Monday Motherhood: Sleep

Yesterday, my daughter gave me the best mother’s day gift: she went to bed! If you knew what we have gone through to get her to sleep, you would clap and cheer and jump for joy! Of course, it was a fluke because the only reason she went to sleep is because she refused to take a nap during the day, so by 6pm she was exhausted. Still, I was surprised that she didn’t wake up, even when I moved her from the couch to her bed. My son didn’t know what to think. He’s a really good sleeper and is almost always asleep before my daughter, and almost always wakes up after she does. He was almost concerned to actually see her sleeping!
If it were up to my daughter, she really would never sleep. When she was a baby she would just scream if we left her to sleep. We were pretty naive so we would cuddle her as much as we could. We resorted to letting her sleep in her car seat a lot, and even used that as a solution when she wouldn’t sleep. She would fall asleep in our arms but as soon as we sat down if we were up, or got up if we were sitting, she would start to scream!! It got to the point when she was around fifteen months old that we would be working on her to sleep until deep into the night. I refused to believe in letting her cry it out, especially since trying that didn’t work, but in fact made it worse. She just cried herself hoarse night after night. I also don’t believe in co-sleeping because I believe that proper sleep requires autonomy…but I just wasn’t sure how to attain that. By then, we were expecting #2 and there was just no way we were going to carry this on with two of them. I knew I had created this monster, so I needed to be the one to train her out of the bad habits I’d created for her, but how?
A friend recommended the Baby Whisperer. I checked it out and skipped to the part about sleeping. In extreme circumstances, the recommendation is a routine called “pick up, put down” which is exactly as it’s name suggests. If you put your baby down and she cries, pick her right back up and hold her just until she is calm and then lay her back down. Repeat if she cries. Don’t console her or cuddle her. The moment she stops crying, put her back down. I did this. It was my way of acknowledging that I had made a mistake by creating bad habits, and taking the time to help her out of those habits rather than just leaving her on her own. What does she know about sleeping? She’s just a baby!
The first night, it took an hour and a half before my daughter was finally comfortable in her crib, but to have her in her crib at all was a miracle. As time passed, we were able to get more and more independent. At first, we had to stay in her room until she fell asleep in her bed. Then, we could wait with her door open. Finally, we just say good night and she generally goes to bed, but now she still has to get up several times to check on us. It is still a struggle, but I am forever grateful for what I learned about sleep training and giving my kids the gift of sleep. I followed a sleep, eat, play pattern with my son and he sleeps incredibly well! I still never let him cry…but once when we transferred him from the bassinet to the crib. He cried for about fifteen minutes, but I knew all his needs were met. He was just tired.
So, someone asked why we need a book to tell us how to be a mom. Most moms probably don’t need a book. Our maternal instincts kick in right away – surprisingly, at times. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be educated. For me, parenthood is kind of like knowing how to cook (bear with me on this analogy).  Some people want nothing to do with cooking.  Some people like to watch cooking shows, and are really good at following a recipe.  They have good instincts, even if the recipes don’t always taste very good.  Then there are people who read a few books about cooking and get really good at cooking great recipes.  Their instincts are refined, and have become more comfortable in the kitchen.  There are also people who go to culinary school and become experts.  I guess they’re the ones who write the books, but they aren’t the only people who can cook well – especially if they still make crumby food even after all their studies.  Still, cooking is something everyone can do, but how well depends on their level of desire and involvement.

There are four types of parenting: authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglecting.  The chart below summarizes what each style is like (from “Lifespan Development” 5th ed. Boyd, pg 221).  Yes, we may follow our instincts when it comes to parenthood, but are our instincts always what is best for our children?  Some tendencies to be permissive to our kids may actually be harming them.  Being over protective could also be keeping them from developing autonomy which will later affect their feelings of self-efficacy and self-esteem.  Likewise, if we are constantly correcting them, they may question our love for them.  According to psychologists, the authoritative parenting style is the best parenting style for kids.  It provides structure and consistency paired with love and nurture.  Authoritative parents will often put their child’s needs before their own.  In contrast, permissive parenting is what The Baby Whisperer calls “accidental parenting” when parents give in to kids to keep them happy in the moment.  In the long run, these kids suffer with bad habits, and are less independent (Boyd, pg 222).

Nurturance

Responsive, Child-Centered  Rejecting, Parent-Centered

Control

High, Demanding Authoritative  Authoritarian
Low, Undemanding Permissive  Uninvolved, Neglecting

Parenthood is a great privilege not to be abused.  Parents are stewards of God’s children to raise them with wholesome attitudes and habits.  A great scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants can be related to parenthood: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of [parenthood], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (section 121:41-43).

In general, parents can see the bigger picture.  We can see where our kids are headed once they grow beyond their current stage.  It’s our job to guide them through each stage of their lives with good habits that will help them become happy, well-balanced adults.  But most importantly, it’s our job to love them unconditionally, through the good and the bad.

P.S. I am NOT a perfect parent.  No where near it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I never see other parents shouting at their kids at the grocery store because they are running off in two directions!!   These are just my thoughts about what type of parent I HOPE to be, and strive to be…but again, I live each day in grace.

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Monday Motherhood: Order vs. Chaos

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I’m not totally convinced there is a wrong or right way to parent (with the exception of abusive or dangerous situations, of course). Our differences are what make us unique and beautiful. However, I wonder if there isn’t a way to make parenthood a little less chaotic. I say “less” because I’m pretty sure chaos is unavoidable. I recently read two (almost) conflicting articles about parenthood: order vs. chaos. Of course, I DO NOT claim to be a great parent, but I do try. I think there just has to be some kind of order and schedule that helps me keep my head on straight. Here are a few of my own methods/suggestions to help things run smoothly in my house:
1: Keep a schedule, even if it’s very broad. Schedules helps kids anticipate what is going to happen and they take comfort in knowing the plan. My schedule looks something like this (ideally):

6:30 – Time to get up and read my scriptures

7:00 – breakfast for my family, put away dishes, switch the laundry

7:30 – the kids can watch an hour of tv while I exercise and shower (I put gates up to keep them out of the kitchen, and my bedroom)

8:30 – my breakfast time

9:00 to 11:30 – my time with the kids to play, run errands, etc., etc.

11:30 – lunch, and clean up (dishes, toys, switch the laundry, whatever)

12:30 – nap/quiet time. This is when I study or catch up…or take a nap too 🙂

3:30/4:00 – cook dinner and clean up

5:00 – dinner time

6:30/7:00 – get kids ready for bed/bedtime routine

8:00 – my time (unless I’m in school, then that’s when I’m in class, sadly)

2: Plan – weekly and daily. My mission taught me that planning is crucial. Even if things don’t end up going as planned, it is good to at least HAVE one. Every night, sit down with your planner and map out how the day should go, then make preparations for the next day’s events. Every week, go over the general schedule and bear in mind your limits. If you can, sit down even each month and plan what that will look like.

3: Hold family council. You have maybe heard of Family Home Evening where you have a night each week that is JUST for your family to play games, have a spiritual lesson, sing songs, pray together, and have a yummy treat (it’s doesn’t even have to be that elaborate). Well, just tack family council on to your FHE plans, or pick another night where you can discuss important things with your family: scheduling, budgeting, family rules, etc., etc.

4: Have a meal plan. It is so frustrating to have to rush around at dinner time trying to figure out what to feed everyone, especially if you don’t have all the ingredients for what you think you will make. Have staples in the house for nights when you forgot something or need a quick fix. When you have a plan, you can pick up everything you need at the grocery store and you won’t have to make any “quick” runs to the store midweek (we all know there is no such thing as a quick run to the store with two toddlers in tow).

5: Make mealtimes more bearable. Read “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” by Ellyn Satter. The food relationship with kids goes something like this: parents decide WHAT and WHEN to eat, and kids decide IF and HOW MUCH. It makes mealtimes such a chore when it becomes a power struggle over whether or not your kids will eat. Serve them the food you prepared and hope they try it, but then always have two (healthy) things on your child’s plate you KNOW they will eat.

6: Make bedtimes more bearable: Read “The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems” by Tracy Hogg. The pattern to start out with is SLEEP, EAT, PLAY, SLEEP. This has been a miracle for me. I followed this pattern with #2, and now he sleeps almost on command. Of course, #1 still fights me, but I used a method in this book that prevented things from being A LOT worse.

7: Don’t overextend your poor tired/hungry children. I avoid going out when it overlaps nap time or bed time. It just makes life easier for everyone. Then when we do go out, I always have some snack or drink for my kids because when they’re crabby, it’s either fatigue, hunger or thirst. Life is much less chaotic when my kids are not screaming at me!

In my opinion, parenthood takes a fair amount of SELFLESSNESS. That’s just how it is. There are lots of things I would rather do than plan out every minute of my life, but I have to give up things I want, especially my time and energy to help things run more smoothly. That’s just how it is.

I hope this helps someone. What do you do to make your day run more smoothly?