Mistakes I Made Sleep Training My Children
Parenting is a daunting experience sometimes, especially if you have absolutely no experience with young children to begin with. I always knew that I wanted children from a very young age but I had no experience whatsoever with babies. I just thought they were so adorable and I knew I loved children. After having my children I realized that thee were so many things I did not know. There are books on parenting but everyone has different ideas about everything to do with parenting that you still have to pick and choose and adopt the way that best suits your family. Sleeping habits for babies and young children is a biggy and I made tons of mistakes with the training in that area with my kids.
Hindsight is always the clearest way to see mistakes and most of us just kind of fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to parenting. Something I never even considered when starting our family was sleeping habits. I am one of those people who fall asleep when their heads hit the pillow and I just kind of assumed that everyone was the same way. I was raised with a strict bedtime and with a dad that frowned on kids coming into our folk’s bedroom to sleep, even when we had nightmares. I remember mom would come to our room if needed but dad would have none of us sleeping with them. I always thought he was an ogre until I realized he was actually helping us by teaching us to comfort ourselves in our own beds and get back to sleep.
Since I thought dad was an ogre I did not want to be like him so I allowed my children to sleep with us and it got to be pretty regular. My oldest was a girl and after awhile, especially when she was old enough to read on her own, she was able to read herself to sleep and pretty much stay asleep with an occasional nightmare causing her to come and get in bed with us. My son on the other hand did not adapt to sleeping on his own. He was and to this day as a young adult still does have a hard time sleeping and has very bad sleeping habits. Not being able to go to sleep at all and when he does go to sleep he wakes himself up several times during the night for various reasons. I believe it is due to the fact that I did not enforce better sleeping habits when he was small.
The difference in my daughters and sons sleeping habits are varied in nature. First of all they have very different personality types; my daughter is easy going and has always been thoughtful and mature for any age. My son is very active and spontaneous in nature and does not usually sit around reading and thinking much but jumps into action to find something new and interesting to do. He seemed to always be on the alert and never wanted to miss out on a thing and I often wondered if that is why he fought sleep and woke himself up so easily even when he was very sleepy. Like the world would pass him by if he was to drift off to sleep.
Another difference between my two children was that with my daughter I was a single parent when she was small until she was six and we remarried. She did sleep with me sometimes but would go to sleep at a regular time without me. She was an obedient child and went by the rules; if you told her something was not good or something was hot she did not have to try it out to see if you were telling her the truth. My son on the other hand would try out everything you told him, if you said something was hot and not to touch, he touched. You get the idea. So I was dealing with two very different personality bents.
Depending on the type of child you have makes it harder or easier to get them into good sleeping habits but what is important is that you persevere in training either child, even if it is hard. My son was a hard child, not an unpleasant child, most of the time he was grinning at you while he was doing something he knew he should not. Which made it even harder to correct him but as I am dealing with a young adult now I see that I should have been even more persistent in training. He has a very difficult time keeping on target, he is still flipping from one thing to another without much structure in his life. He knows it and wants to change and I feel bad because I know it was my poor training and at this point he has to re-train himself. It was not bad parenting but it was ignorant parenting.
He did not want to go to sleep and even had a difficult time lying still in the bed. At first I let him sleep with us but we ended up getting no sleep because he moved around so much even if he did fall to sleep. I can not tell you how many nights I got hit with a leg or an arm in the eye or throat and awoke in pain or gasping for air! Sometimes I found myself curled up at the end of the bed while he was spread eagle in my spot. My husband always seemed able to maintain his spot purely on the basis of size and strength I am sure.
After awhile I was getting no sleep so I insisted that my son go to sleep in his own bed. Which was fine with him but I had to read to him and then tell him stories to try and get his body settled down and in the end I would rub his head or back to settle him. And he would insist I lay with him while doing it and when he did go to sleep and I would try to slip away most of the time he would wake himself and ask me to rub some more. This whole process would usually take an hour or more! I felt like a prisoner at bedtime. And sometimes half way through the night he was in our room and I would get up and go back to his room and lie with him again, usually awaking in the morning in his bed because of exhaustion.
I tried to put him to bed without rubbing, with just a short reading time, but he would end up getting up and coming in our room. I would take him back and we would go back and forth until I was too tired to fight it and I would lie down with him again. I was a working mom and had to get up early and fight my way downtown in traffic, this was not what I wanted, I wanted to be home but it was what it was. When he did actually fall asleep in his own bed he always heard me get up in the morning no matter how quiet I was from way down the hall. He would run down the hall and lie in my bed and watch me get ready for work.
As a young adult I am still trying to get him to go to sleep at night. He gets to working in the yard or on his truck or sometimes playing a game and he does not know when to quit. I try to tell him he needs to stop his body and let it wind down for sleep and it usually does if he heeds my advice. And he still has trouble waking up several times a night after falling asleep. He has trouble with structure and staying in one place for too long. Even in working he needs a job that lets him move around and has varied duties. And I feel it all has to do with poor sleeping habits.
I realize now that I should have been a little more of an ogre like my dad and put my foot down no matter how tired I was because I believe it would have worked if I had stuck to my guns and after awhile it would have gotten easier. As it was it continued throughout childhood and is still plaguing my son’s life today. I believe sleeping habits help children to learn structure, structure builds security in their lives, gives them self-control, and the ability to discipline their lives. I did not help my son, even though I felt I was comforting him at the time, I hurt my son and now he is dealing with it today. Sometimes love is hard, I guess that is why they call it tough love, but real love is when you are doing something for the good of the other person, not your good at the moment.
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/. Learn more about her http://www.nannypro.com/blog/sara-dawkins/.