Why is it so hard to make a decision?
When it comes to all things parenting, parents can feel pressured one way or another from advice they get from well-meaning friends, family and especially from what they read online. In our current age of information and social media, it’s hard to know what information is actually reliable or from a reputable source.
Parents are also afraid of being judged. Unfortunately (usually for the parents who need help most of all) these hurdles can cause parents to delay making a decision or not pursuing the thing that might actually help them. They ‘sit on the fence’ and continue to endure hardship in the hope things will get better on their own.
Many parents are scared to take the first step towards making changes or to reach out for help, even though they feel deep down that this could be their salvation. This can be especially true when it comes to sleep and behaviour.
Parenting decisions are not easy but we can keep things simple.
In the end, parents need to make the hard decisions and accept the consequences for their actions (or inaction). They need to consider the wellbeing of all members of their family and accept responsibility for the decisions they make. What a mammoth responsibility parents have!
If you’re a parent, you would no doubt agree that parenting is the hardest job in the world. So, to make things easier on yourself, follow my simple Seven Step Action Plan to assist with your decision-making. This can be helpful in any situation, but it can be especially helpful when making hard parenting decisions to do with sleep and behaviour.
Some of the biggest decisions for parents can be to do with sleep. For example, you might be toying with the idea of sleep training your child but you’re wondering whether it’s the right thing to do. The fact is, there is no right or wrong. There are no shoulds or shouldn’ts. Put simply, if things are working for you and your family, there’s really no need to change anything at all. On the other hand, if things aren’t so good, you might consider taking some action to make changes. Let’s say you’re not happy with your current sleep situation and you’d like to make changes but you’re not one hundred percent convinced that sleep training is the right way to go. How do you work out if sleep training is right for your family?
Use the 7 Steps to a Decision Action Plan.
This simple technique will give you the practical steps you need to make even the trickiest of parenting decisions. Work through the following seven steps systematically and you will have a much clearer idea of what you should do.
Think of a scenario relating to the decision you are trying to make and frame it as a question starting with the word ‘should’. Write this question at the top of your page. Examples: Should I sleep train my child? Should I transition my two-year-old from the cot to a bed? Should I book a call with a sleep consultant? Should I wean my child from night feeds? Should I co-sleep with my baby? Should I follow baby led weaning? Should I get rid of my child’s dummy? Should I talk to my GP about my anxious feelings? You get the gist.
Draw two columns down the page underneath your decision and label them ‘For’ and ‘Against’.
Brainstorm notes for each column. Don’t hold back. Remember, anything goes and there’s no right or wrong. Let’s look at an example from the list above … “Should I transition my child from a cot to bed”.
Your personal reasons ‘for’ might look something like this:
My kid is getting too big for the cot.
He’s climbing out.
We have a newborn coming soon, so we need the cot.
He ‘hates’ his cot.
Everyone else is doing it.
My sister needs my cot for her baby.
He bangs his head on the cot bars and I’m worried this hurts him.
It’s his 2nd birthday so he ‘needs’ a bed now he’s turning two.
I’ve heard that keeping a kid in a cot is like keeping him in a cage and it can cause long term mental damage.
Your personal reasons ‘against’ might look something like this:
I think he might be too young/he lacks impulse control.
I’ve heard he’ll go crazy once out of the cot.
My sister’s kid keeps getting out of his bed, so my kid will too.
There’s no room for a bed.
We can’t afford to buy him a bed right now.
He’s still happy in the cot, he sleeps well in the cot/he’s used to his cot.
Note that it can be helpful to work on this with a partner or a friend. Other people can usually see things more objectively than ourselves. This just means they might think of or see things we don’t (and we can add to our list).
Remember, nothing on your list is right or wrong. It’s just a brainstorm of your personal thoughts and ideas. Some of your entries will be ‘hearsay’ (things you’ve heard from others), some might stem from your personal parenting philosophy (your beliefs) and some might relate to what you’ve read and learnt about your child’s developmental stage. It’s all okay.
When you’ve finished your for and against list, the next step is to go through each entry and underline any that you might be able to confirm as ‘truth’ with a professional, such as a doctor or child health nurse. These are usually things that are developmental or medical in nature such as, ‘he bangs his head on the cot bars, will this hurt his brain/is it harmful? Will she grow up as an anxious kid if I don’t sit by her cot as she goes to sleep? Is it bad for my child to cry alone, when I’m out of the room for a few minutes? I’m worried he’ll vomit during sleep training, should I be concerned?’
Go ahead and do your research to find out the actual facts. Ask a professional their opinion on the things you’ve underlined. If you feel the need, get a second opinion. Circle in red any of these entries that you determine are concerning, from a medical/scientific point of view.
Look carefully again at your entries in each column, one by one. Assign a numerical value to each entry from zero to three, with zero being not a big deal at all to three being it’s very important. Deciding on what value to give each thing should be a process in itself. Take your time. Note: If you have a red circle around something (medical/scientific), this counts as an automatic ‘three’. These are the easy ones. It’s important to (consciously) put on your logical hat and put aside your emotive one, while you do this exercise. This can be hard to do, which is why having a friend or family member go through it with you can be beneficial.
Do a deep dive and ask yourself questions for each point such as, ‘Is there an alternative? Does he really need xyz? How important is this to me/my child?’ For example, you might be considering transitioning your child from a cot to a bed. In this case, as you assign a value to each point, questions to ask yourself might be, ‘Does my child actually need a bed for his second birthday? My sister’s kid keeps getting out of his bed but does that mean my child will do the same, my child is a year older than my sister’s kid, after all? Is a two-year-old (realistically) capable of staying in a big bed? Would it be easier for me if he stayed in the cot longer? Is my child crying when I put him in the cot because he hates his cot or is he simply resisting sleep/wanting me to pick him up for a cuddle?
Add up the values you have in each column and see which one comes ‘out in front’. This will be the one that is most important to your family and it’s the way you should probably go!
If you’ve come to the conclusion from this exercise that the negative (against) outweighs the positive (for), you can happily move on and continue what you’re doing, knowing you’ve made an informed and well thought out decision.
On the other hand, if you worked out that you’d be best to try and change your current situation, it’s important to think about your ‘why’ and make this your focus, moving forward. Your ‘why’ is the driving force behind your desire for change. It might differ than your partner’s why and that’s okay. Everyone’s ‘why’ will be unique. What’s universal for parents is that having a clear focus on their ‘why’ will be the catalyst for what excites them and gives them the motivation to move them towards better things. Your why will keep you moving forward if you do decide to make changes.