Please...Please...Go to SLEEP!

by Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI

Sleep deprived. That's what so many new parents learn is their new way of life after baby comes! Soon baby learns to sleep for longer periods of time but just when you think it is getting better, along comes teething and our sweet little one is up at night even more. , Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution is a very effective and baby-friendly way to help your child learn to get to sleep and sleep well throughout the night.

What if your child is older; a toddler who needs more than a bit of encouragement to enter dreamland? A good solid bedtime routine and some special tools help tremendously. My own Hypnobabies students who are pregnant and have a toddler as well have expressed the need for a way to get their child to sleep at night and naptimes so that they can do their Hypnobabies practice in peace, so I created the Toddler Sleepy-Time Script. (See accompanying script.)

It can be made into a tape using the parent's voice which the child will respond to most readily, and played as he/she is going to bed. The suggestions on it help your little one to fall asleep easily, stay asleep throughout the night and wake up happy and refreshed. These benefits then extend to you as the parents.

There are steps you can take to help ensure success with your child's Sleepy-Time tape.

  1. Running Dialogue: Begin right away talking to your child about everything that is going on throughout his/her day, using their name or nickname as you do, and describing in detail what is going to happen next in a calm, encouraging way. Even babies and very young children understand much more than we give them credit for, and will learn more rapidly what words mean and what is expected of them if we talk to them in more detail.

    Using any person's name when talking to them helps them to pay more attention, and the "waking suggestions" we are giving them are more effective. Examples of this are: "Oh look Suzie, now I am going to get you dressed so we can go to the park. Here are your shorts and pretty shirt, and the shoes that have little ducks on them. See the cute little ducks? (As you dress your child...) Your shirt is pink with polka dots on it, and see, your shorts have a pink stripe on the bottom and I'm putting them on you now. They fit so nicely! They are so comfortable. Now I'm putting your shoes on your feet -- great! Now we're going to get your snacks ready and pick out some toys to take with us. I know you can help me.... Good!" Etc.

    Explaining to your child what is going on just before you do it actually helps "program" them to go along with it. Children up to about the age of 6 to 8 years are very suggestible and these "waking suggestions" become part of their inner consciousness so that getting them to understand what we are saying and do what we want them to do becomes much easier. It may take some effort in the beginning, but soon talking to your toddler in this way will become second nature and you'll see its benefits as your child grows.

  2. Sleep-time Training: In regards to going to sleep, if your child is used to this running dialogue, it fits right into the program to use it for bedtime as well, without using the words, "bedtime, naptime, nap or sleep". These words may already have a negative association to them, so we just avoid them and use other words with the child.

    "OK, Bobby, it's time to pick up our toys now and put them away until tomorrow. Look how we work so well together -- that's right, you're putting the books on the shelf, and I'm putting the blocks in the bucket! Great, now you're going to have a nice bath and you are going to love the warm water...it's going to relax you so much and get you ready to rest and listen to your special tape..." Etc.

  3. Which Words? As you are speaking to your child, always use positive language and tell them exactly what you want them to do. Some of us have the habit of using "negatives'" to express ourselves with, which the inner mind does not like to respond to at all. The word, "Don't" especially gets cancelled out instantaneously and what's left is the negative suggestion, just floating out there. (Here's a fun experiment: Have someone say to you, "DON'T think of a purple gorilla. DON'T think of a purple gorilla." Over and over. Your inner mind cancels out "Don't" and all you can think of is the purple gorilla!)

    So, when talking to children, you want to tell them exactly what the plan is, and not what you don't want them to do. For instance, if I say to my ten-year-old son, "Now, sweetie, I am going to go downstairs and make some popcorn so we can watch our video together and while I'm gone, DON'T jump on your sister's head, aggravate her or make her mad in any way," he just may do exactly what I told him not to, simply from having the suggestion planted there by me, and having the word, "Don't" interjected before the command. However, if I instead said to him, "Now sweetie, I'm going to go downstairs and make some popcorn and I know that you are going to sit right here and keep my spot next to you warm, so that we can watch our video together in a few minutes," I'm telling him what I really want him to do and he is much more likely to just do it!

  4. Bedtime Routine: You must have a pleasant regular bedtime routine, even for naps that is the same every time, so that your toddler can come to expect the same scenario for gearing down and resting. During this routine, you will be explaining everything that is about to happen in a soothing way, without saying "nap, "go to bed, or "sleep". (See #2 above) An example of a great bedtime routine might be:

    • Play soft music in the background while doing activities such as:
    • Picking up the child's toys and putting them away
    • A nice warm bath, limited to about 10 minutes long, without a lot of boisterous play involved
    • Putting on pajamas
    • Reading a book or two
    • Singing a song or two
    • Getting into bed and playing the Toddler Sleepy-Time tape

    Remember, the Toddler Sleepy-Time script has suggestions on it that program your child to begin gearing down as soon as they hear the soft music beginning. It helps them to relax as they prepare to "rest" and fall asleep on their own as well as remain asleep all night long. If you can, put a label on the tape that has your child's name on it and tell him/her that "This is your special tape. It has a wonderful story on it and you will be listening to it and following along with your imagination. It's so fun to listen to your special tape!"

Each child is different and may need a different bedtime routine, yet if your child is prepared for bed in soothing ways and with positive words, along with knowing that when they do get into bed they get to hear their very own Sleepy-Time tape, a well rested atmosphere is much more likely to be the force that drives your family, and fatigue will be a thing of the past. Yay!

Kerry also created the Hypnobabies Home Study Course for women who need self-study options for hypnotic childbirth, and is the author of Pregnancy Hypnosis the Hypnobabies Way, The Introduction to Childbirth Hypnosis Workbook for Professionals, and The Hypno-Doula Training Workbook. The foremost expert in Hypnosis for Childbirth, she is also an international conference speaker and lecturer.

Copyrighted © Kerry Tuschhoff. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.