Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mommy knows best when setting boundaries

One week before my strong-willed daughter turned two, we went on a glorious beach vacation. Everything was terrific – except that she decided she no longer wanted to sleep in the Pack n’ Play. And she didn’t want to sleep in a bed. And she didn’t want to sleep on a pallet on the floor. She just plain old didn’t want to sleep.

After an hour or so of struggling to get her to relax somewhere, she’d eventually fall asleep holding a book in a chair or a random spot on the floor without a blanket or pillow. I felt like a terrible parent, but at least she was sleeping.

Once we returned home, the saga continued. We replaced her crib with a toddler bed, but she preferred to use her nap mat. Then she decided she wanted to sleep on the changing table pad on the floor. Then she refused to sleep in her room and wanted to sleep on the rug in the play room… You get the idea.

Finally, after weeks of late nights, napless afternoons and a cranky family (did I mention that my four-year-old son – who LOVES to sleep and will put himself down for a rest when he’s tired – was suffering from exhaustion, too, because his sister was keeping him up?), I put my foot down. I should have done it weeks ago, but I thought we were doing what was best for her by listening to her needs. However, she’s just testing boundaries – all the time – and in order to create a secure, positive, loving environment for my children, I need to clearly define my expectations and always follow through with what I say. Parenting 101, right?

So at bedtime, I told Arley that in addition to her lamp, I would leave the overhead light on and the door open. If she left her room, I would turn off her light. If she left her room again, I would close the door.

She immediately disobeyed twice, and I kept my word. The end result – she screamed in her room with the door closed (which breaks your heart!) for about 15 minutes, but then fell asleep and slept all night.

The next night, we tried it again and she only cried for five minutes.

Slowly, but surely, I think she’s adjusting to the boundaries. She’s been going to sleep much easier, as well as sleeping longer. She’s even taking naps again! I’m relieved that she’s finally getting the much-needed sleep that’s crucial to her development and well-being. And all it took was for me to lay down the law and stick to it. Can you say Mommy Guilt?!

What are your Parenting 101 rules you live by?

Mandy Forbus is a Sr. Marketing Specialist for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two.

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