If you'd prefer to read about it, read on........
Now I’m not saying that this is the case in your situation and sometimes things can start one way, with the child simply enjoying that extra time with Mummy or Daddy or it can start another way with a genuine nightmare or being scared of the dark or being alone, but when things have continued to become a pattern we need to examine quite closely whose problem it is. It is then up to that person to do the work.
I’m going to cover working with a parent and working with a child here so you have both.
First, though, I want you to think back to the first time the behaviour happened. What was going on at that time?
Children will be sensitive to situations in the family or in your relationship, that you may think you’re covering up really well. Death of a grandparent, for example, can affect a child more than you’d expect. Their world is very small and their parents and grandparents are people of influence so they will have a huge impact. If, when a grandparent dies, they feel they can’t express their grief because they can see you are upset, they will find other ways to get the extra attention they need. If this behaviour and the associated attention gives them that comfort, the habit may continue because it’s now become a pattern that feels reassuring.
So, think about when it started. What happened just before? You may need to spend time discussing that with them and allowing them time now to express that grief or loss.
What happens is that a situation, issue or event can get associated with a behaviour such that until the issue is resolved, the behaviour will continue.
Children get stuck in patterns of behaviour that become reassuring because they are familiar and they can’t imagine another option. We can use visualisation to help with this. First, it’s helpful to know if your child is visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. A visual child notices what they see, they have great imagination, tend to be very creative and will be the first to notice if you change your appearance in any way. An auditory child will be more verbal, chatty, will probably love music and notice sounds and what’s said rather than what they see. A kinaesthetic child is active, fidgety and wants to be on the move.
Their language patterns will be different. Even if you find your child may have aspects of all three – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – they will have a preference. Visual children tend to use words like look, see, imagine, watch, notice. Auditory preferences will be; sound, noise, hear, listen. Kinaesthetic preference will be any action or ‘doing’ word. Kinaesthetic children tend to be more physical too, wanting touch and cuddles. Comfort is very important so being too hot or cold in bed will affect them.
The reason I’m telling you about this is that it will help you know what to say to reassure them and to know what their focus is likely to be. An auditory child will notice every little creak and noise in the house. A visual child is likely to be more aware of the dark or indeed, light coming through a blind or curtain in the summer when they are trying to sleep and a kinaesthetic child will notice an uncomfortable bed, being too hot or cold or will want the extra cuddles.
When reassuring them, pay attention to their language pattern, for example:
- I’d like to see you tucked up in bed with the light off when I look in on you later
- Have a look at your clock when you wake up, if it’s a number smaller than 7, read your book or draw a picture and I’ll look at it when I see you
- I can hear that you are not in bed yet, I told you it’s time for bed, did you hear me?
- Can you tell me when you’re ready for me to say goodnight
- Get into bed, get a move on, you can do it! I’ll come in for a cuddle when you’re in bed
- How quickly can you get ready for bed, shall I time you?
Obviously you know your own child so you can create your own versions with which to experiment.
Do your children believe you when you either threaten them or bribe them? Do they take you seriously when you tell them you want them to go to bed?
I’ve noticed that parents talk very differently to their children than to colleagues at work and of course they do, it’s natural. However, when your child is not listening or is not doing what you’ve asked, it’s a good idea to test out your work voice! After all, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. The difference is the belief behind the voice. Your work voice is delivered with the belief that you will be heard and what you ask will be done. Is your home voice asking your child to go to bed, delivered with the belief that it won’t be listened to and what you ask will be ignored?
Have a go at this yourself.
Use the voice recorder on your smartphone and record various versions of an instruction regarding the going to bed routine or the waking up during the night and not going back to sleep routine, whichever you have problems with.
Version 1 – How you normally say it (you may want to check with your partner if this is how you say it).
Version 2 – How you would say it, if you were asking someone to do something at work.
Version 3 – With the belief that you deserve to be heard and that you expect to be obeyed.
Listen back to your recordings. What do you notice? Experiment with them and perfect the most effective rendition.
Remember, making good eye contact is important and combine it with your child’s preferred language pattern.
Do you tell them what you DO want or what you DON’T want?
I had a client who came to see me, very tired. Her daughter came into their room every night, got into their bed so she ended up sleeping on the floor because her daughter’s bed was too small.
She said, “Every night when I put her to bed, I tell her DO NOT COME INTO OUR ROOM, but every night she does.”
“What do you want her to do?” I asked.
She repeated that she did not want her to come into their room.
I then said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. But still she insisted that she did NOT want her daughter to come into their room.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, focusing on what you don’t want and it can be hard to change.
I had to make it really clear before she eventually got it. I said, “I know you don’t want her to come into your room, but what DO you want instead?”
At last she realised and said, “I suppose I want her to stay in her own room”. I asked if she’d ever asked her to do that and she admitted that she hadn’t.
The next day, she sent me an email confirming that her daughter had stayed in her own room for the first time and everyone had woken up feeling refreshed for a change.
It is much easier for children to follow what we call a ‘towards’ instruction of what we DO want.
If you don’t believe me…
…DON’T THINK ABOUT PINK ELEPHANTS!
What are you thinking about?
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