A dear friend encouraged me to pause from science, theology and politics to intersperse some thoughts on another personal passion–Child Training and Parenting.
Sleeping and babies are topics near and dear to many parents, particularly new ones. For those of us who are parents, we understand the value of sleep and the effects our babies can have on our sleeping patterns when they wake and scream and cry for long hours in the middle of the night. As a result, the way we approach babies and their sleep can be a very emotional and sensitive topic.
The conventional wisdom, as it applies to sleeping babies, is to be absolutely silent while the baby is asleep. In fact, if you’ve ever unwittingly walked into a room, (or next to a room), containing a sleeping baby and made the mistake of producing a decibel, you were probably immediately notified of it by an angry, “SHHH! THE BABYS SLEEPING!!!” accompanied by eyes ablaze with rage like somebody straight out of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
The conventional wisdom and near unanimous opinion that being silent around sleeping babies by rearranging life or placing them on structured, uninterruptible, rigid sleeping schedules is the way to make them good, sound sleepers and will contribute to greater sleep, rest or peace for the parent.
As with most conventional wisdom, I could not disagree more.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the way to behave around a sleeping baby in order to train them to be sound sleepers should be absolutely no different than the way we behave around a baby that is awake. What I mean by that is we should not artificially decrease life’s volume because a baby is sleeping or about to fall asleep.
Training and conditioning are enormous aspects of parenting of which I will write about later in greater detail. However, their role as it applies to sleeping is relevant to this consideration since this topic is really all about training and conditioning.
The bottom line is this:
If you require absolute silence in order for your baby to remain asleep, all you are doing is conditioning them to not be able to sleep through the slightest unscheduled noise. The very thing that most parents say they want, (their babies to sleep), they are actually working to directly undermine by demanding a sleeping atmosphere no louder than silence.
We took an entirely different approach when it came to our babies and sleep. We decided that we were not going to be slaves to our baby’s nap times and rearrange our entire lives around when and how our babies sleep. Instead, my Wife and I decided very early on that our babies were going to conform to the natural din of everyday life and that we were going to be the ones training the children, not the other way around.
Did you know that in every parent/child relationship, someone is getting trained and someone is doing the training?
Either the parent is training the child to conform to the parental standards or the child is training the parent to tolerate theirs.
I am astonished as I speak with parents who speak as though they are hostages in their own homes.
“Well we were going to watch a movie, but the baby was sleeping.”
“We were going to go to the wedding, but we didn’t want to interrupt Jr.’s sleeping regiment.”
Do you realize that you are now eking out an existence of self-inflicted bondage that is actually producing the polar opposite result to which you are intending? Your children are now more likely to be wakened, not less, since their sleep requires the fragile and delicate balance of utter silence.
If our babies are sleepy or sleeping, we never lower the TV or radio volume, no matter how loudly it is playing. If people boisterously enter our home or the room where a baby is asleep, we never ‘Shhh!’ them or admonish them to lower their voice nor do we intentionally avoid loud places.
As a result, we are in the process of training our fourth baby to be able to sleep through anything. I could literally drop a stack of dishes on the floor next to them and they will not wake up.
No hostages. No bondage. No rearrangement of life. No unwieldy sleep schedules.
Just you, your deep-sleeping baby, and life!
The beauty of simplicity.