I’m all about making life easier for myself and for my baby boy. This is why I employ many strategies – at least when they help. One of those strategies is to create predictability. I can empathize with a baby, life is seemingly random and follows no patterns. Trust me, this is how your baby and toddler sees the world. Very little is up to them, they get little to no choices, life seems like a big hodgepodge. Remember that the long term memory of a baby is quite short, so even if you carry out a somewhat repetitive schedule, it still takes a long time for your baby to finally predict what comes next. However, even worse than this is a having no structure at all. I can imagine that these babies feel lost and powerless, frustrated even. I advocate strongly that you employ as rigid a structure as your baby requires. If your baby frequently cries and frustrates easily, then you might have a touchy baby who craves structure and adjusts poorly to changes in his environment.
Thankfully, my baby isn’t picky and pretty much goes with the flow of things. He can skip or miss a nap, we can bump his schedule around a bit, push a meal back a few minutes and everything carries on as normal. This isn’t so for all babies, but we’re thankful it is for us. If crankiness characterizes your baby look more into setting a rigid structure – and while it might now suite you as well you might be forced to park your needs for a while until your baby matures a little bit.
The purpose of this blog entry is to talk more about making your baby’s world predictable. If I want to put my son to bed, besides having a fairly predictable daily routine, I also use certain keys to put him to bed. In advanced terms this is called “mind strings.” Mind strings are ways to “pull on the mind” in ways which lead to desirable other results. For example, because I say “Say goodnight to the stove, say goodnight to the oven, say goodnight to your books, say goodnight to your trucks” I’m preparing my baby for sleep. Because I say these things, he knows what’s coming next. The words preceding his bedtime help move him into a mind-state where he’s able to relax and fall asleep. I say these sentences with a calm voice, almost hypnotically.
Now this isn’t as “crazy as it seems.” We aren’t complete nut-bars afterall! When your parents “Shhh-ed” you to bed or rubbed your back, or held your chest or tucked you in, or whatever else they did, they executed the same mind-strings. Some parents will say “It’s okay, it’s okay, shhhh, it’s okay (repeat)” when they put baby down. This works for them – now you know why. Baby associates your words with the next step in the sequence.
As I put my baby down for his nap, I will simply say “Goodnight, Momma and Dadda love you. Have a good sleep. See you in a bit.” Then I quickly exit the room, close the door and turn the light off. If I wait too long and my son has a chance to stand up, there’s a chance he’ll come out of his “spell” and want to talk more to me and so I’ll have to restart the sequence or rub his back to calm him. It also wasn’t always this easy, we did play around with various things before settling on this. We found the more we stayed with him the more likely he would be to stand up or want to talk. No doubt your child will be different than mine too, maybe yours will want to be read a book while in bed, want their hair stroked or what have you. Just be sure whatever you do, to keep it simple and repeatable, and something that doesn’t put you out too much. Also consider doing something that a caregiver could do in your stead.
After a while, the sequence you come up with will do all the work for you eliminating squabbles. This is what parents need to understand about babies. Create predictability in your baby’s life and you and your baby will be much happier!