Bedtime Stalling with Rachel Lounder

parents sleep voyv Oct 19, 2023

00:00:00 Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village, and today I get to hang out with one of my favorite humans, our first ever SEED employee, Rachel Lounder, to chat about bedtime stalling. This is something we've been talking about a lot over at the SEED team, behind the scenes, as all of our kids have gone through some bedtime stalling and pushback, and it is a doozy to navigate. So we get to dive into what it looks like, where it's coming from, and what you can do as you move through it. Remember, over at SEED, we are not a one -size -fits -all approach for anything, including sleep. We support folks who are sleeping in all different ways, and whatever works for your family, we help folks access safe sleep in a number of different ways, really focused on connection and emotional development, and really getting kids and families the sleep that they need to thrive. It's a cornerstone for regulation. I'm so glad that you're here and diving into this, and I hope it's helpful for you. I would love to hear your thoughts and more from you on what your big takeaways were, what resonated, and what you want to dive deeper into. Come on over and share about it, tag us and let me know. Let's continue the conversation in DMs. All right, folks, let's dive in.

00:01:34 Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.

00:01:58 Alyssa

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with one of my favorite pals. You know her well, Rachel Lounder. Rachel used to run our sleep program and our sleep Instagram that I know, I know you all ask for it to come back, and it's not coming back, and I'm so sorry, but we will continue to put out sleep resources as we always have and provide sleep support for y 'all. But Rachel's here to hang out with me today and chat about bedtime stalling.

00:02:34 Rachel
Yeah, such a fun topic for caregivers.

00:02:40 Alyssa
I, it was so funny because I was on the call right before this with someone on our team who was like, yeah, can't wait to hear that episode, really should use it right now. Add the back to school sleep stuff is tough. Yeah, it's so real. And so I want to chat first about like, what ages do we generally see bedtime stalling kind of pick up?

00:03:04 Rachel
Yeah, so we start to see bedtime stalling pick up in older toddlers. Like when infants aren't falling asleep, it's not because they're like, I don't want to go to sleep. I want to play. It's like, they need support, whatever. Older toddlers, preschool, school age kids, eight year olds, like the one that lives in my house. Yeah, so kind of like older toddlers up in through elementary school.

00:03:32 Alyssa
Yeah, perfect. I think it's helpful to have that expectation when you're like in it and you're like, what is going on here? We've had this routine that's been working fine and now all of a sudden, which brings me to the all of a sudden part of this. What are some things that can kind of cause an uptick in bedtime stalling if you're like, yeah, we didn't have any of this and then all of a sudden?

00:03:55 Rachel
Sure, so like we were just saying, big life transitions, back to school, new caregiver, schedule changes, coming back from travel, all of these things. And the other thing that can cause an uptick in this, but tends not to be so sudden, tends to be more of like a gradual buildup of bedtime stalling is sleep needs changing as kids get older. This was a discussion I was actually just having with my husband about our oldest. She's eight and she's always been a low sleep needs kid. And it seems like right now what her body needs is nine hours overnight, which is the low range of normal for her age. And honestly sucks for our family rhythm right now. And we have to do some rearranging, but I think it's important for parents to know that like sometimes we see stalling and we focus on like, this is a behavior that I need to figure out how to address. And sometimes it's not, sometimes it's biology or development and it's not something that's going to change. When their sleep needs get lower as they're aging, we can't force them to stick with that sleep schedule that's working so well for our family that we're all used to. We have to shift it to meet their needs for their biology.

00:05:21 Alyssa
Totally. And I think the hard part of that is that it ebbs and flows, right? Like then you move into the teenage years and they often need more sleep than they did. And it's being, it's all of parenting. You're like, I figured this out and then it changes.

00:05:33 Rachel
Then it changes immediately.

00:05:35 Alyssa

Oh, what the heck. We started to notice like some bedtime stalling with Sagey probably just after two -ish. And it would be him, like we had a pretty set routine and all of a sudden he was like, I want to read another book or don't want to go to the chair, which is like we go over to the chair and put on his sleep sack and read his last book. And I want to read it on the ground, right? Like it was just like these pushing back and what we realized was like, okay, at first, like, the first couple of times we're like, sure bud, we'll read a book on the ground and then go to the chair. And it started to get like too wishy -washy where he very clearly was telling us like, I need to know where the boundary is. I need to know what you're going to do next so that I know like if I push here, what changes? If I push there, what changes? And I think that's one thing with boundaries is that you can like have this routine and then every once in a while they push back against it, right? Is it still the same when we're traveling? Is it the same when grandma's in town? Is it the same when someone's sick or you're at work at night? Like, what does that look like? And those times I think we can tend to be like, oh, you know, like we'll have a different plan tonight. Like grandma's in town, things are going to be different. And then we can fall into this like, okay, but what is the routine? And then they keep pushing more and more.

00:06:59 Rachel
Right, and it's like, they're saying like, are we going to get back on track or is this the new, is this the new thing where I get to kind of like decide what goes down here? And it's tough because it seems like, okay, yeah, they want to like sit on the floor to read instead of go in the chair. So I'm just going to do that. But that sometimes can make kids feel insecure at bedtime. And like, crap, I don't know what to expect now because like yesterday mom said, okay, we'll read the book on the floor. Today she's insisting we read it in the chair. Like what's going on here? Consistency is so key. And it's tough too because there's a little detective work, right? Cause it's like, are they just pushing the boundary to see if I will hold it or are they ready for a different like wake window and I need to shift bed timing. So there are some detective work like troubleshooting steps involved in figuring out what your kid needs.

00:07:55 Alyssa
That's what I love about our sleep course is that, well, you know, we don't believe in a one size fits all. So I just don't believe that's how humans are made and anyone who's ever interacted with another human knows that we're all different. And when we're looking at this in our sleep course, we really guide people through like the sleep science and the sleep pressure, those wake windows and all that jazz and then go into behavior last because I want to make sure that we're setting kids up for success. That if you have a kid who is coming to bed who is not actually that tired. I just had this conversation with someone on our team the other day has a almost five -year -old. This kid hasn't napped in a couple of years. And then their child was at school, at childcare and came home and they're doing bedtime. And she just like massive bedtime resistance for like two hours. She's like, I know she woke up early this morning. She should be tired. What is going on? And she was like, mom was like, I'm annoyed that we're at this point. It's like two hours in. And I was like, totally, that's really annoying. Makes total sense to be annoyed. You're like, I need to tap out. My day needs to be done. What is going on? And then the next day at drop -off she brings her kid to school and they were like, oh, I forgot to tell you, she napped yesterday. And mom was like, okay, great. Yeah, would have been nice to know yesterday. And also please do not let her nap at school because it totally changes then bedtime, right? And I think that troubleshooting is so important, the detective side of it. If you set these boundaries and put them in place and there's still this resistance, then there's something else going on. With when we're setting, when we're seeing the bedtime resistance. So I wanna walk through a couple of different age groups and how we can approach that. Let's say like it is this boundary pushing and that's where the bedtime stalling is coming from. Sometimes boundary pushing, I'm gonna loop in there too. Like with the transitions, we can see like fear or anxiety kind of spike a little bit. Separation anxiety can spike there. I wanna walk through what this might look like at different ages and stages and how to support kids through it. So if we're looking at that, like two, three year old range and we're seeing kids do this pushback, what are some ways that people can move through this?

00:10:21 Rachel
Sure. So something that tends to be really helpful is to nail down a really specific bedtime routine, which you actually have a great one with Sage. Do you wanna talk to us about your routine?

00:10:34 Alyssa
Yeah, we go up and we most nights do tubby, but we'll always brush teeth. And then we go into his room and we put on his diaper for sleeping and jammies. And then he picks books. We do two books. We'll do a book on the ground and then we move up into like the glider, rocking chair, read a book there and he gets his sleep sack on and he has a binky and slothy there. And we read a book, our last book, and then we talk. And our talking is like his favorite part usually. We highlight anything from that day. So I try to focus on like, if I have something to acknowledge, like, oh man, earlier today when we were coming in from outside, I was feeling really overwhelmed and I was not kind. And I'm really sorry. I'm trying to figure out what to do when I'm feeling overwhelmed so I can be kind to you. Next time I'm gonna take some deep breaths. So I might do a little repair sesh there, which usually is connecting for us at bedtime. And then I'll prep him or I'll just acknowledge like, wow, I had so much fun with you today, buddy. It was really fun going to the farm and I loved watching you like beep the horn, yada, yada, just like a connecting moment. And then we prep for tomorrow. So tomorrow is a Nana day or it's a school day or it's a mama dada day. And like letting him know what, just like who's gonna be there basically tomorrow and a rough plan for the morning, not like in the whole day plan, but like a rough plan for the morning. And then we turn on the sound and turn off the light and I sing him a song and I put him in his crib. And he lately wants to hold my hand for one more song. And so we did that. He went through a phase with the bedtime resistance where everything was pushed and he just was like, stay with me and just hold my hand. And we were saying for a little while and finally it got to the point where it was like, this doesn't seem to be helping him. Like it felt more distracting that I was there. And so I told him like, tonight I'm gonna hold your hand for one song and then I'm going to leave your room and I'm gonna get ready for bed too. We're all gonna go to sleep. He likes to know what we're gonna do.

00:12:46 Rachel That makes sense.

00:12:49 Alyssa
And totally, he's like, are you partying? Are you partying without me?

00:12:54 Rachel
And also how long are you gonna be gone before you come back and check on me?

00:12:58 Alyssa
Totally. And so I would put him in his crib and sing one song. And I usually do the same songs. My husband does two different songs. Like they don't all have to be the same things, but for me and him, like I do the same one in the chair, the same one in the crib. And now it's to the point where like, after I finished the song, he like squeezes my hand once and he lets it go. And he just rolls over in his crib. And at first though, he would like, it wasn't like that, right? Like I would say like, all right, buddy, I'm gonna go. And I would walk away and he would cry. And I would say, I'm gonna go brush my teeth and then I'll come check on you. And for him, like knowing I'm coming back, having that set, like here's when you're coming back. And I would go check on him. Sometimes I would sing him one more song and sometimes I would repeat that same practice that worked best for him.

00:13:47 Rachel
Yeah, so that kind of concrete specific and predictable routine tends to be really helpful for kids in preventing bedtime stalling or addressing it. The other thing that can be helpful is to have some kind of visual timer. I really like the time timer. I know you're a fan of it too. It has like, well, they can be different colors but essentially like you turn the timer and as the time goes down, this like bright wedge of color starts to disappear, right? So kids can look and see like, okay, my time is starting to get lower and lower. So if you have a child who is experimenting with trying to extend certain parts of the bedtime routine, then it can be like, okay, I'm gonna set the timer for three minutes and then I will pick the books. If you don't choose them before the timer goes off, and it's never like a threat and it's not a punishment. It's just very matter of fact, like this is the timeframe for choosing books. And if you choose not to do it during that time, I'll grab them for you. And that can kind of help kids to understand that we are gonna follow through on what the timeline is and they're not in trouble and we're not mad.

00:15:02 Alyssa Correct.

00:15:02 Rachel
But there's three minutes to choose books.

00:15:05 Alyssa
Yeah, and one thing was Sage too, when he was like, no, I wanna read on the floor because he didn't wanna go to the chair at all because he knew like, then this is gonna end. Like, that's the last step. I would say like, all right, buddy, you don't have to come yet. I'm gonna go sit in the chair and read a book. And if you wanna come, like that's our last book for today. So if you wanna come read it with me, you totally can, or you can stay here on the floor. I'm gonna read it. After I read it, I'll come put your sleep sack on you and we can talk, right? So I'm still going through the routine and 100% of the time when I sat in the chair and started reading the book, after about a page or two, he's like, what's going on over there? Like, I wanna see it. He would come over and check out the book. But I was like, I'm not gonna fight you on this and I'm not gonna drag you over to read this book. I'm just gonna keep going through our routine.

00:15:54 Rachel
And I think that that's an important point. It doesn't have to be like a power struggle. It doesn't have to be. I think a lot of us come into adulthood with childhood experiences around like countdowns or timers that were used as threats or punishments. And we were kind of engaged in power struggles with our caregivers and it doesn't have to be like that. You can set these boundaries around moving through the steps of bedtime and sticking to your timeline without making it a power struggle. And I think that can be so freeing for parents because it can feel so overwhelming going into bedtime with this sort of like, it's me versus my kid mentality of like, how am I gonna force them to go through these steps so that we can get to bedtime, so that they can get the sleep that they need. And there is a way to use these tools that we're talking about right now to make bedtime a more collaborative experience.

00:16:56 Alyssa
Yeah, exactly. And I think for those of us that grew up in obedience cultures where there was like this top down power over, we might find that like defiance, if it feels like they're being defiant at bedtime and like we're setting the boundary and they're just not doing it and staring us in the face, that's often really triggering. And when I do workshops with schools and with parents, it's the number one trigger people report is defiance. And it makes total sense to me because I think a lot of us grew up in a space where we were expected to be obedient and defiance was not allowed, right?

00:17:36 Rachel Zero tollerance.

00:17:39 Alyssa Correct.

00:17:39 Rachel
Like that was the case in my childhood, right? Like zero tolerance.

00:17:42 Alyssa
Zero tolerance. I love that. Yeah, it's so true. I mean, I don't love that, but like it resonates.

00:17:47 Rachel
It resonates for you.

00:17:49 Alyssa
Yeah, it does. And I think that there's that side of it. And then this pendulum swing to like, I don't want to parent from a place of, they have to be obedient. And so they're calling all the shots. And this is that like permissive side. And I think it's hard for a lot of us who didn't grow up with that middle ground to find that middle ground.

00:18:10 Rachel
It's so funny that you say that because I was writing something for work today and talking about this exact thing because I think that this is a struggle that I have experienced myself in my parenting. I've seen a lot of people that are close to me who are also trying to do this work struggling with the same thing. And something that I think is helpful for parents to know is that even if in the moment, it seems like what your kid wants is for you to be permissive. What they actually want is for you to confidently guide them through this routine so that they don't feel responsible for making decisions. Especially kids are so tired at the end of the day. You can think about it from a perspective of like, if you are being a confident leader in this bedtime routine, you are reducing their task demand and you're helping their nervous system prepare for sleep.

00:19:00 Alyssa
Exactly. Yeah. And when you can do it in a regulated state, which is the challenge, right? Because we're all so tired.

00:19:07 Rachel
Totally. When you were just saying, when you were just talking about defiance, something that came up for me that I have been struggling with myself right now is like age bias around defiance. When my four -year -old is difficult at bedtime, defiance is not something that comes up for me. When my eight -year -old is difficult at bedtime, there are definitely some narratives that pop up for me of like, she's listening to me, you're eight years old, you know better. All these phrases that were said to me as a child that really wanna come out of my mouth. And I think something that, and maybe you could talk a bit about this, is how age bias impacts how we perceive behavior related to bedtime stalling or defiance or disrespect at bedtime or whatever it might be.

00:19:51 Alyssa
Yeah. It's one of our biggest biases that I think we don't talk about is age bias. That we all have these different biases around age where maybe we expect kids to stop crying when they're having a hard feeling. Or, you know, I had a parent reach out who was like, yeah, he just cries every time he feels something and he's six. And I was like, totally, tell me what's wrong with that. And, right? And like, but we do, we all have these biases where there are certain ages where we expect emotional expression to look different or we expect certain behaviors. It's usually from our social programming, what we were raised in, our cultural context, how we were parented, what we learned at school or in religious communities or whatever it is, whatever your community life was. And that becomes then a part of you that's like, wait, they're eight.

00:23:02 Alyssa
This is four-year-old behavior, not eight-year-old behavior. And in reality, like, yeah, all of us go through dysregulated times and we're grumpy and we push back and we're annoying or we're frustrated or everybody feels mad.

00:23:15 Rachel
It's human behavior.

00:23:16 Alyssa
Yes, it's human behavior. Yeah. But we assign certain ages to it. And when you can start to notice, what is my age bias that's coming up here? I think for me, it's been really helpful in then having compassion for that kid. So I'm like, oh, I'm expecting you to not feel this because you're eight. And in actuality, you're probably gonna feel this way on and off for the rest of your life. And I feel this way sometimes too. And I'm in my mid thirties. It helps with the compassion side.

00:23:48 Alyssa

[AD] I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them. didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at

00:23:49 Alyssa
But so let's move into that then when we're looking at that pushback, I think it's one thing for me right now with Sage in a crib, right? Where when there's bedtime stalling or resistance, once he's in that crib, he's in that crib.

00:24:03 Rachel Yeah.

00:24:05 Alyssa
That part is helpful. He's not trying to climb out. That's cool right now. Knock on wood. And then, but then looking ahead to like when they're in a bed or maybe your kid's already in a bed, maybe that's what you do in your family. Awesome. When they're just like, yeah, I'm just not going there. I'm coming with you. I'm leaving the room. I'm coming out and saying, I want a snack. I want water. Mom, I have this question. Oh, I forgot about this thing. Like hit me with that. Cause that I know is something you've lived. You've lived.

00:24:39 Rachel

Yes. So my eight -year -old has always struggled at bedtime. She is a movement seeking, stimulation seeking, talk to me, play with me. I need to do a back flip. I need to climb the wall. Child always has been. And so bedtime is really hard for her. And so a couple of things that are helpful for this is like before you're even moving into bedtime, we're doing like opportunities for if your family does a bedtime snack, something that I'll say to my kids, we do bedtime snack. I make them their snack and I let them know I'm gonna set the timer for 10 minutes. You guys have 10 minutes to eat. This is the last opportunity for food until breakfast. So if you get into bed and you tell me you're hungry, my answer is going to be no. If your body is hungry, right now is your opportunity to eat. And my four- year-old and my eight-year-old both are used to this routine. Of course it takes time, right? There were times where they would ignore that. It would be bedtime. They would be crying that they wanted a snack. And I would be like, yeah, I totally get that. And you can eat at breakfast. A couple of times of that happening. And then they were like, okay, if I'm hungry, I need to eat during that 10 minute period that mom gives me. We do it right before we brush teeth.

00:25:57 Alyssa
Hang on real quick, because I know this can be triggering for some folks. We often at Seed and you find it in Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. We talk about the division of responsibility. And that is what you're employing here. Of like, it's your job as the parent to decide when food is offered and what food is offered. It's their job to decide if or how much they eat of it. And that's exactly what you're implementing here. And when we look at research and best practice for food, that's what we're looking at here. And what we, it mirrors a lot of how life works. Like today I'm in podcast interviews and have meetings. There's a lunch window where I can eat. If I choose not to eat during that time, I might be hungry during one of my meetings later.

00:26:43 Rachel
And, you know, I think too, both of my kids would be described as neurotypical from a mainstream perspective. This may look different for your family if you are dealing with a child who has developmental challenges around food or other challenges around food. When my kids were younger, well, Nora has been old enough for this, for my personal comfort for a long time, but with Abel, when he was like two is when I started to try to do this with him. And something that I did because I did not want him to go to bed hungry, which I think can be so triggering for a lot of parents.

00:27:22 Alyssa So triggering.

00:27:22 Rachel

It's like, I don't want my child to bed hungry. Like what if they're crying? Cause they're really hungry and then it's so hard to hold boundaries. So in our family, the option at that point with Abel, if he did not eat at bedtime snack and then got into bed and was saying he was hungry and was really having a hard time, I would let him have half a banana. And like, that was like, he knew half a banana. It wasn't going to be like a favorite food. It wasn't going to be an elaborate spread, right?

00:27:49 Alyssa
Not a charcuterie board, right.

00:27:51 Rachel
And a banana is like, it's a starch. It's like, it's going to fill his tummy, but it's not like a favorite food. So it's not going to become like a, at bedtime, I can have -

00:28:02 Alyssa
Can't wait for my banana, right.

00:28:04 Rachel
You know what I mean? Cause I think people then worry about like, well, if I'm reinforcing this by, that very sort of like fear-based behavior. And I get that. That comes up for me. So like choose a food that you know your child is willing to eat, but like, isn't their number one top favorite snack, right?

00:28:23 Alyssa
Yep. Totally love it. Yeah.

00:28:25 Rachel
Okay, food. So great, done.

00:28:27 Alyssa
So then you brush teeth.

00:28:29 Rachel
So we brush teeth and then now age bias comes up again. Cause like for toddlers, I think when we say like, yeah, have a visual schedule of what you're going to do, people are like, great. I'll do that for my toddler. I also have one for my eight-year-old.

00:28:42 Alyssa Yeah.

00:28:43 Rachel
Right. And it's different cause she can read and her schedule is different, but still helpful for them to have a visual reminder of what bedtime looks like. And then it's like something you can reference, right? When the pushback starts, you can remind them like, we're on the, this is our step that we're on. And next comes this, and then comes this. And so it's not this arbitrary, like, okay, we're moving through the steps of bedtime. Not really sure what to expect. What is mom going to ask of me tonight? It's like, I know, my kids know, here's what mom and dad have us go through every single night at bedtime. And they've got this visual reminder. And I, using that with older children is just as helpful as it is with younger children.

00:29:27 Alyssa
Yeah. I love that. Honestly, using that with adults, I have visual schedules all around me. I have calendars and reminders and things that like, the joke in our household is like, if I'm cooking, if a timer is not set, I will burn the house down. They, I will walk away from that thing. And I'm like, oh shoot, Zach, literally the other day was like, are you making a grilled cheese? And I was like, oh, right, yeah. And he was like, you need to set a timer. Like I, we all need these offloads, that information from our brain. And at the end of the day, when you are already exhausted, reducing task demands wherever we can can be huge. Visual aids are one way to reduce task demands. Another might be, maybe we know, they know how to get ready for bed and how to put their clothes on. And they're having a hard time and we say, oh man, I know you've worked really hard today. I can help you get your jammies on today, bud.

00:30:22 Rachel
Yeah. I love that. And that's actually something that I was gonna talk about is like, I still help both of my children, four and eight, which for four-year-olds, most people are like, yeah, that makes sense. Yep, still do it for my eight-year-old too. Help them get jammies, load their toothbrushes with toothpaste, follow through with them. My eight-year-old has shown me quite clearly that if I expect her to brush her teeth independently, she either is going to have cavities or we're not gonna make it to the step where she actually goes to sleep because it's just gonna be this whole thing, right? And so, yeah, I'm gonna reduce her task demand and let go of my age bias and support her through this.

00:31:10 Alyssa Yeah.

00:31:11 Rachel
And I think like, if you think about yourself at the end of the day, if I was really overwhelmed at the end of the day and I asked Cody, my husband, to help me with something and he said, no, because I'm old enough to do it myself, that would further dysregulate me and move me further away from my goal of like calming my nervous system, moving into the steps of bedtime. And so if, you know, and I have to remind myself of this, right? Because in the moment it's so dang hard, but if you can sort of view it as that your ultimate goal is to help prepare their body to calm for sleep, it can be easier to access that compassion to help them move through the bedtime routine, even if you know they can do it independently.

00:31:54 Alyssa
Totally. Well, and I actually just had a meeting this week with one of our Seed Cert programs and one of our OTs that we work with to talk about this exact thing of like, are we working on self -help skills in this space or is it more beneficial to reduce task demands for regulation? And sometimes there are times where we're working on self -help skills and we're helping kids learn new skills. If you know it's a skill they have and they just can't access it in that moment, it usually is a time where it's more beneficial for us to reduce task demands so that they can move through in a regulated state and saying just like, yeah, if Cody, your husband came in and was like, I know that you know how to do the dishes yourself, Rach, like you would be like, yeah, I know I know how to do it too. Could you help a sister out?

00:32:43 Rachel
I need help. Im tired.

00:32:43 Alyssa
I'm tired. Yeah, exactly. And so it's not always about like, are we building these new skills? It's do they have access to them right now? And if not, where can we step in and support and then work on self-help in other areas and independent skills?

00:33:00 Rachel
Yeah, like for example, both my kids brush their teeth independently in the morning before school.

00:33:06 Alyssa Exactly.

00:33:07 Rachel
Because they're not exhausted and their nervous systems aren't wired and tired from the day. So they can brush their teeth and it's no problem and it's no fight and it's done in seconds. You know what I mean? Right, yeah. So that brings me to another thing that I want to talk about is impulse control. And it's this question of, are they refusing to do it or can they not do it right now? Correct. And so first of all, toddlers don't have well -developed impulse control. Impulse control starts to show up around age four, but it's still underdeveloped.

00:33:44 Alyssa
It doesn't fully develop until between 25 and 28 years old.

00:33:48 Rachel Which is so wild.

00:33:51 Alyssa Fully, like that's nuts.

00:33:53 Rachel
Right, so then let's talk about older children, right? Kids where we expect them to have some impulse control and maybe in different parts of the day, they display impulse control. And so you may have this narrative come up of like, well, I know that they can stop themselves because they do it all day at school or when they're with a different caregiver or whatever. As the nervous system becomes more dysregulated throughout the day, just from being awake all day and they're more tired, their access to impulse control decreases. So unfortunately for us, often the most difficult time of the day for parents when we are the most tired and feel the most under-resourced also the times when our children need the most from us.

00:34:40 Alyssa
What a doozy, what a terrible design.

00:34:42 Rachel
Nature, could you have done something different there? And so I think going into it, knowing that they might be able to control their body earlier in the day or under a different set of circumstances. And then you might find at bedtime, they are losing that ability and they need support. So for instance, kids who are not in a crib or in a bed, they may not have the impulse control to stop themselves from coming out. So you do your nighttime routine where you give them the snack and then you brush their teeth and you go through your visual schedule and you use your timer and you're doing all these things and you're responding with intention. You put them in their bed, you kiss them, good night, blah, blah, blah. And you leave the room and you think like, all right, great, look at how awesome I just like rocked that bedtime routine and I'm ready to not be parenting, right? And then they come out and you bring them back and they come out again and you bring them back, okay? So something that often comes up is like, why won't they just stay in their bed? They know how to do it. Why won't they just stay in their bed? I'm so tired of this. It's like the respectful parent leaves your body at like 8p.m., right?

00:35:59 Alyssa
Sometimes the respectful parent leaves my body way before 8 p.m., yeah.

00:36:05 Rachel
For me, I'm noticing that my cutoff is 8:30pm and it's like a switch goes off for me mentally and I have to dig deep. Oh, I've been digging deep since back to school. So anyway, if your child is struggling with the impulse control, you can't actually force them to stay in their bed unless you want to be in the room with them. And if you wanna be in the room with them, I lay with my kids to sleep, no shame in that game. You gotta do what works for your family. If you don't want to lay with your child and they won't stay in their bed, the boundary becomes the bedroom. And what tends to work well and feel in alignment and most comfortable for families who are establishing this boundary for the first time is for a parent to sit outside the door.

00:36:51 Alyssa
Yeah, yeah, this is my move. I'm not a human who, and like we'll see when Sage gets there, but I don't think that I could stay regulated in the laying in bed. For me, when bedtime comes, like I have, I've gone through almost all my juice at this point, right? And like, I need to tap out. I need to have time where I'm not parenting. Like that is time that I really cherish and helps me be a better parent. So the idea of laying with them and them not falling asleep right away, I think I would get angry at them.

00:37:29 Rachel
Oh, it can be infuriating for folks. And I've been there. I mean, you know, my four-year-old, he has high sleep needs. His falling asleep is generally pretty fast, but I have had some real challenges with my eight-year-old.

00:37:43 Alyssa
Yeah, I'm more of a sit outside the door parent, I think.

00:37:47 Rachel
Yeah, which is also 100% valid. There's no right way to do this. I have had time periods with my oldest where I've sat outside the door where it was too triggering for me, where I knew that my nervous system energy was gonna be really crappy if I was lying next to her. And I sat outside the door and she would come out and I would just say like, hey, honey, your job right now is to stay in your room. I'm not gonna let you come out. I'm right outside the door, you're safe and you're gonna stay in your room.

00:38:22 Alyssa

Yeah, it's a hard boundary to hold.

00:38:24 Rachel
It's not their favorite.

00:38:26 Alyssa
No, or yours. Also, I think sometimes there's this idea, like you say that and kids are like, okay, mom, can't wait to go back to my bed. That's not usually how boundaries work.

00:38:41 Rachel
That's not usually how boundaries work. The amount of times I've texted you and Erika in my parenting life and then like, why does my daughter hate sleep? Right? Yeah, it's legit. And it's her nervous system. She doesn't hate sleep. It's her nervous system that's hard for her to calm her body. But yeah, it's not gonna be like this super quick, peaceful, like, okay, great. Since you're sitting in the hall, I'll just immediately fall asleep. No, it's gonna take time to establish this boundary for your kid to understand like, okay, yeah, at bedtime, I'm not in trouble and I'm not being punished or threatened, but my caregiver is not going to let me come out of my room and party.

00:39:23 Alyssa
Yeah, this is the boundary. And this is kind of along those, the division of responsibility lines. Like it's our job to set that boundary and to look at like, what is best for their health and safety? And it's their job to push it, to see like, is this real? What's she gonna do when I do this? Like, what happens when I do that? And then after they push it a bunch of times, usually they're like, okay, I know that if I walk out and I say, mom, I want a snack or I want whatever, here's what to expect. And so I'm gonna stay. It doesn't mean she's gonna fall asleep right away, especially if it's still hard for her body to fall asleep and like calm. But it usually means after they push enough times, we can get nerdy for a second. They form a neural pathway in their brain where they come to expect like, okay, when I walk out and mom's sitting there, here's what happens next. And every time we reinforce that neural pathway, we make it stronger. It's like going to the gym and strengthening a muscle. Every time we do that, it starts to become an expectation. And then it becomes a part of our subconscious where we don't even have to think about it. She knows, okay, when I go out there and mom's there, here's what happens next. And so then we start to see that boundary pushing tend to lessen.

00:40:42 Rachel
And I think one other thing that often comes up is kids like asking questions or trying to have conversation. I think, did you recently share like a reel on Instagram that was like about pregnancy insomnia? And it was like when you lay down in bed and you start thinking, who am I? And where did I come from? What is my purpose in this life? Those are the kinds of questions that kids pull those kinds of like existential life questions out at bedtime. And so a phrase that can be helpful for that is to say like, this is gonna be the last question I'm gonna answer tonight. If you have more questions, I'll answer them in the morning.

00:41:20 Alyssa
Yeah, my nephew, he's now 11, but when he was younger, he is the king of questions. Like when he was three, I got him the like Amazon little like dot or whatever it is where he could like just, because I wanted a non-screen option where he could just ask questions and it could get an answer. He would say, hey Siri, and it would be like random questions, right? And he has some gems that have come out. And at bedtime, they started to institute, you get three questions. So when he would lay down, he got to pick three questions and doesn't mean he didn't ask a fourth. And they would say like, oh yeah, we'll save that one for tomorrow. And my brother and sister-in-law would say, I'm gonna go write it down when I leave here so we don't forget about it.

00:42:07 Rachel
Yep, I love that. Yeah, the amount of times I have said to my daughter, I'm all done talking for tonight, but we can chat about this in the morning.

00:42:18 Alyssa
Yeah, and like, that's okay. It's okay to be all done talking.

00:42:22 Rachel
It's 1000% okay. Because again, you can't force a child to fall asleep, but sleep is a health and safety issue. And so we can do everything in our power to support them in falling asleep and continuing to talk to them when it's time for them to go to sleep doesn't support that goal. So when I think of it through that, like, cause I would have this guilt come up of like, okay, am I not like having a - The child's trying to connect with me and I'm turning it down. 1000% I'm turning down connection.

00:42:51 Alyssa Yeah.

00:42:51 Rachel
That's what came up for me.

00:42:53 Alyssa Yeah.

00:42:53 Rachel

Does she feel like I'm abandoning her in some way emotionally right now? And it's like, okay, well, hold on, hold the guilt back for a minute and think about like, what is my goal here? What is my number one goal for her right now? And it's for her to get enough sleep so that tomorrow when she has to wake up and go to school and function all day in an environment that can be full of stressors, that she's biologically set up for success. And when I frame it in that lens, and I'm like, yeah, this is your last question. I love you, we'll chat tomorrow.

00:43:23 Alyssa
Yeah. And the longer she's lived, the more you realize like, she's always gonna seek connection. Connection is one of those leaky cups for her, right? And so she's a human who really...

00:43:35 Rachel It's never enough.

00:43:36 Alyssa No.

00:43:36 Rachel
That's a phrase that comes up for me and my husband, because he'll be like, I did X, Y, and Z, and it still wasn't enough for her. And it's like, she will always ask for it, and we can meet it. And then we can set a boundary around like, okay, yeah, I'm gonna take a break for now. I'm gonna be all done talking for a little bit. My brain needs a break. I'll talk again in a little bit.

00:43:54 Alyssa
Also, fun story. A few years ago, we were talking about something. Zach, my husband, at the end of the day, we were chatting. I was just kind of fried. And I said, Zach, I'm just like all done talking about this tonight. And he was like, oh, that's a phrase we can say in this marriage? Good to know. Would have pulled that one out plenty of times. I'm all done talking about this tonight. But like, yeah.

00:44:20 Alyssa
It's so real. And also, this is an opportunity to model for children what it looks like to set healthy boundaries, right?

00:44:29 Alyssa Yeah, I agree.

00:44:30 Rachel

My kids will now say to each other in the car, which Abel doesn't say this kindly as he could, but they will say like, my brain needs a break from noise. Please be quiet for a little bit. He'll say that's enough. Stop talking. But we're working on the phrasing. But they are starting to realize like, here's how I can set a boundary around like what my nervous system needs right now.

00:44:58 Alyssa
I love that. Sagey will say, you're being too loud. Again, we're working on phrasing. But like, I sneezed the other day and he said, mama, you're being too loud.

00:45:06 Rachel
You're like I had no over that.

00:45:08 Alyssa
I was like, I had to sneeze. Yeah, but I love that he's like, he is building that awareness of, yeah, here's what my nervous system needs. That's noise is dysregulating for him, sound is. And we'll work on how to advocate for it with kindness. But like building that awareness is first. Okay, this is, I think, just so helpful for folks to have these like tangible ways and to know like, you're not alone. The last thing I wanna leave folks with is that it ebbs and flows. So if you're in a period or a season of bedtime, stalling and resistance, it won't be like this forever. This is a season. And we often see them in seasons, we'll see it spike when there's more dysregulation happening a transition, a move, a new sibling or whatever, which is hard because all of us are more dysregulated during those times anyway. And we're like, you know what I need? For you to go to sleep. And we tend to see like more boundary pushing, more dysregulation and bedtime stalling kind of pick up during those times. And it's a hard reality and it won't be like this forever.

00:46:27 Rachel Totally.

00:46:27 Alyssa
If folks are interested in diving deeper into sleep and want more support, we do have sleep classes. We have them broken up by age, where we walk you through all this jazz and then what it looks like to hold these boundaries. If that's something you're interested in, come on over and we can provide ongoing support. We also do sleep calls. If you wanna talk to our sleep team and really customize a plan that feels right for you and your family, we can do all that jazz. Head on over to, click that parents button on our homepage and it'll take you to our sleep classes. Rach, thanks for hanging out with me.

00:47:02 Rachel

Thanks, it was fun. I haven't talked about sleep in a hot minute, so.

00:47:06 Alyssa
It was fun. It was, apart from the random texts of why does my daughter hate sleep? All right, I love ya.

00:47:15 Rachel
All right, love you too.

00:47:18 Alyssa
Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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