Five Keys to Sleep
©2006 Sheyne Rowley
The first key is ROUTINE
Assessing Individual Daily Sleep Requirements
Creating your predictable parent directed settling routine
The Settling Routine
Creating routines within your routine
The second key is COMMUNICATION
Three lines of communication
There are three vital lines of communication in which all interactions between a child and another person take place. It is the foundation for balanced, respectful interactions between people, but all too often the importance of striking that balance early is forgotten.
Many parents say to me, “why won’t they ever lie still while I change their nappy?”, “why won’t he let me feed him?”, “stay in his pram?” or “sleep?” and the only answer I have for them is “Because you have never actually asked them!”
We should not wait until they can talk at two years of age before we start to communicate in a healthy manner with our children. Research has proven that a child has the capacity to understand, and is able to express desires to do things and therefore desires to not do things even though they have not yet developed the capacity to articulate what those desired are.
This is where your child makes a request or expresses a need for you look to your little one for guidance. This is where the child governs the outcome of the situation. A good one third of their 12-13 hour daytime hours will be filled with this basic line of communication. This is where you are catering for their overall needs, and trust in their environment and carer is being lovingly fostered and developed.
This is where the parent makes a request or expresses a desire or a need to the child and the child learns to look to the parents for guidance. This is where the parent governs the outcome of a situation. A good one third of their 12-13 daytime hours should be filled with this basic line of communication. This where a parent’s duty to accurately assessing their child’s true needs is extremely important. A child does not always understand the reasons behind the decisions their parent makes for them, but a vital trust is being developed now where they are learning that their parents always help them to become healthy, fit, strong and flexible.
The ability to be flexible enough to negotiate on some points without turning every line into a ‘child governed’ line of communication is how we stay natural, relaxed and flexible as parents. This line of communication is vital to establish so your child can enter the world of play with their equally egocentric little friends and be able to cope and thrive under the natural conditions they will encounter. It also offers appropriate opportunities for your child to make choices where they are most likely to have a positive outcome and thus develop autonomy in their ability to make positive choices for themselves.
Pre emptive language
This is where we outline the upcoming 30 minutes of your child’s day. This ensures we empower the child with an understanding of what’s going to happen so they can be prepared. This prevents upsets and tantrums because they don’t feel unsettled or frightened by any changes in the daily routine.
During the early years of a child’s life they like to think they are in charge, however because of their age, don’t always make the most appropriate choices.
What we are aiming to do is reduce the amount of time parents will have to spend either correcting inappropriate behaviour or dealing with it.
By providing a routine that we have actually established ourselves, we are creating a predictable timetable that they ultimately feel they own because they can pre-empt the next stage of the day.
This obviously does not allow them to predict all the changes in their day and this is where tantrums come into play. It’s so easy for adults to know their next movements and forget to let the little ones know.
This is a respectful line of communication that needs to be incorporated by eight to ten months of age and becomes more and more important as they grow.
This is where we transition from one event to another smoothly with a 2-5 minute warning of the upcoming changes. This ensures your child a final chance to prepare, and knows where they’re moving to next, thus empowering them with general control of their day and preventing upsets or tantrums. This is a win-win situation, because whilst you govern it - they own it.
Inflection and tone
When I enter a house, often the child is heavily burdened with having to guide their mother and father. This generally occurs when a parents loses confidence in their ability to accurately read their babies needs and therefore spends much of the time looking to their child for guidance as to what they should do to make them feel happy. This ultimately results in an extremely unsettled baby. I always say, if you don’t know what they need, how could they know what they truly need or how best to achieve it.
The fastest way to calm an unsettled baby is to guide them so they can relax and no longer feel burdened with their day.
This strategy takes the burden off the child immediately and ensures all their needs are catered for. Finally after empowering their parents with the tools they need, all that needs to happen is a smooth transition from a passive uncertain parenting approach to a confident guiding parent approach.
Therefore, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a child to feel comfortable enough to relinquish that control back to someone who does not sound confident?
This lack of confidence is relayed clearly in the tones and inflections when delivering a clear verbal cue.
If a parent doesn’t trust themselves, or believe in their ability to safely guide their baby, how is the baby supposed to trust them?
The inappropriate use of tone and inflection can be identified in a few simple ways.
Downward inflect = !
t’s important to note your tone simply because you want to teach respectful communication in your house right from scratch. Therefore, if you ask a question, expect an answer.
An example would be;
Downward inflection; “Lie down, and wait for mummy!”
Upward inflection; “Lie down and wait for mummy?”
If you make that request a question, then you have no right to be frustrated when they do not cooperate, nor do you have any right to make them lie there if their answer is ‘no thanks’.
Note your questions, and answer theirs.
This is also a vital communication tool when dealing with babies and young children, and it only becomes more and more important as each child grows.
I often walk into a house where every time a child is expressing a desire for something the parent does not want them to do or have that parent will spend lots of time trying to avoid the topic or distract their child.
While I agree that distracting a child is great strategy to avoid tears and tantrums sometimes, it should always be used hand in hand with an honest answer and effective listening skills. If a child asks for an apple for instance, and your just about to give them their dinner I often find that rather than being honest and saying ‘No apple now, it’s nearly dinner time” and then distracting them by giving them a task to complete, a parent will simply say “Look, its almost dinner time, can you get your cup for me”. This always results in the child feeling they need to repeat themselves, and the same thing happens over and over only the parent becomes more and more anxious about the impending tantrum. This causes tantrums, and it causes parents to get angry at their children. I teach parents how to not be fearful about being honest. Most parents are stunned how easily a child will accept the occasional no, so long as it’s done honestly.
I will also clearly discuss the simple issue of turning everything you say into a question. This is a very common problem for parents with toddlers but I always say “if you ask a question, expect an answer”.
This is a crucial, non confrontational communication tool that enables you to demonstrate a new routine or environmental condition to your child without exposing them to the full impact of the change the first few times they have to experience it. This means, by the time you child is put to bed with the new conditions the first time, they have already had the opportunity to experience, get to know, and ultimately become empowered with the situation because they can preempt what you are going to do next, and where you are going to be. This means that you child feels in control.
Role-play is where you show your child what is going to happen by using a teddy bear or doll and acting out the entire scenario. This is where you treat the teddy bear with exactly the same compassion and respect, as you will to your own child when you eventually implement the routine with your child directly.
Your child needs to see it from where you stand, and see your intentions with this new management technique to be able to accept it with less stress and confusion. This needs to be done each and every time someone new is introduced to the strategy.
Role-playing is a key strategy in helping your child quickly adjust to new conditions that would normally be stressful when experienced for the first time. It also enables us to indirectly put forward our expectations of behaviour and ensures that we are predictable for them.
A basic example of these new conditions is obviously their new settling routine, bedtime cues, and management strategy.
During role play, your child will be able to indicate what makes them feel uncomfortable (a dark room for instance) so you can work on that need before ever exposing them to those conditions without your full support.
Define your language
Finally, it is so important that a child is given the opportunity to learn and understand the true definition of your language. All too often I see parents ask their child to do, or to not do something, and never actually show the child what that statement means by actually following through.
A basic example of this is when a parent asks their child to ‘lie down’ while they change their nappy. I observe in most houses that the parent makes this request then allows their child to roll over, get onto their knees and if they are old enough, to stand up. The parents then rolls their eyes and says, ‘see, they never do what I ask, I think he is too young or doesn’t understand”. That parent is wrong on all three of their assessments here.
The baby does do what she has said because simply by not following through with her statement ‘lie down’, she has taught her child that ‘lie down’ actually means ‘roll over, get on your knees and stand up so I can dress you!”. Her baby does actively listen to her. She said that he is too young to understand, and that is not the case. I can teach a baby at six months of age what that statement means and they are able to recall the expectations and follow through after one or two demonstrations. She also assumes he didn’t understand. Naturally until we define it’s meaning by following through with an action, all language had no definition. That is why we must define its actual meaning with a follow through action.
The third key is INDEPENDENCE
Obviously, before we ever pursue sleep or even play, this is one of the most important skills a child needs to develop to feel comfortable at all times of the day, including sleep time.
The three primary areas that we will be discussing where independence is concerned will be:
The fourth key is ENVIRONMENT
There are two primary causes to all sleep time issues in early childhood. The first is a routine miscalculation. This will be catered for in another section. The second reason is to do with a child’s sleep associations.
What is an association?
An association is a set of conditions that your child develops a dependence on to go to sleep and ultimately go back to sleep.
When can an association create sleep time problems?
When a child’s sleep associations involves an adult’s intervention. Feeding, patting, rocking, or putting a dummy in their mouth for example.
There are two types of sleep time association problems that occur.
One is a settling association that required your intervention to initially go to sleep, and this generally always involved re-settling associations that require your intervention too.
The second is when your child has developed independent settling associations where they can put themselves to sleep, but are dependent on an adult to re-settle. This is a re-settling association. This generally always involves an entirely different set of conditions being established to put a child back to sleep.
All my strategies safe-guard parents and their babies from falling into these common traps.
The next area of environmental factors that we need to take into consideration when teaching a baby how to put himself to sleep for the first time is how to transition a baby from heavy physical intervention such as multiple night feeds or rocking sessions.
We often need to take into account the need for a baby under 12 months to be wrapped firmly once again just as they would have been in those first few months when they were learning how to sleep. This ensured the child feels held, and can learn to go to sleep independently while still being offered the level of comfort they initially spent most of their nights trying to achieve.
When assessing an overtired child’s sleep environment we need to be sure that we are catering for the fact that they are usually extremely over stimulated. This means that in most cases we eliminate light (as light hitting the back of the retina stimulates the cerebral cortex to release a hormone called melatonin) and noise (through the use of white noise and sound therapy) temporarily until babies sleep has been restored and we have combated the overtired issues.
In addition to these obvious factors we also need to take into account temperature, room location in proximity to a sibling’s room or the main living area, and even their room’s proximity to a main road or main thoroughfare or bathroom.
We need to then look at individual case scenarios that could impact a child’s ability to stay asleep. An example of this was when I met a family who lived right next door to a train line. Regularly everyday a huge freight train would rumble past their house and his mother and father would frantically run to the back fence to ensure their son (13 month old Aaron) could enjoy the train. They had encouraged this because they were concerned that the noise would frighten him so every time the train was coming the entire house would be whipped into frenzy as parents ran for door keys, the baby and the back fence. Obviously this meant that if Aaron was sleeping and heard the train he would get into a frenzied panic screaming for his parents to come and get him in case he missed the train. This ultimately meant that Aaron could only sleep for as long as the trains were inactive. We were able to change this pattern of behaviour in Aaron simply by changing the behavioural response of his parents to the event.
There are many examples of situation like this that will be highlighted and included to help parents identify their own unique triggers and discover ways to solve those problems easily.
The fifth key is MANAGING THE TRANSITION
This is a huge part of the book and an area that will be managed with much respect and care. Sadly, in Australia, strategies such as control crying have been terribly overused, and I’m afraid to say, misused. These intense and in many cases traumatic experiences often yielded little long term success, if any at all, and have unfortunately left many mums and dads feeling frightened of any crying at all.
Is it possible that you can achieve such amazing results with no crying at all? Yes, occasionally a child will feel comfortable to sleep under the new condition the very first time, but it is not normal for any child when exposed to new conditions to not voice their discomfort as the feeling of uncertainty that goes with it.
My strategy yields dramatic improvement and results between a period of one to three days, but generally we need to be fair to the baby and give them a little time to get used to it all. This does not mean that if the baby cries that we do not still pursue sleep, it simply means we just have to be patient, compassionate, and put our needs to never have our children crying to the side because in essence, that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation of a child.
To never want or never allow a child to cry is to burden them with never being able to express themselves, and also burdens them with having to always be happy. This is unrealistic and unfair to our children and an unsafe practice to start. I am a firm believer that everything we do now goes towards our ability to communicate effectively and respectfully with our children in their teenage years. Imagine starting a style of communication where your child learns that every time they want to express themselves or come to you about something that is bothering them, you make it all about yourself. This ultimately ends up with children in the playground that say “Oh, I could never tell my parents about that, they would get too upset!” This means we are discouraging our children from turning to us for guidance, and inadvertently encourages children to confide in their peers. While confiding in their peers is perfectly normal and natural, to have no adult input leaves the child in a vulnerable emotional position with no place to turn for sound, grounded advice.
So what we need to do is learn how to listen to what it is that our children are saying to us.
We have identified four cries
Each of these cries are identified and managed differently to ensure a quick settling process.
Understand the k-complex transitional sleep pattern
The book will define the four key stages of consciousness you should be aware of and highlight one vital semi-conscious stage of sleep called the k-complex. All managements are mindful of this stage of sleep and parents are taught to truly understand the mechanics of their child’s sleep, thus empowering them with the knowledge of sleep needed to manage their child’s sleep disruptions effectively.
Understanding the Sleep Bus.
The ‘sleep bus’ is my personal analogy describing the actual length of time it could take your child to initially go to sleep or go back to sleep. Others have tried to use my analogy, but without a true understand of what I mean, they have been unable to adequately describe or explain it. I will teach parents how to be able to predict the precise moment their child will be physically capable of falling asleep ensuring that we never disturb a child just before they drop off to sleep. This combined with management of k-complex waking and a clear management of crying process through listening to the cries ensures a child is being attended to within appropriate time frames and for all the right reasons. This promises to be predictable for a child, and enables a parent to be truly tuned into the needs of their child. More importantly, this will enable parents to step away from a place of fear and truly start to hear their child.
When a parent responds to their child’s cries based on fear, it means they are not truly listening to what their child is telling them. I believe it is crucial to be able to stop and listen and respond appropriately to ensure a fast settle with minimal tears is achieved.
About The Australian Baby Whisperer
Sheyne Rowley's Positive Routine Management is a holistic approach that addressees the age old problem of children’s sleep disturbances.
The philosophy behind Sheyne's Positive Routine Management is that before we can expect a child to lie down and go to sleep in a room by themselves we must first address crucial developmental areas that are the foundation for good sleep.
These areas include independence, establishing a routine that caters for your child’s individual sleep requirements, developing a language that creates a framework and enables the child to predict their day, ensuring we take into accounts the environmental factors that may be impacting our babies capacity to sleep, and finally looking at ways to manage the transition from and old ineffective and disruptive pattern or routine around going to sleep or going back to sleep, into a new positive settling routine where your baby goes down happily and sleeps peacefully ~ all night.
Positive Routine Management also addresses digestive patterns as well as active and inactive times of the day to ensure children burn enough energy and are relaxed at the right time to prevent the risk of overtiredness. This in turn facilitates a more manageable settling process. In conjunction with gentle, consistent and predictable crying management strategies this special blend of care ensures a swift and effective sleep program that not only has your child sleeping soundly each night, but also sets up a healthy lifestyle to encourage optimum growth and development and healthy open lines of communication within your entire family.
Information for Parents of Children aged 6 months - 5 years
You've reached the first step to solving your families sleep time disturbances. Currently The Australian Baby Whisperer only provides personalised packages based on individual consultations.
There are a series of packages available to people needing help. They range from routines tailored to your child's individual needs and sleep requirements based on personalized consultation with training either face to face or via the telephone (for interstate/international clients), all the way to a more hands on style of interventions such as the two or five day home stay package where Sheyne comes into your house to help you through the transition.
The Australian Baby Whisperer deals specifically with families that do not fall into the categories of high-risk or the special needs (intellectually impaired children, profound sight or hearing impaired and specific high risk health areas).
Information for Parents of Children aged 5 and up
The Australian Baby Whisperer caters for children age is 6 months ~ 5 years. During this stage we are able to provide swift management packages that can facilitate change in children and parents behavioural and communication patterns in only five days.
Information for parents of children under 6 months of age
Management strategies for children under 6 months of age require ongoing maintenance which The Australian Baby Whisperer is unable to provide due to heavy client commitments.
This said, it is highly recommended that you jump on the waiting list as the wait is generally a few months so if you haven’t solved your problems by them, Sheyne will be eagerly awaiting the challenge.
Management of Crying
This is an important area of management when it comes to solving your child sleep time problem and is obviously an area that has to be managed with great care and caution to ensure you are not causing your child any unnecessary periods of crying.
The basic philosophy of Positive Routine Management has been highlighted in a number of writing available to those of you interested in the packages I offer.
The main philosophy behind Positive Routine Management when addressing a child's capacity to go to sleep with new conditions designed to encourage happy self settling through all sleep times, is based on the fact that their emotional strengths and needs have been catered for first and foremost to ensure they are empowered with the skills they need to ensure a quick and easy transition.
Emotional development and security is the foundation to any sleep management strategy ever undertaken. If at any point I feel this is compromised, I would never suggest any management until this essential foundation is fully catered for.
When implementing Positive Routine Management:
The key areas we must address, after your child's routine is designed, is how we manage crying within that new framework. It is inevitable that if a child is asked 'with a changed environment' to go to sleep without their regular conditions, which, at the time I am called on, usually involving intervention by parents and carers know as sleep associations, there is probably going to be some crying.
The thing to remember is that this could easily happen even if you were to stay with them, as babies are typically creatures of habit and often find change a little tricky.
There is no magic wand that makes the crying disappear so we have to look at how we manage those episodes with as little confusion or crying from your little one as possible.
We need to firstly establish a framework that we create to encourage appropriate lengths of time to allow your child the opportunity to find independent solutions to falling asleep, but this clearly must be aligned with a technique called "listening to cries". This ensures that while we are not interfering with a child when they are trying to go to sleep, we are definitely never leaving them to 'cry it out' (as in 'control crying').
What we are now doing is learning to listen to our babies and hear what they are telling us. We ensure that at no point does a child feel that they are not heard, or feel as though their needs are not being met. We ensure that when a child needs to be reassured or comforted while we transition into the new routine that we respond as often and as predictably as they need, so they can learn the art of going to sleep independently knowing we are there for them if they need us.
On the first day of my visit a child, taking their first nap under the new routine generally only needs between 1-4 gentle reminders that they are ok, we have heard them, and they are loved, but it's still time to go to sleep, and we can't physically do that for them.
On the second sleep there is generally either no tears or the need for 1-2 visits, and on the first night varies between 30 seconds and 20 minutes of tears before they go to sleep (on some rare occasions these days there may be more, but this would be 1 in 10 families). This is even the case for a child who has never gone to sleep on his or her own, or who has never been to sleep 'this early', or who use aids to go to sleep (dummies, bottles, feeding, patting, driving, rocking, tv) and no longer have them. This is also the case in families that have done hours of 'control crying' to no avail in the past.
This quick turn around is due primarily to their environmental and routine needs being catered for first and foremost, followed closely by the essential communication and role-play strategies implemented.
What do I listen for?
I have identified four different cries that your child displays as a form of communication and each cry is addressed and managed differently. This is the absolute key to your success.
The above mentioned, combined with a possibly progressive time frames over a period of two to three days (depending on age, need and appropriateness) helps us provide the most highly successful long term, independent sleep solutions available in Australia at the present time, when helping our baby/child develop a new strategy to go to sleep that doesn't involve intervention.
Because this is a highly specialized area that needs to be monitored carefully you will appreciate I cannot give out this information without first assessing your child's individual needs are being catered for.
An accurate assessment would be a reflection of the most recent babies that I have helped learn how to sleep all by themselves.
This is their brief run-down:
Most recent family I worked with: 2 ½ weeks ago
Boy, 15 months. Two older siblings, dad works full time, mum at home.
This little boy was going to sleep between 9 and 10 pm at night, and always fell asleep on the breast. He would wake after 40 minutes and was being managed with a form of control crying by his mother. This would go until he either threw up, at which point he would be cleaned up, then be breastfed and assisted to go to sleep. He would wake repeatedly through the night and either cry for a long period until eventually falling asleep with assistance, or out of exhaustion or repeat the throwing up process.
His day sleeps were equally as stressful. He would wake at around 5-6am, be fed and sleep, and then sleep to 7am. Then he would take a morning nap between 9-10:30am (in the pram). He would need an afternoon nap because he was not coping with the length of the day but would "fight this with all he had", this nap would always make him distressed and result in throwing up if mum did not assist him, and even then, his mum claims it was extremely difficult to get him to take it. These attempts to encourage an afternoon nap failed and would result in him taking a cat nap in the car in the very late afternoon, while his mother did the 'taxi runs' with her two older children.
Needless to say, mum was exhausted and desperate for her beautiful little boy to be happy at sleep time, and the rest of the family were having a tricky time simply missing out on some time with their mum/wife.
On the day I arrived, it took him13 minutes to fall asleep, with 2 attendances required only (based on his cries) on his first nap, he slept for 2 ½ hours. That first night he went to bed 2 ½ hours earlier than he used to, and it took him 4 minutes to go to sleep with no need for attendance. He woke once through that first night, and grizzled and occasionally squawked on and off for 20 minutes until drifting back off to sleep. There was no need for attendance here (based purely on his cries), and he slept for 11 ½ hours before I woke him the next day.
The following day took 30 seconds to go to sleep on his first sleep and again he slept for 2 ½ hours. That night took 2 minutes to go to sleep, 1 single attendance, and he had no night wakings. It has been 17 days since then and there has still been no night wakings or need to attend through the night.
The day sleeps have essentially been the same, with one difficult first settle when we introduced mum back into the mix, this more lengthy settle is fairly typical because the child usually has a set expectations and a routine with their mother. This initial settle with his mum lasted for 20 minutes with regular attendances. He did not throw up. A first for mum at sleep time. He continues to sleep for between 2 and 2 ½ hours for his day sleeps and settled calmly with no tears for his mother every day after the first attempt.
Again, the nights have been terrific. He goes to sleep immediately and does not wake through the night. He is generally (5 out of 7) woken each morning so he doesn't over sleep.
The main management for this little boy happened as he prepared for bed, where he was working through the anxiety of his old sleep situation (throwing up every time he went to bed) and slowly feeling less stressed at the ‘mention’ and experience (via role play) of going to sleep. This took 4 evening pre bed settling routines to work through and he was always with us, and in mum’s arms while he felt anxious. This pattern of anxiety had totally subsided by the time I left and he now enjoys his settling routine, and so do the rest of his family.
All are still sleeping well, and adjusting to their new way of life. I am extremely blessed to have been a part of such a wonderful transition for this lovely family.
Second most recent family I have worked with: 4 weeks ago
Girl, 10 months old. Single mum, living with grandmother, mum works part time. Grandmother works part time.
This family were very tired. Mum had recently been released from hospital after being admitted with exhaustion; she was released after a four day stay.
This little girl was again only a 40-minute sleeper between once and twice a day. Mum had been wrapping her, and she had a dummy. When mum put her to bed, she would spit her dummy out, wriggle out of her wrap, and stand on the side of her cot and scream at the top of her little lungs. If mum attended too quickly, she would continue this cycle for a very long time. The strategy mum had come up with that was most effective was to wait until her daughter got very, very worked up before attending, at which point this power packed little bundle of blonde fluffy hair and chubby chops would gratefully take the dummy and decide to go to sleep (if mum was lucky). This would go on day and sadly night. This little girl would wake, on average 6-8 times a night and repeat this process.
Everyone was exhausted, but all other strategies had failed them. They had been through control crying in 'specific sleep schools' and were still clearly experiencing significant difficulties.
When I arrived, we decided to lose the dummy permanently, and without question, and use a different wrap and tuck in technique to ensure we had a few tears as possible. This wrap would go within three weeks. This is called a sleep training wrap. It provides a surrogate cuddle for the baby helping them feel safe while they learn how to sleep under new conditions.
On her first sleep it took 6 minutes to go to sleep (no dummy) and she slept for 1 hour and 40 minutes. I did not attempt to re-settle; it would have been pointless and only caused unnecessary tears. There are times when there is no point trying to re-settle because you would never be able to follow through, so you need to simply wait for the cyclic effect of the routine to kick into gear.
That night it took her 20 minutes to fall asleep with multiple attendances and she woke that night once for a period of 40 minutes, at which time she became very upset. This again required multiple attendances. We woke her after 11 ½ hours. Not bad for her first night with no dummy.
The next day was mum's turn, and it took 30 seconds to go all quiet once mum left the room. She slept for two hours and fifteen minutes the first day in our new routine for mum.
That night she took 6 minutes to go to sleep, and woke once for 12 minutes and grizzled before drifting off to sleep on her own.
She has not woken at night since. She now happily settles for her mum immediately on all sleeps every single time and sleeps for between 2 ½ and 3 hours a day, plus a full night of 11 plus hours sleep at night.
It had been 4 weeks since I left this family. Mum and daughter are going from strength to strength. I am very grateful to be involved with this inspiration little family.
Over the last 8 years I have been able to greatly refine my routine managements to ensure a remarkable turn around rate, with very little crying. This is something I have worked extremely hard on, and I am proud to see any needed managements become shorter and less stressful for all involved... least of all ME!!
The main thing that I feel is important to stress to people researching this strategy, is to let you know that I feel it is vitally important that a child can experience the normal range of emotions, and lean to understand them and therefore themselves better, and ultimately learn the essential life skills of becoming an emotionally balanced individual that was given the opportunity, under the safe guidance and encouragement of their parents, in their home, where there is patience, and an ability to provide one of one attention, to cope with and find strategies to be an independent, confident little person ready for day care, pre school, kindergarten and school.
It is my personal view, that to avoid letting your child ever cry, is to never allow them to feel. I believe there are times when your children need your full attention to help them cope, there are times when they need you there to re-assure them while they learn to cope, and they occasionally need to be left (at non sleep times) to simply feel and express, and resolve some emotions without the use of constant distraction, dummies, food or without becoming 100% emotionally dependent on another.
As a professional working in the field of early childhood education, some of the most difficult situations I have found for children have been when they have no independent coping strategies, and their emotional solution is not there (i.e. mum's breast, shoulder, that cracker they always get to eat, or constant distraction). This does not prepare them for normal life. There is nothing natural about a child not getting frustrated, cross, tired or grumpy and in a bad mood… that is everyone, and children are entitled to feel like this too.
It's important that we are realistic about what we expect from our children. It is not fair to expect them to always be happy. This is to burden a child with always having to make us feel happy or adequate parents through their happiness. This is not a realistic expectation to put on a child, and it is not a realistic or healthy goal to set as a parent as a parent (“my baby is never going to cry”). All too often I feel that parents feel that a child’s level of experience and emotional need to express this (often through crying) is directly proportionate to their ability as a parents, when this is clearly not the case. Children, like adults, feel a huge range of emotions, but unlike adults, these emotions can feel a little overwhelming and therefore need to be experienced and worked through before they can learn to cope a little better with that feeling. Some children are more emotional than others. This is why we have some mothers and fathers who cry and the Johnson and Johnson commercial, and some that don’t. Feeling and expressing themselves through cries is normal and healthy. As they grow, it becomes easier. The only time they will find it increasingly difficult as they grow is if you don't equip their 'emotional toolbox' with some independent coping skills too. This should start gently at 6 months of age around a simple emotions like feeling a little impatient while you change their nappy and crying to be picked up instead. This is a normal emotional reaction to feeling impatient or bored and wishing you could be doing something else. Telling them that they shouldn’t feel that, and therefore feeling the need to rescue them from this normal emotion is not balanced. Your best to stay confident, and reassure your baby while completing the task you originally started “ It's ok by darling, mummy is changing your nappy, all finished soon” then completing the task at a normal rate before getting them up and re assuring them again. “There you go, all finish, see, your ok”.
What I always endeavor to do is show parents gradual and gentle independent skills that enable to child to express themselves, and learn and grow into self assured, busy expressive little people.
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