Before becoming a Certified Child Sleep Coach, I was a nanny for a family who became family of my own. I started with them in the spring of 2013 when their daughter, Lily, was only eight weeks old. She is now five with a younger brother, Pearson, who was born in February of 2016.
One of my favorite excursions with these two was a summer hike through the First Landing National State Park in July of 2017. At the time, Lily was four years old and Pearson was sixteen months old. It was their first time experiencing nature in this way.
Before leaving the house, I mentally prepped myself and set my expectations very low knowing that a toddler and four year old might not last long on this adventure. Although these two are usually pretty well behaved, the trip could potentially be a disaster with them both throwing temper tantrums, hating the experience, or wanting me to carry them the entire way.
We started off with the toddler strapped to my chest in my handy-dandy baby bjorn. One of my favorite tools when out with babies. It is very convenient when two hands are necessary with tasks such as fishing out food from the diaper bag or helping the preschooler with restroom breaks. However, once we got started, I gave him the option of getting down to walk. He gladly took this opportunity.
When we came upon a pretty decent set of stairs built into the side of a hill, I had planned to pick the little one up. However, I first gave him the chance to try climbing before making any assumptions. I followed behind him to prevent him from tumbling backwards while also waiting for those little arms to reach up to me. You know? That universal baby sign asking to be held.
The first couple steps had a bit of a slope to them. He started going forward and then would stumble backwards onto his butt. Twice he fell and let out a short cry. However, when asked if he wanted help or to be held, he shook his head no and continued onto the next step.
This boy went up the entire hill of steps! It is astounding what children can achieve when allowed the opportunity!
When we give children the space to grow and learn, amazing things can happen. Often times they surprise us with their abilities to adjust to situations, to pick up on new skills, to show persistence with a difficult task.
The same goes for sleep shaping and sleep training!
I have worked with so many parents who originally believed that improving their child's sleep wouldn't be possible because of their child being too stubborn, different from other children, unable to do it. However, I always encourage parents to recognize that their child is often more capable than they believe.
I have encouraged parents of newborns to lay their child in the crib when they see tired cues to see what would happen instead of immediately going to rocking their child to sleep.
I have worked with parents to help their infant or toddler to fall asleep independently for naps and bedtime instead of rocking or feeding to sleep.
I have taught parents of preschoolers to alter their communication at bedtime to show compassion while setting limits.
The end result? Most often shock that they CAN do it.
The newborn starts to rock his head back and forth, soothing himself to sleep.
The infant reaching for her crib at nap time and toddler falling asleep without a fuss at bedtime.
The preschooler giving hugs and kisses to mom and dad, and then allowing them to leave the room.
Although I have been working with families for a very long time, I, myself, am still always amazed with every client that I serve!
Children are often not given enough credit for what they can do and can learn to do. If you give your child the opportunity and support, trust me, he or she can climb that hill! Sometimes they might need your assistance, but sometimes they just might surprise you and even be the ones who motivate you to take that next step.