Written by: Nanny Secours
We all want the well-being of our children. Yet, this well-being depends on that of the parents. To that end, there are no ready-made recipes or no single methodology that can best fit all parents. As a matter of fact, it is up to parental discretion to determine which solution is best suited for their needs and those of the child.
There are numerous questions arising from the topic of bedtime routines, and rightly so; the abundance of information and theories can make it difficult to know where to focus our attention. While some recommend leaving the child in bed, others insist that co-sleeping is best. Other approaches include the 5-10-15 technique or the “gradual stages of change” method consisting of progressively moving, for a period of time, from sitting by the child’s bed (ignoring the toddler, back turned) to sitting outside the door. This, of course, begs the question: What method works best for me?
There are multiple sources to the problem; as a result, a diversified solution will be required. Some of my coaching duties include accompanying and giving support to parents in their efforts. On the one hand, a family coach helps parents define their objective and the steps to achieve it; on the other hand, he tries to see what is behind the child’s behaviour by means of questions and observations. It may help to figure out why your three-year-old child wakes up several times during the night, and how to address those issues with effective interventions. Observation then becomes essential. We must focus on the possible reasons (or assumptions) for the situation and follow up by suggesting solution avenues.
A child with anxiety can ― and rightfully so ― require two hours every night to fall asleep and request cuddling repeatedly; in contrast, another child can pull the same stunt in an attempt to deceive you. The intervention strategies put forward will thus differ from one case to the other. Certain issues have generated much controversy, as has the question of breastfeeding. In that regard, the topic of sleep and bedtime routines is a big one. By leaving the child to cry, we expose ourselves to the judgement of those who consider it as unworthy parenting and a failure to attend to the child’s needs; by contrast, co-sleeping with the child can be viewed as soft and crunchy. Ultimately, the decisions we make are rarely unanimously accepted.
I happen to believe in balance. It’s all about attending to the needs of the baby (or the child), regardless of his age. I also believe there may be situations in which the needs of the child are confused with those of the parent. Leaving the child to cry can be quite difficult and heartbreaking: remember that crying is the only means a toddler has at his disposal for showing he needs something. Crying may not always convey messages like “I want to have my mom comfort me!” or “Daddy, don’t leave me alone!” Crying can actually translate different ideas: “All that noise is annoying!” or “I’m having trouble falling asleep!” I remember my daughter as a baby. When it came to her bedtime routine, I would spend several hours rocking her to sleep just to pick up a few minutes of sleep... 30 minutes at the most, with a bit of luck! She cried a lot while I held her. Once asleep, she would quickly wake up.
Three months passed. One day, as I was feeling exhausted, I asked my spouse to hold her so that I could rest for a while. Without consulting me, he laid her down in her bed. Guess what happened? She fell asleep all by herself! Of course, she hardly slept two hours, but still. Because I didn’t have to hold her for an hour, I managed to enjoy a bit of rest. Looking back, I realized that my daughter didn’t actually like being held and rocked. It was not until very much later, at around the age of four, that she started enjoying it. Once this was understood, she began to fall asleep by herself every night. But that’s just me. You have your own experiences. In order to move forward, you must figure out your story.
You must be convinced of the value of the method in order to convey the resulting confidence to your child. Children are quick and they pick up on the vibes you are giving. A child is more likely to keep calm if you maintain your composure.
Furthermore, there will always be differing opinions. Everyone has their way of doing things. In response, we have to become mindful of the judgments we make. Fairly frequently, not enough information is available to draw adequate conclusions. When parents question their approach, they tend to feel vulnerable and guilty; when criticized, there is a strong likelihood that they will close in on themselves. Being a parent is a learning process!
Finally, we must learn for a while to accept lifestyle changes as parents. This means coping with interrupted nights and the repetition in the learning of certain behaviours. Sometimes, what we need is to let go and look at the situation for what it really is. Sooner or later, all things must pass. A great deal of patience and love is what will get you through.