Getting Your Child to Sleep: The Power of the Sleep Fairy
Sleep problems can be an ongoing struggle between parent and child that leave many adults suffering the effects of sleep deprivation. In this article we offer a solution that has been successfully used by many of our clients.
One night after struggling to put my two and four-year-old to bed, I dragged myself sleepily down the hallway for a moment to be with my husband who was watching the History Channel. I fell to the couch exhausted but waiting for my children to call me from their bedrooms anticipating the up and down of our nightly routine.
As I waited, I focused on the war story in front of me. It was about the prisoners- of-war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Some of the pilots who were shot down over North Vietnam were imprisoned for up to seven years. As they spoke of sleep deprivation, I found myself relating to their symptoms. They felt detached and confused, forgetful and out-of-touch much like I did after four years of sleepless nights. I felt breathless as I realized the prisoner-like state I was in as a parent.
One day, as I made my children’s beds, I came up with a magical idea that blended good psychology (reward systems) and parenting (loving encouragement). That night I sat my children down on the couch in the living room and said, "I've just received notice that the Sleep Fairy is coming our way." My 4-year-old daughter said, "Sleep Fairy? Who's that mommy?" I said, "The Sleep Fairy helps little kids sleep all through the night. And when the little kids sleep through the night, they receive a little treat under their pillows."
Both of my children beamed at the idea that they might wake up to a surprise! I tucked them into bed, read a story, and kissed them goodnight and then said, "Now, you cannot call for me after I say goodnight." That's when my son understood he couldn't play the up and down game anymore. "But mommy," he said. "What if I need you?" To that I replied, "Unless you have hurt yourself, you don't need me. It's time for sleep. But,” I added to be fair "you can tell me you love me anytime."
My children slept through that night. They woke up to a toy car, colored pencils or a small candy and were excited for another opportunity for the Sleep Fairy to visit. Some mornings they didn't make it through the night and the Sleep Fairy did not come. They were disappointed but knew that they had another chance the following night to have a good night’s sleep.You can employ the Sleep Fairy in your home by following these steps:
My children call the Sleep Fairy back ever so often now that they are 6 and 9. My son Dylan usually says, "Mommy, I miss the Sleep Fairy. Can she come to visit?" And, guess what? She always does!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author, Laura Doerflinger, MS, LMHC, is the Executive Director of the Parent Education Group and also the editor of the parenting and family audio books that are available for download at FamilyAuthority.com.
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