Do you shout at your kids?
I will admit it, I sometimes shout at mine. At times, I lose my patience. My kids are able to make me lose my cool and push me to the point where I snap.
I'm not proud of it, as I know that I am a much better parent when I am calm. Arguably, yelling may be useful at times, but it always makes me feel like I fallen short. It's the complete opposite of the wonderful sensation I have when I am able to solve an issue in a cool, calm and collected way, having properly analysed the issue and provided sensible suggestions on how to resolve it. My kids calm down right away and start to think about these suggestions, and before you know it, everything is under control.
Maintaining our composure around our kids has several benefits that go above and beyond just making us feel like good parents.
In a 2014 study published in Psychological Science, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and New York University briefly separated mothers and their infants before introducing the mums to some minor stressful situations. When they were reunited with their mothers the infants exhibited the same negative stress their mums did. It is unclear exactly how those feelings were passed on, but even in the absence of direct contact with the stressor, the infants could detect their mother's stress and emulated it.
Further research from the University of California, Riverside found that parents who kept calm while working with their children on a challenging laboratory task were able to maintain their child's composure and attention to the task.
So what does this all mean, then? It means that your child is likely to pick up on how you are feeling, whether you're anxious or calm. Your feelings are contagious in the most literal sense.
Stress is common in a parents life. It cannot be avoided. We're going to lash out at our kids occasionally. You shouldn't guilt yourself for having those moments, but we should try to limit them, is all I'm saying. We ought to always strive for those monumental moments.
Presumably, if you're reading this, you're either in the middle of training your child to sleep through the night or you're considering starting. If so, there's a high likelihood that you're already lacking sleep yourself. When we don't get enough sleep, we become irritable, easily agitated, and more prone to become frustrated and lose our temper. In other words, we're probably a little bit stressed, and as we've seen, that stress affects our children, increasing their cortisol production, resulting in additional obstacles before we've even started.
I'm not suggesting it's simple, but before you even begin the process of training your child to sleep independently, I advise you to get yourself in a mindset where you promise to yourself that you will do all in your power to remain calm no matter how difficult things become. Try deep breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, and anything else comes to mind to help you achieve a calm and more understanding mindset.
If you're working with a partner, I advise you to share the load and decide in advance who will work which shifts to avoid confusion during the night. And keep in mind that, if all goes according to plan, most newborns begin to show significant improvement by about the third night, so relief isn't too far away.
And when you child is sleeping through the night, and you have worked through the process without giving up to feelings of guilt and frustration you're going to feel an amazing sense of achievement. You'll experience a sense of victory similar to winning the World Parenting Championship.
Mums and Dads, sleep filled nights are just around the corner! Be patient and composed, and it's all with your reach.