learning about tiredness and sleep and rest

Neither of my kids has ever had a bedtime. My daughter also stopped napping when she was just over a year old, so for awhile we had some Very. Long. Afternoons. with a very unhappy little person.

It helped me to remind myself that my kid was in the process of learning about tiredness and sleep and rest, as things in themselves - things over which she sort of had control, and sort of didn't at the same time. And the way children learn is often through experimentation. They don't appreciate being told what to learn or how to learn it ;)

I think that's why kids get so frustrated when adults say "you're tired, you need to sleep" - they don't want to be handed our pre-digested answers, they want to figure it out!

At the same time, it helped me to remember that, generally speaking, people don't like to be miserable. But people also don't like being told that their unhappiness is a sign of doing something wrong. "You're tired, you need to sleep" can come across that way - like saying "if you weren't such a bad driver, you wouldn't have gotten into this accident". Even if it's entirely true, it's the sort of thing that doesn't feel kind or helpful in the moment! So it's really, really important to find ways to be helpful from your child's point of view. And most of the time, that means looking for ways to make it easier for them to do their thing, whatever that is.

That doesn't mean "just letting" kids flounder around in exhaustion, though! It means using our amazing adult superpowers of thinking ahead and planning around the fact that we're living with a little person who's in the middle of learning about rest and fatigue. So yeah, creating routines that help a kid settle down might be part of that... if that's something your kid finds helpful. Or finding ways for a kid to blow off a lot of steam in the evening, if that's more helpful. Or, if you have a kid who's tired during the day, either because of not getting enough sleep the night before or because they've stopped napping, finding ways for your kid to have some more restful time that lets them recoup some energy (and you, too!).

If you've "put" kids to bed in the past, the whole process may be harder for awhile because they're not as open to trusting your motives. You'll need to work harder to prove yourself by avoiding judgmental statements like "you're tired" and instead looking for ways to help your kid cope as kindly and gently as possible. To that end, it could help to brainstorm some things that would help your kid chill out before they're falling-apart tired. Make a list and post it somewhere so that you don't have to try and think when You're falling-apart tired

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