You might have noticed there are lots of pages and posts all over the internet describing the objective dangers of the Cry-it Out (CIO) or Controlled Crying methods of sleep and baby training. And I think it’d be worth your time to take a look at those articles for the research and the common sense advice they contain.
Someday I might even write a post like that, because I figure the more people talking about the facts, the more likely it is people will find them, and maybe, just maybe, not try to sleep (or otherwise) “train” their tiny babies.
But right now, I’m not writing about the objective dangers or the scientific evidence of negative effects.
Right now, I am writing about why I hate baby training.
I hate baby training because it actually just trains society to look at LOVE like it is weakness.
Don’t “give in.”
Responding to those cries is “spoiling” them.
Parents who do not let their children cry are “too soft.”
I would bet a lot of money that you, as a parent, or even if you’re not a parent, have heard (or maybe even said) some of those things.
Our culture is pretty thoroughly convinced, from the looks of things, that babies cry to manipulate us, and if we don’t want to raise spoiled, awful children, we must not respond to those cries.
And that’s a load of poo.
(I have a toddler and we are allowed to say things like “poo,” even (especially) when we mean serious business. It’s in the Parent Manual. “Crap” and “shit” are not recommended….But you may choose from among 14+ other versions of the word “poopie,” including but not limited to: Poopoo, Poopies, Stinky-poopies, and Poopeedoo.)
So, it’s a total load of poopeedoo, and it’s contributing to the rise of an American culture that doesn’t “get” compassion.
(That was a pretty big philosophical jump, I know. Stick with me.)
Think about it. The natural instinct of a mother to respond to her baby, arguably one of the most sacred and defining examples of loving compassion, has been attacked, condemned, and reduced to weakness. We tell moms they shouldn’t trust all that love and overwhelming urge inside of them to run to their crying baby. We twist up all the instincts of mom’s very maternal biology by promising her that ignoring the pleas of her own child, born of her own body, is “necessary for the baby’s good.”
He’ll never learn independence if you keep babying him like that.
And she believes it, reluctantly. And when’s she’s survived ignoring the cries of her newborn, it’s that much easier to see toddler tantrums as merely manipulative, and ignore them too. Or worse, mindlessly punish them without permission to remember that her toddler is a person with a need to connect. And then when she’s worn out from disconnected toddlerhood, and her toddler is all worn out from constantly being taught his needs aren’t trustworthy, she’s congratulated for “keeping him in line.” And they both get ample encouragement to just go on believing that tears don’t mean much, anger is normal, all that twisted up emotion in both of them is just the necessary trials of parenthood, ….
And compassion and empathy just kind of stop making sense.
Sure, starving children on TV still make us sad.
But when that tide of emotion gets stirred up at the sight of pain or need, that love for our neighbor who’s in trouble, we sort of just start doubting it.
Dismissing it in favor of individualism and survival.
We don’t want to get involved. It’s not our place.
Life is tough.
The world is a cruel place.
Are you still with me? Because if you are, I’ve got to tell you: Just one year of bucking the system, of answering every single one of my baby’s cries, has completely changed me.
I’m thoroughly convinced the very act of trusting my maternal instinct, of answering the needs of an innocent baby, have cultivated and increased my empathy for suffering and pain all over.
Poured Miracle-Gro all over my compassion plant.
I notice that I care more. That I look at people’s faces more. Strangers. Everywhere. I see their faces. I can find this ever-growing place in me that cares what they are thinking, doing, living.
And that’s why I’m writing this post on Why I Hate Baby Training.
Because if it’s true that baby training is teaching us that love is weakness, then I think it must be true that baby loving can teach us that compassion doesn’t spoil, it empowers.
That empathy, sacrifice, beauty, innocence, and concern are worth our time.
That it is our place to care for our neighbors.
That love is the ultimate strength.
And that changing the cruel, tough world might really be possible if we’d just start giving each other some permission to go wrap our arms around that crying baby.