1:48 PM EST, January 31, 2013
Today will be the first in what I hope will become a regular advice feature on the Motherland blog. While the questions may be directed to me, I'll be looking for outside expertise - as I did with the following question - since I certainly don't know all the answers (or even any of them).
My toddler cries when I put him to bed. He seems scared, but I want him to learn to be independent. What should I do?
-Sleepless in Connecticut
Ah, the eternal bedtime parenting dilemma. To leave, or not to leave the crying child.
Having already gone through toddler-hood with my daughter, and now enjoying the sometimes rocky period with my 22-month-old son (his favorite phrase is currently, "I do it," which he uses liberally in regards to many activities, such as putting on his own socks, or installing his own carseat) I want to point out, first and foremost, that this is most likely a stage. If your son previously went to bed without crying, he will most do it again someday, and if he has always been fearful, he will almost certainly outgrow the behavior with help from his parents.
For more specific words of wisdom, I asked my own parents what they'd suggest in this situation (as evidence of their parental skills please note that I am a fantastic sleeper at age 35).
"Give him a hug and tell him firmly that it is time to go to sleep. Allow him to cry, but if he continues for 10 minutes or more, go in and hug him again but again tell him that it is time to go to sleep," recommends my mother, the eternal pragmatist.
My father concurs on the hug.
"If he's scared, I think a bit of a hug is helpful. Kids need to know they are loved and protected," he advises.
But, it seems, neither of my parents are drawn to overdoing the affection when you could be downstairs having a nice glass of wine.
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