We have received as many questions as possible about sleep methods in general and the five minute method in particular. I have reada bit about sleeping methods and what scientific support is and is not available this summer. But only when I read Goodnight Alfons Åberg to bedtime story one evening did I feel that I could write about the subject.
Have you read the book? Dad tries to get Alfons to bed who doesn't want to sleep. Alfons shouts at dad a million times, he wants to pee, drink water, has poured water into the bed, wants his teddy bear, is afraid of a lion in the closet etc etc. Dad gets more and more tired and it becomes noticeable.
Conscientiously and with more and more dragging of his feet, he helps Alfons with what he asks for and each time tells the son that it's time to sleep.
Finally, Dad falls asleep on the living room floor with exhaustion. Then little Alfons steps around him and goes to bed and falls asleep.
It is a nice and loving book with a high recognition factor for me anyway.
But what if Father Åberg had used the five minute method…
Alfons shouts at dad. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons gets scared and shouts louder. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons gets up and looks for dad. Dad doesn't answer but lifts Alfons back into bed.
Alfons shouts at dad. Dad doesn't answer. Alfons shouts at dad. Dad looks at the clock while he reads the newspaper. Alfons screams for Dad. After five minutes, Dad comes in and says "sleep now Alfons". "But there's a lion in the closet," screams Alfons.
Dad goes out. Alfon's crying. Dad looks at the clock and reads the newspaper. Alfon's crying and screaming ...
No, I can't stand it anymore. It is torture just to write about it.
Maybe "efficient" but at what cost?
There are several studies that have shown that five-minute-like methods (ie not responding to the screams of children for a certain number of minutes and going in after this time to show that one is there but not comforting the child) show less awakening and longer nightly sleep. And some that show no effect.
But not responding to the child's signals is for me big no-no when interacting with children. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that parents must always have the ability to respond super-quickly to the first signal. Sometimes we can't run at all. Then maybe the child gets to cry out quite a few times before we come. Responding to the child's signals does not always mean doing what the child asks for. But to try to understand what the child wants, show the child that you have listened and then tell them clearly what to do. Sometimes it is what the child asks for, sometimes not.
But there is a difference to me between not always having the energy and having principles where you as a parent should not listen to the child. Then you are not putting the child's needs first. Putting the child's needs first is our job as parents. This is how we build security, love and closeness.