Way back when (roughly 6 months ago, which is FOREVER in internet years), I told you my plans for reading The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids.
1. A toddler who struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep.
2. A preschooler who was testing our parenting skills and winning.
3. Two parents who had reached a point of yelling more than talking. Not fun.
I have since had a chance to read both books and reflect. Here are a few of my thoughts on both.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers
This is a great book that really reinforces some basic sleep thoughts and ideas. Nothing too new or earth shattering, but a good refresher course on establishing healthy sleep habits. The most important being consistency. But first, take a week or so to really pay attention to your child's current bedtime and sleep routines and habits. Make note of things that are and are not working. And come up with a sleep plan that encourages a peaceful transition to sleep. Once you have a plan in place, stick with it! Make sure everyone (mom, dad, grandparents, caregivers, whomever will be putting your child to bed) is on board and understands every step of the plan. Take some time to get used to the plan and fully implement it and then make any changes necessary if it's not working for your child.
One of the problems with Pen's sleep was that she would take a long time to settle down and fall asleep (sometimes close to 2 hrs). The biggest nugget of info I gleamed from The No-Cry Sleep Solution was to put her to bed earlier. I know sounds crazy, right? But holy moly did it work! So now Pen goes to bed between 6:15 and 6:30 every night (it has creeped closer to 7:00 during the summer). I am not going to lie, it makes for a very rushed dinner and there is little to no time for play/downtime after dinner. But it works. We go through the bedtime routine, lay with her for 5-10 minutes and she is out. Boom. Of course, there are nights where it doesn't work or we can't get her to bed in that window of time. And we go back to a lengthy bed time. But 90% of the time, it works. Woot!
She also struggles with night wakings, night mares, bad dreams and general chaos while sleeping. She is a very active sleeper. To help combat those struggles, we try to keep her sleep environment as peaceful and non-stimulating as possible. Which means, we took out the night light, we hung drapes/blankets to block out any light and we play soft music all night long. I would love to say that she now sleeps peacefully through the night, but sadly that's not the truth. She does seem to sleep better, but she is still dreaming, crying, screaming and crashing around. But it has decreased somewhat since we implemented the sleep strategies. Unfortunately, I think she is just in a phase where peaceful sleep is not within her grasp. Hopefully as she gets older, she'll start to sleep more soundly. Or maybe she will always struggle with this and she can scare the crap out of her college roommate by sitting up in her bed and letting out a blood curdling scream. We'll pack a box of ear plugs.
So all in all, The No Cry Sleep Solution was a good read. It didn't have any radical new ideas or strategies but it was a great refresher course. I recommend it. It never hurts to arm yourself with a few new ideas or to approach a well known idea from a different direction.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Ok, I'm not done with Peaceful Parent. It's been my bedtime reading for the last 4 months or so and it has achieved it's purpose. Making me a more peaceful parent. So peaceful in fact, that I fall asleep after two pages. It's a great book, just a lot of info to digest. Bedtime is probably not the best time to try and tackle it (unless you're battling insomnia. then I highly recommend it!). But what I have read has been very helpful!
The main idea seems to be, be a bit more understanding as a parent. Your child is a child. They are not tiny grown ups, they are children. They are trying to figure out this thing called life and it is hard. Frustrating. Challenging. Overwhelming. Heck, as a full fledged grown up I still struggle with it. So take that knowledge and give your kids a break. They are trying their hardest to understand it all and sometimes it's just too much and they snap. They yell, scream, cry, hit, rebel, act ridiculous. And while that is incredibly frustrating for you as an adult, it's incredibly frustrating (and often scary) for them too. So cut them some slack. And give them some love. And then a little more. Especially when that's the last thing you want to do.
I've been trying really hard to take that nugget of info to heart. Love when I least feel like it.* Because let's be honest, there are plenty of moments when you would rather walk away from a screaming child than hug them. But a lot of times that's what they need most. The comfort and security of their parent. Knowing that no matter what, we are there for them. And for me, that can be really challenging. I am the type of person who when upset, does not want people touching, talking or trying to comfort me. I need to process it on my time in my own way. But my darling 5 year old daughter is the exact opposite. When she gets upset, worked up, a bit out of control emotionally, she needs touch. She needs that reassurance that I am there and I love her. So the biggest challenge for me (and most parents, I think) is swallowing my own frustration/anger/craziness and giving her the love and attention she needs in that moment. And once I have done that and she has calmed down, then we can deal with the root of the problem. Is this easy? No. Do I execute it perfectly? Not even close. But I am working on it.
That isn't to say that it's all on the parent and we can solve all the issues with a hug. There are definitely some things that we need to help her work on when it comes to handling her emotions. But we are finding that a little extra love goes a long way. Yes, sometimes after that hug some time spent by herself or some other consequence is still necessary. And sometimes she needs time to cool down before she is open to some love. Like I said, we're working on it.
I will continue to read and learn. Though I can already tell you I recommend it.
*Disclaimer: I always love my girls. No matter what. Unconditionally. But sometimes that love is harder to tap into than others.