Nurture vs. Enabling

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by ML, Oct 21, 2008.

  1. ML

    ML Guest

    One of my friends told me that I wasn't being tough enough with the manster. She said that his clingyness and anxiety was something I should be dealing with better and figuring out a way toughen him up.

    I wasn't offended, and frankly I can see her point. The world won't be kind or tolerante of our kids and maybe some of our accommodations, or mine to be exact are the wrong thing.

    For instance, the night time anxiety. I will lay down with manster for a few minutes to help him feel safe while he falls asleep. Lately he's waking up nightly with bad dreams and wanting me to lay down with him (or he come lie down with me and husband). The beds are just not big enough. I was thinking of putting a sleeping bed at the foot of the bed for him to come to when he has those nights so he doesn't have to wake me up (I'm getting sleep deprived). My friend thought this was a horrible idea. I just don't have any other ideas to improve the quality of our sleep and help manster with his anxiety.

    I guess there is a balance that I'm still looking for with this.


  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I think you should listen less to your friend and more to your mommy gut.

    My younger daughter M slept with husband and me until well after her third birthday. We trained our older two to sleep in their own beds, but why weren't we tougher with our third? It turns out she has severe anxiety, and she needed the comfort of Mom and Dad at night. I still lie down with her at bedtime to help her fall asleep. She will give up this nightly ritual once she feels less anxious and more secure. I think the idea of a sleeping bag near your bed that your son can come to at night is a great solution for everyone getting a good night's sleep.

    But I also have to ask: How are you addressing your son's anxiety? Is he in therapy? Are you considering new medications? I think you need to think of the long-term solution in how you are going to help him cope with his anxiety.
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have always disliked the phrase, "toughen him/her up". It just seems harsh and unneeded to me. When children have their needs met, then they are secure enough to go explore the world. That happens later with some kids.

    Listen to your mommy gut. Put the sleeping bag by the bed. Do whatever YOUR child needs to help him feel safe and secure - as long as you are looking at giving him TOOLS to handle the problems at the same time. The tools can be medications, or therapy, or whatever, but they are crucial.
  4. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    This is something we tend to struggle with here as well. It's really tough to discern what our children are capable of doing and they just can't do. There's also a fine line reinforcing a negative behavior and evening the playing field. The world will not be kind to any child that isn't adequately prepared to play by society's rules. In our case, Duckie needs to understand that her friends, teachers, spouse, or employer aren't going to care that she's melting down because she doesn't feel well. So we make sure she's accountable and is given tools to to cope. These tools include behavior modification, natural consequences and medications as necessary.

    I'm concerned that your difficult child, if given the option of sleeping at the foot of your bed, will find himself in your room every night. This really doesn't help his underlying anxiety. I'd talk to difficult child's psychiatrist (if applicable) about a medication adjustment if warranted. I'd also look into a therapist to help difficult child learn some coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques. That way, everyone in the family eventually gets more sleep.
  5. ML

    ML Guest

    Thank you so much. I have him on 7 mg of celexa and tenex. Plus he's got the allergies and asthma medications. The psychiatrist suggested b vitamins to help with the stress of 4th grade expectations. I'm also starting an exercise routine (swimming etc) in hopes that will help too. We also talk a lot about it. He understands that he experiences life and processes things differently. He gets that he is oversensitive. The only thing I'm not doing is ongoing psychotherapy. If something else presents itself I'm open to trying new things. Thanks again for the great responses and support.
  6. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    That phrase "toughen them up" makes my dander rise and I start to climb on my soap box. I believe, in my humble opinion, that we need less "tough" men and more caring and sensitive men.

    Stepping off my soap box before yall push me. lol
  7. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    There is a time and place for tough... not when it is going to increase anxiety. Go with your gut. husband and I both spend each night lying with either of our girls. Why, because they need it, they both have anxiety. Life is short, this too shall pass.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    He is ten years old. He's not a teenager on drugs. I think your friend needs to mind her own business. Your son will not be lying in bed with you when he is twenty. I'd disregard her advice. JMO
  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well...I think this can be approached in a many pronged way. You talk to the psychiatrist about it, you work with your son about his anxiety, and you can allow him the sleeping area in your room for his more anxious times.

    My boys climbed into bed with me when they were sick even as teens. I dont think anyone would consider them as not tough. Even Marine...the first place he comes if he arrives in the middle of the night is straight to my bed to jump in for a snuggle to let us know he is "home". Yes...all 6'5" of him. We are their parents...they love us...they feel safe with us...isnt that a good thing?
  10. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    ML, husband recently moved the trundle bed from difficult child 1's room into our room and put it at the foot of our bed because we either had difficult child 2 or easy child wanting to sleep with us at least once a week, and there is just no way any of us can get adequate sleep if we're all in one bed.

    You can't cure an anxious kid by being tough on them. Period. Do what your heart tells you. If it feels like you're kowtowing, you'll know it, just like if it feels right you'll know it. Friends and family don't live your life and cannot possibly understand what you have to deal with, so don't feel pressured to adopt their beliefs about how to raise your kid. YOU are the expert in your family. Not them.

  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I think the way to discern what's nurturing and what's enabling is to look at it from the perspective of how either choice will impact their daily lives.
    Everyone gets depressed. Fact of life, every now and again, we all get down. For some, it impacts their daily routines and quality of life. Will getting tough on them help? No. They need different interventions to learn to deal with their depression. Getting tough might actually make it worse.
    Same thing with anxiety. Everyone gets anxious. If you have to stand up in front of a crowd and give a new presentation, you'll probably be anxious. Some might not even be able to do it. For most, you get over this by facing your fear and doing it. But what if your fear is everyday things, and facing them over and over doesn't make them go away. It affects daily routines and quality of life. Will getting tough on them help? No. Again, getting tough might even make it worse. You need different methods of dealing with this kind of anxiety.
    Your son will probably always have problems with anxiety. The ideal situation is that it goes away - but that's not likely. So the hope is that he learns, with your help, tools to help him to control his symptoms so that he can deal with his anxiety on his own as an adult and keep the impact of his anxiety on his life minimal.
    Ask yourself if pushing your son by leaving him alone in the night will help him. Then trust the answer your gut gives you.
  12. katya02

    katya02 Solace

    I agree that a multi-pronged approach will probably help everyone most. There are times when a kid's anxiety is so high that he really needs company. A sleeping bag on the floor isn't out of line in these circumstances, I don't think. (For example, when easy child 1 had his first psychotic episode he was so fearful of the furniture in his room that he had to sleep on an air mattress in our room. His situation was acute and we didn't plan for him to sleep there permanently, but for that period of time he needed to be with us. Once his symptoms were under control he moved back to his own room.)

    At the same time, addressing the anxiety and/or other symptoms via the psychiatrist, therapist, bedtime routines and relaxation techniques is a good idea, looking toward the goal of your difficult child sleeping comfortably in his own room.

    And your friend doesn't need to know about any of it, at any point! ;)
  13. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    I don't like the "toughen him up" approach either. Your friend probably doesn't have a difficult child or they would understand that he really has problems and that it's not just him being a "sissy".

    I understand laying down with him at night but I honestly would NOT start the sleeping in a bag on your floor. I think he might end up in there every night.

    I let my difficult child sleep with me way too long and now she's almost 12 and it's still a fight every night.

    I know you are sleep deprived but the sleeping bag will give you more headaches in the end.

    My difficult child was always afraid to sleep alone. Now she isn't, she just wants to sleep in my bed now. When she was afraid I gave her a spray bottle with water or Febreeze in it. I told her it was monster spray. If she sprayed her room with it, monsters could not come in there. It worked!
    This might be a thought for your difficult child and whatever he is anxious or scared of at night.

  14. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    If I have to be accused of wrong doing, I would rather say I was too nurturing than too tough.
    I'm pretty no nonsense with my boys but there times when they needed something more. They routinely slept in their own beds but there were periods in easy child's life, and difficult child when they needed to sleep near the "pack". We let them. As they got to teen years, I felt it was inappropriate to sleep in my bed. They were able to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor near us. It didn't last long.
    When easy child was 16, he started with an occasional seizure and required brain surgery. One night at 2AM, I awoke to find him in our bed next to me sobbing. He thought his life would be over after he just started to find himself.
    I am truly glad he felt he could come to us for nurturing and reassurance when life is just too darn hard. It's what we were meant to do.
    I still have a baby sis who still seems to need to sit very close to me when she is stressed or nervous. It's pretty funny because it isn't intentional. Everyone could use a safety net.
    At 10yrs old, working towards difficult child sleeping on his own is a goal but allowing him the time to be nurtured when life is tough for him is a wonderful gift.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We've been through this and come out the other side.

    My parents believed in being tough. However, I was permitted to creep into bed for a little while with my mother, for comfort. The problem I had was, I was often too terrified to move, to creep through the house to my parents room. What I REALLY desperately wanted was my own night-light or even reading light, so I could turn the light on by myself for a few minutes and then have some control over the dark. Knowing I had control would have helped. I had nightmares often, even into adulthood and after marriage. Being married helped a lot because husband was always there. Maybe if I'd had my own bed lamp when I was younger, I wouldn't have had the problems continue for so long.

    What has helped with our kids:

    1) A night light and/or reading lamp. If you use a low-wattage bulb it's still plenty bright enough but not too wasteful if the child goes back to sleep with the light on.

    2) We allowed them to climb into bed for a snuggle but after about 10-15 minutes (depending on how upset they were) we'd take them back to bed. After a while they took themselves back to bed, knowing they could always come back if they needed to. I really think that knowing there is a bolt-hole, some safety net, reduces the anxiety to a point where the child actually has less of a problem.

    3) My magic spell for getting rid of the nightmare - this really works! I tell the child to roll over and lie back down in bed on the other side to where they were lying when they had the nightmare. So if the child was lying on his right side while having the nightmare, he should go back to bed lying on his left side. because when you roll over and lie on the other side, I tell them, the nightmare trickles out of the ear that is now facing downwards.
    It's a graphic image that explains it to the child in a way they can believe. And it works because even the slightest change in sensory input changes the dream completely. It is no longer the same dream. So if you're having a pleasant dream and you get woken briefly by a car door slamming, if you want the same dream to continue when you fall asleep again, do not change position. Chances are that slight arousal was enough to change the sensory input anyway, but if you move or roll over, you will certainly lose the dream.

    The other bit of info is for the parents - we ALWAYS dream. But we only remember the dreams we experience while very close to arousal, usually if we actually briefly wake during the dream. So a night where we say we had vivid dreams all night long is really a night where we were constantly waking, even if only for seconds at a time. And a night where we declare we didn't dream at all is a night where we simply didn't rouse until it was time to wake in the morning. The dream state IS a state close to arousal, just not usually so close that we remember everything.

    So once you know this, you can understand why a 10 minute cuddle in someone else's bed can magically make a nightmare go away. But that nightmare is NOT waiting in the child's bed, especially if the child lies down in a different position.

    When you are a parent coping with an anxious child, you do what works. Use your own instincts and to billy-oh with anyone who tries to tell you to 'toughen up' your kid. Ask them if they'd like you to toughen up their hands, then offer to run their hands over the cheese grater to do this.

  16. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    The time to make progress for kids with anxiety is at low peaks. During high peaks they need nurturing. During low cycles they often will reject supports and will be more open to nudges.

    Support them as needed, but when they're emotionally stronger, nudge them along.
  17. Jena

    Jena New Member


    Someone wrote about their upbringing and brought me to thinking of my own. I was raised very "tough", my Mother wasn't overly affectionate, nor was I ever allowed to sleep in her bed on a rough night. Her bedroom was, as per her words, her "haven", kids were not allowed, bottom line. She was very controlling. To this day I remember hearing her words ring through my head even regarding bedtime. She'd start talking about it on the way home from somewhere. What I was "expected" to do when we got home. Rambing on and on, my mind would go into overdrive and I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed by her endless list of rules, and procedures regarding bedtime!!

    I have caught myself on occassion doing that to my children. Yup, turning into Mom! Yikes!!! :( That is when I have to take a step back and realize what I'm doing, and look at the faces of my kids.

    My difficult child has had horrible, horrible sleep issues since infancy. It is just recently we have come to learn that melatonin 5mg., with some kava kava tea before bedtime, mixed with Occupational Therapist (OT) brushing and paying attention to sensory issues. Such as the material of the sheets, and blanket, as well as making sure the bed has extra padding has truly made the difference, she has been sleeping for two weeks now. It is a world in which I have never known.

    I too struggled with the same decision of whether or not to allow her to sleep with me. I desperately want her to be able to find her own coping skills to bring her anxiety level down. She has been taught many tools, ranging from meditation to imagery to breathing techniques. She has the past two weeks with my assistance utilized these tools combined with the herbal remedy and found peace and sleep. absolutely astounding, no medication has ever truly achieved this, this way.

    Had I said "its' ok, sleep with me tonight", she wouldn't of been forced to practice these tools and truly begin utilizing them. I would of acted as the bandaid, and nothing would of been learned that night. Granted she would of been comforted, yet as I said nothing learned or gained as far as learning to use the tools given to her.

    So, it is up to you ofcourse, you have to trust your instincts on this. Also, as we all know each child is different. I have friends with whom cannot get their kids out of their beds because they allowed them the comfort of sleeping with them. Then I have friends, very few though with whom's children slept with them during rough times yet became independent and now sleep on their own.

    I have to admit though there were times out of my own desperation that I allowed difficult child to sleep with me, than I began to notice a pattern forming. On the nights she slept, she'd wake up in the middle of the night and come to cling to me for reassurance and safety. I had to realize I was actually facilitating the anxiety to grab hold of her further, I was enabling.

    I truly think that parenting our difficult child's takes so much thought, hence these boards... :)

    I just know the day will come when hopefully difficult child will be able to live on her own, in her own life. I feel very much so that these small lessons and steps taken now will help to some extent when they do become adults. We all fear the magic number 18.

    Good luck with your decision, i'm sure you will make the right choice.