Co-sleeping – or not?

Just like breast-feeding, co-sleeping is now on the mind of many new parents. The bonding with the baby, the ease of night feedings, the possibility to sleep longer – if this is all so good, why are parents still have questions?

Here are my thoughts and observations:

Co sleeping, or “The Family bed” is a cultural issue. Those who were raise in such a way do know how it works, might feel more intuitive and comfortable to do that. They have a different point of view from those who read about it and consider it without personally being raised that way.

For me, this was never an option. My husband would not allow children to sleep in our bed, or even in our room. I felt his opinion is important to me, so my children slept in their crib, in their room, from day one. I remember being able to respond to their changes in breathing from my room, and know when they are to start crying to call me to be fed. For my husband this worked, so he could sleep through it. I was a stay home mom, and could nap with the baby during the day, which I did. he was working hard and long, and sleeping was important for him to be safe at work. Also, it was important for him to sleep with me, alone, together. I liked that.

So, I did not experience the separate rooms as something to interfere with bonding with my babies. At the same time, I can see how just turning to the side to nurse, instead of getting up to do that would have been great, too. I can see how sharing the bed can add touching, codling and relaxing time. I can see how my husband could have taken part in it.

So, if you were NOT raised in bed with your parents, here are some things for you to think about:

  • This is not a pre-requisite for bonding. It is just one way to express it.
  • Like any other parenting decision, this has to fit EVERYONE’S needs. So: do not do it “for the sake of the baby” only. Make sure you enjoy it, and so is everyone else in this bad. I know for sure it would not have been good for my husband, but some other man might like it. And on this note: make sure you and your spouse talked about how, when where and how you are going to communicate about your intimate times. Co-sleeping is not an excuse to demote the partner in your life. Some observations have indicated that many man feel rejected from their wife’s attention after a baby arrives, and that might be because mother is getting now a lot of physical touching, as she holds the baby a lot, and she does not go to her husband for that anymore…
  • Be aware you are going to have a wining process ahead of you. You do not have to decide right away how long this co-sleeping is going to take place, but your baby will never decide it likes better to sleep anywhere else. In some cultures children have access to their parents bed until they are in their late teen. Are you ready for that? The longer your child share your bed – the harder moving him/her to another bed is going to be.
  • Do not feel pressured to do co-sleeping if all this is stressing you out. It is better to listen to your intuition than be politically correct (I feel the same about breast feeding…) The best thing you can do for your child is be a happy and fulfilled mom!

If you have more questions, or experiences to share _ please ask and share! We can all learn.

NurtureShock: To praise or not to praise?

In the first chapter of this book, the issue of praising is examined. The authors found that since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden, legislators of all levels became fully committed to the idea and created methods and programs to increase self-esteem. Follow-up research connected self-esteem with everything from dependency on social welfare to teen pregnancy, and declared that these problems would be “cured” by increased self-esteem. No wonder parents started to praise their children “early and often.”

But what happens to those children when they first experience failure or difficulty? Studying this question brought a whole new understanding to the role of praise. To summarize the summary of the NurtureShock authors: Not all praise is the same.

  • Praise that is general, like “you are smart, Kiddo!” are not perceived as sincere, and make the child think he/she can rely on his/her innate talent, without making any effort. The requirement for effort actually confirms to them they are not really smart.
  • Praise which is specific is valuable: The child will work hard to get more such praise.
  • Teach children that results come from effort, and that “smartness” is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.
  • Too much praise distorts motivation. Children who were overpraised lose sight of the intrinsic joy in learning. They become risk-takers and lack autonomy. They do not persist at their tasks, and at college level they tend to drop out of classes rather than get a mediocre grade.
  • Highly praising parents feel they are supportive of their child. The child, on the other hand, senses the parents’ high expectations.
  • Overly praised children do work hard–but are ready to tear down others. It is the impression of being smart that moves them.
  • Praise is perceived by children as a sign of failure (someone feels I need a boost, so something is wrong with me) but criticizing is perceived as a sign the teacher (or parent) thinks I am smart (he/she feels I can deal with it)!

The authors are specific about praise: The observations are about children ages 7 years and over. It is believed that younger children take praise at face value. I am not sure how much I agree with that. I wish there were more studies to support this point.

Nevertheless, NurtureShock gives a lot for us parents to think about!

parents need to be clear about their goals!

My friend Mike lanza wrote this in his web site Playborhood.com:
My Goal

I want my kids to play outside with other neighborhood kids every day.
I want them to create their own games and rules.
I want them to play big, complex games with large groups of kids, and simpler games one-on-one with a best friend.
I want them to decide for themselves what to play, where, and with whom.
I want them to settle their own disputes with their friends.
I want them to create their own private clubs with secret rules.
I want them to make lasting physical artifacts that show the world that this is their place.
I want them to laugh and run and think.
Every day.

That’s what I had. It’s my standard for a good childhood. It’s my goal for my kids.

What is your goal?

Parenting as a test of character

Parenting is hard. I remember when I became parent, I was exhausted. Night after night of waking up to feed, change, and put my angel to sleep; day after day, the same routine–plus all the housework. Months, then a year of this–and then a second child arrived. I remember thinking: I gave my mom a hard time as a teenager, but nobody told me about THIS! I also remember thinking: I wish I was not so tired so I might enjoy my babies!

And as my babies grew, and I could sleep at night, other challenges came along: Temper tantrums; making sure they eat their vegetables; teaching them to waiti to get my attention; cooperating with Dad to make discipline consistent. And listening to a lot of crying, then complaining–and later, criticism.

What helped me through it all was my clear vision of my goal: I wanted strong and independent, but loving and connected, children. And every time I felt I wanted to take some “easy way out”–I thought about that: What will they say about this 20 years from now? What will they think of me? It was not about trying to buy their love, but it was about wanting to be appreciated and respected. I wanted my children to know I was strong, that I know what I want–and so can they.

I am glad to report it all worked out just as I had planned–and hoped. And it can for you, too.

Parents as Life Coaches II

There are two main ideas I liked in the article I just shared with you: One is that parenting is like life-coaching, and the other is Xeroxing.

Parenting is life coaching. The goal of the parents is to prepare their child to be a healthy, productive adult in society. For that goal, they create many experiences that will teach the child how to become such an adult: They send him or her to school, read to her, listen to him.

That metaphor might not be clear if you do not know much about coaching, so here it is in a nutshell: Coaching is creating a relationship between two individuals, where one is giving the other information, encouragement, and support to reach the recipient’s goals. If it is a swimming coach, for example,  s/he does not have to be a great swimmer, but has knowledge of what a great swimmer needs: When does the swimmer need to be pushed to work harder, when does s/he need to go easy on the swimmer, what will inspire him or her, what will help the swimmer stick to the work, the practice, the discipline it takes to reach the swimmer’s goal.

You can see how this describes the parents’ role as well: A parent cannot live his or her child’s life. A parent cannot decide what the child likes, what moves him or her, what s/he is good at – and what is his or her passion. The child is not a mirror-image of the parent. S/he is different genetically, emotionally, has different strengths and weaknesses and lives in a different historical context. If in one century it was a good idea to become a doctor, later on it seems to be better to be a lawyer, or an engineer, or have a degree in business.  A career choice that worked for the parent might not be a good one for the child, for many reasons.

That is why I like the concept of “Xeroxing” – it is such a good metaphor for explaining to parents what is wrong with asking children to fulfill the parents’ dreams. Let your child have her or his dreams – and coach your child the best you can to reach them!