The Colon Twins ~ Smooth Parenting Approach to Sleep

I first met the Colon Family at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital after my daughters were born. Their gorgeous daughters had been born over 2 months premature and needed some special attention.

We continued our relationship after all four girls came home from the hospital, and I saw them struggling with health issues as well as sleep issues. By the time the girls were 15 months old, both parents were exhausted and out of resources.

After some hesitation about having someone come to their home and help them with their daughters’ sleep; they decided to hire me to work with them. I was obviously thrilled for them! Their in-home sleep consultation was great success, but I’m going to let you read what Maria, the mom has to say about her experience and the transformation that Smooth Parenting brought to their family.

 

“My twin daughters were 15 months old, they had never slept in their cribs and never slept through the night. One of them slept in a co-sleeper and the other one in the bed with us, and they woke up many times during the night, every night. They both napped at different times, always with me in my bed. I was completely drained out and exhausted.

I read books, went online looking for tips and nothing worked for us until I spoke to Diana about it. When she told me “Maria, your little angels will nap and sleep through the night in no time” I was so hesitant. In my mind I was thinking “I’m the mom. If I can’t make them go to sleep, how is she going to do that?” But something about Diana and the way she coached me, with her smooth and relaxed tone, made me feel at ease and trusted her. She was so patient, really listened to me and, best of all completely understood my frustrations. Oh, it was MAGIC!

Sure enough, she came up with a schedule and a plan for my daughters and it worked! My husband and I were in heaven. After just two days of following Diana’s advise, we put an end to 15 months of struggle. My daughters were sleeping 12 hours through the night and napping another 2 hours. Now at 22 months, they’re still following the plan and continue sleeping wonderfully.”

Maria Colon, R.N.

Mom to Jazmine and Isabella

Wayne, NJ

Why do parents resort to extreme discipline?

Children need boundaries, rules and discipline. Children need know limits and to have a structure in their lives. Having said that, how do you discipline your kids?

When I talk about discipline I’m not talking about punitive actions, I’m talking about teaching our children consequences and raising them to become healthy, happy, succesful and contributing members of our society.

Every child is different and we must adjust our parenting and disciplining techniques to each of them. However, there are major lines that I belive we should never cross as parents. You all know where I stand on spanking and/or physical punishments. You can read my previous post about it here.

I’ve been puzzled by all the news about extreme parenting and discipline measures that have come up over the last couple of months:

1) Amy Chua, the tiger mom, shares with pride how she forced her daughter to practice piano for the whole night, refusing to give her water or bathroom breaks; how she make her 3-year-old daughter stand outside in 20-degree weather to get her to improve her piano skills; and how she calls her daughters ‘garbage’, worthless’ and ‘barbarian’ among other things. To me this is borderline abuse.

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2) Jessica Beagley, the hot sauce mom, used to make her child swallow and hold tabasco in his mouth; and take cold showers when the child lied or got bad reports from school. She actually thought she was doing good parenting with her son, and yet he was still misbehaving. My stomach turned upside down watching her video footage on Dr. Phil.

Hot saucing is becoming more prevalent, and in fact, a non-scientific ballot on ABCNEWS.com, 35% of voters said they feel hot saucing is an acceptable form of discipline. I beg to disagree! Tabasco, is NOT a harmless substance and it IS FDA approved. However, it can cause chemical burns, especially in young children who have more delicate skin.

Cold showers were used as a form of torture and as a way to obtain confessions. Cold showers  can actually cause shock, make children faint and provoke hypothermia.

3) Daney21, the eBay mom. She decided to take the toys away from her boys after they chipped the bathtub. That’s not the bad part of the story, she make them put the toys in a bag and pose as they were crying and complaining to take a picture. She then, posted the picture on eBay next to her entry to sell those toys; and she mocked her sons in the description of the sale. This mom thought public humiliation was the appropriate response to her sons misbehavior…

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4) Annette Gerhardt and Geraldo Santiago, who thought leaving their 6-year-old daughter in the police precinct was a good disciplining technique. They admitted that they wanted their child to think that they were abandoning her at the police station forever.

5) Ronda Holder, the ‘go beg on the street’ mom. She thought making her son suffer public humiliation was a good parenting technique. She made him stand on a street corner holding a sign displaying his low 1.22 GPA and begging for change.

The list goes on and on, and on. What’s really happening? Are parents getting more out of control? Why do they think these parenting techniques are appropriate? Are some parents becoming their own children’s bullies?

I believe that all these situations constituted either child abuse or child endangerment. We all get angry, feel stressed and sometimes don’t know what to do with our kids. We all do! However causing emotional and/or physical pain to our children should never be the course of action, no matter what the lesson we are trying to teach them is.

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As parents, we need to remember that part of our job is to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our kids. We cannot let ourselves become the bully we fear they’ll encounter in school, by acting like this. It is not ok to privately or publicly humiliate our children, it is not ok to cause them physical harm, it is not ok to make them feel unloved, it is just not ok!

When it comes to disciplining, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain your cool and composure. If you need to take a break (time-out), do so. But do not depart from the good behavior you want your kids to emulate.
  • Teach them by doing. If it’s not ok to lie, don’t lie to them; if it’s not ok to hit, don’t hit them; if it’s good to have a balanced diet, eat a balanced diet with them…
  • You’re not the disciplinarian, their actions are. Their actions are the ones creating consequences. Help them understand that they are disciplining themselves, not you.
  • Don’t become the ‘bad guy’. We cannot become ‘the bad guy’ in our kids’ lives. As I mentioned in my previous post, they need to feel unconditionally loved, even when they’re misbehaving.
  • There’s nothing wrong with them, their behavior is the problem. Make sure your children understand that they are not bad or naughty, but that their behavior can be improved.
  • Don’t hold grudges. Once the action has passed, once your child has been disciplined and learned the lesson, let it go! Forgive and move on. Do not stay mad at your child for long, avoid dirty looks or bad answers.
  • Choose consequences that match the behavior.

When it comes to raising our children, we need to always have present in our mind, that we love them and that they need to feel that love. If you ever feel that you’re getting out of control, that you need to physically or psychologically harm your children to teach them a lesson, that you don’t know what else to do, that you are about to snap… seek help! Help in the form of a friend, a spouse, a relative, a childcare professional, a parenting coach… Don’t let yourself go to the extreme when it comes to disciplining your children.

Much love, Diana-

Unconditional Love

When Valentine’s Day arrives, many of us think of our spouse, partner, significant other… and those of us who have the privilege to be parents think of our little Valentine’s. ‘LOVE‘ is the first word that comes to mind this on Valentine’s Day and every time we look at our little ones sleeping. But what do we consider love? How do we love? How do we teach our children what love is? What’s the importance of love in our lives?…

I’ve always said that parents should love their children unconditionally, but what does that mean? Unconditional Love means loving them for who they are, for being, not for how they behave, or based on what they do. That’s a very tall order sometimes, right? Especially when 90% of the discipline and parenting approaches out there invite us to love our children with conditions.

Giving or withholding acceptance and love based on the child’s behavior is the essence of conditional love, and many of us were loved that way as children, and might be loving our children that way, without even realizing we are doing it and how damaging this can be to a child.

The problem with showing conditional love to our kids is that sends them the message ‘You are not good enough’, ‘You are not deserving of love unless…’, ‘You need to look for approval outside of yourself’… and what’s the problem with that? Unhappiness, low self-esteem, permanent anger, stress, internal turmoil, emptiness… I am not saying we shouldn’t discipline our children or that we shouldn’t have rules and boundaries with them; what I’m saying is that even when they’re being disciplined, even after they’ve broken our rules… they should feel unconditionally loved. They should learn about the consequences when they misbehave, but one of the consequences cannot be that they are less loved or that they will get less from us.

Most of us would say that we love our children unconditionally, without any strings attached; and we are sure that we do. However, what counts is what our children think and feel. It is important to realize that there is a very distinct difference between loving your children unconditionally and actually ‘showing’ this unconditional love and acceptance; and even though, we might feel unconditional love to our children, that might not be how they perceive our love towards them.

Do they feel just as loved when they misbehave or fall short as they do when they behave like angels, perform academically and in sports? Do they feel just as loved after we had a very hard day at work and get home to them exhausted? Do they feel just as loved… 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?

“What counts is not just that we believe we love them unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way”. (Alfie Kohn)

After thinking a lot about this, I’ve decided to make a pledge: “I will think more about how my children feel my love, and do my best to guarantee that they feel unconditionally loved all the time”. I would encourage you to join me in my journey of becoming more mindful and conscious about this.

Much love, Diana-

Love Your Sleep! Valentine’s Day Gift

Are you ready for Valentine’s Day? Dinner reservations at a romantic restaurant, heart-shaped yummy dessert, babysitter already booked… and maybe a big wish in your mind?… ‘I hope the kids sleep through and don’t keep us up all night’.

Wouldn’t it be great not having to wish for it and just know they will sleep through and let you enjoy your night? Well, that can be my Valentine’s Gift to your family.

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For 5 days only, starting Monday, February 14, and ending Friday, February 18 at midnight, you can get a 15% discount for ANY of my private consultations (phone, in-home and overnight). It’s my way of spreading my love to all of you!

Just remember, the offer it’s only for Valentine’s day week, so it hasn’t started yet!. Watch your inbox on MONDAY for more details!

Happy Valentine’s Weekend!

Baby Sleep Confusion: Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Sleep is, without a doubt, the number one topic of conversation among new parents. ‘Does your baby sleep through the nigh?’, ‘Did you let him cry?’, ‘Does he still feed at night?’, ‘How do you get your baby to sleep?’… and many more are the frequently asked questions.

There is so much conflicting information out there, that many new parents feel completely overwhelmed by it, to the point where it paralyzes them. That coupled with the constant external and self-imposed guilt that many new parents (especially new moms) are surrounded by, is a recipe for disaster.

Kelly Mathews, sleepless mom 9 month old Willow, was in that situation a few weeks ago. She didn’t know what to do, she had heard it all: ‘You should respond to her every movement’, ‘You should let her cry it out’, ‘You should breastfeed her until she falls asleep’, ‘You shouldn’t breastfeed at night’, ‘You shouldn’t take her out of your room’, ‘You shouldn’t co-sleep’

‘You should…. You shouldn’t…..’

 

Everyone was telling her something different and contradictory, and the panorama didn’t improve when she resorted to books. Every book gave her a different advice, and criticized the other ones. Not even the medicine professionals would agree on what the best approach to teach children to sleep is.

Do you want to know why?

Because there is not one single method/ approach that works for every kid and/or for every family!

Every child is different, and so are his/her parents. When it comes to sleep coaching, you have to follow a plan that fits your child’s unique personality, your family situation, your values and your parenting approach; otherwise it won’t work. Having said that, I do believe that some methods shouldn’t be followed by any family, such as the popular ‘cry-it-out’. Under any circumstances, family conditions, child personality… would I recommend a parent to let his/her child to cry indiscriminately.

STOP! Stop following one advice each day, following a different method every night. Think of what your goals are in terms of baby sleep and make sure they are realistic. Forget about what worked for your neighbor, your brother, your sister-in-law, that mom on your support group… forget about what others are doing and what they tell you to do; and start looking inwards. Look at your family, at yourself, your spouse and your child; and then (and only then) decide what plan you will follow. Be consistent with your decision (don’t quit after the second night), but also be open to adjust your plan as you go along.

That’s what I do with the families I work with… I admit it! I don’t have a magical strategy that works with everyone! I do, however, design unique and personalized plans for every family I work with, that is aligned with their personalities, lifestyles, values and parenting style; and that helps them reach their sleep and parenting goals. And that’s exactly what I did with Kelly and her husband Sean. Within just a few days, they were getting the sleep they needed and deserved, they were happier, more adjusted and empowered.

When it comes to sleep training, do what feels right to you and your family. Trust your intuition! If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If it doesn’t resonate with you and your family, don’t do it! Trust yourself! Even if it’s your pediatrician giving you the advice; even if your mom is the one telling you;… even if a sleep consultant suggested it. If she/he is good at what she does, she will work with you to find the best plan for your family. I Do! 🙂

Trust yourself! Much love, Diana-

Be the Best Parent You Can Be… Chinese or Western

We started this year with a very controversial parenting article published by the Wall Street Journal, and authored by Amy Chua, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“. I am sure that you’ve probably already read it, but if you haven’t I’d invite you to do so. Not because I agree with her parenting philosophy (I don’t!), but because it’s thought-provoking and forces you to think about what you want and don’t want to do as a parent, what your goals and dreams for your children are, and how your parenting decisions affect your children’s lives.

There’s been a myriad of responses to this polemic article around the world. I also thought about writing  a long response to it; not only sharing my opinion on the subject, but also bringing up numerous studies that prove that such an extreme, strict and harsh approach to parenting is extremely risky, as it generally doesn’t ‘produce’ happier, more accomplished children (especially when they live in a country like this, with a more progressive culture).

However I stopped and thought about Amy Chua’s children, who don’t deserve to be in the center of this diatribe, witnessing their mom being criticized day in and day out. I also thought about Amy Chua. I am sure she means well, I’m sure she loves her daughters to death; and I’m sure that in her mind she’s doing what’s best for her children. I beg to differ completely with her approach, but I don’t think she’s ill intentioned.

I would only share with Ms. Chua, one of my favorite and recent quotes from Maya Angelou about what love is all about:

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.'”

— Dr. Maya Angelou

All this public dialogue about parenting and numerous conversations with my clients, inspired me to start a new moment, a new project for myself, that I would love to share with you. This project is a journey to become the best parents we can be …

“The Smooth Parenting Project”

My goal is that by the of this year, we will be closer to that vision we had for ourselves as parents; that our journey raising children is a happy, fulfilling, peaceful, positive and smooth one; and that our children grow up to be amazing, happy, exemplary adults. I will share more with you about this project really soon. Until then, I leave you with this…

“My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

– Clarence Budinton Kelland