What’s the source of all these sleep problems that we and our children are experiencing? 80% of these problems come from bad habits. Fortunately though, they are several simple ways to help get our child’s sleep back on track.
So, Whose Fault Is It?
Parents that spend hours and hours every night trying to get their little one to sleep, get up in the middle of the night to calm him down and then still take their fussy child to bed with them, are finally at the end of their strength. But who is really the guilty one in this story? Is it really the child? What if he’s only the victim of the bad habits his parents taught him? It’s not easy for parents to accept this possibility, because they mean well and they are convinced that they are doing the best they can to help their child sleep. They sacrificed their privacy, their rest and their sleep – and everything still turned out differently then how they expected.
These parents need to know it’s ok, because child raising is a path that often has its questions, mistakes and dead ends. The good news is that it’s always possible to take another direction.
The start of a vicious circle
Of course it’s completely normal if a child wakes up at night. We have learned that such awakenings are caused by physiological processes and thanks to them, every child wakes up between two sleep cycles. For a child to calmly fall asleep again, he needs to have the same conditions as at night. We don’t need to stress that you have a big problem if your child falls asleep only if he’s riding in a stroller around the apartment or around the house, if you let him in your bed for a while or if he plays with his mom’s hair as if it were his favorite toy. Because then logically, your child will demand the whole “falling asleep process” (in its every detail) every time he wakes up. This is truly cruel to all parents that let themselves be dragged into this adventure…
Another possible cause for sleeping troubles could be an absence of boundaries. We shouldn’t want a child to “test” his parents to see how resistant they are. A child needs boundaries for a healthy development. Contrary to what many people think a child expects a confrontation with a strong “no”. Without this obstacle, what are they going to rebel against?
A bottle = a trap
A bottle of juice, tea or milk, without which a child won’t fall asleep, can often become a trap. Every time a child wakes up at night, he demands something to drink. As a result of this, he will always have a full bladder, which will prevent him from calmly sleeping.
The pillars of peaceful sleep
The whole life story of a child basically revolves around the fact that a child needs to feel the same way as he did in his mother’s womb. We can achieve this by giving our child love and tenderness, while still setting boundaries that will define his living space. If a child goes to sleep at eight every night, it should not be open for discussion. If you let your child know that mom’s and dad’s bed is off limits, it should stay this way. It’s not easy to maintain these boundaries, especially if you’re tired, if you have a lot of work and you’re scared your child will loose affection for you if you’ll be too strict… However, if a child looses the sense of firm boundaries and rules, his sleep can become troubling
No other choice then to re-educate
What is cooked at home is eaten at home – you probably will need to teach your child everything from the beginning. At first he needs to get used to falling asleep without the help of another, without a stroller, a car or his mothers arms. Then, he needs to understand that at home, mom and dad have the final word.
During such a “re-education”, don’t forget to be gentle to your child and make time explaining everything to him. This is not punishment, but help that you are offering to the child. Don’t make him feel guilty – your job is to be a parent.
“5-10-20”, the winning time limits
Richard Ferber, an American expert on child’s sleep, introduced a special technique “gradual learning” to parents. He recommends following a bedtime routine and then leaving the child alone in his room, even if he’s crying. After five minutes, return to his room and tell him that it’s necessary for him to sleep alone; then leave again. Don’t touch him, don’t caress him and don’t give him anything to drink. If he keeps crying, wait ten minutes this time and then make another visit in his room. After you assure your child about your presence, leave again. Don’t come back before twenty minutes have passed; keep a watch in your hand. If the child is still crying, keep the twenty-minute intervals between each visit. If you try this shock therapy, the problem will usually be solved within four to five nights. But only if you follow all the rules and time limits! Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t change them a little if you have a particularly anxious child.
There are many circumstances that could bring on sleeping problems in a child: the birth of another sibling, death in the family, separation anxiety in the eight month, starting kindergarten or school, times when a child is learning basic hygienic habits of when he’s learning to walk.
Some say that an overly tight bond between the mother and child can cause sleep disturbances. A child doesn’t want to go to sleep and separate from his mother and she also has a difficult time with physical separation from her child. That’s why a father can play a significant role. If a child cries, it’s up to the dad to calm him, because he won’t give in. He should also help the child understand, that the mothers place is beside his father, not beside the baby’s crib
So many countries, so many customs
In many cultures, soothing a child is taken very seriously. Evil spirits could find a child thanks to his cries. For example, if a Chinese child cries at night, his parents write a magical formula on a yellow piece of paper. For this formula to have the right effect, it must be secretly put up on the street at midnight.