Those of you who have done it yourselves will no doubt give a big nod to what I’m about to say:
Sleep training is work.
It’s work that is worth doing, mind you, and (provided you have plenty of resources and support), it is work that can go smoothly and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. But it’s still work.
Given this fact, I think it’s safe to say that none of us need our friends, co-workers, or family members to make the step-by-step process of sleep training any more difficult or challenging. And yet, as some of you know from first-hand experience, sometimes our friends, co-workers, and family members do just that – they heap criticism and guilt on us at a time when we are already feeling vulnerable and stressed.
How do we handle this? What do we do when the people in our lives criticize our decisions about sleep training? That’s what we’re taking a look at today – a 5-step approach to handling this kind of criticism.
5 Steps For Handling Sleep Training Criticism From Family and Friends
- Consider the source. Is this loving, constructive criticism coming from someone you love and trust, or is it a harsh critique coming from someone who’s an acquaintance, and who doesn’t know your situation well? This will obviously make a big difference in how you receive and respond to what’s being said.
- Keep an open mind, and look for truth. It’s safe to ignore harsh, hurtful criticism – people offering that aren’t actually trying to help. And you can probably also ignore critiques that come from people who don’t know you or your family well. But if the criticism in question is coming from someone you love and trust, and if it’s being framed in a gentle and loving way, then it might be worth considering. Try to really hear what’s being said, and determine as best you can whether or not there’s a grain of truth in it. After all, constructive criticism may actually be helpful, and sometimes, people close to us may have good insights into our sleep training situations, since they aren’t as ‘close to the action’ as we are.
I remember, when my oldest son was about 6 weeks old, a well-meaning friend gave me a copy of a popular sleep training book. I read it immediately (I’m a Type-A overachiever like that), and, upon finishing it, I instantly felt stressed out. I started trying to apply all the advice in the book at once, right away – I was trying to create a clock-based feeding and sleeping schedule, I was trying to break my son’s sleep associations and put him down drowsy-but-awake…and in the process, I was driving myself crazy!
Finally, my sweet and wonderful mother gently suggested that perhaps I should just forget the book for the time being, and enjoy my son. She pointed out that all of the ‘rules’ I’d created for myself and for my son were completely robbing me of the joy of being a new mom. Her criticism was constructive and loving, and eventually, I came to the conclusion that she was right.
- Decide on your own course of action. If there are some nuggets of truth in the criticism you are hearing (the way there were in my mom’s words to me), then decide what you’re going to do about that. Are you going to change course? Try a different sleep training method? Stop sleep training for a bit, and start again later? Of course, if there isn’t a grain of truth in your friends’ or family members’ criticism, and if you know that your approach is healthy and good for your family, then it’s probably best to stick to your plans and not change anything.
- Decide how you will respond. This is your call, of course – you know the people in your life better than I do! But here are a few suggestions. First, if the criticism is coming from a casual acquaintance, you can always offer something vague, like “Thanks!”, and leave it at that. It’s unlikely that person will follow up with you, to see if you’ve followed their advice. If the criticism is harsh or rude, do your best not to respond in kind. Try to frame some kind of civil answer (such as, “Thanks, but we’re doing what we think is best”), or just don’t respond at all. For advice that comes from close friends and family members, and that’s framed in a constructive way, it may be good to ask follow-up questions. Ask your friend or relative why they hold the opinion they do. Engage them in discussion. Who knows – you may both end up learning something new!
- Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up! Obviously, your sleep training journey would be made much easier if everyone around you supported you in a loving fashion, offering encouragement and help. However, we know that many of you are not in these kinds of ideal situations. And so to you, we say this: don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up! Remain as consistent as you can. Shut out the negative voices, and draw close to those people who are actually trying to help. We promise that in the end, the hard work you put in now will reap big rewards. 🙂