Photo credit: NeONBRAND, Unsplash.com

This is the first in a three-part series about the finest moments with my daughter, so far…

We were the luckiest parents in the Universe when it came to our daughter’s sleep habits. She literally slept like a baby… until just before she turned 4-years-old…

One night, she got out of her bed and just started to hang out upside down on her rocking chair doing all kinds of gymnastics. When I went into the room and asked what she was doing, quite angrily, she said: “I can’t sleep!” I said: “Maybe you should try again because it’s really late and you are very tired.”

She got even angrier and one hell of a battle ensued…

Eventually, I found an opportune moment to gently pick her up. She didn’t resist but she sure kept her upper body far away from me battling with that raging anger.

My daughter: “I tried five times already.”

Trying to divert her attention – distraction used to work like a charm when she was younger — I said: “How much is five times?” She showed me ten fingers.

Me: “That’s ten.” My daughter, exasperated: “I tried ten times!”

We sat down on her bed, my daughter in my lap, still holding her upper body far away from me, and I asked her:  “What’s going on? What makes you so mad?”

She replied: “You’re not nice!”

I said: “I came back to your room, didn’t I?”

My daughter: “But you are NOT nice.”

Me: “What would I have to say or do to be nice?” She mumbled something I didn’t quite get ending in “I can’t sleep”. And, to be completely honest, I dismissed it.

And, still not getting it, I said: “Ok, I think you can try to sleep one more time after I tickle your back.” Yep, the good old bribe… To my surprise, she repeated: “See, you’re NOT NICE!”

Me, sincerely this time: “What should I have said to be nice?”

And here it was. She said: “When children say ‘I can’t sleep,’ grown-ups say ‘You can’t sleep!’ ”

And it finally hit me: how could I forget to acknowledge what she was saying and validate her fear?! It is coaching 101 after all!

So, I finally did: “You are absolutely right, sweetie. When you say you can’t sleep, I say you can’t sleep. I’m so sorry! I know these monsters are very scary to you – they would be to any little girl!”

And the tension left her and, with a sigh of relief, she hugged me real tight. We then talked about her bad dreams and I acknowledged and validated her feelings about the monsters… acknowledged and validated why they were scary and what we could do about them — at least until she was convinced she might have power over them and was willing to try to sleep again.

She fell asleep within minutes of me leaving the room.

Never underestimate the power of acknowledging and validating how one feels — leaving judgements and assumptions at the door.

And while you’re at it: let go of the parental guilt as well. It is normal to forget the basics from time to time. Live (Lead Play) and Learn!

Credit: The concepts inherent in this article are the author’s interpretation of materials issued by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).