Sunday, August 8, 2010

Challenging Behavior #3

Last week we talked about biting as one challenging behavior parents and teachers see in the preschool years. This week we will tackle bedtime challenges.

As with biting, let’s start at the very beginning. A newborn’s schedule of waking, eating, and sleeping is not dependent on wind-up or battery operated clocks. His schedule is based upon the internal rhythms of his own body for alertness, hunger, and rest. His parents and older siblings, however, have needs that have been molded by the culture they live. Getting to school or work in the morning on time, eating when meals are ready, and going to bed after a reading a book or listening to the news is a typical western culture schedule.

Our new parents, after the honeymoon of falling in love with their baby, are faced with trying to shape baby’s schedule to their own. The infant may have napped or cat napped many times in the day whereas the parent may have needed to keep an active schedule. Babies tend to eat every few hours and sometimes fall asleep during feedings only to wake up hungry after only an hour.

Some of the more successful bedtime routines help the child settle down for sleep by having a warm bath, cuddling with a few stories or songs, and then—the hard part—saying good-night and closing the bedroom door. Let’s follow two different children to see how bedtime can develop into a challenging behavior.

After a nice bath, some cuddle time with reading or singing, and some nursing time, little Sara gets good night kisses and is put into her bed with her night time blanket and pacifier (if she uses one). Mom closes the door and Sara whimpers and begins to cry. After a few moments, dad goes in to adjust the bedding. He thinks maybe Sara is still hungry so he brings her out to mom to nurse her a little more. Sara initially sucks but doesn’t take much milk. Mom puts Sara back to bed and kisses her good night. Sara cries for 10 or 15 minutes. Mom and dad keep a listening ear but refrain from going back into the room.

Sandy has a very similar bedtime routine however Sandy’s mom and dad are less sure that she will be able to fall asleep on her own. After three or four repeat trips to her bedroom, dad brings Sandy into the living room where she falls asleep comfortably upon his chest.

We’ve run out of space in today’s column so we will follow Sandy and Sara next week. You can read and share this column online at Thank-you for sharing the website with your friends who have small children. If you have some ideas for the parents of Sandy or Sara, please email, or call 715-532-3209.

Toad House Publishing

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