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May 31, 2006
Setting Limits, the Ferber Way
Dr. Richard Ferber is issuing a new version of his famous guide, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. Slate has an excellent first person writeup of the book by Emily Bazelon, someone who tried to ferberize her own children and pretty much failed. I, thank God, never had the sleepless baby problem. I adopted my daughter when she was a year old, and from the day I got her she was an 8 to 8 sleeper. Never napped more than an hour a day, but at least she slept through the night, making for a much saner mommy. But it sounds like the book still has some helpful advise, for me and just about every other parent out there. I can sum it up in two words: Set Limits!
Easy to say, hard to do. But as Ferber, and Bazelson, point out, not setting limits is merely an easy way out, that ultimately harms our children.
A new chapter, "The Problem of Limit Setting," expressly aims to stiffen the parental spine. I savored its hectoring tone and imagined how it could save me from my younger son??r, as Ferber would have it, save my son from me.
I loved the impatient tone of "The Problems of Limit Setting" chapter. "Ask yourselves, 'Who's In Charge?' " Ferber writes. "Frequently, when parents describe to me what happens at night in their household, it is clear that they are not." He goes on to inform you that if you have difficulty setting limits, you 1) don't understand their importance; 2) feel guilty??o you travel too much? 3) are using your child's wakefulness to avoid your spouse; or 4) are drug-addicted, sick, or depressed. Harsh, but true. Ferber doesn't tell us what we want to hear, but he is probably right.
He is right, we know it in our gut. And I know it by observation. Several of my friends now have children in their teens or early 20s, and I have come to realize that the nicest, most well-adjusted, successful kids among them are the ones who were brought up with lots of limits and lots of responsibilities. The ones that were indulged and coddled are now a nightmare. I sometimes think you can't be too strict, as long as it's done in a loving way. A hard line to travel, but one that is well worth it in the long run.
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