What Kinds of Monsters Haunt Your House?
The Hungry Monster
This monster may be legitimately hungry. It commonly happens when kids eat an early dinner, or when kids are on medicine that reduces their appetite during the day (like Ritalin, and other stimulants used for A.D.H.D. and A.D.D.) It also happens when kids are growing and simply do not eat enough during the day. Last but not least, it happens with kids who are starving…for attention, affection or some other emotional nutrient that they are not getting enough of.
CURE: Feed the monster!
As part of your nighttime ritual include some food; real and/or emotional. If you think your monster is truly hungry, try giving milk (or sleepy time tea) as that will aid in getting the monster tired.
As you provide nourishment discuss the plan for the next day, including how to make sure that your monster is not hungry or thirsty at bedtime. Make sure you incorporate the changes the next day and praise your child for trying to change his behavior, by eating and drinking enough at the appropriate times. Truthfully, healthy snacks between meals is recommended for brain and physical energy.
The Thirsty Monster
Some kids do lots of exercise but do not drink enough.
Cure: Provide a drink to the monster.
It is best to drink a lot during the earlier part of the day for two reasons. One is to avoid dehydration and another is to avoid nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Set the limit: Make sure your monster learns to get enough nutrition early in the day so he won’t be starving or thirsty at bedtime tomorrow.
Praise and positively reinforce your monster for eating and drinking at dinner and for having an appropriate after dinner snack at the right time; therefore eliminating the bedtime munchies.
Perhaps you live with the “OMG I Have More Homework” Monster.
Procrastination and avoidance are huge problems for kids (and adults.) Though there are many root causes, here are the most common:
Perfectionism: The child or parent expects high performance, and outstanding achievement.
Very bright kids are often perfectionists, and they end up testing poorly because they get stuck on tiny details and lose time. Often they do not finish the test.
Perfectionism may also interfere with a child’s ability to start or complete assignments.
Perfectionistic or obsessive-compulsive behaviors that interfere with learning should be addressed by a psychologist.
Avoidance: Magical thinking and denial are defense mechanisms that are used to cope with anxiety and frustration.
Students use this when overwhelmed. Kids with mild learning difficulties are likely to avoid their work. Often their problems are not diagnosed at all, or they are misdiagnosed. When your child is chronically procrastinating a conversation with teachers and school specialists is suggested.
How to Diagnose Monsters
Do you live with one of these monsters?
The “I Have to Pee” Monster, or The “1 More Thing” Monster or The “Stomachache” Monster.
These monsters have a common symptom: anxiety. They are expressing their emotions via their body. Psychologists call this “somatization.”
Stomachaches are the most common symptom in children, and as they age, headaches and joint pains become prevalent.
Parents need to take the symptoms seriously, and kids should always be checked out by their pediatrician. However, most of the time these symptoms are an indication that there is something disturbing the child in terms of his emotional self.
Cure: Be patient and ask your child about the actual symptom.
Then explain “sometimes we have pain in our body but it is really a sign that something is uncomfortable or disturbing. For example, sometimes when kids are worried their stomach feels uneasy; we call that “butterflies in the stomach.” Is there anything that might be bothering you? Emphasize the fact that you, the parent, are always available to listen. That you will always “be there” and together you can find a cure for the problem.