"I have a one-year-old son who won’t go to sleep without a huge amount of attention and cajoling. My tactic has been to lie down with him and cuddle him to sleep – I work full-time and often only get to see him for an hour or so in the evening, so I find this time precious. My husband thinks I am spoiling him, and it is true that it is very hard to put him down without cuddling, which makes it hard for us to ever go out in the evening because only my husband or I are able to get him to drop off. Am I doing the wrong thing? What do you suggest?"
Joanne Jewell is an adolescent and child counsellor and parenting expert who runs Mindful Parenting classes and course in the UAE. She says:
"As you’ve mentioned, it sounds like your son is looking for some extra connection before he goes to sleep at night. This is very common in children – any event which feels like a disconnection such as sleep, nursery, work can create a need in them for additional connection – and the same goes for us. You both feel the need to re-connect after spending the day apart and this is completely natural and sounds like it feels right for you both.
It isn’t possible to ‘spoil’ a child with too much love or connection
"Being responsive to our children’s emotional needs is key to providing them with a secure and safe attachment to you, as well as providing their brains with exactly the feedback they need at this stage in their growth.
"I empathise with both your and your husband’s perspective and it sounds like he would also like a bit more connection from you too! While it doesn’t last long, during these early years it can be hard to balance the needs of our children with those of our partners and ourselves and we cover this topic in our Mindful Parenting classes for this very reason. Stick with what feels right and see if you and your husband can find a way to spend some quality time together as well – either by having date night at home or just going out later in the evening so that you all find the connection which is important to you."
— For more information on Joanne Jewell, see mindfulparentinguae.net
Dr Sarah Rasmi is a psychologist and professor who specialises in parenting and families. She says:
"Nothing beats a big cuddle from your little love, especially after a long day apart. I can see why bedtime is very special for you and your son. You don’t have to give up this time, but you can modify the routine to make it easier for you, your husband, and your son. Cuddling your son to sleep might work now, but it is not a sustainable long-term plan. You will have to stop eventually. This habit becomes harder to break with each passing day, so you might as well start now since it is already creating issues between you and your husband.
The first step to breaking this habit is to establish a new evening routine
"You can decide what works best for you, but it is a good idea to incorporate some play (just make sure to avoid anything that will rile him, like vigorous physical activity or screentime), a bath, a story, and a feed. At this point, you’ll know that your son’s needs are met and that he is ready to sleep.
"The second step is to give him a cuddle, say goodnight, turn out the lights, and leave the room. Your son will almost certainly protest the first night that you leave without cuddling him to sleep. You can go back in if he’s really upset, but do not lie down with him again. If you do, you’ll be teaching him that he can get what he wants by crying and screaming. Instead, you can give him a quick cuddle, say goodnight, and leave again. You might need to repeat this a few times the first night (and maybe for a few more after that), but he will eventually learn the new routine.
"Changing the bedtime routine will give you more time to spend with your husband. Try to book one night a week to have a date night. You don’t even need to leave the house – all you need is to have
a quiet dinner together where you reconnect without distractions. Make an effort to talk about something other than the kids. Doing this regularly will recharge your relationship and your own well-being – both of which will give you the energy you need to balance your work and family responsibilities."
For more information about Dr Sarah and for a chance to win a free parenting consultation, see www.drsarahrasmi.com