I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but despite being known in the real world for being outspoken, like most people I don’t like not being liked……so it’s a bit of a dilemma for me to dive into the big Controlled Crying debate. *does “please don’t hate me” eyes*
The reason I want to dive into it is because there is a big misconception out there about what controlled crying actually is. I’m sure parents sometimes get it wrong, but generally it shouldn’t be a horrendous experience for any child and it is VERY different to “crying it out”. The clue is in the name “CONTROLLED crying”.
Now, before I launch into why I think it’s not a bad thing to do, I would like to point out that I come from the “each to their own” school of thought. I’m a routine kind of person, so is my husband and ultimately it means that I naturally lean towards doing things in a routine way, including with my children. I have friends who are very laid back, don’t follow routines and generally make things up as they go along and that works brilliantly for them. I really don’t judge people for doing that, if it works for them (although please don’t moan that you can’t get your kids to sleep when they are 7yrs old if you never felt the need to do it before). The general rule is you do what works for your family and that makes perfect sense to me.
Controlled crying is NOT:
1. Leaving a child alone for hours on end crying their eyes out
2. Ignoring a child
3. Teaching a child that no matter how much they cry nobody will come
All of the above is neglect. There is no two ways about it. It’s true what they say, that a child that is neglected when they cry will learn to not cry because nobody comes anyway. However this is not the same as controlled crying.
Controlled crying works brilliantly for children who have got in a bit of a pattern of crying at nap and bed time because they want a parent to be sitting or cuddling them. They are not used to being alone at bedtime so they do what they do best and cry if it doesn’t happen. I think that’s all fine and well with newborns and little babies (some of the best moments are cuddling a newborn at 2am) but as they get older it creates a pattern that is very hard to break. My daughter was very colicky for the first 6 months of her life. She cried a lot, all night long, screaming. I knew she was in pain and we did all we could for her. We cuddled, we slept with her on the nursing chair, we would have had her in our bed but she didn’t like it, we jiggled, soothed, medicated when we thought we had to. However by the end of 6 mths and about 2 months away from me going back to work, her crying changed. She was no longer in the same pain but she was so used to get tearful at night and she needed us there all the time. Bedtime was a trauma for everyone. She would wake in the night (like lots of babies/toddlers do) and would start crying. We were knackered, she was distressed and it was all turning into a bit of a nightmare.
So I spent about a month researching. I knew that however I did it I had to stick to it and it was really important my daughter didn’t feel she was being ignored. I read “she who should not be named” Ford’s book for sleeping. I read “The Baby Whisperer” and I spent hours on the internet reading articles and forums about what people had done. I talked to friends and family too. I cried a lot discussing it but I guess that just highlighted how much thought and consideration I put into it. I have since spoken to other people who have done a version of controlled crying and have yet to find one person who did it lightly. Everyone spent ages thinking about it and then made sure it was the right thing for their child.
I did my own version of controlled crying based on the needs of my daughter. I spent a few days lying in her cot with her until she fell asleep. I then spent 2 days sitting at the base of her cot (in it) with one hand on her. I then did 2 days outside the cot, sitting by it with a hand on her. Then I sat on the nursing chair a few feet away, then by the door and eventually I started sitting outside the door. She would cry for about 30 seconds and I’d go in, soothe, put a hand on her. Then out again for a 1 minute and so on and so forth extending it a little each time. In the 4 days from this point the longest she cried was about 20 minutes. Some of you may think that is an awfully long time. Actually, by day 4 she stopped crying for more than a few minutes and was no longer distressed at bedtime or if she woke up in the night. For a couple of 20 minute cries during that 4 days, I’ve saved her 100’s of hours of crying that she would have done otherwise.
She’s nearly 5 now. She does still occasionally cry and sometimes she isn’t that keen to be left alone every bedtime but we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves and we still go back and check and on her every 20 minutes so she knows we’re still there. My daughter will occasionally cry out in the night and she knows WITHOUT A DOUBT that someone will be there for her and we always are. However 95% of the time she will happily stay in bed, reading or playing until she falls asleep and if she wakes in the night, she rolls over and falls asleep again. Just because controlled crying isn’t something you would entertain doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else and whilst you may be able to cope with some crying, some parents out there are dealing with a little more than “some crying”. A happy parent equals a happy child and sometimes making a decision like this is the only option available to us.
I don’t regret my decision for a second. The decision to use controlled crying transformed our lives and that of my daughter. I only hope that we all cut each other some slack on our parenting choices and I hope my story has explained to some doubters and given reassurance to others who are feeling the need to employ it.