Bedtime Brilliance

Bedtime Brilliance

The seeds of listening were planted long ago. My daughter Betsy at age 23, and the children she worked with reaped the rewards.

For example, Betsy was babysitting one weekend for three children: 5-year-old Adele, 3-year-old Sam and 18-month-old Jimmy (names are changed). When bedtime came around, they all had separate rooms, so with Jimmy on her hip, she got Adele settled first.

Sam was playing in Adele’s room and didn’t want to leave. After a one minute reminder, Betsy said it was time to go to his room to read books. Since they were in a bedtime crunch and she felt pressured, when he came back with a defiant, “No!” she put the toddler down and lifted Sam out of the room. Jimmy toddled after them, whining to be picked back up.

Sam immediately started screaming and kicking to be put down. Closing Adele’s door behind them, Betsy got Sam’s attention by offering a CAN DO starting with his name, “Sam, you want down! I can put you down if when I put you down, you will go into your room by yourself.” He stopped fighting and nodded, so she put him down and picked little Jimmy back up. Though the CAN DO part of her statement helped a little, Sam still felt controlled by the conditions she set, so he ran off to the bathroom instead of his room and flopped down on the floor.

Here’s where Betsy’s brilliance really kicked in. Without any effort, she immediately recognized the move to the bathroom as a move toward cooperation (he hadn’t headed back to his sister’s room!), so this time she responded with a CAN DO that demonstrated trust. She said, “How about this? You can wait in there, in the hall or in your room while I go put Jimmy to bed downstairs. When he is settled, I will come back up and read books to you in your room.” He frowned and said no again, so she took it a step further and and met his need for power by letting him decide where: “Where do you want to wait?”

When Sam said, “Nowhere!” without missing a beat Betsy said, “OK, show me ‘nowhere’.”

He blinked, looked around and then grinned. Children respond to games, so she went on, “I’m going to close my eyes and, when I open them, I want you to be ‘nowhere’.” As she counted, she heard him scamper off to his bedroom!!! The icing on the cake was playing the classic “Where’s Sam?” game as she and Jimmy followed the giggles (reminds me of Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting advice). Having rebuilt their connection through play, she ended the game with one final CAN DO that didn’t feel controlling at all, “We can read in the bed or read on the floor.” Sam chose the bed. Betsy changed her plans for Jimmy and all three read happily together until the books were done. Then Sam rolled over, said good night, and Betsy put Jimmy to bed downstairs. Simple as that.

As foreign as this approach may seem to newcomers, the ability to see cooperation instead of defiance or turn power struggles into games that meet children’s needs is natural for people raised with Language of Listening®. The seeds you plant by modeling SAY WHAT YOU SEE, CAN DOs and STRENGTHs with your children now really do change their lives and the lives of the children they will touch in the future.

Even little ones pick it up right away. What have you seen your children do that surprised you?

1 Comment

  1. Betsy |

    I remember a can-do moment my little cousin had as a toddler. When walking around outside, she encountered a spider. Her mom had recently been bitten by one, so she already had in her head an idea of them as biters. What she did next was so cute and so SWYS: she pointed at the spider, and said, “No spider! You no bite my mommy! You bite the grass!” and stomped off. A can-do alternative, at age 3! I was pretty impressed.

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