The Chocolate Ice Cream Philosophy
Oh the heart strings that are pulled if your baby is fussing or crying at bedtime or when it’s time to go down for a nap! Sometimes the fuss, sometimes the cry, sometimes the yell- each little one is different, just like each parent’s response is different. If you have a hard time hearing these bedtime hollers and want to run into them the at the very first sound of protest, let me offer you a new way to think about your child’s sleep protests. I call it the Chocolate Ice Cream mentality. (please note this is not advice for newborns).
What is the Chocolate Ice Cream mentality?
We have all bared witness to the intensity, severity, and sometimes comical emotional expressions that three year olds are capable of over things like: “I wanted the purple spoon and you gave it to me, now I don’t want it, I want only to each jam for breakfast with my fingers in the jar, and my pancake isn’t round enough.”
This is exactly what’s happening during bedtime protests, including when changing sleep associations! Your child is protesting change! So, when you hear your baby crying or yelling and protesting against nap or bedtime I want you to reframe it as if they are yelling for chocolate ice cream. “CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM. I. WANT. CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM” Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?
In fact, you may even want to say the words out loud if your child is yelling or crying. When they yell, you say “chocolate ice cream.” Trust me, it really helps keep everything in perspective.
Also note that this is what’s happening during Extinction Bursts- those pesky last ditch efforts to keep old habits (you may recognize them if you’ve ever tried to diet or maybe give up carbs. You know, the day you chuck it out the window and eat the loaf garlic bread).
When we’re sleep training babies or changing a routine to better serve the needs of the child and the family, what we’re really doing is communicating new boundaries!
Responding to the Chocolate Ice Cream Philosophy
Now that we’ve reframed the protest, let’s talk a little more about what this means in terms of sleep training/ getting your baby to sleep on their own.
First of all, a little protesting (5-10 minutes before bed) is NOT crying it out. It is exactly what we stated- protesting.
When we’re sleep training babies or changing a routine to better serve the needs of the child and the family, what we’re really doing is communicating new boundaries! Much like if a policy changes at our work, the people that don’t like it will grumble and protest, maybe actually throw a fit, quit, and try to push back against the policy change. But, once the new guideline is set into place and held firm, the policy becomes accepted, tried, and people start working on how to meet the guidelines.
Think about what would happen if the management put in place a new policy, but changed it every time an employee said they didn’t like it. There would be no consistency. People would be confused, management wouldn’t be able to predict the employees behavior, and employees wouldn’t know what was expected of them. Most importantly, neither management nor employee would know each other’s potential! Communication and expectations would be unclear and confusing!
So you, as the parent, are laying out the new boundaries and communication around sleep for the household, and then learning the appropriate response to your baby’s protests rather than having knee jerk reactions i.e. responding not reacting.
Knowing that your baby is essentially yelling for chocolate ice cream during bedtime should help you keep this perspective. Their needs are met. They don’t currently like the change. They are still adjusting. And in a very, very short time they will adjust if you stay consistent.
*note that this article is discussing protesting bedtime- crying for other reasons such as hunger or other needs should be responded to. Not sure the difference? We can help!