Do you yell at your kids?
Because hey, full disclosure, I yell at my kids. I lose my patience sometimes. My kids can push me to a point where I snap.
I’m never proud of it though, because I know I’m a better parent when I keep my cool. Yelling can be effective, no doubt, but it always leaves me feeling like I dropped the ball. It’s the polar opposite of that wonderful feeling I get when I manage to resolve a situation through a calm, rational analysis of the problem, followed up by a few suggestions on how to solve it. My child quickly settles down and starts considering the potential solutions I’ve offered, and before you know it, the situation is completely under control.
Aren’t those moments just the best? Isn’t that just the hole-in-one of parenting? There’s a lot to be said for keeping calm around our children, and it goes well beyond making us feel like we’re good parents.
A 2014 study in Psychological Science, conducted jointly between researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and New York University, separated mothers and their infants for a brief period of time, then exposed the mothers to some mild negative stressors. Upon being reunited with their babies, the infants embodied the same negative stress their mothers had experienced. It’s not known exactly how those emotions were transferred, but even without being exposed to the stressor itself, the infants sensed that their mother was stressed and emulated those emotions.
Another study from the University of California, Riverside, showed that parents who remained calm while helping their kids undertake a frustrating laboratory challenge helped their kids to stay calm and focused as well.
So what does that mean in layman’s terms? It means that whether you’re stressed or calm, you’re probably passing those feelings onto your little one. Your emotions are, quite literally, contagious.
Now, stress is a part of a parent’s life. There’s no avoiding it. Unless we’re blessed with some kind of superpower, we’re going to go off on our kids once in a while. I’m not suggesting you should beat yourself up in those moments, only that we should strive to minimize them. We should always be aspiring towards those hole-in-one moments.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either in the midst of teaching your little one to sleep through the night, or you’re thinking about getting started. If that’s the case, it’s a good bet you’re already sleep-deprived yourself, and when we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re short-tempered, easily agitated, and more likely to raise our voices and give in to feelings of frustration. In short, we’re likely to be a little bit stressed out, and as we’ve seen, that stress permeates our kids, which stresses them out, which cranks up cortisol production, and there you have it.
We’ve barely gotten started and we’re already throwing up obstacles. I’m not saying it’s easy, but before you even start the process of teaching your baby to fall asleep independently, I recommend you get yourself into a headspace where you commit to yourself that, no matter how tough things get, you’re going to try your absolute hardest to stay calm. Practice some deep breathing exercises, meditate, do a little yoga, and anything else you
can think of to put you into a calm, tolerant, accepting state of mind.
If you’re working with a partner, I suggest you do all of this together and discuss ahead of time who’s taking what shift so there’s no arguing during the night. And remember, if things go as expected, most babies start showing huge improvement by around night three, so relief is just on the other side of that hill.
And when the dust settles and your little one is sleeping through the night, and you managed to get through the process without giving in to feelings of frustration and guilt, you’re not just going to feel like you hit a hole-in-one. You’re going to feel like you just won the World Parenting Championship. You’ll feel like the undisputed heavyweight champion of motherhood. Sleep-filled nights are right around the corner, mama! So be patient, be calm, and it’ll all be behind you soon.