I think for a lot of us as we begin/began the journey of Babywise, we were really mainly hoping for some sleep with our young newborns. No doubt we would have loved some of those other benefits talked about in the book (strong marriages, healthy baby, baby who can play independently…), but the sleep was a high goal on our wish list.
I never would have imagined how much the effort we put into sleep with our children as babies would continue to benefit them as older children. It has had an i
mpressive ripple effect. Yes, as infants my children were happy, alert, predictable, and good sleepers. That was all fantastic. That alone was worth the effort. Today, my children are now 10, 8, 6, and almost 3. I can see how the efforts we put in when they were babies are still paying off today. It was great for when they were newborns and babies, and it is still great today. That massive effort we put in years ago continues to positively effect many aspects of their lives.
1-Able to Focus on More than Sleep
One of my favorite things as my children have grown has always been that sleep is not our concern. As the children grow, the issues you worry about as a parent grow, also. If you think you are worried about how to respond when your baby wakes up early from a nap, you will be infinitely more worried on how to respond when your daughter is dealing with a mean girl at school. With all of the life that you have to work through day in and day out, you will be so glad that you don’t also have to try to figure out how to get your child to sleep at night or how to be sure your child is getting enough sleep at night. For us, the sleep line is checked off so we are able to continue on and focus on other matters.
2-Able to Understand Own Sleep Needs and Take Personal Responsibility
“It’s weird, Mom. The later I go to bed, the harder time I have falling asleep and the earlier I wake up in the morning” Brayden said to me one day last month. “You are correct. According to Weissbluth…”–yeah, my kids hear about sleep from me :).
I think you can find a child in many families who is concerned and responsible about sleep even if the child wasn’t trained to sleep at a young age. It is rare, however, to find most or all of them concerned and responsible. My 3 older children all are concerned and responsible. They all notice the things that help and hinder their sleep. I think that is too many children to be a coincidence. That is a result.
My children know what it feels like to be well rested consistently. They quickly realize what it feels like when they don’t get enough sleep and they work to make sure they get enough sleep so they don’t go to that place of low-sleep. Two of my children really have always seemed to like to sleep. Two have been more of a “loath entirely” disposition. Yet they all are good sleepers and even my 10 year old (a loather) is anxiously engaged in making sure he gets enough sleep and the two year old (the other loather) at this point tolerates sleep and does not fight me on it.
4-Two Year Old Sleeps Even Though She Hates It
Speaking of the two year old, mine still naps. You know those parents who give up on naps with the two year old because the child doesn’t want to take a nap? That could have been me. You can’t blame parents for not wanting to go through that battle with a two year old, but I established long ago that sleep was important to us and that we would preserve it. Brinley sleeps well, but she has never loved sleep. She is not happy to end her playtime and social time in order to go sleep. But she does it. She still sleeps almost every day even though she is two. We have had a couple of phases where she cried when I took her to nap because she would rather play, but we worked through it and she goes to sleep now most days with a happy heart. She still tries things to get out of it from time to time, but she knows the drill and she settles in quickly.
And guess what this Fall will bring for me? Oh people. Three children in full day school and one child who will nap each afternoon…that means a couple of hours a day of uninterrupted quiet! Can you imagine?!? I can only imagine. I am a little giddy.
5-Able to Handle Age-Appropriate Freedom for Self
My children are able to take on some freedoms with sleep because of their respect for sleep. Brinley (2) can look at a few books in bed before she goes to sleep for her nap. She will stay in bed, look at her books, and go to sleep. McKenna (6) can leave her light on at night, look at books for a certain amount of time that we tell her, turn her light off, and go to sleep. Kaitlyn (8) can be given more latitude to read longer if she isn’t tired yet. We can give her a window and know she will turn her light off earlier than the end of the window if she is tired. Brayden (10) has full control over what time he turns his light off and goes to sleep. He pays attention to what time he needs to be at “lights out.” He has experimented and he knows. Think about it–how many adults do you know who can’t have this much control over themselves? I know a lot of adults who don’t read books simply because they can’t put them down at night. We sometimes think about what skills we want our children to have before they leave the home–cooking, laundry, cleaning, car maintenance…how about the skill of sleep?
6-Sleep Benefits are Real
The benefits of sleep are real. I have blogged on a lot of them. Those benefits go into learning and development. Those increased abilities help the in other areas of life daily. The child is at optimal brain level. That means school is easier than it would be without optimal sleep. That means coordination is better. That means disposition is nicer. It just all spills into other aspects of life. That means when there is a big day the next day, be it academically, athletically, socially, or whatever, we are already caught up on sleep and we have the ability to go to bed at a decent time. We can even say, “Tomorrow we are going to a wedding and we want us all to be on our best behavior so we are going to go to bed a little early tonight so we all have plenty of rest” and they get that. They accept that. They comply with that. They help make that happen.
The efforts you put into sleep with a little one can be monotonous, emotional, lonely, and frustrating. But they absolutely are worth it. Some day you can look back on your previous decade of parenting and think, “Wow, I am so glad that I stuck to that.” Yes, your efforts will pay off with a little one, but it is a payout that has interest and it only continues to grow.
If you would like to get started with sleep training, see my 5 sleep training tips.
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