Parents Need to be Good Listeners Too!
“But MOOOOOM, I just need YOU. I don’t need a light, I don’t need a stuffed animal, or you in the next room….Mom, I just need you!” – My son, 5 years old, 8:30pm after an hour of call outs and bed time shenanigans. The worst part was that he’d told me earlier but I didn’t listen.
4:30pm – We get back from school and afternoon play and it is “GO” time. Turn the show on for the kids, unpack the bags, get dinner started, change the laundry or the kids won't have clothes for school tomorrow. A request for cuddles from the 5 year old, “One minute honey, let me just take out the trash.” Go, go, go. Check the emails, call the doctor before they close, change the sheets on the 3 year old’s bed because he peed through his pull up last night.
5:30pm – Come eat dinner! I’m not eating with them because honestly I need all of my focus to get them to eat their dinner and frankly I really look forward to eating dinner without small children. It’s something I allow myself most nights and 5:30pm is a little early for me to eat dinner anyway. The dog is “snuffing” at me, get up and let the dog out. Get up and let the dog in…he’s still “snuffing”, get up and feed the dog. Clear the plates, run the bath.
6:00pm - Bath time! Wrestle them into the bath. Go do the dinner clean up and get lunches ready for tomorrow. “Moooooom, come sit with us!” “Be right there guys, no splashing!” Take laundry out of the dryer and fold it quickly, they are in the tub and they are getting along, I have a few more minutes! Out of the tub, dry off, comb hair, pajamas.
6:30pm - Last chance show and last chance snack. Go drain the tub, what is that pee? Get the Swiffer wet and mop the bathroom floor. Another request for cuddles from the 5 year old. “One minute buddy, just finishing up in here.” Remember you need to write a check for the gardener, go find checkbook. The dog needs to go out again. They want water. Go get water. Cuddles? One second dude, let me just go put on a more comfortable shirt. Show is over.
7:00pm - Time for a book and a song or two. Sit in the little one’s bed because he is unpredictable and can’t be trusted during this time.
7:20pm - Good night guys. A request for cuddles from the 5 year old. “Ok buddy you can have some hugs but you know that it makes your brother get out of bed when I lay down with you so I can’t stay long.” A very quick cuddle and I am out.
“Mom, come back I need you.” Good night, go to sleep.
“Mom, I feel lonely.” You have all of your stuffed animals and your brother with you, go to sleep.
“Mom, come in here, I am feeling scared.” You are safe. I am just in the next room, go to sleep.
“Mom, please!” I’ll put an extra night light on, there, go to sleep.
8:30pm - “But MOOOOOM, I just need YOU. I don’t need a light, I don’t need a stuffed animal, or you in the next room….Mom, I just need you! I asked you all day!”
Children do not respond well to unmet needs, they are far too innocent to accept that a need will not be met and so they persist, often resulting in undesirable behavior. Many times our children tell us what they need from us and we just don’t hear it over the clutter of the day. Emotional wellbeing is a large component of a child’s ability to release his/her day and slip into sleep. Often, when we address the emotional well being of a child we see improvement in sleep without any behavioral intervention at all. So, the next time your 3 year old gets out of bed an hour after bedtime to tell you something seemingly inane about his/her day, think about how much time you spent talking to your 3 year old today? Or this week? Maybe he/she just needs a little more you….and a little less laundry.