In an earlier post, we shared 5 reflection questions to use when your child has challenging behavior.

A parent answered these questions with her 15-year-old daughter in mind.

  1. What is your child doing? Teen (15) staying up all night and sleeping all day. Says I'm trying to control her if I set a bedtime.
  2. What do I imagine she is feeling? Perhaps depressed or perhaps is not acknowledging feelings/feels dead inside.
  3. What need is she attempting to meet? Hard to say. It's more that it's become a habit. It's her form of autonomy and also claims to suffer from insomnia, which can happen when the sleep cycle is disrupted (but she doesn't want to hear me say that)
  4. What are my feelings? Frustrated, anxious, disappointed, hopeless, helpless, sad.
  5. What needs of mine are not being met? Connection, satisfaction, concern for my child's well-being

First of all, I’d like to say to this mom… I appreciate how much you considered your child’s perspective and how you also identified what you’re feeling too. It makes sense that you’d be frustrated and anxious, and that you’re concerned for your daughter’s well-being.

So what’s the next step?


Win-Win Solution

What we like to talk about at Happily Family is coming up with win-win solutions. Which basically means that you and your child work together to come up with a strategy that meets your needs and theirs too!

Collaborating with your child might seem like a hassle or just plain inefficient, but there are a lot of benefits to this parenting approach, according to the research.

The first step of a win-win solution is to really understand what is going on for your child, fully listen to them, and give them some empathy (which you can do, even if you disagree with how your child has acted!).


Use Conversation to Fully Understand Your Child

Here are some questions you could ask your child, who sleeps through the day, to fully understand what is going on for her:

  • I noticed that you got out of bed at [5pm] today and I wanted to talk to you about that. Is now a good time to talk? If not, when is a good time?
  • You’re not in trouble. But I am curious about what’s going on with your sleep. Could you tell me about it?
  • Do you enjoy staying up at night and sleeping in the daytime? Or would you like it to be different?
  • What works for you about staying up at night?
  • What doesn’t work for you when you stay up?
  • Do you miss out on things that you care about during the day (like spending time with friends or family, going places, doing hobbies or work activities)?
  • Do you have any thoughts about how this sleep pattern might impact you in the future [when you start school again] or for the long term?
  • How would you describe your mental health right now? I’ve been wondering if you’re depressed, or if maybe depression is impacting your sleep. Do you think you’re depressed? Why or why not?
  • Is there anything, we haven’t talked about yet, that is impacting your sleep? Is there something that I’m not aware of?
  • I’ve also been wondering about insomnia. Do you struggle to fall asleep when you want to? What strategies have you used to fall asleep? Which strategies have worked (and not worked) for you?
  • It sounds like your current sleeping pattern works for you in some ways… [give examples] but you also don’t like it because of… [give examples]. Would you like some support from me, or someone else, to change your sleep pattern?
  • Can I share with you what I’m concerned about with your sleep?
  • What ideas do you have for finding a sleep schedule that works for you and also addresses some of my concerns about you being physically and emotionally healthy?


Give Empathy to Your Child (Even if you Don’t Agree)

As you are talking, empathize with your child. You can reflect back and summarize what you’ve heard without agreeing or disagreeing.

If you aren’t sure how to empathize, you can try these ideas…

“Oh!” “Hmmm” “I see.” “Ah ok”

“It makes sense to me that you’d feel [that way].

“I imagine you felt [emotion] when that happened. Is that right?”

“It sounds like [you’re not worried about sleep impacting school, but you think you might be depressed]. Did I get that right?”

“Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. [Summarize what you’ve heard]. Is that a good summary?”


Brainstorm a Solution to Try for a Period of Time

After these questions, you and your child can brainstorm solutions that might work for both of you. Give your child the opportunity to contribute to the brainstorming. Be willing to be flexible. Be willing to try something new for a short period of time.

Whatever strategy you choose, sometimes it’s helpful to write it down so both of you have a clear understanding of the new strategy.


Check In and See How It’s Working

After a period of time–maybe 2-7 days–come back and talk about how this strategy is working (or not working) for you and your child. The solution may or may not work. Remember, the goal is to be working together.

If needed, brainstorm a different strategy.

Rinse and repeat!


You can adapt these questions to whatever situation is occurring in your family. And if you can’t figure out how to use this technique in your family, tell us about it in the comments section below!

You got this!

If, after reading the blog today, you’re interested in stuff like this WITH me… here’s how you join the Village.

You and I can personally talk in there if you’re struggling to figure out how to talk to your child.