for release November 9, 2001
NOTE TO EDITORS: this is part 2 of 2 on Children and Sleep.
by Melodie Davis
Pacifiers, Thumbs, and the Family Bed
Casey used a pacifier, and his parents felt like it was time to wean him off of it. He had a new baby cousin, Oliver, who lived on the other side of the country. They told him that babies need pacifiers, but big boys don't. They told him that in so many days, it would be time to send it to his cousin. They marked off the days on the calendar, because Casey can usually adjust to a change in routine if given time to prepare. When the appointed day came, they wrapped the pacifier in a box, put it in the mailbox, and watched the mailman take it away to his cousin on the other side of the country.
When bedtime came, Casey remembered, "Oliver has the pacifier," and that was the end of Casey's pacifier.
If kids have "sleep aids" it can be difficult for them to go to sleep when they are in the process of being weaned off these aids whether it is breast, bottle, pacifier or thumb. Sometimes another comfort item, like a blanket can help them go to sleep.
When children are infants (0-12 months), theories about how to handle sleep difficulties differ, and the child experts change theories every few years. Do you let a child cry it out? Do you take a baby to bed with you? How can you live through having a colicky child?
These are all special situations that may be answered differently by different parents. I am of the mindset to "go with the standard way of thinking/recommendation" and if it absolutely doesn't work for your child and family, then by all means find whatever works, as we'll explore.
We don't spoil infants in the first couple months by holding them and rocking them to sleep. However, many times a child can go back to sleep on his or her own if you have first checked to make sure everything is okay -- diaper changed, fed, burped, room temperature just right. Some nights it doesn't work and you end up rocking them through the late show and the late late show and then the middle of the night talk shows!
While occasionally I took the children to bed while they were nursing, or we let them in bed with us early in the morning or during a storm, we knew we didn't really like the idea of a "family bed" that some families feel comfortable with, where children are allowed to sleep with the parents whenever and for however long the children want. So we tried other ways of getting the children to sleep when they were very young (walking them, rocking them). We felt that letting the children come to bed with us would be a very difficult habit to break, like thumbsucking. Parents who have had colicky children try anything and everything (which is a whole separate topic), but frequently end up trying to live with this difficult phase of life -- which does pass eventually. They need friends and family to relieve them of this stress, who volunteer to come in and spend the evening or night with the child so that the parents can get away even briefly.
When children are older, say from 2-5 (and even beyond, as needed), Jim Fay (author of parenting books on "Love and Logic") says it helps to give children choices about their bedtime, such as "Do you want a story first or your bath first," or "Do you want a drink in the kitchen or in your room?" If the child stalls on making the decisions, they get 10 seconds, and then you make the decision for them. Robert will become a quicker decision maker if he knows his dad will make the decision for him if he can't make up his mind.
I love some of Fay's tips, too, for when kids try to argue their way out of the choices you've given about bedtime. He emphasizes, "Resist the temptation to argue or reason at this time. Just say, "I love you too much to argue about that, maybe you'll like tomorrow's choices better." Repeat this phrase as often as necessary, but do it without sarcasm or anger.
He also reminds parents that yawning if frequently contagious. Try yawning and acting sleepy yourself during story time (that's not usually too hard for parents!).
For last week's column with the complete list of Fay's choices to offer kids at bedtime, visit the Another Way pages on Third Way Café at www.thirdway.com <http://www.thirdway.com> or write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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