A friend of mine called me today, and before she even said hello I heard, “I just want to drop him off somewhere and leave him for a few hours! He’s driving me crazy!” She was talking about her 18 month old son, who just recently turned from an angel baby into a temper tantrum throwing, biting, opinionated little person! Since I also have Caleb who is 19 months, I can totally relate to how she’s feeling.
I started asking her questions to find out if some of the issues she’s been having with her son could be sleep related. With my own children, it seems like everything somehow circles back to sleep! After learning more about their situation, it became very clear that this child has taken matters into his own little hands and made his parents think that he is afraid to be in his crib! He cries, screams and even throws up when they make him sleep in his crib. She told me that it’s hard to let him cry and that she feels like such a horrible mother to let him be so upset at bedtime or naptime, so he’s been sleeping in their bed to avoid the stress related to the crib.
As all of us who are parents know, it’s not easy to “lay down the law” with our children – especially when they’re still tiny and even more so when they are our first child. I remember crying and crying while listening to James scream in his bed during naptime when he was young and needed the rest. I knew as a mother that it was what was best for him, but it was so difficult to do the right thing when it made him sad!
The conversation I had with my friend today reminded me that as parents it’s our job to make sure our kids are getting the sleep they need. We shouldn’t feel guilty for teaching them healthy sleep habits – even if it makes them sad or frustrated in the process! When our children are bucking the system, it IS easier most times to give in and just let them have it the way they want it – but is it better? Is it healthier? Will it eventually pave the way for issues in the future? In regards to sleep, the routines and habits our kids form now make a huge impact on the people they will become. Look at any statistic which focuses on sleep and you’ll agree. This fact should be an encouragement for us as parents to do what is best for our kids even when they don’t like it!
I’ve learned over the years of sleep training that it’s important to think the right thoughts when the going gets tough. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’m the worst mom! Listen to him crying in his crib. He’s going to choke himself to death with all that crying! What if he remembers this as he grows up and never forgives me!”, we need to be telling ourselves, “I am teaching him that sleep is important because I love him and I know what’s best for him. If I don’t teach him that sleep is necessary at this time in his life, who will? He will be a happier boy and will be able to cope with daily stressors better if he sleeps.” This may sound silly, but I believe the right kind of “self-talk” can do wonders with how we handle the most stressful aspects of child-rearing!
With that said, I believe sleep issues need to be dealt with promptly in children or the effects will start trickling down into other areas. A great place to start is to get the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-Happy-Child/dp/0345486455/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327615816&sr=8-1 It’s been a life-saver for us. Good luck and stay strong!