"Thanks again, Abby. It is remarkable how much has changed in two weeks--we started convinced we were traumatizing our child, and while it's not always easy to continue to hear the crying (which has significantly changed and decreased--he slept all night until 5:30am last nite!), we feel like Mickey has become comfortable in his routine, feels safe in his space, and his crying is more about discomfort or just displeasure--not fear or deep sadness!
He is babbling and crawling, and good sleep is a part of his healthy development. So thank you. We know that the anxiety and tense interactions with parents can be a lot to hold, and we really appreciate your gentle approach and accessibility during times that felt completely overwhelming to each of us."
When I was a kid attending my beloved sleepaway camp, I was what they affectionately call a “barn geek.”
I was the camper that went to every single barn chores. Even the ones that required setting an alarm and crawling out of my cozy, warm bunk in the chilly early mornings while my cabinmates continued to snooze.
I was the one and only kid that showed up to the afternoon activity that entailed cutting goat toenails.
I did it all. Every time I could be with farm animals, I was there.
My favorites were the goats, and I even semi-adopted my own baby goat one summer. But I would feed, water, and tend to any and all animals. In hindsight, I can see that nurturing animals helped me feel nurtured, too.
One summer, I remember being impatient to start a barn activity and the counselor scolded me. She said, “Mellow out, Abby. Animals love mellow people.”
Even at the time, I was able to laugh outwardly with my cabinmates at her ridiculous comment. Animals (and babies) always loved me. I knew that.
But inwardly, those words branded my soul. I wasn’t mellow. I was too intense.
People were always telling me that I was too sensitive. I cried too easily. I felt things too deeply. I was too focused on everyone else’s words, feelings, and actions. I just needed to relax.
Telling me to relax was like telling a drowning person to just relax.
I couldn’t relax in order to save my own life.
And so was born the story in my head that I was “too intense.” Too much.
I believed it for decades.
I tried to hide and play it cool and be casual but I doubt I was very convincing. I am sure my intensity was all the more overwhelming for trying to hide it.
Then, about three years ago, my dear friend Kimberly said something that stopped me in my tracks.
She said, “what if your intensity is your superpower?”
Her question took my breath away.
It made me think of my brother, a successful business coach, saying his ADHD, far from being a negative, is his superpower. Who says you can't decide what is your superpower?
Getting coached on this has helped me realize that holding back my truest self is keeping the world from receiving what this unique person, me, is able to give. It ] keeps my relationships superficial. As a result, it made relationships more likely to end. The very thing I was trying to avoid.
I have learned to lean into my intensity. To embrace it. To stop apologizing for it (most of the time!). To recognize that this is who I am.
But even beyond that, to question what is “too intense."
Too intense for whom? For this broken world we live in?
What if I am the perfect amount of intense, and it is all those other people who are lacking if they are unable to appreciate me?
Indeed, as I have embraced my intensity, I have found, more than ever, my people. The people who value intensity. The people who are intense too. My people.
What stories do you tell about yourself? What negative labels do you give yourself? How are they holding you back? And did you know you can just decide, right now, that they are not true and that you can change the narrative of your life right now?
Just by deciding. You don’t have to prove anything or convince anyone. Just decide and it becomes fact.
This is simple but it's far from easy.
If you’d like support changing the narrative of your life, set up a complimentary life coaching session. There’s no commitment and no sales pitch. Just an opportunity to experience a life changing transformation.
Former clients recently got in touch with me because their amazing sleeper (ever since we worked together many months before) had gone off the rails.
They had taken their toddler to Paris and when they returned, exhausted and jet lagged, little Samara fell asleep in her beloved crib just fine but woke up screaming.
Ever since then, 6 days prior, she was terrified of her crib.
This didn’t seem like a straightforward case of sleep training, because she was already an amazing sleeper. Also, her screaming felt different than the crying one associates with sleep training.
It looked and sounded exactly like terror.
But we couldn’t figure out why. Nothing had gone wrong in Paris and nothing had changed in her room while they were gone.
And at only 15 months old, Samara couldn’t explain what she was afraid of.
Her parents tried sitting in the room with her but even then, Samara would stand at the crib rails and scream.
None of us wanted to ignore her fears. That idea seemed cruel. But bringing her to their bed only meant bad sleep for all of them – they had already tried that.
Then her mom, feeling desperate, got a genius idea. She crawled into Samara’s crib with her. And let Samara fall asleep on top of her.
Once Samara was sound asleep, Laney carefully crawled out of her daughter’s crib and left the room.
Laney and Rob took turns crawling into the crib a few more times that night, but otherwise, Samara slept better than she had the previous few nights. They did the same the next night.
On the third night, Samara went into the crib awake and her dad stayed right next to her for a while, then gradually faded into the nearby rocking chair. He spent two more nights sitting in the chair but eventually it became clear that his presence was becoming more stimulating than soothing and so he cautiously left the room.
Her first night alone, Samara cried for 20 minutes… but not the terrified screaming from before. Normal, tired-toddler crying.
And by the end of the week, there was zero crying. Now Samara goes into her crib awake and plays by herself for a while before drifting off to sleep.
While I am a HUGE advocate of sleep training, there are times when traditional sleep training isn’t quite right. When a child has experienced recent trauma – even if we don’t know what the trauma was – we need to be extra attentive to helping the child feel secure while also promoting healthy sleep. Which sometimes, like in Samara’s case, requires a little extra creativity!
Other times that my require an extra gradual approach include children who have experienced recent hospitalizations or unexpected separations from their grownups, children who come from foster care, and sometimes, children who have a diagnosed anxiety or developmental disorder, or children who have been cosleeping all night with their parents.
The great news is that we can still always work to improve sleep! And whatever the issue was that was making sleep hard – it always gets better with better sleep.
If your family is struggling with sleep and you’re worried you’re a lost cause… you’re certainly not! Set up a free consultation and let’s figure out a way to get your family the sleep you deserve.
Look, therapy’s great. I love it as much as the next neurotic, culturally-Jewish New Yorker.
In other words, I’ve done a LOT of therapy.
But I hit a wall with it.
I had done it for years and just felt like I wasn’t getting any closer to my dreams.
Does this sound familiar?
For me, and for many of my clients, therapy is too past-focused. It’s about dredging up the pain from the past. Reliving it. Hoping to release it.
For me, that moment of release it never came. And reliving pain from the past was, frankly, exhausting and dispiriting.
I finally got impatient and started looking for something else. And that’s when I stumbled across coaching.
It’s not that coaching doesn’t include the past. It does.
But coaching helps me realize the thought errors from my past, the thoughts that I was thinking that kept me from achieving my goals.
Once I recognized those thought errors, I could change them. Not necessarily to the perfect thought. But to a thought that moved me closer to my goal.
For example, I had an emotionally abusive, narcissistic father. My childhood was spent cowering in fear.
I can’t change that childhood experience. And I don't want to pretend that it was an acceptable experience.
But years of focusing on my victimhood kept me as a victim.
When I realized that other options were available to me, for example, “Wow, I must have been really strong to survive that and still succeed in life,” I suddenly felt empowered instead of victimized.
That thought allowed me to focus on my strengths without needing to change my past.
I don’t know about you, but my life experience is a hell of a lot better when I feel powerful instead of victimized.
Somehow, without doing other work, relationships have become easier in my life. I have more close friends and a thriving romantic partnership. I almost never shout at my kids anymore. I am slowly gaining confidence in stating my opinions and sharing my needs. Authentically and vulnerably. Even with my children.
Some days, I barely recognize the person I have become. But I am overwhelmed with gratitude by my life these days.
Where would you like to take back your power in your life? Set up a complimentary life coaching session to experience the transformation that is available to you.
The makers of Mamaroo and Rockaroo baby swings, 4moms, report that the straps of the two swings hang down when not in use, posing a strangulation risk.
One ten-month-old has died by strangulation and another had bruising on his neck after being rescued from entanglement by his caregiver.
Owners of the swing are advised to keep the swing where mobile infants can’t access it, and to contact the company to receive a free strap fastener. Known purchasers will be contacted directly by the company and consumers can also contact the company at 877-870-7390 or at email@example.com.
Likewise, back in June, 13 infants were reported to have died over the last 12 years in Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler rockers while sleeping in them.
Infant car seats are safe for babies to sleep but only while they are installed in the car seat base. Unfortunately for parents everywhere, once the infant car seat is removed from its base, the baby should be moved from the seat to a flat surface for sleep.
Babies should always sleep A) alone, B) on their backs, C) in a crib or other approved flat surface, as per the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Worried about how you’ll get your baby to sleep without the use of inclined surfaces? You are not alone. Schedule a free consult and we’ll get your baby, well, sleeping like a bay.
If your child feels alone and anxious at night after you say goodnight, this button can help!
Just pre-record a short saying, less than 30 seconds, on the device and your child can press the button to hear the reassuring sound of your voice, as many times as they need, after you leave the room at night.
It's only a $12.99 investment and Willa says it really helps both her kids to fall asleep at night.
Have you tried it? Please let me know what you think!
Thanks, Willa, for the recommendation!
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.
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.