Toddlers – parenting and sleep manners!

I often talk about parenting during the day vs parenting during the night. Particularly in relation to the toddler or younger child, and particularly with night-time battles (staying in bed, going off to sleep).

Think about whether you are using the same expectations at night as you are during the day; if a child is not sure of the expectation, or if the parenting is “mis-matched” this can be part of having issues at night with sleep.

So, think about it:

– are you expecting independence during the day but not at night, or vice a versa?
– are you giving in to demands for constant attention during the day but not at night, or vice a versa?

Your child sends out signals to you and waits for the return signal as to what the expectation is. I like to ask myself, “What is my child learning (or not learning) during this particular interaction with me?”

There is no one right way to parent, but being both empathetic and definite in your expectation, during daytime and at night is a positive way to raise children.

Here is an example for you:

“I hear that you do not want to go to sleep right now. That’s fine — I can’t make your body go to sleep. But it is bedtime, so you’ll need to use your bedtime manners:

1. stay in your bed
2. be calm and quiet

I love you and I’m looking forward to seeing you again when bedtime is over.”

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Parenting – How do you do it well?

Today I thought I’d discuss how important it is to explore your parenting style when it comes to parenting and how this relates to your child’s sleep.

The four main parenting styles are:
– dismissive
– disapproving
– laissez faire
– emotion coaching

A dismissive parent tends to “sweep things under the rug”. He/she is more inclined to ignore a child’s emotional response, usually because he/she is unsure how to react. The child then learns that negative emotions are not ok, and that it is acceptable only to feel happy all the time. As he gets older, the child learns in order to gain a response to his emotional outburst that it must be BIG, and so he is often branded as “high needs” or “naughty”. He usually struggles to learn how to manage his emotions, and will most likely be unable to “self soothe” at any age or stage.

A disapproving parent tends to “devalue” emotions. He/she sends a clear message that “bad” emotions should be “shut off”. The child is, in effect, disciplined when she displays emotions such as sadness, anger or fear. The child learns that it is only ok to feel these emotions long enough to realize they are occurring, before turning them off like a switch. The child struggles to regulate her emotions, and as a result often hide how she really feels. She becomes worried about being herself, often has trust issues and may feel “unattached” from those she should feel closest to.

A laissez faire parent tends to recognize emotions but at the same time “fear limits”. He/she responds to the child but send a mess that “anything goes at anytime”. Children need respectful, loving boundaries; when his world lack these, he struggles to learn how to manage his emotions, act appropriately and create and maintain healthy relationships. He has learnt it is ok to treat people however he wishes, without considering others’ feelings. He grows up feeling a strong sense of entitlement, without considering the entitlement of others.

An emotional coach parent tends to recognize and value emotions, but gently teach their child that there is a way to be appropriate within emotional responses and to value others’ emotions just as much as their own. The primary tool of this type of parent is empathy; this is how a strong, healthy and attached relationship is formed and this is how the child learns how to create healthy relationships with others.

The child learns that all emotions are ok and that she can trust close ones to “talk through” these feelings, but that treating others in a negative way because of the way she feels is not ok. The child learns healthy boundaries, trust, respect and unconditional love.

In reality, we all use different parenting styles all rolled into one. At more stressful times, we may notice the more negative and restrictive parenting styles float to the surface. Indeed, being an emotional coach parent takes practice! However, if you lay down a strong foundation of healthy boundaries, trust, respect and unconditional love, you will be on the right track to parenting your child in a healthy way. And this is the perfect platform on which to create healthy sleeping habits!

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Night Wakings – I just got you to sleep!

Today I thought I’d cover night wakings. It’s a bit of a controversial issue, so bear with me!
Here’s some quick facts for you:
– babies need to wake through the night to feed, until usually 4-6 months (some “sleep through” – by this we mean from late at night to first thing in the morning – earlier than this); the ‘sleep experts’ can’t agree on when this should exactly be so we’ll say 6 months minimum just to be sure! We recognize that every baby and family unit is different, and respect that many parents choose to feed their baby regularly through the night well after this age.
– babies sometimes wake through the night for reasons other than needing a feed
– once a baby has established a bit of a feeding pattern through the day (normally around 6-8 weeks, but every baby is different) generally they are feeding more often through the day than at night (nights may be roughly the same timeframe between feeds, but if your baby is feeding more regularly through the night than through the day after around 6-8 weeks then he may have day/night switched around)
– a baby who wakes very regularly (every 30-60 mins) in the evening from when they go to bed initially until around midnight (we’re talking something like going to bed at 7pm then waking at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, etc) it may be that he is overtired going off to sleep; when babies feel overtired they’re more likely to wake after short bursts.. he has built up enough sleep debt to need a ‘chunk’ of sleep but is having trouble getting into that deep sleep phase
– a baby who wakes very regularly (every 30-60 mins) between midnight and 4/430am may have had an ‘unorganised’ day; that is his naps may be too short and his waketimes too long – for some reason this affects the early hours of the morning (go figure)!
– a baby who is waking early (before 6am) and staying awake may mean several things: he is going down too early for his first day nap, he is going to bed too early in the evening (scroll down and check the average sleep needs table on a post a little while ago) or he is going to bed too late (I know, it’s confusing — check the table for how long your baby should be ‘in bed’ during the night)
– generally a baby who is able to get to sleep without too much intensive help will be ready to wake less through the night within a few weeks (yes, babies wake ‘just because’ like us through the night but if they don’t know how to get off to sleep without help then they will alert someone every time they wake to get the help they need)

We recognize that every family is different. We believe that you should do what you feel is best for your baby. You will never be told by us that you should do it “this way or that way”.

We offer family-centred sleep solutions. If the way you are doing things at the moment is not a problem for you, then it’s certainly not a problem for us (and shouldn’t be for anyone else!).

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