In my post yesterday, I talked about “dropping the rope” when it comes to conflict with your child.
In case you’re thinking, “that’s all well and good but exactly how do I do that when I am already annoyed,” I am here to help!
Step one is just noticing that you are triggered. From a place of curiosity or compassion.
“Oh wow, I am feeling really stressed about the fact that my three-year-old is refusing to put on his shoes.”
Step two, take a step back and have compassion for yourself. Lay your hands on your chest and take three deep breaths (in through the nose, out through pursed lips, like you’re blowing out through a straw), and AGREE with yourself.
“It makes so much sense that I am feeling stressed out right now. The pediatrician appointment is in 30 minutes and I’m not sure how long parking will take. Anybody would be feeling stressed right now.”
Breathe some more until you feel your heart rate and breathing slow. This can be as quick as just 30 seconds. It doesn’t need to be a big project.
Once your heart rate and breathing have slowed, get quiet. Create a boundary that doesn’t require your child to do anything.
Drop to the floor, lower your voice, and say calmly, “Hey, babe, it’s time to go to the doctor now and it looks like you need help putting on your shoes so I am going to help you.”
Then put on the damn shoes for him, regardless of his reaction. This isn’t a punishment. You aren’t being mean by putting on his shoes. You are helping him because he has shown you he wasn’t capable of doing it himself in that moment. (Do NOT offer one more chance first. Again, this isn’t a punishment!) Maybe 10 minutes from now, he would be able to do it himself, but not in this moment. That’s okay! It’s not a judgement on either you or him.
Then take him by the hand and leave. Without a lecture. Staying very, very calm and kind to both of you.
I promise that helping more with skills he “should” be able to do will not make him more dependent in the long run. Quite the opposite, in fact. Skills don’t develop evenly. We keep reading to our kids even after they can read themselves. They will go off to college able to put their own shoes on every single time.
Be kind to both of you.
That’s the way to drop the rope.
I’d love to help you experience this easily. Schedule a free life coaching session (scroll down past sleep to life coaching) and experience the transformation in just one hour.
Since we spoke two weeks ago, my relationship with my (neurodiverse) child has completely transformed.
It’s me that’s different.
I realized that you were right. He’s not broken. And it’s not my job to fix him.
And if I want to have a relationship with him in the future, when he’s an adult, I have to stop trying.
So now I am watching my own reactions instead of trying to fix him. I’m realizing all the unconscious thoughts about him that I have: that I am a bad mother because he eats such a limited diet, because he’s on screens so much, because he’s not what I consider to be a good friend.
I’ve dropped the rope and I’m enjoying him so much more as a result. I can’t believe it.”
The first step in learning to enjoy our children and our parenting experience more is to “drop the rope.” It’s my favorite expression in parenting because it applies to everything.
It doesn’t mean that you stop holding boundaries. It means you stop caring so much about your child’s reaction to said boundaries. You hold the boundary regardless of how they react.
It also means you figure out which boundaries you REALLY care about, and let go of the rest. For now. You can choose to pick some of those boundaries up again later, but you can’t prioritize everything right now.
So maybe you focus on 3 goals for now: getting your child to school on time, getting your child to bed on time at night, and brushing your child’s teeth every night.
You let go (for now) of the goals of less screen time, of eating a more varied diet, of being a better friend (what does that even mean, anyway?).
Dropping the rope means tuning into yourself, noticing your own reactions to things, and taking care of your own nervous system without lashing out at your loved ones.
Dropping the rope means, ultimately, loving yourself more than you love your goal of your child doing “better.” It's only through being more kind and compassionate with yourself, first, that you can show up intentionally for your child.
And it turns out that if you can do this first, your child is a LOT more likely to tune in and cooperate on the things you really care about.
Want to learn more about life coaching for parents? Try a complimentary coaching session and feel a transformation in your parenting in just one hour.
“Abby, I know that we need to sleep separately from our son. But he won’t let us leave his room at night. What do we do?”
I get some variation of this question multiple times per week. If you have asked this question, you are in good company!
I love this question because it instantly shows me who is “driving the bus” in the family. In this particularly case, it was a three-year-old child.
The parents thought that since their son would have a BIG emotional reaction to their leaving the room, that meant they “had” to stay.
This thought has been perpetuated by certain schools of parenting, which say that a child should always get to be with his parents when he wants or needs them.
This is a lovely thought in theory, but my experience with my clients is that the less experience a child has with separation (and coming back together again), the more fearful a child is of separation.
A child who goes to childcare every weekday has an easier time separating from her parents – in most cases – than a child who is home with an adult caregiver, or esepcially her parents, every day.
(That doesn’t mean that daycare is a better option for a child. There are lots of positives to each choice. )
It does mean that if your child hasn’t had a lot of practice with separation – and separating easily for daycare doesn’t necessarily translate to separating easily at bedtime – they will need lots of opportunities to practice.
The more your child practices this skill – as with any skill – the easier it will become.
The hard part for parents is believing it’s okay to not come when your child calls. To sit with the discomfort of hearing your child being upset, and not rushing to their aid.
And the reason it’s hard for you is because of what you are making it mean.
Unconsciously, many of us believe that a good parent is one who is always responsive.
But to those of you who are always responsive when your child calls you back to the bedroom after lights out, sometimes for hours, I would ask: are you your best parenting self when you give up your evenings to sit in your child’s room, or lie in his bed?
Or do you become resentful? Do you snap at your spouse or your child? Do you neglect your own self care and thus become a lesser version of yourself because you never get a break?
Being a responsive, loving, attentive parent doesn’t mean you are always available.
You can be a good parent who sets limits on your availability. I would argue that you will actually be a better parent when you limit your availability to your child. (Of course there are exceptions to this rule, such as when your child is sick.)
You just have to believe it’s acceptable.
I’d love help you learn how to hold loving, consistent limits with your child. Schedule a complimentary parent life coaching session and experience a transformation in just one hour. Guaranteed.
My seven-year-old has been begging not to sleep alone. She really wanted a “sleepover” with someone (someone else in our family, not a friend… I’m not a fan of sleepovers with friends.)
Here’s why I finally said yes: she’s been asking for a long time, and clearly had an unmet emotional need… and at the same time, is fully capable of sleeping alone. I haven’t shared a bed with her in months. She’s disappointed when I say no, but not incapacitated.
The difference with many of my clients is that their children feel like they can’t sleep alone. That’s a very different situation.
The only way to build your child’s confidence, in that situation, is to have them sleep alone. Repeatedly. Until they can do so with confidence.
And that’s probably going to be uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Discomfort is not a problem. Discomfort is the price of growth.
Just like learning to walk, or ride a bike, learning to sleep alone is hard work. It can be really scary to let go of one’s security object and go it alone.
We don’t expect our children to learn to walk, or to ride a bike, without some bumps and bruises. Tears and fears are a natural part of the process, and we expect that. We plan for it. We give our children a cuddle and wait a few minutes until trying again. We don’t give up on them.
The same is true of learning to sleep alone, whatever the age of your child.
Expect some tears and fears. Give your child a cuddle – before lights out – and some words of encouragement and tell them you know them it’s hard. And then give them that little push they need to go sailing off into the world.
Just like learning to walk or ride a bike, learning to sleep alone will ultimately be a huge boost to your child’s confidence, and a source of pride.
Trust your child can do it. And that you parent can learn to tolerate the discomfort of them learning.
And then, once they are fully solid in their skills, you can invite them back for the occasional slumber party. As a special treat. Not because it’s necessary, but because it’s special.
If you are struggling to help your child sleep independently, schedule a free sleep consultation. And if you are struggling to hold boundaries kindly but firmly, schedule a free life coaching consultation for parents consultation. I’ll listen to your story and give you some tips to start your transformation, then let you ask your questions.
Start 2023 on the right foot, with a beautifully well-rested family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reduced their room sharing recommendations from the first 12 months of life to the first 6 months of life.
This is good news for many parents, as sharing a room with an infant past the early months of life can lead to many night wakings. Now you can sleep well and not feel guilty. Win:win.
But Emily Oster goes a step further in her recent article, New AAP Guidelines on Breastfeeding and Safe Sleep, and says that actually, the evidence the AAP cites says that the risk of SIDS actually drops significantly at four months, not six. Meanwhile, she says, the protective benefit of room sharing is weak.
So she suggests that actually, parents could stop room sharing safely at four months, and lots of evidence she has found says that babies who sleep better at 4 months continue to be better sleepers at 9 months and even at 30 months.
And anecdotally, in my work, I see a huge decrease in the number of night wakings for both parent and child when children are moved to their own bedrooms (or to their siblings’ bedrooms, assuming their siblings are relatively good sleepers).
Of course, Emily Oster is not the AAP and if you want to be extra conservative, go with their recommendations. But I find her arguments quite persuasive.
Parents, it's not to late to finish out 2022 well-rested! Book a complimentary sleep consultation here and find out more. Better sleep is guaranteed.
I know December can feel like an absolute madhouse and therefore, the worst possible time to sleep train.
But I’d like to offer that it actually could be the perfect time to sleep train. What better way to launch into the new year than with your biggest New Years Resolution – better sleep for the family – already achieved? Start the year feeling AMAZING instead of resolved!
Here’s ten reasons that this is actually the perfect time to embark on sleep training.
Make some changes in your routine now, while you’re energized, and start 2023 already feeling amazing because of being well-rested.
If you're ready to give your family the gift of great sleep, don't wait. Book your complimentary sleep consultation now.
PS I won't be doing any calls December 15-22 but I will be available for text support with current clients on those dates. Other than that, I am available to you!
If you’ve worked with me before, you’ve heard this before… but it bears repeating anyway:
While you’re traveling for the holiday, don’t relax the rules more than you have to. (Same goes for illness.)
That said, for travel days themselves, especially if you are traveling by plane, all bets are off. There’s not a lot you can do.
Just try to make sure your children are well-rested going into an inevitably long airplane travel day.
For infants, bring a baby carrier, if your baby likes one, and a lightweight muslin blanket (they pack up tiny and are useful for everything). Pop your baby in the carrier at the first sign of sleepiness and throw the muslin blanket over baby’s head. Bob, sway, bounce, whatever it takes to get that baby to nap.
When my youngest was a baby, I could often get away with doing the bob and sway near the airplane bathrooms where the flight attendants have extra space to organize drinks and snacks. They didn’t love having me there but if I pretended to be waiting in line for the bathroom, I could usually get away with it for a while. They may have cracked down on this since COVID but it's worth a shot!
For toddlers, I highly recommend bringing your car seat if your toddler typically naps well there. The familiar space will make it easier for your little one to sleep. You do not need to have the car seat rear facing on an airplane. The person sitting in front of you will hate you if you insist on rear facing. It’s still a lot safer to have your baby buckled into a car seat than in your lap.
Bring a portable white noise machine (you can use an app on your phone or iPad, too) and if your toddler will tolerate a muslin cover, even better. Blocking out ambient noise and light can only help.
Of course, a car seat for your infant is great too, and the safest option, but many parents are loathe to shell out money for that.
Once you arrive at your location, prioritize an early bedtime for your child (and yourself!) as much as humanly possible. Definitely don’t allow for a late bedtime on a travel day – your child will already be exhausted and more exhaustion can only lead to extra sleep challenges.
Keep your child’s meals super boring and simple and early. In many cases, it’s best to feed your child first, put them to bed, and then eat with the relatives and friends. It’ll be less stressful and more relaxing for everyone that way.
After travel day, you can plan for the occasional later meal or event but limit them as much as possible. Think ahead to the most important meal of the trip and prioritize that. If you push your child too hard, everyone will suffer.
Get your child outside every single day, even if only for a few minutes. Fresh air is healing and also calming. Make sure some fruits and vegetables are eaten every day (for kids eating solid foods) because constipation from too much processed food is miserable for everyone.
Limit exceptions to the rules as much as possible. Perhaps you don't have a choice about room sharing but avoid bedspring as much as possible. The bigger the exception, the longer it goes on, the longer and harder it is to get back to baseline once you return home.
That said, once you get home, return immediately to the old rules. Your child will ultimately understand that there are "vacation rules" and "home rules" but only IF you are super clear not to bring vacation habits home with you. Otherwise, you face having to do sleep training again... and no one wants that!
PS If you do get off track and are struggling to get back on track, schedule a quick 30-minute Ask Me Anything call and we'll troubleshoot together.
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.