Ever since my youngest daughter turned three years old recently, she thinks she has stepped into a “big girl world” and has been refusing naps like crazy! I know, how ironic for a child sleep consultant right? The one big change is her cot to bed transition. She’s now sleeping in her big girl’s bed and she is so proud of it which is now set up side by side with her elder sister’s bed. My eldest who is turning six in a couple of weeks, has obviously stopped napping a long time ago. Like all other younger siblings, my younger daughter looks up and idolises her older sister so much.
Hence the big girls don’t need to nap issue arises.
Not only was this situation happening at home, it was also happening at daycare. When I pick them up, her teacher would tell me that Amelyn refused to nap. When it was time to nap, she’d throw a big fuss! The poor teacher had to soothe her, held Amelyn in her arms where she finally fell asleep. I thought this was a one-time affair, but I found out that this was happening almost every time they had to stay back at daycare after school. This went on for a week.
I tried talking to her, gently reminding her about it but nothing changed. She’d still cry at the mention of “nap time” in daycare.
Since I’ve been applying a lot of the ‘play’ element into my sleep consulting work with my clients, I decided try it on Amelyn as well. So we play a lot of power-reversal games at home – her favorite is “magic pillow” where she would gently hit me with a magic pillow, and then I fall dramatically to the floor. She finds it so funny to see how “weak” I get when she touches me with this pillow. My eldest also joins this game. This brings out lots of giggles and laughter. When this happens, their emotional tension is released and they are most likely to cooperate with me.
After that, I pulled Amelyn aside and I got down to her level to make eye contact. I said I had a story about a princess and asked her if she would like to hear it. She nodded gleefully. Since Frozen is their recent craze, I used the two princesses as the main story. Princess Elsa and Princess Anna go to the same school, but because Elsa was the bigger sister and had power, she didn’t have to take a nap. But Anna, being the younger one, still needed to take a nap because the naps would help her be stronger and powerful like Elsa. So when the teachers at school said, “it’s time to take a nap little princesses”, everybody including Anna must take a nap. But, when Princess Anna is at home, she could skip her naps if she didn’t feel like it but she had to go to bed much earlier than usual.
She listened intently to my story. Then at the end of it she said, “Princess Anna is me!”
So we recapped the story again but this time I asked what Princess Anna should do when the teacher said it’s nap time? She said Princess Anna must sleep. It felt so liberating when she cooperated and understood the message. I didn’t even have to go into any struggle!
The next day, I gently reminder her again about the story on the way to school. When I picked my children up later that day, I asked her teacher if she had taken a nap. The teacher told me that she went to the room without any protest or crying. She was so amazed by it. I told her what I did and she was impressed.
This is definitely a win-win situation for both me and Amelyn. Amelyn has gained confidence by being given a choice at home whether to nap when she feels like she needs it. She no longer feels powerless with the situation at her daycare. I no longer need to get into a power struggle at home with naps but I would have the final say when I see that she needs her nap.
That’s my story to share about my experience with the power of play and symbolic story with young children to gain cooperation and helping them through nap difficulties.
What ways have you used to creatively get your child to cooperate? Please share in the comments below.
(Note: This post was originally published on 27 April 2014)
Image Credit: Flickr user TheJBird