Welcome to June, where gloriously long days can sometimes lead to painfully short nights.
One client wrote to tell me she felt like a “monster” making your preschooler stop playing and come inside to go to bed when all the other neighborhood kids were still out playing in the sunlight.
If you’re having this feeling too, and I say this lovingly, you need to get over it.
It’s not you fault that days are so long right now. And if your child doesn’t get enough time in bed, the whole family will suffer. Your child most of all.
So sit with those feelings of being the meanest parent on the planet for a few minutes and then let them go. They are not helping you or your child.
Your child may think you are mean but they will certainly feel better with more sleep.
The brain needs darkness to help it produce melatonin (naturally), so plan ahead that your child may need a longer wind down time during the summer months.
While I normally don’t recommend a bath every single night (unless families prefer it), a bath, especially with lower-than-normal lighting may help your child fall asleep more quickly when bedtime rolls around. It’s also helpful for removing all that sunscreen, bug spray, and sweat that can accumulate in summer months.
Black out shades or curtains are more important than ever during summer months. (I’m actually thinking of adding blackout curtains on top of our blackout shades in order to really seal out all the little cracks of light that still come in.) If you have held off investing in either, please do so now. And if you have cracks of light coming in, look for ways to seal those off, like cut up strips of cheap blackout shades. The darker, the better.
Unless your child is 2.5 years or older and has a fear of the dark, don’t bother with a nightlight. Children younger than 2.5 don’t have the intellectual capacity to have a fear of the dark. And regardless of age, a nightlight makes it more challenging for the brain to produce melatonin naturally, which aids the body in falling asleep. The darker the better.
If your child tends to sleep late in the mornings – and most young children don’t – make sure to wake them up at about the same time every day. This will also make bedtime easier.
If your child is an early waker, don’t reward them with attention before 6 am. You may need to work gradually towards a goal of 6 am if they are currently waking up much earlier.
At about 2.5 years old, children can understand an Ok to Wake Clock. (My favorite is the Hatch Rest.)
Many parents tell me that their children ignore their OK to Wake Clocks.
Of course they do.
Children only cooperate with their OK to Wake Clocks if parents insist on it. Otherwise, children prefer to be with their parents or watching TV or doing something else much more fun than staying in their rooms.
So if your child comes out of their room before the OK to Wake Clock says it’s time, escort them back to their rooms. In the most boring, least-engaged manner possible.
Don’t allow screen time or food or playing with toys before the approved wake time.
Over time, this will lead to later wake times, as will the earlier bedtime.
Make sure any middle of the night wakings are treated in the most boring way possible also.
Long days can make bedtime more challenging but loving parents, you can succeed in getting your child well rested again.
If you’d like help getting your child’s sleep back on track (or on track for the first time), schedule a complimentary sleep consultation.
My first introduction to life coaching – sort of – was several years ago, when someone mentioned a powerful podcast she had discovered, the Life Coach School Podcast.
I had no idea what life coaching was but I am always happy to try a new podcast.
To my amazement, the podcast was nothing short of revolutionary. The host, Brooke Castillo, taught me that our brains could be managed in a way that I had never heard of, with intentionality. Not “just be happy!” or “stop complaining” but taking a step back and witnessing that our thoughts create all our results in life. Both good and bad results. That sometimes we WANT to think negative results (for example, when a loved one dies, we want to grieve) and that it's important to just identify our thoughts. Just separating thoughts from reality is really challenging but valuable.
After six months, I took a deep breath and invested in her monthly Self Coaching Scholars program. It was “only” $297 a month but I still didn't have a reliable income so it was scary.
Still, I had a strong intuition that this self-coaching program was the path I was meant to embark on, so I made the commitment.
To my astonishment, not only did the program help with my outlook on life in general, it specifically addressed my outlook on business and I watched my business begin to grow, first slowly, then more rapidly. My parenting improved. My self-image improved. My friendships grew stronger and more numerous. I felt rooted in community in Mexico for the first time.
I couldn’t believe that working on my mindset could increase my revenue. Mind officially blown!
My weekly mini sessions with various life coaches – included in the program – helped me see so many things about my life. It also inevitably contributed to my finding my life partner.
Last August, I nervously made another leap, this time massively – terrifyingly – investing in becoming a life coach myself. I couldn’t believe I was spending this ungodly sum… and yet, I knew that I need this certification to get my brain on board with the journey I knew I was destined to take.
This past week, I graduated as an officially certified coach of the Life Coach School.
I feet called to life coaching because so much of sleep coaching is actually parenting coaching. Teaching parents – and helping them discover for themselves – that training our children to sleep is sometimes our first experience in showing children that boundaries actually make them feel better and happier in the long run.
Now I want to help parents find their whole selves again, after giving up so much of themselves to their young children.
Just like creating boundaries around sleep helps parents actually enjoy their children more – and their children are happier too – I know that creating boundaries around other areas of life helps parents become better parents, too. For example, planning your evening routine with intention so that you get to bed earlier and make the best use of those precious child-free hours. So you both feel recharged as a human by getting real downtime and get physically recharged by getting better sleep.
Many parents struggle with body image after children join their lives, and tend to “revenge eat” against themselves as a result, compounding both the physical issues and the self-image issues. Life coaching can help you turn that struggle around, so that you start by loving yourself first and then create physical successes as a result of shifting your mindset.
One client struggled with setting boundaries with his son, for example, getting his son to cooperate with handwashing after using the bathroom. We coached his parenting mindset and witnessed his thoughts about what it meant to create boundaries, "being mean" versus "creating safety." Lo and behold, this father’s relationship with his child improved in multiple areas. Almost effortlessly.
Are you interested in revolutionizing one or more aspect of your life? Schedule a complimentary coaching session and make your desired results inevitable. Make sure to tell me in your message what your desired result is. I can't wait to hear about it and witness your success!
Many of us have been told that we should be enjoying this time while we are raising young children. You may remember this when you had a newborn and some older relative sighed blissfully at the memory of her own newborn.
You may have been told, again by some older person who is no longer raising young children, “the days crawl but the years fly.” Again with a sigh.
Parent, if this sentiment makes you feel guilty, you are not alone.
And those Pinterest-perfect lunches for toddlers (who scarcely remember to eat, except for that one meal a week where – without warning – they are bottomless pits)? Another opportunity for guilt.
And the Facebook posts and the commercials on TV and the photos on Instagram… so many opportunities.
But the truth is, allowing yourself to feel anxious, burned out or anger sometimes will actually help you enjoy your children more. Let yourself off the hook, please. It's okay to not enjoy it all or even most of the time.
Do you know that book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting? It's not supposed to be fun all the time. It's drudgery a lot of the time. Rewarding drudgery, to be sure, but sometimes the reward doesn't come until much later.
The more we try to force ourselves into feeling a certain emotion, the more we resist. We think, “I shouldi feel grateful, happy, excited” and our inner teenager barks back a single, “NO.”
Or it works for a moment and then we fall, exhausted, again. By one more source of pressure.
Or it just creates guilt.
Resisting an emotion takes a great deal of energy. Allowing an emotion and even welcoming it takes a lot less energy and, to my surprise, actually allows that negative emotion to pass much more quickly.
So let’s say you discover that – true story – your toddler has poured an entire bottle of laundry detergent on the floor of the laundry room.
You want to blame yourself, and remember that she’s only a toddler, and laugh it off.
But the truth is, you are pissed. At yourself as well as at her. Realizing the amount of extra work that was just created for you. And you were already exhausted from a long day of adulting.
But trying to push down your annoyance will only make it stronger.
Instead, try putting your hands on your chest for a moment. Close your eyes. Breathe for a moment. Tell yourself, in your most loving voice, “Of course you are frustrated. Anyone thinking about this would be frustrated.”
Try to find the feeling of frustrated in your body. Maybe it’s a flat white bumpy cold rock in your stomach. Or a burning hot ember of lava in your chest.
If this sounds a little woo-woo, that’s okay. Try it anyway. It’s weirdly effective.
Just lean into it. Stay focused on the physical sensation, not the story of what went wrong.
The idea of “being the Watcher” comes from the Buddhist tradition. I am not a follower of Buddhism, but this surprisingly simple practice has changes my life, even in just the past few weeks (before, I used to be the Watcher but with an agenda of “this emotion better hurry up and finish).
The crazy thing – for me – is that when I do this, without an agenda, the emotion does lessen in intensity. Sometimes it passes altogether. It doesn’t mean I enjoy cleaning up the laundry detergent, but it does make it less infuriating.
It also makes you more emotionally available to connect with your guilty three-year-old. You might even be able to invite you to join you in cleaning the pantry, without inwardly seething.
Want some help finding your parenting "A game"? Or improving your child’s sleep? Schedule a free consult today.
This thoughtful New Yorker article sparked a lively debate on my friend’s Facebook wall. Most people seemed fairly hostile towards the approach.
The article says, “In its broadest outlines, gentle parenting centers on acknowledging a child’s feelings and the motivations behind challenging behavior, as opposed to correcting the behavior itself.”
The New Yorker article goes on to say, “a gentle parent holds firm boundaries, gives a child choices instead of orders, and eschews rewards, punishments, and threats—no sticker charts, no time-outs, no “I will turn this car around right now.”"
What’s interesting about this is firm boundaries and choices (versus orders) sound contradictory to me, right? You either have boundaries OR choices, not both.
VeryWellFamily.com defines gentle parenting as, “Gentle parenting focuses on fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries. Unlike some more lenient parenting methods, gentle parenting also encourages discipline, but in an age-appropriate way. Discipline methods focus on teaching valuable life lessons rather than focusing on punishments.”
These two different practices with the same name seem to have contradictory ideas.
Guidepost.Montessori defines gentle parenting as, “Gentle parenting is a parenting approach that encourages a partnership between you and your child to make choices based on an internal willingness instead of external pressures. This parenting style asks you to become aware of the behaviour you model for your child, encourages compassion, welcomes emotions and accepts the child as a whole, capable being.”
It’s not clear that this third approach eschews boundaries, either.
It looks like a lot of the controversy is based on the differences in how gentle parenting is defined versus how it is practiced. Perhaps a lot of parents who like the idea of gentle parenting have trouble maintaining boundaries? It’s hard to say.
For myself, I don’t like the term “gentle” because it sounds loaded. It sounds like maybe parents aren’t supposed to have strong emotions, never mind strong words for their child.
I don’t know about you but for me, I am definitely not gentle (in my words and feelings) all of the time.
Also, I find that people tend to equate “gentle” with permissive. Being afraid of upholding boundaries. I believe strong boundaries are essential not only for parents but for children. Boundaries make children feel safe!
I prefer the term “respectful” parenting. It sounds like it allows some big feelings on either side. It suggests that you don’t have to be calm all the time. You just have to manage those strong emotions in a thoughtful way.
I am not a leader – by any stretch of the imagination – in the respectful parenting movement, if indeed there is one.
But this is how I define respectful parenting to my clients:
This is simply not true of respectful parenting. You acknowledge the emotion and correct the behavior. “I know you’re mad we have to leave. Do you want to put on your shoes or do you want me to help you?”
"Across the parenting boards and group texts, one can detect a certain restlessness. A fatigue is setting in: about the deference to a child's every mood, the strict maintenance of emotional affect, the notion that trying to keep to a schedule that could "authoritarian." Sometimes, the people are saying, a tantrum isn't worthy of being placed on a pedastal. Sometimes, they plead, their voices rising past a gentle threshold, you just need to put your freaking shoes on."
I couldn't agree more... with most of this.
A tantrum should not be placed upon a pedastal. It should be tolerated, then the parent should offer a hug and move on.
A schedule is authoritarian and there is no problem with this. Children's brains are not developed enough to drive the daily schedule. We adults need to do our adulting, parenting jobs. To make decisions that our children may not like.
And when it's time to go, yes, you need to put on your freaking shoes. But I think this can be accomplished just as clearly without the negativity of "freaking". The reason for the "freaking" is that the parent is asking too many times. THIS, not gentle/respectful parenting, is the culprit. Ask only once, then "help" to get the job done, before you are annoyed.
The only part of the above quote I disagree with is this: this is not a definition of respectful parenting and I bet it's not a rule of gentle parenting too. It's the opposite.
Respectful parenting isn't easy. It's hard to always keep your cool. But by respecting your own boundaries and acting swiftly, before they are crossed, parenting actually gets a lot easier.
Want some help with sleep or parenting (there's a lot of overlap!). Schedule a free consultation and see how life can get easier for your family.
If you'd like to join my free Facebook group -- it's open to all -- please come on over to FB: Sleep Deprived Parents. You'll get free advice, commiseration and feedback, whether you have ever been a client here or not.
Problems or goals can seem insurmountable... but a little support along the way can change everything.
I've been privileged to receive life coaching in various forms over the last two years and now want to share my experience with you as I finish my certification as a life coach myself.
My clients will receive three months of complimentary life coaching. There's no catch. You just have to agree to a three-month committment of weekly one-hour sessions -- of course, if you don't feel it's serving you, you are free to stop sooner -- and to bring a challenge or goal to your first session.
Not sure what life coaching is? Life coaching is a bit like therapy, only instead of being mostly past-focused, it's future focused. It helps you move forward in your life to achieve the life you have always dreamed of having. I have used life coaching to address issues such as anxiety, grief, relationships, parenting, work-life balance and more.
Life coaching works for nearly everything because it isn't about my knowledge of your challenge or goal, it's about helping you understand how your thoughts create everything you have in your life.
If you are interested, please send me a quick email and tell me what you would like help with! I'll let you know within one week if you have been chosen.
I can't wait to support you in conquering a goal or challenge!
Can you sleep train a newborn?
Well, it depends.
The very large practice, Tribeca Pediatris, says you can do twelve hours of "cry it out" sleep training at 2 months old. They estimate it will take 3 days and you'll be done.
For those who aren't ready for this at two-months-old -- and there are many of us! -- here are some gentler strategies to improve sleep that don't involve any crying.
Need help implementing better-sleep-strategies? Schedule a complimentary sleep coaching session and discover how your family's sleep can be transformed by amazing sleep.
I know you have the best of intentions.
But stop. Please.
Because if your little one is crying in pain – whether physical or mental – they are distinctly, 100%, not okay.
I know you want to help but can you imagine if you were hurt and someone just kept on insisting you were okay? You would be furious, not comforted.
Let your child have her moment of pain. Let her be all in on that pain.
You want to assure your child that nothing is seriously wrong, but more than that, it’s hard for you (us) when our children cry.
Because we make it mean that we have failed them in some way.
We have this crazy idea that if only we were watching more closely, he wouldn’t have fallen off the play structure. We think that if we had been there, hands outstretched, she wouldn’t have tumbled off her bike. We think that adults can prevent children from being mean to each other.
We think that our children shouldn’t feel pain.
And part of that is because we love them so much and we only want good things for them.
But there's another reason, too, one that is actually a tiny bit selfish. It’s because it makes us really uncomfortable when our children feel pain. We feel responsible and we hate that. We hate the idea that we failed and we are the reason they are suffering.
But children are full-fledged human beings – albeit small ones – with exactly the same range of human emotions as we have. And they are entitled to the full human experience, even the 50% of life that is negative. And with pain comes learning and growth and opportunity. Pain is a normal, natural, healthy, necessary part of life.
We can’t prevent our children from feeling pain. But we can prevent them from developing coping skills, if we swoop in to solve it or worse, deny it.
My daughter bumped her head on the underside of the coffee table today. Because she had the brilliant idea to lie across the couch and lean way down to clean up the puddle of milk on the floor, underneath the coffee table. On her way back up, wham!
I heard the thud, the pause, the wail of distress that every parent quickly learns means “drop everything and run.”
I scooped her up and just held her. I didn’t say anything. I just rocked her and kissed her damp forehead and waited. Longer than I expected. Maybe there was some big feelings going on about her play date, in addition to the bumped head. Who knows.
What I did not do is say, “you’re okay. You’re fine. Why were you leaning down that way anyway?”
I hear this ALL the time from parents – not realizing I am paying attention – actually blaming their kids for their injuries, “I told you not to do that.”
And I know the parents believe that they have good intentions. They want to help, and they feel powerless, so they figure a quick lecture -- while their child sobs -- will make the child feel better.
But really, telling someone that their injury is their fault never makes the victim feel better. I promise.
The only thing is does is it relieves the parent’s guilt. Because they fear that if they were just sympathetic, it would somehow be admitting culpability for their child’s injury?
Let me tell you, instead. Loving parent, it is not your child that your child fell/got hurt/got their feelings hurt. Short of you deliberately knocking them physically or emotionally down, you are not capable of hurting your child. I promise. You didn't do anything wrong.
Children get hurt. It’s not your fault. It is a healthy, necessary, painful part of growing up.
You don’t need to tell your child anything in the moment of shocking pain. You can manage your brain – just keeping telling yourself “shhh” – and focus on your child’s needs.
You can just be silently sympathetic as you hug them. Or say, “ouch, that really hurt.” Or just “I love you.”
All of these will be comforting.
I promise your child is 100% incapable of processing your “helpful” feedback while they are crying. They are flooded with emotion. Their prefrontal cortex has left the building. That’s why their baby selves come back and they suddenly let us cradle them in our arms.
She can’t process a word you are saying. But she can feel your arms around her. She can feel your sympathy. You don’t need to fix it.
You do need to sit with your guilt and not put it on her. You’re a grownup. You can handle it.
If you really think you need to advise her not to do whatever it was she were doing – I bet the fall was all the teaching she needed – wait 4 hours. Until the big emotions are fully gone.
If the hurt is emotional, my advice doesn't change. Don't give advice. Just wait. Later on, ask, don't tell, what your child wants to do. Listen, ask if her wants advice, don't give it otherwise. Don't step in. Don't solve the problem for her. This is what growing up is for -- learning to negotiate conflict with your loving support. Solving the problem for her means she doesn't get the learning she needs. It's okay if that is really uncomfortable for you (and her)! Nothing has gone wrong. Growing up is hard!
You don’t need – please – to tell him how it’s his fault. he just needs your love. The thing only you can give him. No one else can do it like you can. It’s your most important job.
Do you struggle to be your best parenting self, whether about your child's sleep or some other boundary? You are not alone! Schedule a free consult and learn how you can be the parent you have always dreamed of being.
Daylight Savings Time Arrives March 13th in the USA and Canada. Here's How To Avoid Sleep Disruptions.
It’s hard to be organized with time changes – I rarely succeed – but that’s partly because I don’t have someone reminding me! So I’m here for you!
The big payoff for preparation? Preparing your children gradually will help prevent night wakings and early morning wakings. Which means avoiding overtired, cranky children (and adults)! Win win.
If you are extra organized, begin TODAY by moving bedtime 10 minutes earlier each night. You also need to wake your child up 10 minutes earlier each day, to move meals 10 minutes earlier, and to move naps 10 minutes earlier as well.
Do this each day and by the time DST rolls around, your little one won’t even register the time change.
If you are less organized – and I don’t blame you – you can start 4 days ahead of time and move every item on the list (bedtime, wake time, nap times and meal times) 15 minutes earlier each day.
And if you are even less organized, remember that you don’t have to make the full switch on Sunday. You can pretend that the time change didn’t happen yet and make a gradual transition even after the official time change. Just start the transition on Sunday.
Just know that the faster the transition, the more likely you are to have “growing pains” and sleep disruptions. If you do it all in one day, the entire family is likely to suffer. But you should recover within a few days.
Also, if you haven’t yet installed blackout shades, this weekend is an excellent time to do so. The days are just going to keep on getting longer and, for those of you at northern latitudes, bedtime (and early wakings) are just going to keep on getting more challenging as a result. So make those bedrooms as dark as you can.
The reason for this – it’s not just that darkness is easier for sleep – is that darkness triggers the brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that naturally helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. Blackout shades are truly magical for this reason – they are total gamechangers.
If you are worried about your child getting “addicted” to truly dark rooms and that travel will be difficult as a result, know that you can bring garbage bags and painter’s tape with you to make guest rooms more dark while you travel.
Also, fear of not having great sleep later should not be a reason to prevent great sleep now. If nothing else, your well-rested child will be better able to cope with the disruption of travel if they are sleeping well now, even if they don't have perfect darkness later on.
If the financial investment of blackout shades is intimidating, know that you can use temporary blackout shades. You don’t have to spend a lot for great sleep! This six-pack of temporary blackout shades is just $20. Or you can do what I did and experiment with just garbage bags and painter’s tape at first. (Warning: it’s highly effective and deeply depressing to go into a room that is consistently that dark!)
Daylight savings tends to bring a lot of sleep disruptions to families with young children. Spending a few days preparing for the transition will help everyone. Just don't forget, parents, that you also need to start transitioning your sleep and wake times now too. It's not easy to force yourself to go to sleep earlier, but it's worth the payoff.
If your family is already struggling with sleep, fear not. Schedule a free consult today and get the well-rested family you deserve.
*Mexico changes to DST on Sunday, April 3rd
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.