The Business of Sleep
Updated: Jan 31, 2018
Your Child's Sleep Struggles: Lack of MOTIVATION or lack of SKILL?
In the business world, an efficient manager locates the underperforming employees and then asks one simple question.
Is the unacceptable behavior fueled by a lack of motivation or a lack of skill?
You can see why the answer to this question is so important. Teaching new skills doesn't help the employee who WON'T, and even the best motivation technique doesn't help the employee who CAN'T. The same is true with our kids. While idea of treating your children like employees is laughable, the idea behind the principle has some valuable applications. The truth is this: your child needs to be able to sleep (for everyone's health). Not sleeping is not acceptable. But is it a motivation issue or a skills issue?
Our experiences with adult sleep often cloud our vision when it comes to childhood sleep issues.
Adults who push themselves to the point of exhaustion typically do so because the motivation to sleep is not as strong as the motivation to do something else. Sometimes work, play, or family responsibilities (that's for you, new mommy) take precedence. That's the reality of "adulting" and it's not all bad. The crying baby SHOULD be more important. The problem is that our adult perception of sleep seeps over into our interpretation of our children's sleep issues. Here are just a few examples of things that I hear every day that show how we as a culture perceive infant sleep problems as a motivation issue. The most common is the idea that babies who sleep well are "good" babies, and babies who don't are "mischievous" or "stubborn". Other common phrases include:
"She just doesn't like her crib."
"He wants to play in the middle of the night."
"She has always taken short naps because she's afraid to miss out on the fun."
"You can tell he's the baby of the family."
"We've created a monster."
The parents that say these things are well-meaning and certainly love their children. You may be one of them! To these parents I would say, consider the possibility that your little one's struggles are not caused by lack of motivation. This could be why bribes, threats, and pleas won't work.
It's not that baby doesn't like her bed, she just doesn't know what it's for.
It's not that baby wants to play, it's that he legitimately does not understand that he needs to be lying down to go to sleep.
It's not that she's spoiled, it's just that she doesn't know how to find sleep without nursing, or rocking, or riding in the car.
Sleep coaching is not about disciplining bad behavior, it is about teaching fundamental skills for independence and health.
Trust me when I say that baby does not lack motivation. Think of the tears, the clinginess, the fussiness, the tantrums, the dietary issues, the developmental delay, and the sadness upon waking. Baby does NOT need any more motivation. He just needs the skills.