My Worst Nightmare!
Actually, the kids are savvy. They know how to get what they want, and they are behaving in a perfectly logical way given their parents' response. The parents are reacting to this abominable behavior with variable ratio reward, the most powerful reinforcement there is. Mom and Dad are paying off like slot machines. Tug on their arms long enough, whine enough, and you're in.
One tired Mom admitted as much:
But sleep is good, sleep is best. Indeed, the best nights, she continued, are the nights when “we don’t actively try to fix the problem, when we just give in and everybody gets a good night’s sleep.”
“It’s when you’re trying to actively parent that nobody gets any rest,” she said. “We’re so tired we only ‘try’ to parent like this once or twice a week.”
There but for the grace of God go I. We were a co-sleeping family, but when it stopped working for us, we moved on. Our daughter slept in our bed until she was about nine months old, then we moved her to her crib in her own room. She didn't really sleep through the night until she was about a year and a half old, and that was because one night we moved her to a room farther down the hall and I couldn't hear her whimper. I had been rushing in way too fast and reinforcing her frequent wakefulness. Forget "Ferberizing"--I was by her side before she was even fully awake. By the time she was nearly two years old, I was a sleep-deprived basket case. I had a full neurological workup and sleep study and in the final analysis, my doctor told me that I desperately needed to "pay back" the sleep debt I had accumulated since becoming a Mom. It took me several months of disciplined early-to-bed routines to get myself back to normal, which was completely worth the investment.
In my non-sleep expert view, it's okay to have a newborn in bed or nearby, but the tranistion to a baby's own crib is key. The article about these unhappily co-sleeping families showed what can happen otherwise: Dad and 5-year-old son sleeping in the parents' four-poster bed ("Harrison...has taken command of his parents' king-size four poster, pushing his father, Paul, to the edge and his mother out completely") and Mom and 3-year-old daughter upstairs in the pink princess bed.
The kids in this report are totally ruling the roost. The article is designed to push buttons and boy, does it succeeed. The kids' behavior comes across as the very definition of "spoiled"--a word I really hate by the way, but I couldn't stop thinking of it reading about this situation. The parents in this article keep talking about failed attempts to "tempt" their kids into choosing thier own bed, by buying lavish beds and decorations for the kids. These particular kids sound like they will never "choose" to move on. The only solution is for the parents to bite the bullet and INSIST that everyone sleeps where they each belong.
I am convinced that my daughter would still be in our bed if we had left the choice up to her--heck, she'd probably still be nursing if I let her! I have had to learn to stand my ground and develop firm boundaries, for her sake as well as mine. Nobody likes a bully and I am afraid that is what kids become when parents don't set limits.
One of my husband's sayings is that "puppy training was parent training." Nine years ago we brought home an adorable, HEADSTRONG Shiba Inu puppy. He is one of the most dominant dogs I have ever met, and it taught me such a lesson to learn how to exert my leadership over him. We were told that if a Shiba Inu senses a leadership void in the house, the dog will be more than happy to fill that role, and be warned that nobody wants to live in a house with a Shiba Inu in charge (think chewing and peeing everywhere)! My husband and I went through a year and a half of obedience training with the dog to reinforce OUR behavior to make sure that we were leading him properly. This was truly the most helpful pre-parenting education I could have received.
Would you want to be ruled by this fuzzball? Trust me, you wouldn't!
Now years later we have a headstrong yet lovable dog, and a headstrong and lovable girl, and I am so grateful for both of them. I am an expert on motherhood but I do not consider myself a "parenting advice expert." I still make mistakes, every day. Ironically, today I had my first checkup with my neurologist since my sleep study 5 years ago. He said I still need to brush up on my own sleep habits: less caffeine, more exercise. But at least I have put the co-sleeping struggle behind me!