Saturday, July 9th, 2011
I find it fascinating that as parents, we are often quick to point out the perceived flaws of other parents, as if it’s some game to “out” who the “bad parents” really are in our society.
After 48 hours of being published, my post “Positively Communicating with My Seven Month Old Son” received over 1,300 “likes” on Facebook. Interestingly, during that same short period of time, on Parents Magazine’s Facebook page my article received 167 comments; most of them vehemently criticizing me, while some passionately supported and defended me.
I’m learning just how polarizing my perspective on parenting can be. When I published that post, I had no idea that it would ever become so popular, as well as, so infamous. I just thought it was another post like any other day. It didn’t stand out as particularly special to me. Boy, was I wrong- because it hit a sweet spot for so many readers and struck a nerve with the rest. People either completely loved it, or hated it as much as I despise the TV show 16 and Pregnant.
Some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a while was reading through all the comments on the Facebook wall for Parents Magazine. While I felt so encouraged from those who supported me, the majority of the people who opposed my viewpoint said some really angry and/or hilarious stuff. (One of my favorite comments involves a unicorn.)
A common occurrence from several readers was the feeling that my tone was snobbish. This was implied because I stated I don’t like to see parents sarcastically joke about giving their kids away to strangers in public. (What about parents who can’t have children? How do they feel when they witness this same event?)
Sure, it regularly crosses my mind that having a child is tough; especially when he is not behaving as I would like. But I’m his dad and I’m suppose to be his number one supporter, not his number one critic.
Am I naïve and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent? Of course I am. I’ve only been a dad for seven months.
I have to speculate that that has something to do with why Parents.com chose me as their official daddy blogger, instead of a seasoned veteran who actually knew what they were doing. My lack of experience is one of the reasons The Dadabaseis interesting- because I am a newbie. I am learning something new as a parent everyday. I am wet behind the ears; that’s sort of my specialty here.
However, I was additionally perceived as a snob because some readers felt that I do not yet have the authority to write about communicating with my child because he is so young. But like I said in the article, I’m setting up the patterns now for how I will speak to him as he gets older. After all, it’s a gradual process and this is my way of preparing for it.
Another reoccurring (and I believe, caricatured) perception of me from those who disagreed with my viewpoint is that I am a hippie living in La La Land. That I am just so easygoing that my son is going to walk all over my wife and me as he gets older. That I am so preoccupied with not speaking sarcastically to my son that I will completely neglect the need for discipline.
Ironically, just a couple of days ago I did a Dadabase post about I how endorse and practice the “cry it out” method to get my son to sleep at night, prompting one reader to post this comment: “Actually, what you have done is not teach him to sleep well, but teach him that, no matter how hard he cries, how scared and alone he feels, or what his needs may be, you will not be there for him… Congratulations!”
The truth is, I actually worship the importance of creating structure for my son, setting realistic expectations for him, and when the time eventually comes, following through with discipline; not just threatening it.
It’s interesting to me that I am paradoxically both a snob and a hippie. What a weird combo.
Side note: Thanks to the Facebook wall comments, I was made aware of the fact that there was a typo in the article. I said “my wife and I” when I should have said “my wife and me.” My college degree is in English, of all things. So that’s one embarrassing faux pas. I went back and fixed it.
To some, I came across as a snob who thinks I am better than other parents and that my parenting style is superior to theirs. Similarly, these same readers jumped at the chance to criticize me for disagreeing with their own parenting technique. Is it safe to assume that these readers who so passionately disagree think that their parenting style is superior to mine?
As parents, we all do what works best for us and what we believe will be best for our children. We all have controversial parenting styles compared to other parents out there.
But while it may appear that I am clueless or fanatical to be so darn positive, just know this: My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are planted firmly on solid ground.
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Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
That’s the exact phrase I recently Googled; “Is it wrong to let your baby cry it out?” The results were nearly equally mixed; from stay-at-home moms to doctors.
What my wife and I had been doing was not working for our son so I decided to step up and be proactive. Yes, I am one of those parents who unashamedly uses the controversial “cry it out” method when it comes to getting my son to go to sleep.
Granted, there are many versions of the method; some more harsh than others. Today, I would like to share with you my version of it.
When my now seven month old son began crawling over a month ago, his former sleep schedule became abruptly derailed. He began putting up a fight when it was time for him to go to sleep every night.
My son Jack became so preoccupied with his newly acquired mobility that his body just couldn’t stop moving, despite the fact he was exhausted and desperately needed rest. He would even crawl in his sleep!
It didn’t take long for me to see the connection between his mobility obsession and his inability to fall asleep with the comfort of my wife’s usual routine with him. The new normal was that it would take my wife 90 minutes or more to get him to sleep.
Needless to say, she was worn out and frustrated by the time it was over. And I was frustrated to see her so frustrated. Not to mention, by the time she got him to sleep, it was nearly time for the two of us to go to bed.
I respect the concept of quality time in our marriage. And it just didn’t seem kosher that A) it should be that much trouble to get our son to bed and B) that our quality time together should be interfered with so greatly by something as seemingly natural as a baby falling asleep.
After barely skimming a chapter of a book on “crying it out” and a few websites, I decided to apply what I had learned. The first night, it took my 43 minutes to get my son to sleep. The second night, 27 minutes; the third; 17 minutes. And now, a week later, I can often get him to sleep within 10 to 12 minutes. (Tonight, it took me less than 5 minutes!)
Not only has the method caused my wife and me to be better relaxed and rested, but it also does the same for our son. He wakes up less during the night now.
He goes to sleep a little earlier and wakes up a little later. That’s not to say I’m excited by the fact that I have less quality time withhim during the day; but I do recognize that he was being deprived of quality sleep time before I started applying the method.
I recognize the common concern that the baby will become psychologically damaged by the process. I disagree; not the way I do it, at least. In fact, I proclaim that for the babies in the world who need the “cry it out” method, they actually become psychologically nurtured.
My son’s developing emotions have not yet successfully connected to rational thinking. Half of his body is telling him, “Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” The other half is saying, “I’m tired! I need sleep! I’m so sleepy it’s all I can think about!”
That’s where I come in. I help my son make those connections in his brain. And I do it with the structure and strength he craves. I view it as an early form of discipline. Not discipline in the form of punishment or discomfort, but in the form of guidance and assurance.
Here’s a brief look at the Nick Shell version of the “cry it out” method:
1) As it gets close to his established bed time (6:30 PM), I take him to his bedroom and shut the door, letting him play for a few final minutes on the floor with his toys.
2) When he shows signs of being ready to go to sleep (rubbing his eyes, being unable to sit well), I wrap him up in his blanket and begin gently rocking him. I make sure that he is physically comfortable as I hold him; not holding him too tightly.
3) When he begins doing his “protest cries” (crying at the top of his lungs), I give him a hug by holding him more firmly- but only in that moment of him belting out his cry; so ultimately during the two seconds he lets out a cry, I hold him more tightly, but obviously not squeezing him or hurting him.
4) As his eyes close, I continue rocking him in my arms, waiting for him to officially fall asleep and start snoring.
5) I wait a few more minutes to make sure he has entered a sleep deep enough to endure my lying him down in his bed.
6) Then I hold him over his bed for another minute, but ceasing to rock him. This prepares him for the landing.
7) I slowly yet steadily lower him to his bed and remove my hands from his head and legs, lying him down. I wait another minute to make sure he is going to stay asleep, then I quietly leave the room.
8) If it any point from Step 3 to Step 7 he refuses to stop crying for more than one minute, I carefully set him down in his bed and leave the room. The first time I leave him, I’m only gone for one minute. The next time, three; then five, then ten. But never more than ten minutes pass before I return to try again. Each time I return, I restart at Step 3 by re-wrapping him in the blanket and gently rocking him.
The most crucial element with this method is that you, the parent, are consistent. Do it every night. Never give up during the middle of it.
When necessary, I remind myself that I am the one who controls my son, not the other way around. I don’t give him the ability to frustrate me with his illogical behavior; instead, I frustrate him with my logical behavior. He doesn’t get me worked up emotionally; instead, I redirect his emotions.
I realize that may sound intense to some, but I believe my son needs structure now more than he ever has needed it in his life. I believe if I let him have his way and take 90 minutes or more to fall asleep on his own, I would be sending a message to him that he is able to make the rules. I believe for him, that could actually be psychologically misleading and damaging. I love my son, therefore I use this version of the “cry it out” method.
In closing, I write this with the assumption that at least 70% of readers passionately disagree with me on this issue. By no means am I trying to convert anyone to this seemingly unloving yet effective method. I simply want to share what works for me (a normal guy; not an expert) and tell the other side of the story- to answer the question by saying, “No, it’s not wrong to let your baby cry it out.”
I welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree. Just remember, I don’t approve comments that insult the character or intelligence of other commenters or of myself: Make it constructive, not destructive. Make it legitimate; not sarcastic and condescending.
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