Sleep training. Crying it out. Not my thing. But it is for many parents. Does this sound familiar? At bedtime, you must be firm. You must make it clear that bedtime is not optional, that once the routine is over and they've had that "last hug" or last "drink of water," that they just need to go to sleep.
This battle of wills even starts when babies are newborns with us being told, "You must start putting them down when they're awake so they learn to self-soothe," and eventually leads to the idea that a baby needs to be put in their crib and left to cry, so they "understand" that it's bedtime and they must sleep.
We are convinced if we fail to do these things, our child will lack good sleep, the family will be exhausted, you will have no routine, everyone will be completely miserable, and your infant will "know" that they can "manipulate" you.
Did you ever wonder where these ideas come from, and why many other countries look at these practices as cruel and strange?
Psychology Today calls the practice an "Evolutionary Mismatch." People thought that extreme stern parenting is the only way to form your child into a righteous and productive member of society. Sounds fun! There are even some relatively recent parenting models that suggest that anything other than this type of parenting is un-Christian or ungodly. Oookay.
What it boils down to is that sometime during the end of the 1800s, there was also a large movement away from spirituality and a heavier interest in science for all the answers. Which produced John Broadus Watson's extreme book Psychological Care of Infant and Child that told parents not to cuddle, hug, and kiss their children that much because it "robbed the child" of time he could be learning about his universe. He even went so far as to say that he questioned if parents should even be able to raise children themselves, since science obviously could do a better job, and wasn't emotional about it. He was very firm in his insistence that well-parented children should be like robots.
Many still believe in this form of parenting. However, as Psychology Today points out, children just aren't made like that. Back in "the day," an infant or toddler who was alone in the dark was afraid they were going to be eaten. Parents now think, "There's no tiger," and therefore dismiss the baby's biologically designed needs ... however, that doesn't mean the baby doesn't still feel fearful and lonely. And they certainly aren't trying to manipulate or test you. In many other countries, it's really rather simple -- they believe a secure child is a happy child. And it's up to us as parents to make the child feel secure, even if that means you're protecting them from the tiger in the dark that you know isn't there.
Do you think mainstream parenting ignores biologically designed needs?
Image via John Ovington/Flickr