Norms and deviations

Many years ago when I was studying for my doctorate, I took a course in psychological testing at the graduate school of education at the University of Pennsylvania. My professor, a singularly brilliant man, made this seemingly dry subject fascinating. He also helped us to understand tests and measurements in a new way. He gave us, for our final exam, a matching exam. On the left side of the page were 36 terms and on the right side of the page were 36 answers. We simply had to match the right one on the left side to the right one on the right side. As simple as that seems, my classmates and I puzzled over the answers for 2.5 to 3 hours. Not one person left the room before 2.5 hours were over– because for every term on the left, there were easily 2 and sometimes 3 or 4 answers on the right- and we had to find the correct one for each.

One of the terms on the left was “John’s IQ.” Strangely, that was the easiest one to answer. Because, of course, his IQ was 100. We knew that the mean score on an IQ test was 100. We knew that with a normal distribution, which IQ tests had, that within one standard deviation, 68% of the people tested would fit. We also knew that with the principle of regression to the mean, those who scored very high, would likely score lower the next time they were tested and those who scored very low, would likely score higher the next time they were tested. It was a good guess that John’s score would be 100.

I bring this up because although all of us are unique individuals, we also share a lot that makes us human. That means that none of us can fly without any apparatus on our own power. It means that all of us need to eat and to sleep. It is possible to posit certain norms.

So, when I have a family with a “problem child” who is noisy, rambunctious, demanding, and intrusive, I often will ask “How much sleep is this child getting?” Invariably, the response I get is, “He/she doesn’t require that much sleep.” The parents then go on to tell me that the child is up until midnight or later, but s/he is “wide awake” and “active” and “raring to go.” If the parents are willing to listen, the very first thing I tell them is this: “Your child does require a good night’s sleep and you need to help him/her get in the habit of getting it.” If the parents listen to me (and usually they do because they’ve invested their time, energy and money into the session) and begin to enforce reasonable sleep hours for their child, usually the second session begins like this:

“S/he’s a different child! I can’t believe it!”

And it’s true. People, all people, even your child, need adequate sleep or they become hyperactive, hypersensitive, irritable, and just plain annoying to be around. I used to tell my children, “I know it’s time for you to go to sleep because I am tired of your behavior.” I said it in a joking manner, but it was true. When children become unruly, often it is because they are tired.

Of course a side benefit of getting children into bed at a reasonable hour each evening is that the parents have a bit of time to themselves, something that is essential to keep the marriage healthy.

So, trust me, your child does require a full night’s sleep. I guarantee it!

Sleeping Abigail and friend

Sleeping Abigail and friend

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