It is Never Too Late to Teach Your Child Healthy Sleep habits
It is never too late to make a change. Ever.
Every moment of our lives holds the potential for brilliant change. You can teach your child to sleep. You truly can.
He is fully capable.
Fear is the main reason parents get to this point, and that is understandable. They avoid making a change and continue the patterns of behavior that keep everyone stuck. Change can feel scary and trigger self-doubt and many hidden childhood emotions. Most do what it takes to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
When you take action to teach your child to sleep independently, your current sleep situation has the potential to get worse before it gets better. Why does this happen? It is the process of learning. Sleep training is not exempt from the frustration that comes with learning a new skill, for both your child and for you.
As with many things in life, when you make a significant change, you need to push through what appears to be the worst outcome to get to the best outcome. It may be challenging for you, but what feels uncomfortable is often the ripest opportunity for learning and personal growth.
Learning can be messy and imperfect. Life is unpredictable. The path to take is often unclear. A crucial step to clearing the route is through your commitment and being consistent. It takes a clear intention. Think about what you want long-term for your child and your family. Do your best to become aware of your feelings and rise above them. That does not mean you don't feel them. It means you feel them truthfully and allow the feelings to pass through you. Stay as focused as you can on your intention - we want to teach our child to sleep.
You can not understand sleep if you do not become aware of the behavioral aspect of sleep. The two are intricately intertwined. Children, as well as adults, learn best through practice and repetition. We repeat behaviors to learn new behaviors. Learning new things, big or small, can take time. When we are consistent, children can trust, and learning can happen. If you find you are doing different things every night, a lack of trust will occur with your child.
Remember, sleep is a learned skill.
Imagine your kid is learning how to tie his shoes. He is hiding in the hall closet, crying, frustrated, and angry. He has no idea how to tie his shoes. He has had velcro strips on his shoes his whole life. When he got his lace-up sneakers, you tied them for him every day. It was easier. Now, you want him to learn how to do it on his own. You don't want to tie his shoes all the time. You know he is old enough and that he needs to learn how to do it on his own. He is upset and frustrated because he can't get it.
What steps would you take in this situation? You could either opt to throw your hands up, quit, and say, "Forget this!" You then take a big step back into laceless velcro sneakers. You could also commit to tying his shoes for him for the next several years. Or you could be calm and sure while he is frustrated and choose to believe in him. You can choose to have faith that he can do it and know he is capable of getting through his frustration of learning a new skill, and you can support him fully as he learns this new big boy shoe-tying talent. In time he will learn to tie his shoes because of your consistent behavior.
Now, imagine you have decided it is time to teach your child to ride a bike. What path will you take at the first fall-and-scrape-your-knees moment? It feels bad for you to see your child get hurt; of course, it does! Will you abandon the mission altogether because of this uncomfortable feeling? Will you hop on a ride your kid's bike for them? Will you keep saving him, so he does not have to fall and learn that things can get worse before they get better while learning? That is one way to go, but what message does that send your child?
Or at first fall, you could choose to stay consistent and calm and say, "Hey, that's ok. You are trying so hard! I know you're going to get this! Let's try again! or we can try tomorrow!"; this is a parent as a coach approach. It is an awakened approach. You are aware of your own emotions and do not let your feelings be the driving force behind your parenting choices. You coach and are aware of the feelings that are coming up for you, but you keep moving forward in what you know to be best for your child.
You may be thinking, "Of course, I wouldn't ride my kid's bike for them! That is ridiculous". Yet, you are doing just that. You are rocking and bouncing and jumping through hoops to get your eight-month-old to sleep through the night. You are doing her sleep for her. These methods worked when your child was an infant and was appropriate. However, what worked before does not work anymore, but you continue to do it anyway. It is time to take a parent as coach approach and teach your baby how to sleep.
Why does teaching your child how to sleep feel so different than teaching him how to ride a bike?
Because sleep is something, you need to survive. Humans cannot survive without sleep. Lack of sleep can affect you emotionally and physically. Being sleep-deprived is torture, and knowing something can be hard before it gets better while you are already sleep-deprived can leave you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. It is hard to take that first step. It is a messy mixture of fear, confusion, self-doubt, and pure physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
Parenting, while being exhausted, is as challenging as it gets. It wears at you. Overtired parents have the propensity to become more than willing to jump through a host of hoops just to get their sleep. In the end, all these hoops are way more exhausting than taking a leap to make a significant change. Before you know it, you are perfectly willing to do all sorts of things to get by; this is you being perfectly willing to ride your kid's bike for them. Try to accept that things get hard before they get better while your baby learns a new skill of self-soothing. Trust yourself and have faith that your child can learn.
I wholeheartedly believe that you and your child can do this. Just know that you are learning together!