No, I don't want to sleep! N / A!

by Béatrice Giraudeau , brief therapy and hypnosis, member of Syprene / Lact research

When the Palo Alto school puts children to sleep, soothes moms and dads.
Especially mothers... Note that a little girl's sleep problem Indeed, as systems therapists , we assess the relevant system : Who has a problem? Who complains? Who suffers? Who does what? Who says what? We do not necessarily see the person who carries the symptom .
In this case, it's the mother who can't take it anymore; She is the lever of change with whom I want to work. Let's leave the little girl to her games...And let's go straight into Palo Altienne indirect therapy.

No, I don't want to sleep

Christina, mother of two children aged 4 and 6, called me again one fine morning; Indeed, I had already accompanied her for relational problems within her family .
I feel exhausted and excited. Christina, although well versed in systemic and strategic therapy , thinks that I will see her with her little 4-year-old; Yes it's her daughter who doesn't want to sleep after all, she's the problem ! After a little reframing , I explain to him that we are going to see this quietly both, I want to know what is happening exactly.

First session (Excerpts)

Therapist : Hello Christina, so what's going on?
Explain to me... Christina : I'm exhausted!
My 4 year old daughter does not want to sleep anymore! She has a fit every night, cries, screams, gets up, prevents her brother from sleeping! It lasts for hours! Help me! Therapist : Ok...And what is the name of the "devil" who doesn't want to sleep anymore?
Christina : Eléonore
Thérapeute : And how long has it been going on?
Christina : About a month ago
Therapist : Has anything special happened lately?
Christina : Not really... Ah, if her father has found a new job for six months, he's less often at home;
I need to be more present. Therapist : Do you think this upset your little girl?
Have his habits been disrupted? Christina : Yes a little, but that didn't prevent her from sleeping.
It's only been a few weeks. Therapist : Tell me, how is the bedtime ritual ?
Do your children sleep in the same room? Christina : Yes they sleep together, and her brother is already sleeping when she begins her crisis;
He is a heavy sleeper. Therapist : So these seizures don't wake up his brother?
Christina : Not really, still happy!
But I apprehend it. Do something for her to sleep, I can't take it anymore! Therapist : Tell me about the bedtime ritual ...
Christina : Every night I tell a new story with characters that I invented;
The children are in my room for the stories. Then we sing four songs, and they go to bed. Therapist : Ah yes four songs!?
You give of yourself! And before this crisis, Eléonore fell asleep without any problem? Christina : It was already a little complicated, sometimes she called me back but fell asleep all the same. Now when I tell her "Good night see you tomorrow", she tells me " No I don't want to sleep! Na!" She screams and she follows me all over the apartment!
Therapist : And what do you do?
Christina : I tried everything! At first, I reasoned with her, I negotiated, I was gentle, I stayed longer with her, then after a while, I got angry, I shouted! And nothing helped...Sometimes even, exasperated, I forced her to go walking with me outside! But nothing helped, I tell you, I tried everything !
Therapist : Yes, it looks like Eléonore has taken control of the relationship , and the more you tell her to sleep, the more she tells you no , right?
Christina : Yes I realize that...But it's stronger than me, she knocks me out!
Therapist : " The devil " is out of her box, and it only exhausts you that she isn't sleeping;
Children have incredible resources! And what does his dad do, he intervenes? He leaves you to handle the crisis on your own? Christina : Oh as usual, I manage everything on my own!
Anyway, she doesn't want her father to put her to bed, she gets even more angry and repeats over and over: "I want mommy!" and it's even worse, so I give in. Therapist : I understand your exhaustion; Is it sometimes very ungrateful to be a mother?
Christina : Yes, so...
Therapist : Alright, shall we? Are you ready for the 180° ? (Christina has worked with me on this Palo Alto School , and I can afford to be blunt with her.)
Do you think you still have a bit of courage left to turn the tide?
For this showdown to finally end? Christina : Yes of course, that's why I'm coming back to you, I can't wait to get started!
Therapist : Good to start, Christina, and I ask you to keep this in mind, if Eléonore is not sleeping, we accept the idea and the assumption that she has a good reason for not sleeping , unconsciously of course, You follow me?
Christina : Yes absolutely
Therapist : Secondly, do you remember that the more I want to take control over a physiological, natural and spontaneous function , sleep in this case, the more I lose this control and the less sleep comes?
Christina : Yes
Therapist : So we agree that the more you ask your daughter to sleep, when sleep does not come, the less she wants to sleep, the more she says No?
Christina : Yes
Therapist : And finally in this logic , it seems almost reasonable for her to say no, since sleep does not come? (I bring step by step the very paradoxical prescription that will follow, for all good common sense)
Christina : Uh... Yes
Therapist : So you will have to apply the symptom prescription : "No, don't sleep!"
Christine : Oh yes!
All the same! Therapist : I reassure you, you are not going to tell him like that; We are going to adapt it in an ecological and educational for your little girl, so that she tames sleep , and even more virtuously, we are going to ensure that sleep becomes a friend , and not a punishment .
So when it's time to go to bed, you'll tell her: "I've understood that you're not sleepy and that the little train is running late...Come into the living room to wait for her; I'm going to put on a little bell, and as soon as that you hear it ringing, it's the signal that the little train has finally arrived. You can go back to bed and sleep, but not before."

I suggest 15 minutes for the timer, Christina prefers 30 minutes, so apprehensive is she that her granddaughter refuses to sleep;
The next appointment is taken in 15 days, with the request to carefully observe the reactions of her granddaughter. In this inter-session, let Palo Alto, like the sandman, throw his powder of sleep on Eléonore's eyes.
I first ask this overexcited mother to write a few angry letters in order to empty this emotional charge.

Second session (Excerpts)

Therapist : Hello Christina, so how did this prescription go?
Christina : It worked!
I told him: "It's not good to force yourself to sleep, you don't go to your bed right away. You're not ready yet, come to the living room on the sofa." Therapist : What does she say?
Christina : "No! I don't want to! I'm going to my bed!"
Therapist : (Laughs) It's amazing!
So what? Christina : I didn't let go and I explained to her that I had understood that sleep was not coming, that the little train was late, and that she had to wait for him on the sofa until she hears the ringtone.
I set the timer for 30 minutes, she lay on the couch and told herself stories while I went about my business. I did not stay with her. Therapist : Very well.
And how was bedtime? Christina : She didn't have to be asked to go to bed!
I gave her a kiss and left her room....She didn't call me back; She took a long time to fall asleep, but I didn't hear anything, everything was silent, finally! Therapist : And the other evenings?
Christina : Same thing. The second night, I tell him: "No, you don't go to your bed! You go to the living room!" She lies down on the couch and tells herself stories, quite happy. And then over time, Eléonore understood that it's a new ritual .
She doesn't mind going to bed right away, but she says to me: "Just a minute mum!", but I remain firm. However, I went to 15 minutes. Therapist : Correct me if I'm wrong, but I still feel a little overexcited when you ask him to wait for the little train? Not only is the idea to soothe bedtime , but also to teach Eléonore how to tame sleep. I understand that all these last weeks have exhausted you, but nevertheless, we are not in a punishment.
Christina : Yes you're right, maybe I rushed the prescription a little too much.
Therapist: For the rest, you who like to invent stories for your children, you could perhaps stay with her on the sofa, if only for 5 minutes, and talk to her about the little train... You could say to her: "Do you know why the little train is late? Well imagine that a passenger had forgotten his suitcase in the station, and we had to wait for him. This little train is very nice... thank him because he watches over us; Perhaps you could thank him for being late because he is so nice?"
I trust your creativity...

Feedback one month later

During a new request from Christina, for her son this time, I ask about the " sandman " Palo Altien. Everything is going well. Symptom prescription has become a new bedtime ritual for Eléonore.
Christina took pleasure in inventing beautiful little train stories, and every evening, Eléonore asks: "I want the timer!" and go to the living room. She was able to tame her sleep by rediscovering her mother's peace and serene understanding.

Regaining control for parents does not consist, in a symmetrical escalation with their children, of getting into an arm wrestling match ; This one is aggravating .
It is a question of marrying the movement by ritualizing it strategically, and by reinforcing it in an ecological way for the child. The Palo Alto is completely akin to Aikido , this martial art which uses the strength of the adversary by sending him back.
It fully integrates this motto: Discourage the attack and not defeat your opponent.

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