Well-known parent author and educator, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, in her book, Sleepless in America, asks, “Is your child misbehaving or missing sleep?” Kurcinka says, “Behind every power struggle, every temper tantrum, every instance of misbehavior, there is a feeling and need—too often that need is sleep. It’s easy to miss the connection between the poor behavior and lack of sleep, thrown off by the whining, the attitude, and tears.”
It’s hard to believe that missing a half hour of sleep here; an hour there would make a difference to our child’s body. But the reality is that it does. It makes such a huge difference that parents sometimes accept their child’s behaviors as their child’s personality rather than a red flag that their child may be sleep deprived.
Here are some things for you to evaluate about your child to help you determine if they are missing sleep:
- Get frustrated easily
- Have a difficult time with transitions
- Have a hard time getting calm and getting comforted
- Become anxious and resistant
- Are irritable and cranky about the little things
Children have a true desire to cooperate and connect. When given the opportunity children respond very well to choices. They enjoy being a helper. They can handle the word NO, within reason.
From my personal experience I can’t tell you what a difference sleep makes. And yes, just because I’m a sleep coach does not mean sleep is always perfect in my home. I have the same battles and challenges as other parents.
The important piece that makes a huge difference is when I take a look at the situation to evaluate “why we are experiencing these particular behaviors?”
Which 9 times out of 10 is our fault because we have chosen to push the limits with the kids running errands, going out to dinner, staying later at a play date, visiting with family and the list could go on and on…. I realize that life happens and we can’t always be restricted, so when we make these exceptions, we try to make them on a Friday or Saturday night when the school week won’t be effected. We try to help keep the boys regulated with good sleep to eliminate the daily power struggles. We also don’t try to introduce new things when our boys are missing sleep. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to us. Everyone loses his or her cool and that is not a part of a peaceful parenting journey.
So the goal shouldn’t be that we are perfect parents with perfect sleep, but that we are conscious and realize that the choices we make may impact our children more deeply especially these first 5-6 years of their life when they are growing and developing so rapidly.
Yes, we do want adaptable, flexible children but we might not be providing them those opportunities to demonstrate those abilities if they are missing sleep and they can’t be there very best!
Well-rested children are more adaptable and can go with the flow when needed. After reviewing your child’s sleep needs, are they misbehaving or just missing sleep? Not sure, review a more comprehensive checklist here.