Quelling bedtime tantrums

Date: July, 1990

Up to 25 percent of all children aged one to four years exhibit bedtime tantrums. Adams and Rickert performed a randomized trial of two different strategies for bedtime tantrums to determine if either approach would be more effective than allowing the child to outgrow the tantrums.

Thirty-six children aged 18 to 48 months were included in the study. The 20 girls and 16 boys averaged five bedtime tantrums per week before entering the study. The children were randomly assigned to one of the following three groups: positive routines, graduated extinction or control group. Parents of the children in the control group were told that some children outgrow bedtime tantrums with no specific intervention. These parents were advised to do whatever was usually done when their child had a tantrum. Parents in the graduated extinction group were told to maintain their child's bedtime and ignore bedtime tantrum behavior for specific increasing time intervals. Parents in the positive routines group changed the child's bedtime to a time closer to the time that the child naturally fell asleep. Before bedtime, parent and child would engage in a series of enjoyable activities for approximately 20 minutes. In this group, bedtime was advanced incrementally until the child's original bedtime was reached.

Compared with children in the control group, the children in the intervention groups had decreased tantrum activity during the six-week study period and at three- and six-week follow-up examinations. Although both approaches were effective, the positive routines method produced faster improvement in reducing tantrum behavior. The parents in the positive routines group also reported significantly improved marital satisfaction. (Pediatrics, November 1989, vol. 84, p. 756.)

COPYRIGHT 1990 American Academy of Family PhysiciansCOPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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