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Consequences and Night-Waking

 Q: Several days ago. my son, 11, stayed home from school because of illness and I had to take a day off from work to stay with him. I found out that he was actually faking his illness to get out of taking a test. I was so angry that I immediately imposed a consequence that I think is too harsh for the actual infraction. I don’t want my son to think he can get off lightly, but at the same time, I wonder if there is some way I can back out of a too-hasty decision.

A: One of the hardest jobs as a parent is to stay neutral and objective when your child misbehaves. Under pressure, parents find it particularly hard to always respond appropriately, especially if a family value like honesty is abused. In hindsight, we as parents may decide our punishment or consequence was delivered passionately, in the heat of the moment, and perhaps too severe or unrelated to the misbehavior. But, one real lesson that should be stressed is the act of apology and forgiveness; not that mom and dad do not really mean what they say. It is a humbling experience for a parent to recognize her mistake and apologize to her child. One may start with “After calming down, I realize I owe you an apology. My feelings were hurt when I learned that you had been dishonest with me. Making mistakes is part of growing up, and having consequences is necessary for you to learn from your mistakes. I will work harder to think before I speak; as I know you will work harder to restore trust between us.” I recommend following through with the original consequence. It will be invaluable to show that you stand behind the consequence for being dishonest, and you have shown that everyone makes mistakes. And, when the next mistake arises, challenging mom’s word should not be an option.

Q: My 18-month-old is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night terrified to go back to sleep. By the time I get him settled back down we are both exhausted. Help!

A: At 18 months, most little ones are experiencing a heightened sense of separation anxiety, which occurs as a normal stage of development for healthy, secure babies. At this time, babies are exerting their independence and creating memories. And for most 18-month-olds, a growth spurt is occurring simultaneously. During growth spurts, little ones will eat more and will be a bit unbalanced, meaning that they may be sleeping and behaving irregularly. The child who once slept through the night will wake up intermittently, and the little one who was commended for being so easy-going may become a bit cranky. During a restless sleep, the little one may remember Mom’s touch or Dad’s song and cry out for comfort. Learning that being apart from their caregivers makes most babies react more sensitively at this age.

Try not to overdo any middle-of-thenight comforting. Putting a hand on baby’s back, reassuring him that all is fine with Mommy right here, and reaching for a lovie wrapped in your t-shirt will help remind him that you are available. Try not to pick up the baby as this may lengthen awake time. Remember to stay consistent with a short, comforting routine. The more structure parents provide allows for little ones to relax with dependable security.

Michelle Johnston has worked with parents and caregivers as a family educator with Commonwealth Parenting for eighteen years. She is the mom of four.
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