Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/14 month old wakes up screaming

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Question
Hi James,

I am the father of a 14 month old son (will be 15 months at the end of December).  Very recently he has begun waking up screaming (I'm talking not a high pitches scream but a from the bottom of his feet deep scream).  When my wife and I got to him he is inconsolable.  We try walking with him, talking to him, putting him on the ground and stroking his head and face, nothing works.  He finally manages to calm himself down and turns into the normal kid we are used to.  I should mention that these "episodes" have only happened 3 times, at vary hours (1 during a nap, 1 in the middle of the night and the earlier evening after only being down for about 2 hrs.  

I have done a little sleuthing into night terrors and have been led to beleive that he is to young to be having them, is this true?  Can you provide any insight into what you think the cause of this may be?  I have wondered about possibly teething (he is only missing about 4 teeth to complete the set.  I have also considered if he is just pissed off about us not responding to him fast enough (we do let him cry a little before going to him).

Any insight you can provide on this would be greatly appreciated!

Answer
Hello Ryan,
It is very common for children between the ages of 12 months and 48 months to wake up at night. Some children can go back to sleep on their own; others can't. There is no one reason why children awaken. And trying to find out the reason will likely be an exercise in futility.
If it is night terrors, then your child won't really be awake. And if he is not awake, you should not awaken him.
You can provide some minimal comforting, but I caution against talking to him, getting him up, feeding him, or anything else that is likely to reinforce his awakenings. The key is to help him learn to go back to sleep on his own.  
The only way to prevent night terrors is to not reinforce his awakenings. Letting him cry out on his own is recommended until it is clear that he is not going to fall back asleep by himself. Then, go to him and gently pat him or rub his back until he is calm and back to sleep.
Best,

James Windell

Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers

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James Windell

Expertise

I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.

Experience

I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

Organizations
American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

Publications
I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at Jimwindell.com includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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