Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is It a Habit??

I think one of the hardest things about being a parent is determining what is wrong with our child.

Early on, they can’t say, “Mommy, I have a headache.” or, “Dad, my stomach hurts.” Even if they could, they probably wouldn’t admit it when the reason for their crying is, “Hey Mom, I’m just wanting to see if you’ll come running when I scream!” As humorous as that may sound, that is exactly what those little boogers do to us sometimes!
How, then, do you determine which cry is which?

Well, with experience, you WILL be able to determine what their cries mean. Just as we use different punctuation to determine what type of sentence we want to use, a baby uses different pitches (punctuation) of their own. As you develop a relationship with your baby, you will learn his sounds. Maybe a whiny, little cry means, “I’m wet/dirty”. A sharp, loud cry could mean, “OUCH!” A lingering, continuous cry may mean, “I don’t feel good”. A loud-pitched, angry cry complete with balled fists, probably means, “I’m MAD!”

In our house, this is "MAD"!!

No one will know your baby’s cries like you do. How many times has a well-meaning (but slightly annoying) person suggested, “Honey, I think that baby needs to eat.” When you know that he is clean & fed, he just needs his nap!
Ok, so now you’re learning his cries, you’ve gotten him on a regular schedule, and he’s doing great!

Yay you!

Yay baby!

Then…..he does something irregular: he wakes up crying when he’s supposed to be sleeping. Hmmm….what’s he up to? You KNOW he’s not hungry. You’ve checked…no poop. He’s warm/cool enough, and he’s not in pain. That little darling of yours is testing his limits!

Yes, I know, it sounds foolish. How can such a tiny little cherub be manipulating his parents like that??? Well, obviously, he doesn’t KNOW that’s what he is doing, but, nonetheless, that is exactly what he is doing.

He wants you to cuddle him, maybe give him a little snack. After all, who doesn’t like a midnight snack? The problem with giving in to him is that he will learn VERY quickly that this little trick works like a charm!

Every time you take him out of his bed (and, might I add, he immediately stops crying), he’s won the battle.

Now, this may seem like but a small sacrifice to make now, after all, he’ll only be a baby once, right? Now, fast-forward 3 years to the cranky child who is throwing a fit in the grocery store because you have told him no on the sugary cereal. Do you give in to his wishes/demands then? He’ll only be 3 once… I could really go on throughout his childhood & teen years painting a rather undesirable picture of selfishness & a demanding attitude.

As parents, you have to think past the crib!

This is a sad, pitiful manipulative cry.

God gave us the responsibility of raising adults, not children!

How do you know if your child is forming a habit? Well, I’ve listed a couple of signs to look for:

1. Do they exhibit the same behavior at the same times?
2. Do they immediately stop their crying/fit when you pick them up or otherwise give them what they are wanting?

I am sure there are other signs, but these are the two that really stand out.

Once you’ve determined that yes, your child has developed a habit that is unhealthy for him (and you), what do you do?

Well, this is the hard part.

You must remain as consistent in your behavior as he has been in his! Even just one weak moment will cause the whole process to take longer. Trust your parental instinct. You will know.
A 3 month old should be sleeping 7-8 hours at night (at least). The time will gradually increase until he reaches a full 12 hours of much-needed, restful sleep (my 6 month old has been doing this for about 6 weeks now). Any less, you will have a grumpy baby, not to mention grumpy parents! God created us with a need to rest. Our bodies do not function well without the proper re-charging time. I know that I must have at least 8 hours to be at full potential. My husband doesn’t need that much. Children need about 12 hours plus naps. The naps gradually start to go away as they get older. This rest time is not negotiable! It is a need, just like their food, water & shelter! They however, don’t know that, so it is up to us as parents to enforce a healthy sleep pattern & to teach this good habit to our children. That is the beauty of a cyclical eat/wake/sleep/ schedule for our children. They learn to recognize when they are hungry & sleepy & naturally just do what their bodies tell them it is time to do. God created us this way, isn’t it wonderful?
If your child has made it a habit to wake up when he is supposed to be sleeping, you must not allow him to be rewarded for that. If, at 3:00 a.m., he decides that he would like your attention, please, the only attention he should receive is a quick check of the diaper and a determining of is he too hot/cold, and then, walk away. This should be done in low light with no interaction (smiling, cooing, and talking) with the baby. If you interact with him, it will only cause him to become more stimulated, and, therefore, make it more difficult for him to fall asleep again. We all have sleep patterns that bring us close to wakefulness, but a healthy sleeper will learn to calm themselves back into sleep. If a child learns that, if he hollers, mom/dad will come running & help him back to sleep in his favorite manner, he will never learn the healthy habit of soothing himself back to sleep. This creates an unhealthy dependency on someone or something else in order to sleep.

Yes, it is hard to listen to your sweet angel cry, but this will not be the only time in his life that you will have to let him cry for his own good. Many, many, many situations will arise in your parenting where you will have to make a decision that your child will not like because it is the best decision for them.

They will cry.

You will cry.

It’s never easy, but it IS necessary. God does the same thing for us. He will allow us to be uncomfortable because He knows, in the long run, it will actually be better for us. So, buck up, you CAN do it. It is for your child’s own good.

Be consistent!

Give it some time & lots of prayer.

You will start to reap the benefits of your labor soon, and it will be so worth it!


  1. Yes yes yes and amen. And don't believe people who will tell you how aweful you are for doing this. I am retraining a four year old right now and it is hard!!! I know now if id have done things differently... my results would have been better:-) its the hardest thing but it pays off and you will have happy little people all around.

  2. Annette I am in the same boat...cute has no longer become cute it has become just that a habit...and worse yet if not taken care of now a character!! I have had a very eye - opening week and this post comes at a great time Denise. Thank you. I am re-evaluating the way we as parents parent. It is humbling; but I am so thankful that the Lord is mindful enough to take the time out to show us what we're doing wrong while we can still correct it!!