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…to not consult with the baby in the first place.

Occasionally – usually if he’s overtired – Teddy takes ages to go down for his nap. He just sits in his cot and chats to himself (“Carrrr… Donkey…. Bahkeee… Book…”), and rattles the bars like a frustrated inmate. And this was the case today. It makes me think I should move his nap from mornings to afternoons, and I don’t know if that’s feasible or if it’s a good idea, even. So it’s one of those things that can drive a person to Google. Which is what I did.

“Force toddler to move nap,” I typed. I realised I probably didn’t need to use the word “to”, but I’ve never got out of the habit of typing full(ish) sentences into Google. I blame Ask Jeeves. For many things, obviously, but specifically for this general search term stupidity.

Towards the end of the page, I found this:

http://anunschoolinglife.com/sleep-freedom-letting-kids-find-their-own-sleep-pattern/

Now. You don’t have to read it if you can’t be arsed. In a nutshell: you should let babies and children work out their own sleep patterns; it’s fine for them to go to bed at midnight if they’re toddlers, or not at all if they’re teenagers. It’s also fine to have your children sleep in the same room as you for years. It’s all fine. The writer admits that she is not “a morning person” and that this works for her.

What a load of crap. I’ve read a lot of hippy bullshit about kids – acres of it. But stuff like this makes me furious. Someone, somewhere, is going to read this and think, “oh okay, the best way to ensure my children have a good night’s sleep is for them to decide as babies when they’d like to go to bed.” And someone, somewhere, is suddenly going to have absolutely no life and really angry, really tired children.

Each to their own, I understand this. I have friends who are more relaxed about bedtimes, and it suits them just dandy. I realise that the focus on bedtimes and naptimes might be quite a UK-centric thing too: my nieces are French, and we have friends who live in Italy, and for both of them a much later evening is normal and desired. But to suggest that children should figure out their bedtimes for themselves is just ludicrous.

And can I say right now that I am absolutely, positively, definitely NOT going to tell anyone how they should look after their kids – you do whatever the chuff you like, okay?

But here is the important bit: have you ever spent time with a tired child of any age? Tired children are nothing short of monstrous, and it’s not their fault. They scream and shout; they punch and kick; they deliberately ignore you; they hare around like possessed people; they destroy toys, valuable things, lives, hearts; they drive you to drink. And sometimes they can do all of these things at once. And do you know what the odd thing is? They don’t know that they’re tired.

Think about it. How many children of, say, three and under, have you seen making practical, sensible decisions about their own daily routines? “Ah yes, mother, I think this evening I shall be taking a shallow bath with blue duckie followed by a small, dry sherry and a fine cigar. Then if you would be so kind as to read Maisy Tidies Up, that would be most conducive to an agreeably somnolent atmos. Pip pip.”

Children under three are far more like to rub poo in their hair than make a rational decision about when to go to bed. It’s up to you, the adult, to help them learn how to put themselves to bed and sleep through the night.

There are various methods to help you do this. We did sleep training with Teddy at seven months, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll last that long with the new one. Sleep training, for those blissfully unaware, falls into a number of camps. These are the three that I know about:

  1. Leave babies in a cot to cry themselves to sleep. Repeat over several nights, until the crying is reduced, and everyone’s happy.
  2. Leave babies in a cot to cry for a bit. Soothe them and leave them to cry. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the crying is reduced, and everyone’s happy.
  3. Leave babies in a cot to cry themselves to sleep. Stay in room with them until they sleep. Next night, stay in room but a little further away. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the crying is reduced, and everyone’s happy.

These things are supposed to work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. With us, we plumped for No.2 and it worked. When you’ve been subsisting on 2.5 minutes of sleep every four hours, it can be nothing short of miraculous.

I spoke to a friend recently who was extolling the virtues of sleep training. Now, she was much tougher than me, and had gone down the first route, and she’d done it much earlier than I had too. But her reason was this: she was a terrible sleeper, always had been, and had suffered with insomnia her entire life. She knew how crippling it can be. She was desperate for her children to not suffer in the way she had, and that’s why she did it.

This makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the rampant stupidity of the article above: in essence, we don’t like getting up in the mornings (subtext: we probably go to bed late and/or don’t sleep very well during the night) so we are forcing our children to follow our sleep patterns. What the writer doesn’t understand is that as much as she’d hate to admit it, it’s just another kind of sleep training, and one in which the kids are going to be absolutely shattered in school (unless you’re homeschooling them, in which case, good luck to you) and unable to do a lot of stuff their mates are doing. 9am trips to the swimming pool? Missed. Early exam? Failed. Generally being in a massive piss before 11am? Yup.

I’ve banged on at length and I haven’t even touched on the children-sleeping-in-your-room thing. How do these people get around to making more than one baby if they have kids sleeping in their room until they’re 15? Don’t even think about how they managed that.

I’m not telling you what to do. Do what you want. By all means, if you like your children staying up late with you, then do that. I’m not giving you advice on how to get your children to sleep through the night, I’m just telling you what we did. Just don’t follow her advice, that’s all. Seriously, don’t.

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