I saw the most beautiful quote the other day that said, “Each night, I will gladly lay with you, my darling, until you need me no more.” Our kids grow up SO fast, so today I want to talk about how it’s OKAY to hold your children for as long as they need you to. Let’s discuss.
Parents: Hold Your Children for As Long as They Need You To
Let your kids stand on their own two feet. Let them fight their own battles. Let them make their own mistakes and deal with the consequences. Let them cry it out. I can’t tell you how often I heard those little nuggets of “advice” when I was a new mom. How often I still hear it.
I agree that there comes a time when we do need to take a step back and let our kids find their way. Regardless of our parenting style, our end goal is the same. We all want to raise self-confident and independent children who are capable of thriving in this big (and often harsh) world.
Here’s the thing, there’s no magical age at which we should release our child’s hand and let them walk alone. There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for when we should make our kids deal with their own problems. And, despite countless parenting books saying otherwise, there is absolutely no one on this planet who can tell YOU when it’s time to stop laying with your child until they fall asleep.
When did we as a society collectively decide that rocking, soothing, and laying next to our children until they fell asleep was a bad thing? I can almost guarantee you that our great-great-great ancestors didn’t let their tiny tots scream themselves to sleep in their rocky little cave-cradles.
I mean, think about it for a moment. Crying babies attract attention. When we were living in caves trying to figure out this whole survival thing, I’m pretty sure the last thing we wanted was to have our babies give up our location to predators and other tribes.
When did soothing our kids become such a “bad mom” move?
So, when did letting them cry it out become the only “right” thing to do? I looked it up. While I couldn’t find an exact date, it looks like “parenting experts” started recommending it sometime in the 1800s. However, it didn’t really gain the popularity that it has today until the 1980s when Dr. Richard Ferber introduced the concept of sleep training.
Just like that, all across the nation moms & dads found themselves camped outside their babies’ rooms, tears running down their faces as they listened to their child’s hysterical screams. They’d hold onto each other (or hold each other back from dashing into the room), counting down the seconds until they were “allowed” to go in for a brief moment, with each interval lasting far longer than the one before.
Now look, I’m not saying that following this method (or any of its spin-offs) makes you a bad parent at all. Millions of people follow it and even the most recent studies say that letting kids cry it out doesn’t do any long-term damage. Besides, I would never tell you how to raise your kids.
I expect the same consideration from you, though. I’m tired of all of the criticism, “well-meaning advice,” and the memes (oh, the memes) about how parents like me are raising “spoiled” or “soft” kids by choosing to lay with our kids and soothe them for as long as they still need us to.
First, there are just as many studies saying that NOT letting kids cry it out is more beneficial and that earlier research had some fundamental flaws. That’s the thing about parenting, for every study saying “X” there’s an equally valid opposite one saying “Y.”
Second, it’s ridiculous for one parent to assume that they know better than another about the “right” way to raise a child. The only person who knows what’s best for your kids is YOU. We really need to knock off this whole “attachment vs. detachment vs. authoritative vs. permissive parenting” thing. You’re right, I’m right, we’re all right…as long as we’re doing what’s right for OUR OWN kids.
Last, but most important, heck yeah, I HOPE I’m raising “soft” kids. Children who grow up knowing that it’s okay to express emotions, to ask for help, and to expect the best from the people who are supposed to love them the most.
That’s why I make this promise to my child: I will lay by your side as long as you need me.
Promise to My Child: I Will Lay By Your Side As Long as You Need Me
Family psychotherapist Virginia Satir once said, “Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth.”
As a parent, I want all of my actions to build my kids up, not tear them down. When I choose to lay with when they ask me to, my actions say, “I’m so proud of you for expressing your fears.” The gesture reminds them that they are never too old to need their mom and that they can always expect me to “show up” for them. By holding them for as long as they need me to, I’m also giving them the best “inheritance” of all, the gift of my time.
By the way, my kids are both well beyond the “sleep training” years. So, if anyone is sarcastically thinking, “Go ahead, keep rocking them to sleep every night! Just wait and see how that works out for you when they get older!” I don’t have to wait and see. I’ve already seen how it works out. Both of my kids are independent, self-confident, and well-adjusted.
We owe it to our kids and to ourselves to hold our children for as long as we can
Our children are little for such a very, very, very short time. One day, they’re taking their very first steps towards us. Within the blink of an eye, those steps are taking them away from us and off to their own grand life adventures.
We owe it to them -and ourselves- to make the most of that brief window where they’re still running to us. We owe it to them -and ourselves-to respond to their little open arms with our own wide-open arms. We owe it to them- and ourselves- to hold on tight to them for as long as they still need us.