If you have a preschooler, you're going to want to read this!
Obviously parents come to me for advice regarding sleep. But the truth is? When I help parents of older children struggling to sleep, my focus has to be on more than that. You have to understand how to communicate and engage with your child throughout the day as this component has a huge impact on bedtime.
You see, we humans desires two things, and sometimes one or both of these natural desires are missing for your child.
☝️ONE, SIGNIFICANCE OR BELONGING
Your time is divided among so many tasks. Chores around the house. Making sure your kids are fed and bathed. Responding to text messages. Scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Tending to other children. ESPECIALLY for those of you who have recently welcomed a new baby into the family. And perhaps you are doing all of this while trying to work from home! And by the end of the day? You are exhausted.
This can contribute to how significant your child feels in life and in your family.
Now, I know what you are thinking. "Well, Megan! Of course my child is important to me! How dare you insinuate she isn't."
Listen. It isn't about your perspective. This is all about your child's perspective. You and I both know how much you love that mini version of you. But your child needs to feel it in ways that perhaps you haven't considered.
✌️TWO, AUTONOMY OR CONTROL
Your child has very little power in life. Think about it! How often are you telling your child what to do, where to go, how to act? Rarely do we even consider making time for what is on a child's agenda. Instead, she is required to stop whatever she is doing whenever she is told to do so and to go wherever you need to go so that you can take care of your priorities. Not only that, but she is tiny compare to us adults! She requires assistance to do things that we or older children can do alone.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Well, Megan, of course she is
So what time of day do you think is one of few when your little one gets the most attention? Feels the most significant or in control?
Regardless if it is negative or positive, your child is getting your attention and you have no direct control over whether or not your child goes to sleep. So here are a few tools to sprinkle throughout your day to fill your child's buckets of significance and autonomy:
1 - PLANNED UNDIVIDED ATTENTION
Provide 5-10 minutes of UNDIVIDED attention with your child within every hour that you are together. Truly be present. Put your phone down and forget about the to-do list. Listen to your child. Laugh with your child. Play with your child.
2 - OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE
Provide your child with opportunities to contribute to the family. Yes! I am basically telling you to give your three year old a chore.
It can be so simple! What is one role your child can play in the family? For example, every time you eat, your child sets out the silverware. Or every week, your child helps take out the recycling. Do you have a newborn in the house? Your preschooler helps with diaper changes by grabbing the diaper.
Whatever it is, provide some way for your child to contribute because, in her eyes, those one or two tasks will contribute to her feeling as if she is an important role in the family.
3 - OPTIONS
Provide your child with options! For example, et your child decide what kind of food she gets for a snack, how many bits of broccoli she needs to take, which books are read for bedtime. Let your child choose which chore she want's to do in order to contribute to the family!
BUT here is the key.
Provide a limited number of options. Give her 3-5 options from which she can choose one or two. Not only will this allow your child to feel in control, but you will still have the control while also minimizing time wasted with indecisiveness.
If this is new for you, make sure to be patient with the process! Your patience and consistency are necessary for the long haul.
Note that these three tools will help improve behavior. However, if your child is overtired, you may need to do more than just adjusting your interactions throughout the day. For example, is your child on the right schedule? Is your child getting enough sleep? If you this is an area where you need some guidance, download my document "What Working with a Sleep Consultant Entails" in order to see how I can help.
Whether I'm just a small part with this post or able to help in a bigger way, I wish you the best of luck and memories on your journey through parenthood! Don't miss my next post which will provide you with examples of how to communicate options to your child, scenarios you might experience when providing options, and how to handle those scenarios.