Top 10 Bedtime Meltdown Triggers (That We Have Figured Out So Far)

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The moment she feels sleepy, “nigh nigh” is announced. She will immediately sit on my husband’s lap to be carried upstairs. We cannot hesitate. Some nights are perfect- she brushes her teeth, uses the potty, and then jumps into bed without incident. Other nights….any little thing can trigger a meltdown.

Once Teghan is upset the meltdown is instantly in full force. There is no warning or lead up time in which we can apply a strategy. And once the screaming has begun all communication efforts will fail. We have figured out some of the triggers, but many are still a mystery. Here are the reasons we know so far in the order they usually occur:

Daddy didn’t stand up fast enough after the “nigh nigh” announcement. This needs to happen IMMEDIATELY. Or else. And she must be carried up the stairs. No exceptions. This is the routine.

She can’t get her shirt off. This is a rarity these days, but it used to be number one. Now she pulls her shirt off the moment she decides bedtime has arrived. But she will still scream if she can’t get it off soon enough. Shirts with buttons. Why do we even buy those?

Wrong toothpaste. But sometimes the right toothpaste produces similar results. This one still falls under mystery status. But definitely toothpaste related.

We are making her sit on the potty, but she has a secret plan of going to the bathroom in her room. It’s probably the reason she wants to go to bed- and holding it is getting difficult. This happens in cycles; just a few random days out of the blue when she becomes obsessed with the idea of puddles on the church pew in her room. It’s been awhile, and we are crossing our fingers on this one.

No hot air is coming out of her bedroom vent. We just figured this one out yesterday- and ONLY because there was a brief moment between sobs where she regained composure long enough to put my husband’s hand on the vent. How many times was this the answer? How many times???

We are still in her bedroom and she wants us to leave. Sometimes our mere presence is all it takes. After all, she has things to do that we might not approve of. Or….we left her bedroom and she wanted us to stay. This one can be any variation. Maybe one of us can stay and the other one has to leave. It’s never predictable. But if she wants us to stay, it means that bedtime is a lie. She really wants to run full speed back and forth in the hallway while we sit on her bed as hostages and watch. Or she needs us to participate in some other very specific game that we may or may not figure out.

We didn’t close her bedroom door. Why can’t she just do it herself? Who knows. This child has more rituals surrounding the upstairs rooms than anything else. Bathroom door closed. Hall light on. Bedroom door closed- but only by us. When I come home from work at night I now have to sprint up to our bedroom, because if I am not upstairs and instantly in pajamas upon arriving home from work she will sob uncontrollably while dragging me upstairs. I guess changing into pajamas the moment I get home is something she feels she can count on. I can live with that.

A broken toy was left in her room. It doesn’t work. And nothing else matters.

We made her come back downstairs after the bedtime routine was complete. This one produces the worst meltdown of all. If she is upstairs pounding on her window and running circles, we will bring her back downstairs. There is no worse punishment in Teghan’s world. Just opening her door is enough to induce angry screaming. This is the time I worry most about the neighbors, who must have regular debates over whether or not our child is being stabbed to death. I mean, what intensity level should your neighbor child’s screams reach before dialing 911 is appropriate? Should I be mad at my neighbors that they aren’t more concerned for her safety?

She woke up in the middle of the night and thought we were starting the morning routine. This is the one we fear the most. It’s the scenario that wakes us up. I know how fortunate we are to not relate to anyone on this topic, but Teghan has always been a good sleeper. Occasionally she does wake up crying, and when we open her door (because, you know, she hardly ever does that herself) she will run into our room and get into our bed. This is not what it seems. The moment we try to turn off our light and go back to sleep- she screams. Nothing seems to calm her.

We finally figured this last one out when she kept pushing me out of bed while yelling “phone” in between sobs. Whenever Teghan doesn’t have school, she always climbs into our bed and watches Dora on daddy’s phone while I am in the shower. Getting up means it’s morning, and we just weren’t doing it right! We explained it was still night time, put her back in her room, and she actually stopped crying. Mystery solved; assuming she is tired enough to go back to sleep. Otherwise we are all up for another round of hallway sprints.

These are the ten triggers we have identified. Are any of them familiar to you? What are your bedtime meltdown triggers and mysteries?


2 thoughts on “Top 10 Bedtime Meltdown Triggers (That We Have Figured Out So Far)

  1. We have a lot of these! Enjoy your posts very much. Our kiddo has to have a certain hat (cheifs) scarf (soccer) and one blue glove and one red glove. Four of hundreds of rubber bracelets, cup of water, bowl of pretzels/apples and then there are what we call the before bed “inspirations.” Like, he just remembered some random event from weeks ago and wants the ticket stub or the phamplet. Which of course he can’t describe…I think sometimes he just needs to shout it all out and that no matter how prepared we are it is just going to happen…Thanks again for sharing your great thoughts.

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