I honestly feel as though I’ve talked this topic to death, but apparently not, since many of you have written in to PTL News asking about bedtime rituals. I hear all sorts of “getting my kid to sleep” horror stories, hell I’ve lived my own! I even see some moms sleep training their children by sitting outside their bedroom doors until the kids go to sleep.
I don’t know, maybe it’s because Yannick and I were sooooo young when we had our kids, or maybe it’s just because we both spent a lot of time on our own as young kids, that we became quite independent early on due to necessity of life style. Whatever it is I can assure you, that I personally, do not think that parents are doing themselves, or their children any favours by coddling them to sleep. I mean the bottom line is this: if you have a nervous sleeper, a child who for one reason or another thinks the world might end while they’re sleeping; I know about this because we had one anxious sleeper. (She was always afraid that something horrible was going to happen to her, and to the entire family while we slept.) It was becoming a problem, a problem that we weren’t excited about having drag on for weeks, or months. Sounds ridiculous right? To be held prisoner by a child’s irrational fears? It sounds not ideal, because it is NOT ideal. Not only are you setting them up for a lifetime of “buying into” their unfounded fears, but you’re also setting them up for not developing any coping skills of their own, essential coping skills that they will need. Being able to soothe themselves, and trust the universe is something that you must teach them so that they can manage difficult and scary times in the great big world on their own, since all kids move out, eventually. Do you really want to create a child who cannot cope in university, or moving to a new city with a new job??? Trust a mom who is on the other side of university tough and lonely days. You do not want to build that sort of adult.
Besides, what person, adult or child can be their best or live their best lives dragging their tired asses around day in day out?
Nobody can. So we handled it.
How did we handle it? We developed rituals that worked for each of our girls that would send them off to dream land in a way that best suited their personalities. And since you’re parenting your kid, only you know what each child needs. One might need to be left alone, to wind down in ways that works best for them. Another may need to be read to, and cuddled, to feel close before turning out the lights. And if you have one nervous one, like we did, a warm bath, reading a chapter from a book of their choosing, and the gentle but firm reminder that we all went to sleep last night, and woke up safe and sound today, as we did the day before that, and the day before that…etc etc etc.
Parenting is not only about giving your kids what they think they need in the moment. It’s also about predicting skills that you, as the adult, as the one who has already lived through possibly some of the things that you’re now helping your child through, know that they will need to be strong, healthy, functioning adults. Because, at the end of the day as parents, we all want our children to want to be close to us once they’re grown, not HAVE to be close to us because they cannot function on their own. Giving them the tools and confidence to do that will make both their life, and your life much more pleasant in the present and the future. Trust a mom who has been there, done that, and come through the other side, looking younger than my years, if I may say, thanks to all the sleep I did not lose because I let my children tell me how and when we would all get to sleep.