Dear Batya the Sleep Coach,
What happens when one parent wants to sleep train a kid, but the other one doesn’t? Both parents are sleep deprived, and both parents are frustrated with kids and one another. But father believes kids should scream and cry it out and get locked in their rooms until they fall asleep; the other parent is more in line with an attachment parenting ideology. Help!
When it comes to parenting, there is nothing more difficult than the lack of a unified front with your partner. And we’ve all been there. You are each other’s soul mate, in this together for the long haul. But when you have different opinions on what to do with your kids…well, things can get super sticky. But understand that this is normal, and happens in almost every home.
The most important thing before tackling the “what” of sleep is to first understand the “why.” You are two different people, with two different viewpoints and outlooks on life. So, first thing’s first. Understand that it’s OK to be different (how boring would it be if you were exactly the same?). Once you’ve got that down, you’re ready to make a plan!
Before discussing the practical steps of should we sleep train or not?, have an open, non-judgmental conversation together. Both parents need to understand one another before moving forward with ANYTHING. EVER. Explain to the father why it is so hard for you to use the Cry-It-Out method. Discuss why you are so enlisted in attachment parenting, and why that strong bond /trust together is so critical for you.
After you’ve gone through your spiel, hear from the other side. Why does the father think Cry-It-Out is a good option? Why is it important to him that baby sleeps through the night altogether? Often when a child isn’t sleeping, the parents aren’t sleeping either. But usually lack of sleep is manifesting itself from much more deeply rooted issues. Maybe the father feels like your relationship is suffering;maybe he feels like he can’t concentrate on work;maybe he feels like you’re putting the baby before him. The list of possibilities is endless.
But before making an action plan to move forward, you both have to be there together as a couple, and understand where the other one is coming from.
2. Weigh Out the Pros and Cons
Now that you fully understand one another, discuss the pros and cons. Again, do this TOGETHER. What are the benefits of using a Cry-It-Out method (from his side); how will this help? What are you concerns with Cry-It-Out? Delve deeper to understand one another so that it’s not a battle of wills. Instead of disagreement, let it become an open discussion where each partner really wants to understand and hear from the other. This way you’ll be able to make a decision you are both comfortable with.
3. Find a middle ground
There are many middle ground approaches with sleep training. Teaching your baby to sleep doesn’t mean that the only option is leaving your baby in a closed room for hours alone to Cry-It-Out. In fact, I would never recommend using such a method, especially if you aren’t comfortable with it to begin with! Find a technique that you feel sits right with you and doesn’t compromise your own parenting philosophy, but also one where the father also feels there will be headway and results. So do your research! You both may have to stretch yourselves slightly out of your comfort zone. But hey, isn’t that what a compromise is all about?
(You can download my free guide here “Don’t Cry It Out” to learn more about alternative, gentle methods to help kids sleep without intense crying methods.)
4. It’s Party time!
Now that you’ve decided which path you’re going to take, make a detailed plan of what each of your jobs will be throughout this entire process. Who will do bedtime? How about middle-of-the-night wake-ups? You may decide that it works better to switch off every other night.It doesn’t matter, as long as you are both fully aware of what to expect with the other one’s involvement. Lay it all out on the table so there is no resentment, no false expectations, and most importantly, a unified front filled with confidence and understanding.
5. Take a walk…in each other’s shoes
Because this is a compromise, you are both going to be slightly stretched outside of your normal comfort zone. So be mindful and considerate of one another! Just like certain aspects of this journey will be hard for you, they will be hard for the father as well. Maybe he feels that you are too involved with this “sleep training” process, and it’s taking longer than he has energy for. Or maybe there are more tears than you had expected–and that’s taking a toll on your emotions. The more understanding there is for understanding each other, the more room for progress there can be!
And remember, the only thing worse than having a squabble about sleep training is having a major fight while you’re both still sleep-deprived. Make sure you are consistent, unified, and understanding…TOGETHER. Once there is that mutual respect, you’ll all get the sleep you need.