Mac? (Note, this is
a two-part email from a mom)
I was glad to stumble upon "Parenting with Dignity" in a bookstore
recently after several frustrating months of locking horns with my
three-year-old son. He was such an easy-going infant and toddler that my
struggles with him really took me by surprise! I found myself yelling
and saying things I never thought I would! I intuitively understood that
my overreaction was ineffective and making things worse between us, but
I didn't have any better ideas to draw upon. I have become much more
conscientious in how I speak to my child and there is a big improvement
already--well, in my behavior at least! For that I am very grateful. If
you don't mind, I would like to ask you one specific question that I
have not seen addressed in your book or any other book. After bath and
stories, I turn out the lights and say goodnight at 8:30 pm. My child
stays up singing songs and telling stories to his stuffed animals until
10:00, 10:30--sometimes until 11:00 pm! The natural consequence is that
he is very tired when I wake him up at 7:30 am to go to preschool, but
other than that seems his normal cheerful self for the most part. For
awhile, we turned on a second night light after 10 or 15 minutes that
was the "no talking light." That worked beautifully for a few weeks, but
no longer has any effect. We then tried using a timer, but that also no
longer works. He also talks through his nap at preschool, much to the
annoyance of his teachers. I am very concerned that he is not getting
enough sleep! Thank you for your time and for the helpful book.
Dear Calmer Mom,
Wow, you need to
get my new
book that just came out... It has a whole chapter on bedtime for
infants where I have a bunch of suggestions for that very problem. The
book is titled "Parenting with Dignity for the Early Years" and it is in
paperback so it is less expensive than my last book. You can get it at
any Barnes & Nobel or Borders Books store or you can order it online
from Amazon., but the best place to get it is right on our website! When
you buy it on our website your copy will come autographed and more of
the purchase price will go to our Foundation to help us do our good
But that does not answer your question right now
so here is a short answer with some suggestions. First of all, it sounds
like your son may not need as much sleep as most other kids his age.
That being said, it still would be good for him if he could go to sleep
before 10:00 P.M. He is getting 9 and a half hours of sleep with the
schedule you described for me so he is within 1/2 hour of the
recommended 10 hours of uninterrupted night time sleep so he is
certainly not out of balance with what most pediatricians are
Now for some ideas to help him go to sleep: First,
I must ask you a question, "What do you want him TO DO?" You have told
me what he is doing and that you do not want him to do that but you do
not describe what it is that you want him TO DO! That is the key. Once
you describe the desired action, probably you will design a strategy for
helping your son that will be better than anything I can devise for
you... You know him, you love him, and he is your child and it is your
If he were my child, I would want him to relax and
feel like he was ready to drop off to sleep at 8:30 or 9:00 so I would
make the time leading up to bedtime one of progressive relaxation and
quiet time. I would start by turning off any TVs in the house and
playing some quiet and relaxing music. I would sit down and play a quiet
game with the little guy. Next, I would get him into his PJ's and ready
for bed and then go to his room with him where I would read a book with
him. The book that I would read would be a book that was soothing in
nature rather than one about monsters and such. (Sometimes I cannot
believe what authors write for children.) Since he is over three I would
pick a nice children's novel to read with him so that each night he is
hearing a continuation of the same story and the same characters. After
15-20 minutes of reading I would then sing a soothing song or two with
him. (My grandkids always ask me to sing an old camp song, and "the one
about the camel caravan crossing the desert", that gets progressively
louder as the camels get closer and then quieter as the camels travel
off into the distance [sounds a little like counting sheep huh?] until
they can barely be heard.) Then, right before leaving him alone I would
rub his back in a quiet massage. (there are some great books on infant
massage that are pretty compelling. I like this one: Infant
Massage--Revised Edition : A Handbook for Loving Parents because I have
e-mailed with the author and she really sounds like she has lots of real
world experience and she is not just writing a book just to make money.
You see, what I am describing to you is creating
in your son the feeling that he is ready to CHOOSE to go to sleep
because it is really an attractive and natural choice! It sounds to me
like he is simply having trouble letting go and the desired action is
for him to feel that he is ready to go to sleep. He is most likely still
madly thinking about the excitement of the day and the excitement of the
upcoming day and he needs some help in letting go of those perfectly
normal and wonderful ideas and accepting the idea of peace and
Give him specific actions to do. "close your eyes
and relax your toes. Now relax your whole feet. Now relax your calves.
(you will probably have to touch the parts of his body as he learns to
relax each part) and so on until he has relaxed each part of his body.
Perhaps you could do this as you are giving him his massage. Be careful…
I usually fall asleep when I do this with kids!
Think about your strategy for him and get back to
me. I would be glad to give you my reactions. In reality the only
reaction that really matters is your son's reaction. Give it some time!
You may have to use Rule #3 and repeat it a few times before it take
If you would like to talk about this please feel
free to give me a call.
In closing let me put this in perspective for you.
Soon your son will be a teenager and you will be writing me wondering
how you can keep your son from sleeping his life away! This will pass.
Keep your sense of humor. Do like we grandparents would do. Instead of
worrying about him in his room talking to himself, take a voice recorder
in there and record the words he is saying so you can listen to them
when he has outgrown that wonderful stage!
Mac and Barbara Bledsoe
~~~~~~~~~ Part II
Dear Mr. Bledsoe,
Thanks for your prompt response! Your two books have helped! The new
one is the one that is helping me the most right now. The tone of our
household is much improved since I read it. I have been spending a
little more time with my son after I turn out the lights. We talk about
the day ahead and do a little more cuddling. I say goodnight to all of
his "babies." He has agreed to talk to his "babies" for 5 more minutes
and then he quiets down when I come back in 5 or 10 minutes later.
Several nights he was already asleep and I didn't need to come in to
remind him to be quiet. A big improvement, I'd say! Naptime at preschool
is another story, but I don't have much control over that! Thanks for
Calmer Mom with a Sleeping Boy!
Dear Calmer Mom,
Things sound much improved. Savor the moments
because he will outgrow this wonderful stage of development faster than
you can believe.
Now I must comment upon your last statement about
school… contrary to what you say, you do have a great deal of control
over your son's behavior at school! You can practice the desired naptime
behavior at home before he goes to preschool so he will be able to
comply with the teachers expectations much more successfully!
Saying that you have little control over your
son's behavior at school is kind of like saying that you have not taught
your son the language that he speaks when he goes to school. I believe
that it is up to you to teach your son the appropriate and approved (by
you and the teacher) behavior that he will use while in school. That
behavior must be taught by you before he goes there just like you have
taught him the language he speaks. You have already taught him to dress
himself for school; now teach him how to act at naptime! I really
believe that it is very simple. Look at our five rules and pick a couple
of them and devise a method for teaching him what to do when it is
naptime at school. If you try a manner of teaching him do not give up;
use rule #3 and do it again. Then if it still does not work try another
way to present it, but TEACH HIM!
Nobody can do that as well as you... You are his
mother and you know him better and above all you love him more than
anyone else in the world!
Speaking as a High School teacher with 29 years of
experience, I will tell you that the biggest problem for me as a teacher
was dealing with kids at school whose parents had not taught their
children how to behave (manners, respect for authority, respect for the
rights of others, appropriate treatment of others who are different from
them, etc.) and how to act at school so I had to spend all of my time
teaching the kids how to behave and therefore I could not spend much
time teaching the subject that I was bonded to teach!
Please do not be one of the mothers who sends her
kids to school to be raised by the teacher. The fact that you have
written to me and have bought the books says that you are not!
Keep me posted and let me know how it goes!
Mac and Barbara Bledsoe