Do you have a parenting hurdle you’re working through? If so, “The Parenting Post” is for you! One of our writers, Albiona, has been answering all of YOUR parenting questions over on IG, and we’ve turned her series into blog posts on our website as well. We just can’t get enough of her helpful advice, and we thought you’d appreciate it, too!
Her videos cover a wide variety of parenting questions–honestly, anything and everything! If it’s something you’re wondering, there’s a really good chance that another parent in our community is struggling with it, too. And Albiona is here to help!
This week, she’s focusing on sleep, and how to know if you should make a sleep plan for your child. Every situation and child is different, and you’ll want to make sure to set a doable goal and then build from there! Read on to learn more about how to create a sleep plan for your child.
How do I know if I need to make a sleep plan for my child?
To get started, you need to ask yourself: “Is what we’re currently doing working?” If it works for you, and everyone sleeps well, and it’s supporting good and healthy sleep, then you should keep doing what you’re already doing!
Of course, we want to create an environment where the whole family is getting the sleep that they need so that they can all continue to tackle each day with their best selves. So, if this isn’t happening–if you’re not sleeping–the compound effect of that is really detrimental both to kids and to adults. And it might be time for a sleep plan.
What if I am ready to make a change in our current sleep situation?
Maybe you want to teach your kids to sleep in their own rooms, in their own beds, independently. It’s okay to incentivize sleep. A lot of people would disagree; they feel like incentives are similar to bribes. But I don’t think they are. I define incentives and bribes very differently.
I think in some cases, we need an external motivation piece to help us–as long as it’s aligned with something that is healthy for us. In a sleep plan situation, the intrinsic motivation of developing healthy, strong kids is requiring good sleep. In order to achieve this, we might have to externally motivate them because kids don’t have the moral compass to know whether or not something is the best thing for them or not.
They’re growing, learning, and figuring this all out. We want to help them adapt behaviors that are going to be really healthy for them, and in the long run, it’s going to really set them up for success.
Sleep is one of those things that is so important.
Research tells us time and time again that when kids get chronic poor sleep (not sleeping through the night, not getting enough sleep hours, not getting good restful sleep, etc.), the detriment of that is pretty profound. We start to see learning challenges and emotional disregularity.
Think about yourself: if you have gone days and days and days with poor sleep, you’re in a fog all the time. You’re not able to put your best foot forward. You don’t feel great. You have constant fatigue. Everything feels arduous. Your sustained attention is reduced.
There are so many things that compound as a result of poor sleep. And because children’s brains are still developing, sleep is the area where it really starts to take shape. We want to make sure they’re getting that good quality sleep any which way we can, and a sleep plan can help with that.
What about those incentives?
I’m a firm believer in using incentives to get your kids to adopt healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene. To start, pick something that you know will motivate your child to do the thing you’re asking them to do–for example, you might want them to sleep through the night in their own bed.
For some kids this might be a feasible goal. But what if your child gets up multiple times during the night? This goal might be so big and far away and unreachable that you’re setting them up to fail right from the beginning. Therefore, you’ll want to pick a goal that is tangible, easy to access, and easy to get to.
So how does this work? You can reinforce your child with the incentive that they really want so that they feel motivated to stick with the sleep plan. This is going to take a few days, at least. But start small, and work your way up!
Ideas for Incentives
The incentive should be something that your child doesn’t get regularly, which gives it a really high value and makes it super motivating for them. It doesn’t need to be grand and big (this could actually cause them to not sleep because they’re too excited for it!), but it does need to be something they don’t have access to all the time. And, it should be given to them as soon as they wake up the next day. Here are some examples:
- a treat that they rarely get
- something inside of a mystery box (like a small toy that they love)
- the promise of a really special activity that morning when they wake up
Once you start meeting your child at a goal that is reachable for them, and you can start to reinforce it with the incentive that they really love, you can start adding more onto your sleep plan. The best way to reinforce the sleep behaviors is to attach them to the incentive that is immediate!
It’s All About the Timing
This could happen over a few nights, a few weeks, or even a few months. It’s important to remember that if your child has been sleeping a certain way for an extended period of time, it’s going to take an extended period of time to make the change. Keeping this in mind will help you to shift your mindset and expectations throughout the sleep plan journey so that you don’t walk into it thinking right away that it’s not working. Give it time!
As a last thought here: make sure you think about how doable a sleep plan is in your home. What do you need to be able to facilitate the sleep plan? If you try to do this during a really busy time of year, it might not be the best idea. It’s really going to require a lot from you. You want to be present, you want to be engaged, and you really want to pack your patience so that you can get through some of those harder days that will eventually lead to the better days.
Do you have more parenting questions for Albiona? Leave them below so she can possibly answer them for you. To learn more, you can follow Albiona on Instagram. Or, subscribe to her weekly newsletter and download her free guide for teaching parents how to get their kids to listen.