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Blind-Sided By Education

August 5, 2018

I recently had a potential client contact me to ask about my services around sleep guidance for her child. Not only did she ask about my practicing philosophies around cry-based and gentle sleep guidance methods, she also wanted to know my working and educational background.


Mum announced that she had recently employed the services of a sleep doctor and was really unhappy with the approach and the way her emotional connection as a mum was ignored. When Mum made the booking with her chosen sleep doctor, she trusted them because they were a doctor and assumed that they knew what they were talking about and had good evidence based advice. What she wasn’t expecting was this professional’s approach to working with her child, the method that was chosen and the disregarded they had towards her parenting style and her preferences around sleep guidance.


Mum had placed a high level of importance on choosing a sleep professional who had a university degree as she thought this was a sure way to approach her child’s sleep. During my chat with Mum, I explained to her that having a degree and a piece of paper proving education didn’t mean that they had all the other right practicing philosophies. As a practicing sleep educator, I do not have a background in working with children, neither do I have a university degree. My background comes from being a Mother to two two children, understanding my and differing parenting styles, knowing what people actually want when working on improving their child’s sleep and being sensitive to each Mum’s emotional needs and connections with their children. 


It is not uncommon for people to place a lot of importance on education, but specifically to sleep education, it is not a piece of paper or the time invested or the assessment that the client is paying for. They are paying for a plan that they feel comfortable to implement, the support they receive from their educator and for the sleep plan to work; they’re paying for a transformation. At the end of the day, whatever piece of paperwork you have in regard to skill, it has no bearing on how you can bring transformations to others. You need empathy, understanding and knowledge. You need the ability to understand and interpret scholarly articles, read peer-reviewed research and believe evidence based practice. You need to consider and be sensitive to other’s parenting styles and their emotional needs. So many professionals have a university degree but for this field of practice, there isn’t a specific education. As long as you can practice according to what I have just covered, then you are in a good position to practice at a high level. The way you interact with your client, the coaching and support is something that is so very important, and something that your client will not get from a doctor, just because the doctor has a piece of paper to say that they have an education. University education has absolutely no bearing on skill.


The client I spoke to realised that she had chosen her sleep professional based on education but what she really wanted and needed was someone who didn’t specifically have a degree, but someone who was a parent themselves who was very sensitive to her parent style and her child’s emotional needs. 


People can be blind-sided by education, and these people are not your ideal client. Your client needs to trust you and your experience, not your degree, otherwise their hopes around resolving sleep will not be achieved. 



By Shereen Nielsen


Shereen is a Director and Lecturer at the Institute of Parenting Support Services and Director and Senior Educator at Early Childhood Parenting. She practices in Adelaide, South Australia. She is the mother of two beautiful children. You can reach her at 0419820474 or

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