Were you ever asked if your baby was a "good baby?"
Goodness, what's a mom to answer to that sort of question? "No"?!
Of course not!
All babies are good babies; they're simply not developed enough to actually be "bad" yet. Our perception of their "good"ness or "bad"ness comes from what our expectations are of them and whether or not they are fulfilling our expectations.
Though we all (of course!) understand that our children are not nachas machines, we all have some level of expectation from them, regardless of their age.
"She should be sleeping through the night by now"
"He shouldn't be hungry!"
"Why is she crying?"
"I shouldn't have to hold her all the time."
"He shouldn't be coming into my bed anymore!"
Having expectations isn't a problem in and of itself. In fact, having expectations can give you the impetus to enable your child to meet milestones.
To give an extreme example, if you don't expect your child to be rolling over on his own until 10 months of age, you would feel no urgency to help him learn to roll over when he's 4 months old, right? But if you expect him to be able to roll over around the 4 month mark, when he's 5 months old and still not rolling, you may choose to enlist the services of a specialist to help him along. In this situation, having expectations is not only OK, but good!
So what should you be basing your expectations on?
My husband likes to joke that our kids are born knowing how to play the piano (despite the fact that we haven't even as much as a keyboard in our home. But. Details aside.) Of course, if we actually expected a newborn to be a proficient piano player, we would be sorely disappointed by their lack of coordination and finesse.
Fact of the matter is, newborns simply cannot play the piano.
But what about other things?
Can your newborn sleep through the night? Is she capable of doing that yet?
Should he be able to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own?
How about a 4 month old?
A 10 month old?
The first step is to learn what your kiddo is actually capable of. Once you know that, you can build appropriate expectations of what your child "should" be doing.
But then comes the hard part.
This is the hard part. Because the *way* you show your baby or toddler what you expect is by holding to those expectations.
So that means if you expect your 9 month old not to need to eat in the middle of the night, don't feed her in the middle of the night.
And if you expect your 2 year old to stay in his crib without coming into your bed, don't bring him into your bed.
Or if you expect your 3.5 year old to fall asleep without needing you sitting next to him, then you gotta get out of the room when he's falling asleep.
Anyone here have a stubborn kid? (Please tell me I'm not the only one raising my hand here!)
When you've got a child who's more stubborn or feisty, then sticking to your expectations can be tough.
But here's the thing: not sticking to your expectations and only following through some of the time will actually make your kiddo more likely to continue with the undesired behavior.
It's the same kind of thing as gambling.
I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me.
The reason gambling works so well is because of the intermittent rewards. Sometimes you get what you want, but you don't know when that's going to be. This study in Psychology Today explores how intermittent rewards can be used to reinforce behavior that you want to perpetuate.
In a nutshell, what it boils down to is: once a behavior is established, rewarding it sometimes instead of every time will still make the person keep doing the behavior and even make it continue after the behavior is no longer being rewarded!!
So, what that means for your toddler that's still coming into your bed every night is: even if MOST of the time you say no, but on occasion you DO allow him into your bed, he's going to keep protesting and crying EVERY time to be allowed into your bed. And even when you stop allowing him into your bed, it's still going to take time for that habit to be broken.
As my clients hear me say time and time again: consistency, consistency, consistency. Being 100% consistent 100% of the time is the only way to make and sustain the changes you want to see.
Sustained change can be hard without knowing what to do, though. So if you feel like you're ready to make this change, but aren’t sure on a plan of action, check out KinderWink Academy, which’ll walk you through the process!