One of the biggest misconceptions about sleep training is that it is something we do to the child, and that it is the child’s job to learn this new skill. This is unfair to the child and dismisses the fact the making sleep changes is a big shift for everyone. Parents and children are both working hard and stepping outside of their comfort zones to create positive change for the entire family. If someone were to ask me, “What is the number one indicator of success or failure with sleep learning?,” it would be whether parents see themselves as part of the team or see their child as the sole student. Those who see themselves as integral to the process, have a much better experience and greater long-term success. Sleep is about relationship, and it takes everyone in that relationship working as a team to help the child reach a sense of self-mastery. Everyone is learning something new.
Making changes around sleep, or any ritual, puts us in a learning state. It can feel really uncomfortable, and it is easier to focus on one person’s behavior changing rather than looking at the the whole process. Similarly, we sometimes get caught up in looking for the goal to be reached, rather than taking the time to learn through the journey. Sleep for children is not linear. Regressions are normal, and sometimes our children simply need us to move in closer. This does not mean we have failed at sleep learning. This means we are responding to our child in a contingent and attuned way. They need us to do this. And, it is all part of the process. Learning when our children need us versus when they are stuck in a habit…a habit that does not nurture their autonomy or reinforces their fears…is all part of the parenting journey around sleep. Knowing these subtle differences is what helps families have long-term success, balance, and ease.
Learning how to tune into your child’s behavior and see it as communication is a shift in how we are taught to look at behavior and parent. This is where I come in as part of the team. I am with my clients throughout the entire process, helping decode the communication/behavior. Parenting sites, books on sleep, and many other sources of information can set parents up to feel like they have failed if they have not conquered lofty sleep goals for their children. Each family is different, and it is healthy to have goals that align with your values. It is healthy to tune in to your child and yourself. This means the goals you set might be very different than your best friend or cousin, but this is a good thing. I am part of the team to help you become more aware of your parenting values and tap into how you want this to look.