“It must be the four-month sleep regression. She just suddenly started waking up a lot more. I can’t figure out what to do about it. I should probably start serious sleep training.”
“My six week old starts flailing his arms around once he gets them out of the blanket and he simply can’t self-settle.”
“I’ve been introducing the potty to my 17month old for a few months but she just wants to play with it. I had hoped she’d be diaper free by now. I’ve tried so many techniques.”
“My seven-month-old wails if I don’t nurse him back to sleep. I know I’ve started a terrible sleep association by nursing him to sleep.”
“My two year old just “loses it”. I wish she’d just learn to self-regulate.”
These are all statements I heard from parents this week. Do any of them sound familiar? I’m hearing more and more talk like this from parents these days. They quote new terms or conditions about their situations like they read it on the internet… and they probably did.
Have any of these terms become part of your parenting vocabulary?
4 (or 6 or 9 month) sleep regression,
self-settle or self-soothe,
potty training in a week,
sleep associations (like nursing, rocking, singing, a soother) etc.
Odds are, if you are searching for parenting answers online you have encountered these terms over and over in different contexts. There are many websites, mommy blogs, online parenting courses, parenting coaches, Facebook groups etc focusing on these terms. Even health professionals have adopted many of them and use them when assisting parents with parenting issues.
I hear parents utilizing these terms every day. They have become part of the new parenting vocabulary and are perceived by many parents as “the truth”.
And when I hear parents use these terms, they are 90% of the time feeling badly or guilty about something their baby or child is doing.
Or more to the point, the parents are feeling badly about themselves.
But why are they are feeling badly about themselves?
Because this is what they tell me…
“I “allowed” the “four month sleep regression” to happen and I need to jump on it and get it under control.”
“My six week old isn’t settling down after being distressed but I was read online and by friends and family that my baby needs to “self settle” or “self soothe”. So I stood back and watched my baby struggle until I couldn’t stand it anymore because my heart was breaking. So I picked my baby up (who quickly settled).”
“My toddler hasn’t the slightest interest in toilet training, but the we read about “diaper free” and feel we’ve missed the boat and somehow “failed” toilet learning.”
I’ve had parents tell me the tradition of nursing babies to sleep and back to sleep is now labeled “a sleep association” and that is something to end as early as possible.
And I hear about how self regulation, “the ability to focus attention, control emotions and manage thinking, behaviour and feelings” has become a (very legitimate) goal for child rearing, but parents have very unrealistic expectations for when it can achieved…. “So when my two year old “loses it” I feel like I have failed and there’s something wrong with my two year old.”
(FYI: Two-year-olds struggle mightily with self regulation).
So what does all this mean for you as a parent from my perspective?
I see the biggest struggle that parents have is the courage to find their own parenting values, beliefs and voice and to truly truly lovingly see the uniqueness of their children.
And when you can really see them and accept them for who they are, it is much easier to meet their needs.
That means… being on your baby and/or child’s side and seeing them clearly without the many labels that are being thrown around online and in pop culture.
I have been involved with babies, young children and parents for long enough to have seen many parenting (and education) trends come and go (since I was 19 – and I am much older than that!)
And when these new trends come, everyone jumps on the new bandwagon and they become the new norms causing parents to once again start second guessing themselves, doubting themselves, and holding themselves up to the new parenting yardstick for comparison.
The result of this “new trend following” is that a parent’s own intuitive sense of what their baby or child needs gets lost in the process.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I need to say how frustrating it is to see this happening to parents today. Why? Because babies and children needs have not changed just because you read something on the internet!
Their fundamental needs are timeless: unconditional love, responsiveness, deep connection with you, and deep acceptance of who they are.
The progression of child development is timeless.
What it takes to raise a healthy, self-valuing human who can function in the world, relate to and feel compassion for others, has a clear set of values, and weather the ups and downs of life, is timeless.
Their critical issues are not:
the order you introduce solids,
how you comfort your children (as long as you do),
how you give your kids boundaries (as long as you do so and do it lovingly),
when they start reading,
whether you work outside the home or not.
All the parenting arguments that take place online and amongst your parenting friends don’t help you to feel better about yourself as a parent.
I encourage you to look inside yourself and with your partner if you have one. Find your own parenting values and goals and look, from the heart, at who your baby and/children are, and what do they really really need from you.
Will this make parenting easier? Not necessarily, because parenting is just hard work. But hopefully, it will help you feel more confident, more responsive and more joyful in your parenting.
Remember, millions and millions of babies and children were born and raised happy and healthy long before the internet.
My advice? Don’t let the internet be looking over your shoulder! Learn to trust yourself. Listen to your baby and listen to your heart.
Ultimately, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.