Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reward System

Eliza has had a difficult time sleeping since she was born. The day we brought her home from the hospital, she cried for 10 hours nonstop. Being a new mother, I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it wasn't normal. Her constant crying (we later learned it was colic stemming from a breastmilk allergy) ruined any chance for Nathan and I to establish healthy sleeping habits for her as an infant. When her colic finally came to an end six months later, the damage to her sleep patterns had been done.

Four years later, we are still dealing with a little girl who finds it hard to sleep. The past few months, she has had night terrors which our pediatrician believes are due to her inconsistent sleep schedule. We have tried putting her to bed at 7 PM, before 7 PM, after 7 PM, and nothing seems to work. She just fights sleep. It's like she has unfinished business and cannot bear the thought of others being awake when she has to go to bed. I have tried to be sympathetic to her sleep struggles, but my patience has worn thin. Most of my frustration stems from the erratic behavior she demonstrates when she is sleep deprived. If she doesn't go to sleep early enough, she wakes constantly throughout the night with night terrors. Then, the day after she has no sleep, she is so tired that she is simply not herself. I can't reason with her, and her temper tantrums can get out of control. Then, she is so emotionally upset during the day that she cannot sleep at night, and the vicious cycle continues.

I know Eliza better than anyone else in the world, and if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that she is one of the sweetest, most tender-hearted little girls out there. Seeing her transform into a tired and grumpy child has been hard to say the least. For months, I have tried various methods described in books and have solicited the advice of countless friends. Nothing was working, and I was beginning to feel somewhat frantic for a solution.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was going through Eliza's nightly routine when a simple idea suddenly came to me; maybe if we offered Eliza a reward for sleeping, she would be excited to go to bed. The reward wouldn't be a present or candy every day, but something much smaller. The reward that I came to mind was a simple sticker. I immediately mentioned the idea to Eliza, and I could see her face light up. We made a sticker chart and came up with the rules together. Once Eliza earns 10 stickers, she can earn a small toy or go on a date with either Nathan or me. She gets a sticker for going to bed without complaining and trying her best to close her eyes and stay in bed.

It's been 14 days, and Eliza has already earned a treat! She loves rewards, so she has been very motivated by the recognition of her hard work.  I'm not sure why Nathan and I hadn't tried this before, but I am so grateful that our nighttime struggle has improved so much. Eliza is so much happier because she is actually sleeping. Additionally, Nathan and I are happier because we aren't staying awake fighting her until 10 or 11 PM, and we are also not waking up 10-15 times at night with her. It's been a miracle.

 I am so grateful for answered prayers, because I know that thought coming to mind was a direct answer to prayer. I may know Eliza well, but Heavenly Father knows her better and knew what it would take to change her sleep habits. If you have a little one fighting sleep, maybe this simple plan will work for you!

And here it is...Eliza's first "treat" after a date out with mom. This piece of cake was worth EVERY penny.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I think I need a reward like that when I go to sleep!!


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