Q&A: midnight tantrums

A writes:

"So, J is 2-1/2 (will be 3 in August).  Some nights, he sleeps great - either all the way through (9:30pm-8:30am or so) or only has a minor wakeup.  But 3-4 nights a week, one of us will go into his room because we hear him crying, and he won't be consoled.  It doesn't matter which parent goes in, he wants the other one.  He won't let either of us pick him up.  He doesn't want a different pacifier, or a drink of water, or his nose blown, or anything - he just kicks his feet and grumps at us.  If we try to leave, it goes into full-blown temper tantrum.  Eventually - after 15 minutes or more - we can usually get him out of the crib without a fight.  But there's still at least 5 more minutes of trying to convince him to accept a pacifier and go back to sleep.  This isn't a nightmare - he doesn't talk when he has a nightmare, just cries, and in these temper tantrum episodes tells us very clearly that he doesn't want any of the things we're offering.

Of course, this is always at like 2am, so it's completely exhausting.  We've tried talking about it during the day, to no avail.  I would be okay with him being awake in the middle of the night if he would leave us out of it!  It's been happening for at least a month, so I feel like we're at the point where we need to DO something and not just assume he'll grow out of it.

Any thoughts?"

Have you ever had a nightmare that your partner did something really horrible to you, and you wake up and you're really angry at him/her, even though you know intellectually that it was just a dream?

That's what this makes me think of. I wonder if he's having some dreams in which he doesn't get what he wants, and that triggers a waking tantrum. And he's made at *you*, mostly because you're there. But maybe also in the middle of the night while you were asleep you actually did do something that made him really, really angry, in his dream.

It's not a night terror. It's not a nightmare. It really is what you're saying, a middle-of-the-night tantrum.

And I pretty much have nothing. You could just wait it out. If J is like my older child, the tantrums (at all times of day) should stop around the age of 4. If he's like my younger child, they will probably stretch on forever.

Has anyone else experienced this? Did you figure out anything to do about it? Was there anything that *didn't* work that A should not even bother trying?