"We recently started locking our son's door from the outside after lights out.
We felt guilty about it for a night, because we felt like we were locking him in prison.
But the truth is, it’s not like he was able to leave his room at will before he knew how to open the door, or when he was stuck in a crib. So this really isn't any different.
And a psychologist friend told us that it was actually bad for our son to keep rewarding his nightly “escapes” from his room with attention. It was giving attention to the very behavior we wanted to get rid of.
We also learned that if there is ever a fire, the safest place for a child to be is actually locked in his own room, where his parents, or god forbid the fire fighters, can find him. If we didn’t know where he was, that would be terrifying.
Amazingly, after just the first night with the lock on his door, he started sleeping so much better. He falls asleep quickly at night, doesn’t wake up all night, and wakes up happy in the morning. We leave some dry Cheerios and a cup of water in his room and he will cheerfully look at books until we come get him.
I can't believe we ever worried about traumatizing him with a lock on his door. He is so much better rested now, and we are all happier as a result."
-- recent sleep consult (who put the lock on her son's door before her sleep consultation)
Are you struggling with a small Houdini who escapes from her room every night? Is everyone in your family feeling tired?
There's hope for you, whether you choose to use a lock or not. (We can talk through the pros and cons of each option.)
Schedule a free sleep consultation today and let's get your family the sleep you deserve in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
If you do, you're not alone.
I, too, have a really hard time with people being wrong about me. And judging me unfairly as a result.
Or god forbid, not liking me or my choices.
I have always admired people who are not people pleasers, people who just do what they want and don’t give a damn if others don’t like them as a result.
This is not me. (I wish it was.)
This is a problem for two reasons: one, because I can’t control what they think. Much as I wish I could!
And two, it means I may not live my most authentic life in an attempt to control what others think. See above re: this strategy is often not effective.
This came up for me in my own life when I decided to quit my nurse practitioner job in Brooklyn and move to Mexico with my two kids.
My parents were already gone at that point, and my siblings were generally supportive, if not overly invested either way.
But even the judgment of people I barely knew, for example, in my single parents community, bothered me. One person said it would be irresponsible for her to make such a move because she was very focused on maxing out her retirement accounts while her child was young. She didn't say it, but I assumed she meant she also thought it was irresponsible of me to make this choice.
This wasn't even a close friend of mine. Nor a person who I particularly admire. And consciously, I scoffed at her opinion. But if I truly didn't care what I thought, why would I have spent energy defending myself against it, and why would I remember her opinion now, 5 years later?
That said, It’s easier for me – though not easy – to ignore those negative opinions when they from people who aren’t close to me.
But right now, I’m really struggling with what I think a couple of people close to me are thinking about a big life change I am making. I desperately want their enthusiastic support… and I’m not getting it.
And that's really hard for me.
I've spent two months arguing with the invisible jury that resides in my head. Arguing that they should be supportive, that they should be enthusiastic. Just because it would make me feel better.
I know this sounds kind of crazy "on paper" but I think most of us do this. It's called having "a manual" for others, a set of rules of how we would like others to act so we can feel comfortable.
My manual says that others shouldn't give advice -- because it makes me feel really uncomfortable to receive unsolicited advice -- and they should be supportive of my choices, because that is what I do for others.
Unfortunately, other people often have their own manuals, and aren't interested in consulting mine.
So the only thing left to work on in my own brain.
I don't want to like their lack of support. I still wish I had it.
So instead I am focusing on the sadness and anger that comes up when I think about not having their support.
but what I am working on is dropping into my body and just noticing and acknowledging the sadness that is coming up for me.
This isn’t toxic positivity – I’m not pretending to like it.
And I’m not trying to feel better by controlling their behavior – although I would definitely love it if they decided to change their words and actions!
So instead I am choosing the considerably more challenging but ultimately more liberating option of just allowing myself to be sad and angry.
This sounds easy but it's taken me at least 2 months of resistance to remember to do this.
And now I am trying to let go of my story of how they’ve done me wrong, and instead just saying, “wow, I’m sad. Of course I’m sad. They are really important to me and I wish things were different.”
Then I pay attention to my body, letting go of the story of why I am sad, and I just notice the sensation. “I feel sadness bubbling like a big cauldron in my chest. It feels like it will never stop.” (Brain “helpfully” offers up “you’ve been sad about this for two months, you’ll never stop being sad.”) “Shhhhh, brain. I hear you. Let’s stay in the body. The cauldron is big and it’s blocking up my chest and it’s heavy and hard, like it’s made of iron.”
After two months of fighting sadness, two minutes of feeling sadness and just allowing it, I feel a slight shift. It’s not all rainbows and daisies, but it’s not quite so heavy anymore.
I’ll keep coming back to it in the coming hours and days. I'll keep practicing allowing the sadness. I'll keep reminding myself that it's safe and even helpful to do so.
Human brains are terrified of negative emotions. We think we’ll just curl up and die if we feel them.
But the opposite is true. When we allow those big, scary emotions, we liberate them. They don’t disappear, but they loosen their power over us.
Whose thoughts are holding power over your emotions? Do you imagine your parents' disapproval? Your partner's annoyance? Your child's thoughts that you are "mean"?
You can't change what they think, but you can change how you react to their thoughts.
Want some help figuring this out? Schedule a complimentary life coaching session and I'll show you how you, too, can experience this transformation.
As for me, just a few days after trying this, my emotions about these loved ones have dropped by at least 80%. I think about them still but they get so much less air time. I am spending my energy on other, more profitable, ways to spend my time.
Emily Oster, renowned statistician who analyzes data on all things pregnancy and child-related, recently did a review on a number of sleep interventions.
And as a recent client emailed me to point out, my “methods really are backed by science!”
(If you haven't worked with me yet, you may not yet know how often I encourage an earlier bedtime.)
The studies that Oster reviewed showed that children with earlier bedtimes sleep longer, on average, by 47 minutes per night.
That’s a big difference!
So if you are struggling to get your little one to bed earlier – and I know that the struggle is real for working parents – know that succeeding in doing so makes a big difference in their sleep and your evening relaxation time.
The difference is especially pronounced in high school students, who typically have trouble falling asleep early enough to get the sleep they need. Despite that struggle, students in the experimental group with a newly imposed early bedtime got an average of 72 minutes extra sleep per night. Given that more sleep correlates with better grades and fewer car accidents, this research powerfully calls for change in adolescents’ typical habits.
And adults: I know a number of us struggle with getting to bed early enough too. So while Emily Oster didn't discuss earlier bedtimes for you, I think it's fair to presume an earlier bedtime can be helpful for us as well... especially if you are prone to "revenge procrastination" -- staying up too late doing mindless things like scrolling on your phone to get more "me time." Consider sufficient sleep a great gift to yourself.
If you need help getting that earlier bedtime to stick, regardless of your child’s age, schedule a complimentary sleep consultation and find out how your whole family can sleep better, guaranteed.
You’re a loving parent who wants the best for your child. You’ve read allllllllll the books. You participate in parenting groups on and offline. You’ve done the research.
You just want her to be happy.
You also want you to be happy and you’re exhausted by responding to every call and cry.
But you fear that not responding could harm her attachment to you. You don’t want her to grow up to be a dysfunctional adult because you weren’t there for her in early childhood.
So you keep on trudging back and forth to her room every night, responding to every request, every cry, every demand.
And then you feel guilty because secretly, you’re feeling resentful.
You don’t want to resent your kid. You love your kid. More than life itself.
But you also deeply need a break for yourself.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to choose between setting limits and having a child with a secure attachment to you.
You can have both.
In fact, in the early days of attachment research, Donald Winnicott coined the term “good enough mother” because his research showed that children actually benefit from parents who “fail them in small, manageable ways.” Children actually do better with parents who aren’t 100% available. Children need practice with managing small adversity in order to successfully handle the larger challenges in life.
Attachment parenting – not based on the science of attachment theory – might have you believing the opposite, that you need to be at your child’s side 24/7.
But the opposite is true.
Boundaries and small separations are actually good for your child.
They give your child an opportunity to practice independence while also getting her biological needs for sleep met, both of which lead to increased happiness and independence.
Still, the struggle to break free from the cultural pressure to be instantly, constantly available to your child is real. It’s hard to believe it’s okay to leave her crying. It makes you feel terrible.
I get it. And I’m here to help.
I can help you work through your discomfort so you can take care of yourself and your child without guilt.
Schedule a complimentary life coaching session to learn more about a life with guilt-free time for yourself.
Check out this great article by a fellow single parent by choice about the importance of sleep training for her along with the challenges associated with sleep training solo.
In short, she says that sleep training alone is a lot harder to do but also even more important because for many of us, there are no breaks. It's all on us.
I got interviewed about why the typical recommendation for the non-breastfeeding parent to sleep in a different room won't work the same for single parent families.
If you are making big changes in your life, changes you want to make, you might think that would feel good, liberating.
And maybe it does feel good a lot of the time.
But at least in my experience, it feels like absolute sh*t a lot of the time.
Life coaching has led me to create new boundaries in my life with people I love. And right now, it’s sucking.
No one ever thanks you for creating said boundaries. People want us to stay the same.
Right now, I’m doing a lot of sitting with pain. Coaching helps me to sit with it. It encourages me to lean in and feel it. Because resisting the pain never works anyway. It’s like pushing a beach ball under water: it just takes a whole lot of energy, and it ends up flying up out of the water anyway.
People make it sound like setting boundaries is easy. You just tell them what your new boundaries.
I’m here to say that setting boundaries is really hard. It’s simple, but not easy. You have to learn to sit with a lot of discomfort, if you’re a people pleaser like me.
If you want support setting and holding boundaries, set up a complimentary life coaching session (scroll down past sleep coaching). You’ll learn how to endure the short-term discomfort in order to achieve long-term gain, a life that is more authentically yours.
As I’m sure you all know, we tend to use New Year’s Resolutions as a way to beat ourselves into shape, only to quickly fail and abandon our goals within days or weeks.
But I recently saw a great YouTube video that suggested New Years’ themes instead. (here’s the link if you’d like to watch this 6-minute video.)
The basic idea is that “resolutions” tend to have the premise that there is something “wrong” with us that needs to be fixed.
This is a terrible way to create change, starting in such a negative place. It makes us feel bad before we even start.
Let me be clear: you aren’t broken and you don’t need to be fixed. You are worthy of love and admiration, just as you are today.
The creator of the video says “not every tool needs to have a sharp edge.”
So let’s take a more loving approach, and focus on overall themes. You can have one per month, season, or year.
I didn’t exactly plan this, but in my case, my theme for Fall 2022 was “authenticity.” I wanted to tune in more closely to who I really am, and honoring that person, as imperfect as she is.
That led to me ending my romantic partnership, one I had expected to be lifelong. It felt very sudden when it happened, but in hindsight, I had been working towards this change for a long time.
This work was painful and hard and messy, but it also felt real and necessary. And the payoff is that I feel so much better. I feel in alignment with myself.
I was really, really sad initially, but it was about losing the dream I thought I had, not for losing the reality.
Brooke Castillo, Life Coach School founder, says “discomfort is the price of growth.” I couldn’t agree more. She also says "discomfort is the currency of our dreams," and I love that even more.
I give life coaching 100% credit for helping me to do this work. I could never have imagined getting so clear on my own priorities and speaking them clearly.
Now I’m in a new relationship, and it’s like night and day. I am able to speak up and speak my truth. It’s still uncomfortable, and maybe it will never be truly easy for me, but it’s so much less uncomfortable than swallowing my truth.
I don’t know if this relationship is meant for the long haul or not, but either way, I feel so liberated. I am so grateful.
If you’d like help speaking your own truth – or maybe even just figuring out what your truth is – schedule a complimentary life coaching session and see what transformation is available to you.
"Despite 3 hours of jet lag and being in 3 different locations in 6 days, he slept great and stayed on his schedule the entire time we were away. When we came back, he was right back on schedule. In bed at 7, up at 6.
I am amazed!
I could never have believed that he would actually WANT to go into the crib.
His mood is so much better. He used to have so many tantrums. I think he was just really overtired. He’s a much happier baby since sleep training.
I’m really happy! I wasn’t sure this was going to work and even though we had a few dire moments, it really paid off.”
Elizabeth, Mom to Alejandro, 18 Months
(Prior to sleep training: bedtime took 1-2 hours, involved multiple cups of milk, fruit puree pouches, Alejandro attempting to run out of the room to play with his older brother, Elizabeth having to rock him to sleep, sometimes multiple times per night. And then Alejandro's older brother going to bed too late as a result of Elizabeth being busy with Alejandro for so long. Which led to it's own set of behavioral challenges and maybe even migraines.)
If you have a toddler who is resisting bedtime, you aren't alone. And hope is available to you. Make 2023 the year your family finally gets the sleep you deserve. You can be like Elizabeth. Schedule a free sleep consultation today and find out how it works.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.