- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2006

My daughter skipped the terrible 2s and is going through the even more terrible 3s.

The worst part of it is her behavior in the morning. When it’s time for her to get up and get ready to go to preschool, she becomes meaner than a snake. Every morning, she throws a tantrum, often lasting 30 minutes, after we wake her up. As a result of her screaming and lack of cooperation, I find myself rushing around at the last minute in an attempt to get out of the house on time.

She has tantrums during the day when she doesn’t get her way, but we have seen great improvement in that area. Is there a solution for these morning meltdowns?

A: You came to the right person. I trained for many years to answer questions of this sort, which only people who train for many years are qualified to answer.

Before I give you the solution, however, it is my professional obligation to make the appropriate diagnosis: A 3-year-old child who screams for 30 minutes in the morning, every morning, after being awakened by her parents, obviously is suffering from a rare syndrome called voluntary — or maybe involuntary — post-nocturnal awakening disturbance disorder with mean-as-a-snake behavior. Call your local mental health association to find out if a support group has formed in your area.

And now, the solution, which was developed just last year at the More Science High School Non-Morning-People Research Center: Wake your daughter 30 minutes early, leave her room and let the tantrum run its course. When it’s safe, go back into her room and say something enthusiastic like , “What a beautiful day it is.” Then begin helping her prepare for preschool.

Beginning tomorrow, your running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its- head-cut-off mornings are over. You’re welcome.

(By the way, the term “meaner than a snake” misrepresents the behavior of most snakes. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have discovered that when confronted with danger, most snakes retreat. File that under “Things I Discovered Reading Parenting Columns.”)

Q: The problem: 30-month-old twin boys who have learned to climb out of their cribs, thus turning bedtime into a two-hour play-fest. (Note: Beds have been ordered and should arrive soon.) They have a gate at their doorway so they can’t roam the house, but they are up playing until 10 p.m.

Do you have any suggestions on how to keep them in their beds?

A: Why is it important to you that these fun-loving boys, who obviously have a wonderful relationship, stay in their beds (or, in the meantime, their cribs)? I believe I am correct in assuming that during their play-fest, they don’t stand at the gate and scream for you. When they have had their full of play-festing, they fall asleep on their own, right? They probably sleep through the night, yes? They don’t seem any worse for it the next day, yes?

The operative principle here is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” Can you say “earplugs”?

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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