How to get your kids to go to bed on time

Are you doing the Back to School Happy Dance! YEAH!!  woo-hoo!

via GIPHY

But oh my what a pain it is to get kids to go to bed at night, so they can be on time for school in the morning.

Last spring, I wrote a blog about how to get kids out of bed in the morning so now seems like the perfect time to write about how the heck to get them to bed.

Here’s the problem: Some kids are easy. They just go to bed. This sets us up with the expectation that ALL kids should easily just go to bed. Combine our expectation that it be easy, with our own end-of-day fatigue, and you’ve got a recipe for conflict and drama.

If you struggle to get your kids to bed on time, read through these steps and see where you can focus your attention to help you get a peaceful evening routine.

The first step

is to accept that your child just doesn’t like going to bed, without blame or frustration. Being a night owl, and taking a long time to wind down at night, are wired into us. What makes people sleepy is when certain hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, rise during the day, and drop at night. Lots of things can mess with this hormone production: not getting enough exercise or daylight, getting too much blue light from screens, or artificial light after dark. When puberty hits, and stress of any kind, these hormones can get out of whack. It’s not always our kid’s fault if they are up until midnight and can sleep until noon. If you start trying to change your child’s bedtime routine by trying to change something you have no control over, you will frustrate yourself. Acceptance and compassion must come first.

The second step

is to get your kids on board with the idea. As you may have noticed, you cannot make someone go to sleep who doesn’t want to. Pay attention to what motivates your child. Some kids are motivated to please their parents and like being seen as responsible. (How awesome is that? If this is you, enjoy it!)

For the rest of us, we have to get clever. Some kids are motivated by fun, (and watching mom lose her sh*t at bedtime is entertainment for them!). Other kids are motivated with bribes (“I’ll give you a $1. if you are in bed before 9:30, but $5. if you are in bed by 9:00.” You can encourage going to bed without complaining by rewarding with treats in tomorrow’s lunchbox. If you have a kid that is motivated by power, partner with them to design a bed time routine that works for both of you, making sure they think it’s all their idea.

Many Supermoms can get caught up with an idealistic picture of what the bedtime routine should look like: reading books, cuddles, pillow talk, but if this isn’t working for you it’s time to let it go. My daughter hated reading (so much for the years I spent as a reading specialist.) Instead, we played games before bed for about 8 years. Now that she’s in high school and I’m older than dirt, I want to go to bed earlier than she, so we had to switch up our bedtime routine using step 3.

The third step

is all about making your home conducive to sleep. I remember one power outage we had. After our makeshift dinner, we hung out by candlelight, talked, played charades, and all 4 of us were SO SLEEPY and ready for bed. When we checked the clock it was only 7:30pm! Melatonin is released when it gets dark outside. If you want your kids to get sleepy, turn off the stimulation. Fast moving images on TV and video games, release chemicals in the brain that tell us to wake up and get moving. Try making it darker in your home an hour before bedtime. Light candles, take baths, play music or just turn the wi-fi off all together.

With our constantly wired world, sleep rates are dropping for kids and teens, making it even harder for moms to get kids up and out of bed in the morning.  The first step in improving the morning routine, is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. By accepting the things you cannot change with compassion, understanding what motivates our children, and creating an environment conducive to sleep, you can create a more peaceful morning and evening for your whole family.

Are you looking for support establishing routines that work for you and your family? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

When a sensitive teen enters puberty

We all start out listening to our own internal compass. If Great Aunt Mary wants us to hug her, and we don’t want to, we won’t. If a movie is too loud, we will cry, hide, or just walk out. If we want to wear our favorite Dora the Explorer pajamas everyday, no amount of criticism will change our mind.

When puberty starts, along with it comes an increased social awareness: what’s in, what’s out, what’s cool, what’s not. During the ages of 12-16, peer acceptance becomes very important. We are learning to separate from our parents, but we aren’t strong enough to stand on our own so peers become our safety net until we achieve independence. The ability to tune into social cues and interpret meaning becomes key to enjoying the adolescent years. If your child is on either end of this “social cues spectrum”, he or she may start having difficulties at school. 

On the far side of the spectrum are kids who have difficulty understanding social cues, missing nuances, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions and interpreting meaning. They may have a diagnosis like Autism or Aspergers, higher testosterone, or just be more cerebral and “left brain” dominant. School counselors can be very helpful for these kids, taking the subtle and making it clear and concrete.

I like to work with the teens and adults who lie on the other end of the spectrum, HIGH empathy kids. These kids notice EVERY subtlety and can soak up other people’s energy like a sponge. Sensitive kids with high empathy can be very social, but find themselves exhausted with too much social activity, sometimes feeling anxious or depressed when left alone. They have a hard time differentiating their emotions, from everyone else’s, and may find the company of animals and children easier to deal with.sensitive-teen

It’s common for sensitive teens, preteens, and adults, to assume the negative. When we tune in to the people around us, it’s easy to notice someone or something is “off”. Maybe it’s a delayed reaction time, maybe it’s a surprising tone of voice, maybe it’s that the words didn’t match the emotion behind them. Any of these subtle nuances can make a sensitive person’s radar go off and question “What was that about?”  Empathic kids (or adults who haven’t learned to manage their energy) can feel really bothered by this, they may get physically weak, tired, sick with headaches or stomachaches, get nervous or anxious. Our brain goes to work trying to solve the puzzle of “What was that about?” and we often end up making it mean something negative about us: “I said the wrong thing.” “She’s mad at me.” “I hurt her feelings.” “People don’t like me.”

It’s important to acknowledge your intuition and respect that it picked up on the fact that “something is off”. We were born with this intuitive ability to sense danger and it’s a valuable skill set to have. (Your intuition is always calm and easy to ignore, your brain is hard to ignore and keeps repeating itself, don’t mix the two.) Our job is to respect our inner compass sensing “something is off” and manage our mind to think thoughts that are true and helpful. The adolescent years are when negative self talk really explodes so it’s important to make sure we aren’t telling ourselves horrible things about our appearance, our intelligence, our futures and our failures.

Beware of invisible assumptions. You may have no idea why her words didn’t match her emotions. It could be she was distracted, she had a bad morning, was worrying about an upcoming test, just started her period, drank three red bulls, we don’t know. If you are going to allow your brain to answer “What was that about?”, make sure it’s something that feels good to you like, “I don’t know but I know I care about my friend’s feelings.” “She’s having an off day and that’s ok.” “I can still like me, even if she doesn’t.”

Just because you didn’t want to hug Great Aunt Mary, didn’t mean she was an evil person, or that you were rude for not wanting to hug her. Just because the volume of the movie was too loud for you, didn’t mean you are wimpy. And you, refusing to wear anything other than your Dora the Explorer pajamas, doesn’t make you weird, unless you like believing that you are weird. Your inner compass is here to get your attention and guide you, but you get to decide what you make it mean.

Help kids overcome their fears

I am in Costa Rica, getting ready to zip line over the canopy of trees and I am NERVOUS. I’ve got my harness and helmet on, feeling the natural fear of being VERY high up and doing something very unnatural to humans. I tell myself, “freaking out is a choice”. I access my logic with the question, “What’s the mathematical probability of something bad happening?” I remind myself, “I get to choose how I want to think and feel right now”. I decide to focus on this really cool opportunity to see what it feels like to be a bird. 

Once I take off and am flying through the trees like a bird, the thought comes to me, “I have always wanted to do this. This is my dream coming true.” 

Oh yeah, with all the fear, I had forgotten that. 

But while I am using all my tools to deal with fear, I’m watching others, drop like flies.

Not out of the sky, thankfully, but off the platform, out of line, and back onto solid ground. Teens and tweens, crying unconsolably or standing frozen with fear. Moms and Dads doing their best to reassure, convince, console and talk their kids out of their freak out. None of these parents had the capacity to override the reptilian part of their kid’s brain. The reptilian brain is the part that hyjacks the more intellectual parts of our brain and can only focus on fight, flight or freeze.

Have you ever been in this situation? Your kid is too scared to ride a roller coaster, or be left alone in the house, or talk to someone they don’t know, or eat a vegetable, or other scary, yet typical hallmarks of childhood?

When the reptilian brain kicks in, it’s pretty hard for a parent to override it with logic. In fact, none of these parents I’m watching on the zip, line were successful. All these kids ended up walking back down, or refusing to step up to the platform, surrendering to their fear.

So what is a parent to do when their kid is scared? How can we encourage them to be brave, in a way that actually works?

The important thing to remember is to be respectful of their fears. Life is full of scary, vulnerable things and we want our kids to learn how to overcome their fears. This is a VERY important life skill and one worthy of respect.

The trick is to help kids shift out of fight/flight/freeze response so they can make a decision from their higher brain. Helping kids calm down is first priority. Bring them away from the immediate threat and speak to your scared kiddos with a calm, confident voice. Don’t try to talk your child out of his fears, instead listen with respect, almost reverence. Then repeat what you hear them saying, adding in these key words: YOUR BRAIN. As in, “Your brain is telling you that you could die.” or “It sounds like your brain is thinking this spider can harm you.”

When children avoid their fears, it can encourage anxiety, so we don’t want to let them off the hook entirely. Once you’ve calmed them down, try asking your child, “What would make you feel more comfortable?” or “What’s one small step you can take towards overcoming your fear, that would make you feel proud of yourself tomorrow?”

Fears are a natural and beneficial part of being human. When kids get to work through them one at a time, at their own pace, they will slowly learn to manage their reptilian brain, take risks that align with their values, and learn how much fun there is to be had on the other side of their fears 🙂

Pura Vida! 

letting go of worry

He got cell service on a hike and texted me this. Amazing.

My son was leaving to go camping for 3 nights in Yosemite with his friends. I have been SO GOOD about not worrying or micromanaging, like seriously, they don’t even have a camping reservation. Ever since I started doing research into the skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression in teens, I’ve been much more cautious about putting my worries onto my kids.

My son is 18 years old. A man who makes his own decisions. He’s camped before. He knows what he needs. So I don’t go over his packing list with him. I want to communicate enthusiasm and show that I trust him. So I sneak things in….

“What’s the weather going to be like in Yosemite?”  He answers “probably nice”.  “Did you check? Sometimes it snows in the mountains in June.” (He looks it up! Yeah! 40 degrees at night, Score 1 for Mom!)

I say, “I know you aren’t planning on cooking while camping, do you want to bring that box of granola bars from the pantry?” “Sure” he replies. (He grabs one. For four days. Score 1 for the teen)

After he’s left, I notice his warm North Face jacket still in the closet. I text him, “Your jacket is here. I’m worried you aren’t going to be warm enough.”  “I’ll be fine”, he says, “I brought a long sleeved shirt and a windbreaker.” ……me, silently aghast…. “Can you ask your friend to just throw an extra sweatshirt in the car, just in case?” (He doesn’t, and he never got cold. Score 1 for the teen)

Me….squeezing one more text in before he goes out of cell range….“Do you know what to do if you see a bear?”  “Yes, Mom” He replies. (the old me would have told him what to do, showed him youtube videos or warnings so I’m giving myself a 1/2 point for this one). I don’t even remind him not to keep food in the tent. Or say 3 people have already died in Yosemite this year. Or tell him not to wander off a waterfall. So proud.

Over-parenting is fear based parenting. It can make our teens not want to listen to us, it can increase anxiety and depression in kids because they pick up the message that world is scary, can’t be trusted, and that they aren’t strong or capable enough to handle adversity.

So what if my teen gets hungry?!  So what if he gets cold?!  This is how they learn what they are actually made of. Right!?

I felt totally justified in my worrying. I felt like I was being a typical MOM. That it’s my role and responsibility to worry about his safety and well being.

But maybe it’s time for Moms to teach without FEAR. Could I have gone over his packing list with enthusiasm, instead of presuming he’d forget something?  Just because my brain starts looking for everything that could go wrong, doesn’t mean I should communicate it to him.

Some schools are deliberately putting kids into adverse environments, forcing them outside of their comfort zones in order to build self reliance, resourcefulness and confidence. I love this idea. Over parenting has helped our teenagers live cushy lives where they don’t get to test their mettle in the real world. Maybe a little constructive adversity is just what they need to thrive in this dynamic world?

And maybe I can start by letting go of worry, trusting that we live in a safe and wonderful world, with many helpful people.

He ended up having a great time and everything went perfectly. (Score 100 for the teen)

 

 

 

How to influence your teen

Today’s question comes from a Mom of a teenager:

Q – I know friends can be a big influence on teenagers. How can I still be a strong influence on my teen?

A – For this answer I turned to the experts. Those who have made their careers (and earn big money) motivating, influencing and inspiring others. What I found is two words that get your teen to listen to you and pay attention to what you have to say: Bold Enthusiasm. Watch the video below to learn how to communicate with bold enthusiasm to your teen and be a positive and powerful influence in their life.