Helping kids calm, WAKE UP or sleep with music

Imagine for a moment... it's Saturday morning. The house is dark and quiet and you've miraculously been able to sleep in until 9am. 

(I'll let you stay in that dreamland for a moment.)

It's time to wake up. Music comes on and gently wakes you. It starts very quiet-- so quiet you can barely hear it-- and it gradually gets louder, coaxing you awake. It's music you love. What's your mood? 

Now, imagine for a moment... the same scenario. It's Saturday morning in a dark, quiet house and you're blissfully able to sleep until 9am.

It's time to wake up. Then, as if there's a speaker right by your ear, IMMEDIATELY LOUD heavy metal music plays and shocks you out of bed. What's your mood now? 

Horrible, awful, terrible... AGHHH!!!... right? 

When a baby/toddler/kiddo is crying or inconsolable, parents often think music can help them calm. That's absolutely true and a great instinct. BUT, if I put on a sweet, gentle lullaby while a toddler is screaming and completely inconsolable (music that is completely opposite from how they're feeling)... how is that different from blaring, loud music waking you in the morning? 

This is where the "ISO Principle" comes in. "ISO" means "equal, similar, identical" in Greek. The ISO Principle is a music therapy technique where you match the music you're using to the mood and arousal level of whoever you're trying to help. Then you gradually shift the music to help their mood and arousal level get to where you'd like it to be. 

The best example of the "ISO Principle" is what parents have done intuitively for centuries. When a baby is upset, parents and caretakers bounce them. Then they gradually decrease the intensity and speed of the bouncing as the baby calms until they are no longer bouncing. Instead, they're gently rocking a sleeping baby. 

Now apply that concept to music. If you have a crying toddler, select music that matches their arousal level and see if it grabs their attention. (There isn't much "kid music" that fits into this category and that's okay. You can get creative... songs like "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns N' Roses have the right feel and lyrics that work for kids.) If the song you pick grabs their attention, that's a good indication that you're onto something. Play that song. For the next song, play something slightly calmer with a quieter instrumentation. Continue this process for about 20-minutes worth of music until the last song is just a single, quiet instrument playing a single melody (think Yo-Yo Ma).

This method can help kids (and adults) calm or go to sleep. If you reverse it, it can even help kids wake up in the morning. (Have a teenager who has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning??)

A little trial and error can give you some good information and a good idea about whether or not this concept will work for your family. Ideally, this intervention is the absolute best when played with live by a board certified music therapist. Music therapists can also help you create home programs to put this idea in use. If you find you're not able to make it work and your child is often overstimulated, it may be time to meet a music therapist in your area. Search by location HERE

I want to hear your feedback! Did it work for your kiddo?