Behavior Chat

Thanks to a recommendation from one of my first collegues and mentors, I began each school year with a “behavior chat”.  I wrote out a document and passed it out to all of my staff and then we went over it.  During this behavior chat time I outlined all of the expectations I had for the adults who would be regularly working with the students in my classroom.  Flash forward to mommy-hood, and I have found myself applying the same ideas and reflections within my own parenting.

So naturally I am going to share them with you!  My point in this first piece is to identify the basic things I use when dealing with behaviors (good and bad) in my own home.  I will follow up with a few articles that go more into depth.

Expectations:  Keep them high and reasonable!  Children consistently rise to every expectation adults in their lives set for them.  If the expectations are low or unreasonable, unwanted behaviors usually present either when they are young or when they are older.  If the expectations are high and reasonable considering age and abilities, good behaviors usually present consistently…sounds simple huh…that is because it is!

Encouraging Independence:  I have never met a parent of any child who has said, my hope is that my child grows up to depend on me completely and never do anything for himself…Parents’ goals include teaching their children to be as independent as possible so they can be contributing members of society, or simply as independent as possible so they can better function in society.  Guess what, if we consistently encourage independent skills and are there to help teach and promote those skills while they are young, then we will successfully help our children build a strong behavioral foundation.  (Note my use of the word “encouraging” and not “forcing” independence).

Natural Consequences: This is a necessary step to allow in the behavioral development of all children ages 2 and up (from about two months to two years cause and effect teach our little ones for every action there is a reaction).  Help and bailout will not always follow our children around to protect them from making mistakes.  So as much as we want to control and protect our children (or ourselves) from failing, throwing tantrums, stumbling, we need to show restraint while they are young and developing.  A simple example is dinner time.  If a child is not hungry enough to eat the good food that mom and dad made for them, they are not hungry enough to have a dessert.  Or if you throw a tantrum and you break one of your favorite toys, it is gone, you don’t get a new one.

Understanding/Acceptance:  When mistakes, bad choices or messes occur with our children it is OUR reaction that will make or break the situation.  Acceptance of your child’s abilities and current developmental stage is key.  If you can quickly assess the situation, take a deep breath and use one of three tools in your response.  Empathy: “ouch that really hurts when you jump off the table and hit your head, what do you think about that choice?”  Laughter: “Umm excuse me, who said the Hulk could come out and destroy this room?  Who are you going to call to clean it up?”  Remove from situation: (screaming, yelling, kicking) “Time to separate and have alone time, you upstairs, you downstairs and take a minute to cam down.”  Then bring everyone back to discuss the situation.

Communication:  One of the very best tools I have learned to use for all children of all developing ages is the use of appropriate communication.  Children do not know how to rationalize and explain their thoughts in a “mature” way.  They need to be taught, and they need to be taught appropriately to their development age.  When a child screams, or throws a physical tantrum, we as parents need to provide the correct language.  (“I need help”, “I am not ready”, or “I can do it myself”)  This also works really well when there is no problem at all.  As parents we can teach all day by modeling language to use during all fun and learning experiences.

Discussion:  This can be scaled to your child’s abilities.  However, I think discussion of past, current and future events is key to teaching children.  I like to use this tool when I am teaching my children that although I have a tendency to want to control everything that happens in our lives, I am not perfect.  When I allow my emotions to get the better of me, I make a point to discuss with my kids what I did wrong, and how I could have been better (again this language can be as simple or as complex as needed depending on the child’s development level).  This opens doors for them to talk about what they have been processing in their own heads.

Finally,

Reflection:  Parenting is not all about the moment and what my child did to elicit the response from me.  It is an ongoing, changing and developing state of mind.  I try to reflect on every significant (what I consider significant in our lives) event that happened.  I focus specifically on myself, what I did, how I responded, and how it affected my children or entire family.  This goes back to I’m not perfect, and therefore I can not expect my children to be perfect.  The reflection tool helps me identify my behavior and the consequences of my behavior as well as what I can do differently when the situation undoubtly presents itself again.

Thanks for taking the time to read some of my thoughts, I hope they helped you identify some things you already use in your parenting, or maybe even gave you some new ideas to try!

 

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Field Trip

It is 6:30 Am Monday morning.  I am sitting in my dark kitchen huddled over my one year old’s halloween costume sewing (terribly…by hand) small white felt circles on his brown pants and hoodie so that he can look like a cow in two days.  I take a break to take a sip of my coffee and sniffle back the tears threatening to come.  You see I am trying to distract myself from thinking about my four year old who is going on his first class field trip today…no parents allowed, and walking to the fire station.  Ahhh!

Ok so since I have become a mom I feel as though there is an unspoken competition on which mom can be the most relaxed and layed back about their child growing up.  Hahahahhahah…I lose!  I know all the truths about teaching and instilling independence and the importance to a child’s development to step out on their own, try new things, and even fail doing so.  So why on earth do I have a huge knot in my stomach at the thought of my child going on a walking trip with this friends and his teachers?  Becasue I am a mom, a mom who is figuring it out as I go.  A mom who has decided with her husband that putting our children in school, providing them with the opportunities to grow and learn is the best path we can offer them in this ever changing world.

So today I am going to offer up a few prayers to strengthen my faith that having control over everything in my child’s life is not up to me, nor is it fair to him, not to mention a bit insulting to the Big Man upstairs.  And when Liam wakes up, I am going to have a mean ninja sword fight with him before breakfast.  Because the one thing I can control is how I spend our time together!

Thanks for reading…I know it’s been awhile, and I am happy I can share my thoughts with other parents!

 

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Giving in

Saying no to my 1 year old is hilarious, frustrating and so sad all wrapped up into one. Today he pulled a toy shopping cart over to the couch, used it as a stepping stool to climb up onto the couch. He then came over to me all proud and full of kisses and hugs, begging for a “great job buddy”! Then he proceeded to climb up the back of the couch to get to the table behind the couch. On the table is an adult decoration that he thinks is a toy. I told him “No thank you,” “stop please”, and “NO MAXIMUS”. He took it anyway, so I stood up said “no thank you” and took it away and put him on the floor. Then came the lower lip up over the top lip, tears filled his eyes to the brim and then pooled out and dribbled down his cheeks, then came the shrill first cry after having held his breath for 5 seconds. Followed by all out crying non-stop for 5 minutes. As a mom it is difficult to get used to dealing with two or more strong but different emotions all at once. At that moment I felt like laughing out loud and crying for him at the same time. He looked so pathetic and sad and really pulled at my emotions.
Here comes the predicament, do I “give in”, or give “tough love”?
I say neither.
Instead, I pick him up, hug him kiss him, let him cry on my shoulder and then move on. This is what I like to call teaching and nurturing.
I told him no and I meant it. Just because he cried and I hurt his feelings does not change my answer to yes. The way I see it, when these instances occur (and it always seems way more intense and dramatic in public then in the confines of our home) we as parents have the choice to give in, stand firm, pacify with something else, or nurture, support and move forward.
Giving in~ the tears start and we just let the no change to yes and they get what they wanted.
Stand firm~ Let them cry, walk away from them; maybe yell “no” again.
Pacify~ begin to present a string of different items or options until one makes them shut-up and be quiet again.
Nurture, support and move forward~ Pick him up, hug him, kiss him, tell him you love him and once he calms down a bit from being in your safe comforting arms, move onto something else.
If you have read any of my other blog posting I am sure you can guess which one I advocate….definitely nurturing and supporting. I take major issue with giving in once I have set a limit or expectation for my kids, and I have found over years of experience working with kids that trying to avoid their frustrations by trying out a string of other things until they are happy is a big no-no in the teaching department. All that does is teach the child that if they don’t like something they can just throw a little tantrum or bully us parents until we give them what they want. However, the best parents and the best teachers I have watched and learned from have either a natural or learned ability to teach and nurture at the same time. They set the expectation, or limitation and then they support the child in any way that child needs to work through frustration. At the same time they are not giving in, they are standing firm, but they are providing comfort and building trust with their child.
Having said all that I feel it important to point out that although it seems involved and maybe even a lot of work; when done consistently and without hesitation or drama, it takes about 2-5 minutes before we can move on. Also, I have found that at home I am much more inclined to “stand firm” and walk away while he cries because I am “busy” with something else. However, if I do not address tantrums at home in a nurturing and supportive way, then things seem to be much worse in public when a tantrum occurs.
So, after 5 minutes of Maximus crying and me cuddling him, he stopped gave me a kiss and scampered around the living room kissing his brother, and the dogs…and didn’t try to get the decoration again! ☺

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Attachment parenting Drama

So yesterday I was introduced to the Time magazine article with the mom breastfeeding her toddler (Just like most people who have a tv or computer or smart phone), and I was perplexed. The article is supposed to be about attachment parenting and instead the picture and title has turned it into an “extreme parenting” issue. Really??? What parent could possibly say that loving your child, supporting your child, teaching your child, and responding instinctually to your child is extreme??? In my experience attachment parenting is a great guide (not rule book) to instinctual parenting.
Let me be honest I started in down the rabbit hole of reading the yahoo news comments (head hanging in shame). As my husband can testify I started to get frustrated and heated and angry at the computer. Thank God for my husband who always tells me the truth even if I don’t want to hear it, because he told me that I was being ridiculous and that I need to stop reading that CRAP! However, as I lay awake that night (4 AM) nursing my 13 month old in my bed I couldn’t get it out of my mind and decided I would write a short synopsis of Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting theory for my readers and see how “extreme” you all think it really is.
When I was pregnant with my first son my older sister gave me Dr. Sears and his wife Martha Sears: The Attachment Parenting Book. The style of parenting is based on the “7 B’s” of parenting.

Birth Bonding: Exactly what it sounds like: Holding, cuddling, eye contact, skin-to-skin with your baby as soon as possible after he is born and continued on through the first weeks after birth. Any new mom will tell you that after having a baby her emotional state of mind changes and her natural nurturing instincts kick in. During this time the baby is very needy and the mother is eager and willing to nurture.
Breastfeeding:The God given ability for every mammal mother to provide necessary nourishment to her infant through production of milk. The hormones prolactin and oxytocin that accompany lactation help women feel calm and relaxed around their babies and allow for mothering intuition to occur.
Babywearing: This comes in the form of holding, carrying, in a sling or an infant carrier. A carried baby remains calmer and alert, which allows for the baby to be in a better state of mind to study and absorb information about his environment. Babywearing eliminates fear of the unknown and promotes a growing trust with his parents. (In all relationships trust is earned not automatic, even with babies).
Bed Sharing: I am going to quote straight from the book on this one because I love the description: “There is no one right place for all babies to sleep. Wherever all family members get the best night’s sleep is the right arrangement for your individual family. Most, but not all, babies sleep best when they are close to their parents. Sleeping close to baby can help some busy parents connect with their babies and care for their babies’ needs at night as well as during the day and evening. This is particularly true for mothers who return to work after their maternity leave. Since nighttime is scary for little people, sleeping within close touching and nursing distance minimizes nighttime separation anxiety and helps babies learn that sleep is a pleasant state to enter rather than a fearful one it is also easier for mothers to do nighttime breastfeeding with baby close at hand. It may work for you some nights and not on other nights.”
Belief in Baby’s cries: As I have mentioned before babies cry to communicate not to manipulate. Crying is a tool babies have to ensure survival, and provide them the ability to let their parents know something is not quite right. When parents respond consistently and sensitively to their babies’ cries they develop their parenting skills as well as teach their child the effectiveness of communication and to trust their parents.
Balance and Boundaries: This is my favorite one that I think has been overlooked in the media frenzy and attack of the parenting style, again I quote: “In your zeal to give so much to your baby, it’s easy to neglect your own needs and those of your marriage…the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby—knowing when to say yes and when to say no, and having the wisdom to say yes to yourself when you need help.
Beware of Baby trainers: This “B” is in response to the well-meaning advise new parents often hear: ”get him on a schedule”, “let him cry it out” “don’t pick him up so much, you’re spoiling him”. These statements are usually made with the assumption that babies are crying to manipulate and/or as an inconvenient habit that needs to be broken to fit into an adult life. Obviously, based on the previous 6 “b’s” those are the opposite assumptions of attachment parenting, and could teach a baby to lose trust in her communication value and drive a wedge between parent and child.

Okay so now that I gave you the brief synopsis, I am curious to hear what you think….Does this seem like “extreme” parenting? Does this scream you are coddling your baby? Most importantly, does it make you feel like Dr. Sears is saying there is only one perfect way to raise every single child? Or does it make you feel like parenting should be relied on instinct and bond between parent and child?

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Toddler thank you notes

Here is a brief video explanation of something fun I do with Liam while I am teaching him fine motor skills! I hope you enjoy!

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Teaching through time outs

Often times I hear parents say, “I just need to pick my battles” in reference to their children’s behaviors.  I think, however, if my child is doing something that has bothered me enough to the point of throwing my hands up and say “uggg I just need to pick my battles” then that is a battle to pick.  However, I have found that if I handle it right I’ll only have to pick it once or twice and then it will be caput!

As my guys have been growing it has sometimes felt as though every day they learn some new way to defy me or get into trouble.  Why I let this frustrate me is a complete mystery, because it is their job to grow and learn and yes, defy me.  As I have said before I like to count to 3 when I am teaching my children how to listen and follow directions.  I always count to 3 when I am teaching a new expectation.  However, there are also some times where an immediate reaction is needed in response to one of their bad choices that defies something I have already taught them.  For example, I have a rule in our house that balls are to be only thrown outside or in the basement.  Everywhere else in the house is meant for only rolling balls around.  The other day my four year old chose to break that rule and threw a ball in his room and hit his lamp and crashed it to the ground, breaking it.  Since he is already familiar with the rule and is aware of what the consequence will be, and of course the damage was done, I bypassed counting and went straight to the consequence.

The consequence is simple, I send him to a spot that removes him from the area (i.e. the corner, sit on the stairs, sit on the floor).  Then I tell him to count.  I pick a number that is age appropriate and obviously one he can do on his own, and I direct him to stay there until he finishes counting.   In this particular instance I told him to sit on the stairs and count to 40.

At first, when he was younger, I would put him in time out and set a timer, and when the timer went off he would be all done.  However, I noticed that putting him there and letting the timer do the work did not help promote understanding or teach him the importance of taking responsibility for his actions.   In fact, I found that he would talk to himself or spin around or giggle, which led me to believe that it meant absolutely nothing to him.  It got me thinking about my classroom and what I did for my students, and I thought about what the function of time out should be.  Time out in my classroom was not meant as a punishment, it was meant to force my students to stop what they were doing, think about it, learn from it, and move forward.  I wanted those same things for my own children.  The key phrase being Learn from it, I do not want to scare my kids into submission, I want to teach them that there are consequences for their actions and because of that they need to make good choices in order to promote good consequences.

Here is a simple progression on how I taught my son to count on his own in time out.  When he was younger (2-3) he obviously was not counting by himself.  I put him in timeout and I told him he needed to count to 5 or 10 with me.  So I would have him clap his hands the amount of times, and as he got older he would count with me or repeat the numbers after me.  Once he was able to count independently I would give him an easy number to count to.  I would also leave him alone and go about my business in and around him, but not hovering.

Doing the counting has forced Liam to take responsibility for his actions and have a tangible consequence that he ultimately has control of.  There have been times when I told him he needed to count to 20 or 30 or 40 before he can go back to playing, and he has chosen to remain in time out and not count.  What is good about this VS my initial timer consequence, is that he chooses when he is ready to carry out his consequence and move forward.  Previously the timer would buzz and he would be on his merry way without any comprehension of why he was there.  But when he is choosing to stay until he is ready to count, he has proven to be more aware of why he is there and more willing to apologize and discuss his actions.

Final thought: I think it is very important to note that timeout should be used very infrequently in order for it to be effective.  It should be used only as a consequence to an action that has been previously taught as a “no-no”, and it should be followed up with a calm and simple discussion about it…in a perfect world that is :)

 

 

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Feel Good Story

For those of you who know me or have read the “about me” page you know that my occupation is teaching special needs children.   I taught for quite a few years before I decided to stay home with my kids.  While I was teaching I had a “feel good” folder.  One of my mentors told me that I should keep a file with positive emails, or cards, or letters that would filter in from students, parents, co-workers or bosses.  Her reasoning behind this was to have something to open up and reflect on when the day-to-day stresses and frustrations were too heavy and overwhelming.  Reading the positive notes always were refreshing and a strong reminder of why I came to work everyday.  Fast Forward 8 years and I am blessed to say that I still get to add things to that folder, only now I am going to share one with you!

From time to time I hear from or get to see my former students.  Just recently I received a call from a former student who was in my very first class at my first teaching job.  This young man had a personality and heart larger than life.  He had a beautiful soul but he was faced with some challenges that hindered him from being able to share his whole self with this world.  One of those challenges was being able to understand his anxiety and effectively communicate the many thoughts in his head.  So naturally his teacher before me wrote a goal for him to learn to have a two-three-word exchange with an adult.  As we worked with him we were able to advance that goal and teach him to use words instead of physical force to communicate.  However, when we parted ways he still had difficulty carrying on a conversation of more than one or two sentence exchanges.

Over the past four years, he has called me to check in and say Hi, and this last call I received from him blew me out of the water.  He hijacked his mom’s phone, and called me.  To start he told me that I was such a great teacher and he misses me. Then we continued on to have a wonderful conversation with so many exchanges I lost count!  The most exciting thing for me is that I got to see how simple things that we put in place for this young man as a child has helped him and taught him so much as a young adult.  I give the credit to his mom.  She looked at her son and knew that in order for him to be the man she knows he could be she would have to teach him how to use his strengths and overcome his weaknesses.  With reflection, consistency, high expectations and love she has been able to do just that.  What I love is that no matter who our children are, or what sort of challenges they may face, or who tries to stand in their way, we as mothers and parents have the ability and the tools to help them through it.   Most importantly no matter what behaviors are present in our children, we can set the expectations for those behaviors to change, and with consistency and love we will see them change.

Thanks for reading and letting me share this with you!  Check back in a couple days to read about what timeout looks like at my house J

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Praise: A Parent’s Best Defense

Praising your child more than correcting!!

Most evenings I spend some time reflecting on my day.  I think about the “highs and lows” and what I could have done better, and how I handled different situations with my kids.  The worst days of reflection are when I replay all the negative things I said or did toward my kids or husband.  It is so easy for me to point out the bad things and make corrections because they seem to be the things that hit me in the face and prompt the biggest reaction in me.

I notice some days everything that comes out of my mouth is negative towards my children, like “you can’t do that”, “stop doing this”, “don’t say that”, “not right now”, “that is not okay”.  When I stop and think about it I usually wonder why on earth is everyone in my house cranky and why do I feel so crappy?  Then I am reminded of something I used to tell my classroom staff: we as the teachers make or break the day.  It is our attitudes in the classroom that set the mood for everyone else in it.  I have found that as a mother and wife I have the same ability in my home.  If I am cranky and negative and spastic, then my children (and worse my husband) will feed off of me!  Have you notice this happen in your house??

If you have, maybe you have also figured out how to avoid it.   I have found that all kids require a ton of praise.  Especially as youngsters, it is so easy to correct and point out flaws in our kids because those are the times that they become the annoying background noise we can’t tune out until we shut it off.  I make an effort to praise my boys ten to twenty times a day or more.  Another good rule of thumb can be 2-3 praises for every correction.  I make it a personal goal to hunt down and point out as many positive choices, attitudes, and triumphs they contribute to our day.

I am positive that our children (even problem children) have more good in them then bad.  I am finding that when I “catch” my boys making good choices and I actually focus on praising that good behavior, the less stressed, angry, and annoyed I feel on a regular basis.  Which in turn helps tremendously with my attitude towards my Husband and friends.

Have you found this true with your family??

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Why Counting to 3 Works

As I have gotten older I find it refreshing to know that I have become wiser than the 18~19~20 year old who “knew Everything”! I remember being young and so intelligent that I thought I could make off the cuff judgments and assessments just because I knew my way was right! For instance, my child was NEVER going to have sleeping troubles—ha, my children will ALWAYS eat what I put in front of them without complaint—haha, and my children will never throw a tantrum in public—hahaha! My favorite was I will NEVER have to count to three because my children will respond immediately to every request—hahahahahahhahaha!

Counting to three has become my number one lifeline in every single behavioral and learning situation I have encountered with every child I have worked with in my classroom as well as with my own children.

My process:

I give my direction, or pose my question to my child. If there is no response or worse a big fat “NO mom”, I start to count. When I am first introducing 1-2-3 to a student or my children, I say the direction and 1 (ie “come here, 1”). Then I continue with the direction and 2, the direction and 3. Nine times out of ten when I begin teaching this to a child, I will get to 3 and they will continue to ignore me. Here comes the teaching part: when they ignore me, I simply say, “I’ll help you” and I do just that. Here is an example: Me: “Time to clean up and get ready for bed”. (No response) Me: “Clean up 1, (pause) Clean up 2, (pause) Clean up 3, (pause)” (No response) Me: “Okay I’ll help you”. I then walk over and I calmly hand-over-hand help him clean or provide him with the bins the toys need to go in and wait for him to clean up. Boom all done!

Why it works:

We have all heard it once before “Children need structure and limits set for them.” This has definitely proven the case in my experiences. We as humans are made to test boundries and think outside of the box. This is not something that just happens when we are adults, it starts as babies and toddlers and continues throughout our entire lives. As a mom I am responsible for teaching my children right from wrong, being respectful of others, themselves, and their things. They do not just know it! The counting to 3 is a tool that allows them time to process the request, use their own brains to decide how they want to respond, and then ultimately follow through on their decision. If we as parents push them and stress them to the point that they cannot think for themselves but instead make them react out of fear and demand, then we essentially are telling them not to use their natural inclinations to learn and develop. Another thing to note about a child’s development is their reaction time is slower depending on what they are doing. When my older son is engrossed in something, whether it be TV, coloring, sports, music, games, or just playing with his toys, he is completely engrossed in it. He is not thinking about leaving, or cleaning up, or dinner, or napping, or whatever I am thinking about. So when I find him and tell him to stop and do something else, he has to mentally and physically comply. This can be difficult for him if he is in the middle of something that he thinks is extremely important. When I provide him wait time his brain is able to process it and then better decide if he wants to listen to me or not.

This is also a great tool to use with your growing baby. My almost 1 year old is currently learning to follow simple 1-2 step directions. I use the same counting method to teach him to follow my directions. Again, my goal is to teach him to listen and follow directions, not force him to yield to my will. For example, when he decides to empty out a kitchen drawer of utensils and I do not want him to do it, I simply tell him “No thank you”, If he does not stop (which is always) I Count: “No thank you 1, No thank you 2, No thank you 3, I’ll help you”. I then pick him up close the cupboard and bring him to a place where he can play. The reason I do this even though he does not quite understand “No” is to provide consistency as well as provide him the time to process what I am saying, what he is doing, and what my actions are. This will help him to connect it all together logically instead of being confused by me saying “No” and ripping him away from something he was having fun doing without warning.

I can happily report that with each student and most importantly my own children this has worked wonders. As always I did a little extra work in the beginning for less work later; now when I have to count I hardly ever make it past one before my given direction is followed! As an added bonus this tool also provides me the much needed time to calm down and control any anger I may be feeling, and I am able to focus on helping my kids instead of screaming at them!

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Teaching children to sleep through the night

I was picking my son up from school today and there are 3 or 4 moms who have had newborns within the last 1-9 months. Surprise! The topic of conversation was how long the babies are sleeping at night. I heard at least two times the words “Oh I’m so jealous…how come everyone else is so lucky and I’m not?” My first thought is of the famous English Proverb “the grass is always greener on the other side…” My second thought is that infants do not sleep like adults. The physical nature of how a baby sleeps makes it impossible for them to sleep fantastically through the night. They are built this way, it is not their fault and most importantly it is not our faults as parents.

I have found with both of my boys that the first year of life is so busy and fast moving it is impossible for me to be able to say for certain how well or not well they sleep. Babies are growing so rapidly physically and mentally their nutrition and sleep needs are constantly changing and adding new and different demands. My little ones would go two-three days where they slept what FELT like all day and all night. During those periods of time I felt like I barely fed them at all. Then all of a sudden they would stop sleeping and I would have a couple nights in a row that felt as if I nursed all night long and got little to no sleep. Lot’s of time the simple fact that I am tired, or I am busy and didn’t get to do all the things on my list because the baby needed me made me fall into a “poor me” mode. However, if I can take a deep breath and think logically for a minute it makes total sense why this pattern is occurring. The obvious reasons are: he now has four teeth poking out that have spent the past few months twisting and turning and pushing and tearing through his little gums making him uncomfortable and cranky; I have had to put all the 3-6 month clothes away and stock his drawers with 9-18 month clothes ☹; and he is crawling so fast every entry way needs a gate secured to block him from flying head first down the stairs. But even more if I am thinking clearly I can see the less obvious signs: such as he is now baby signing “more” instead of screaming at the dinner table, he is imitating his dad’s silly noises and facial expressions, he is throwing his hands in the air and belly laughing every time I say “How Big is Maximus?” and he stops when I say “no” or he turns and comes to me when I say “come here”. These are huge indicators that all the eating and sleep changes have provided the physical and nutritious medicine his body needed to develop these skills!

Unfortunately it is not always as easy to look at the facts when I am exhausted physically and mentally. Here are a few tips I learned through research, trial and error with both of my boys.

The first step was I had to acknowledge and accept that sleep is just another part of my child’s life that I need to TEACH him to do. I want him to learn that sleep is peaceful and comforting and wonderful. In order to do so I had to teach him. I did this by setting up a soothing routine. We start to wind down in the evening after dinner by turning lights, TV, and music down or off to limit stimulation. We give both boys a bath and get them ready for bed. We read a couple books quietly in their rooms (I am usually rocking the baby in the glider). We turn out the lights and my 4 year old goes right to sleep on his own because when he was a baby I did with him what I continue to do with my 10 month old. That is: with the lights out I rock him and nurse him to sleep. According to Dr. Sears in The Baby Book, infants take about 20 minutes to drift through a light sleep before they fall into a deep sleep. I make sure his eyes are no longer moving under his lids, his arms and legs are not twitching and his hands are limp when I move them. Then I can transfer him into his crib for his first sleep cycle. From about 3-6 months it could take up to an hour to transfer him to his bed, then from 6-10 months it greatly decreased in time to about 20 minutes each night. I also do the same for naps if we are home.

Having said all that, my rule of thumb first as a teacher and now as a mom: Do the work in the beginning so that it is less work later. No one said it is EASY being a parent and teaching our children, it does take sacrifices especially when we are teaching something new to our children. We may have to leave the kitchen a mess or the laundry dirty a little longer so that we can give much needed attention to our growing babies. Which has been proven true with my oldest son. With consistency in our bedtime routine and spending most nights focused on teaching him to fall asleep comfortably (wearing him in a sling or holding him as an infant, rocking, cuddling, and laying with him as he got older). He has had no problems going to sleep by himself in his bed since he was 2 years old!

Have fun teaching your children how great sleep can be!!

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