looking at you weird, kaboooom!

We’ve been seeing a behaviorist, working with the teacher, school’s gotten better after her multiple kickouts, and last Friday we were asked to start a very viewable reward chart for her.

The reward system was to be 1 star for going to bed on time without a fight, a star for x number of hour in bed. On a good night she could expect to earn maybe 10 stars.

While that sounds excessive, I’d buy a pack of stickers a day to stop the hour long a night meltdowns.

Friday, didn’t work. 0 stars. Saturday, same, no stars and meltdowns, same Sunday, Monday. The fight was against anything we came up with that would put her in bed. Two nights of stars was a reward of ice cream.

She claimed she wanted it, but evidently not enough to follow through. Five days of fighting, no stars, no rewards, no reasoning with the tantrum child when she popped out.

Tuesday, modified it. She’d get a reward for something else. That something else was eating in a reasonable amount of time. It was food she wanted, we all sat at the table although the adults were guards and the two year old is fine at the moment.

Now, my kids can be grazers to the point there’s no reason to heat up food or serve anything that can’t sit for a while. This drives Kim mad.

We had previously set a timer at the end of which the food was taken away, meltdown Maggie. She couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t get anything down if she was expected to eat it on a time frame.

We gave her a reward for eating in a reasonable timeframe. This required armed guards, feeding her with airport spoons occasionally (air traffic control on two kids is amusing,) and making up some food games, but it worked.

This started the sticker lust. Once she had one and saw there was a possibility she attempted to earn more.

Another sticker for getting out of the bathtub when we asked.

Bedtime stickers were more tricky. She wanted to earn them but damn she wanted to be up doing anything else. We set them up as one for going to bed, one for staying in bed. She really didn’t stay in bed night one, but at least had a reason for getting out.

The second part has not quite worked, but it has wiped out the arguments. I’m happy. She wants stickers. Rational pre-tantrum brain gets that she’s working for something as opposed that we’re telling her to stop having fun. She’s having fun collecting stickers. It’s sort of like taking the knife away and letting her have an iPad. Acceptible substitute in her brain.

While we have not had a night where she’s earned both stickers (although I did give her it on night one,) we’re at least moving to getting her to bed again within reasonable time frames.

Meanwhile the two year old has put herself to bed twice before bedtime this week and only complained once about going to bed when she was playing.

Finally feel like there’s some light at the end of this absurd meltdown stage tunnel. Hoping I’m not jinxing things. Do hope we can get to the point where I do not have to sound like game show announcer cheerleader all the time at night, but if I do, ah well. I’ll talk like a pro for 20 minutes a night as opposed to hearing 90 minutes of screaming any day.