Monday, May 19, 2014

The "Cry it Out" Style of Parenting -- Is This You?

I had an interesting conversation with my husband last night. Our son got a ticket yesterday for not having an updated safety inspection sticker, and he was actually quite depressed over it. He immediately went to get an inspection but was still left with this $200 ticket.

I told my husband I think our son should pay for it. I apparently am all about teaching a life lesson. My husband said something to me I will never forget. He told me that my approach is like letting him "cry it out". He went on to ask me if I know when my inspection is due, and of course I have no idea! It gets done when the guys at the lube place tell me it's time when I'm there for an oil change. Well, David has been teaching Daymon to change his own oil and that's how it got missed. In fact, he went on to tell me that he's pretty sure Daymon didn't even know what the state inspection is because he's never explained it to him! Yeah, I'm pretty sure I haven't either.

OK, OK, I heard what he was saying, and I pouted the rest of the night. I've thought about it all day long though. I am adamantly opposed to letting a baby cry themselves to sleep, but this idea of forcing (helping?) our children to be independent lasts much longer. At what point do you start letting them figure things out on their own? Make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes? Suffer the consequences of their actions? It actually starts early on, but being allowed to make mistakes and knowing that someone is there for you, even to bail you out, is comforting.

"Crying it out" is more than letting a baby "learn" to fall asleep on their own. It's a way of parenting that I strongly disagree with. I'll be super honest and tell you what I think. I think it's a lazy way out. I think tired parents are scared of holding their baby to sleep because they've been told that the child will never figure it out on their own. They've been told that the child will eventually give up and sleep -- and they are right. I believe that letting a baby cry themselves to sleep teaches them that their parents are not to be trusted. They are alone. No one is there for them. The stress of the situation eventually causes the brain and body to shut down. Sleep is the only escape.

David knows this is how I feel about letting a baby cry it out. I'll be honest, his words stung. But he's also the best person I know. He makes me want to be a better person. I don't want to parent in a "cry it out" fashion. I want my children to know that I am there for them when they need help, when they don't know what to do -- even if that means footing an expensive traffic ticket. I want them to trust me and feel... well, attached.

And so I realized, as I've been thinking about all of this today, I have a tendency to be "lazy" (using my own words here) and take the "easy" way out. It's easier to pass it off as fostering independence than to take responsibility for teaching and supporting these people in my house who are very independent. It's pretty easy to let them do whatever they want and not take (or share in) the responsibility of their actions. Most of the time, things work out fine and they make good decisions, but being willing to lovingly help them out when they need it is harder than it seems.

Hearing Martha Sears speak a couple of weeks ago was very inspiring. I have found myself thinking about her and how she would react to certain situations with older children. It's a fine line between giving them space to make mistakes and still taking their hand and showing them the way. Three out of four of mine are teenagers now and it's a wild ride! The oldest is heading to college in the Fall, and I just hope that we have taught him enough to get by in the world. More than that, I hope he (and all of them) know that we will not leave them to "cry it out" alone. We will help them along in this crazy life. I am so thankful I have a wonderful man by my side who shares the same philosophies I do -- and reminds me when I have forgotten.


Alli said...

There is a difference between crying it out and neglect. Letting your baby "cry it out" isn't lazy. It isn't just putting your baby in a crib and walking out. I refuse to believe that when I turn on music, rub her back, speak to her, calm her by saying, 'hush, hush' that I am being neglectful and lazy because I let her cry (for 10 minutes before she falls asleep) rather than pick her up and rock her. I know the difference between a tired cry and a distress cry.
I also think it's horrible to label crying it out as "bad parenting in total." My children are very attached. I know this because I foster and I have learned a lot about the neuroscience of trauma and neglect. My biobabies show all the signs of healthy attachment, even though I want to help them not wake up every two hours at night and be dependent on(not attached to) me.

*Jess* said...

I don't believe in CIO for babies either, because they don't understand. Your son, however, does understand. Good life lesson. Make him pay the ticket. He won't forget his inspection again. Ignorance is not an excuse :)

Samantha said...

I can't say I agree with CIO being a lazy form of parenting, or an easy way out. I strongly feel there is a happy medium for pretty much all things. There are so many ways to comfort a baby without picking them up, and we all know babies are quick learners, especially as they reach the one year mark, they realize what will bring mama and daddy in quicker than lightning. A newborn is a newborn and of course needs to be comforted and picked up, but as each baby transitions to being a toddler, they will need to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Every child is SO different, and this time may come sooner or later.
Crying for 20 minutes the first week, 10 minutes the second week and 5 minutes third week is not neglectful in my book. Letting your kid cry for close to an hour is a different story...again, happy medium. I think maybe there needs to be some clarification on what people see as cry-it-out and what time limitations qualify, there are some very different ideas out there, and slamming them all could be a big mistake.

Jillian said...

I know that there are a bazillion sleep training methods, with varying degrees of crying allowed. I think your example (or your husband's) is great. Obviously this wasn't really a post about sleep training. I get what you are trying to say about CIO. I also agree with you. To me, CIO (and I'll caveat - the extreme version that most people think of as CIO/Ferber) is lazy. Maybe not lazy so much as selfish. It's true that all kids, families and situations are different but for me I just couldn't think of a reason to sleep train with CIO that wasn't selfish. All of the reasons benefited me and it was a pretty big stretch to find a reason why letting my baby cry alone in their crib was benefiting them. I know there's lots of other ways to sleep train that sometimes include crying (I still rock my 11 month old to sleep and sometimes she cries, but I'm right there comforting her). To me the alone part is the distinguishing factor. Maybe that applies to teens too? Making them learn the lessons of independence alone is like CIO alone, but letting them learn the lesson while being there so they don't feel abandoned (split the cost of the ticket or have them earn some of the money for the ticket etc.). Still having them do what needs to be done (pay a ticket, take a nap), but not forcing them to go it alone.

Anyway, very interesting comparison. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer said...

A great post! I love this comparison. The older kids get, the trickier it is to figure out when they need a push and when they need to be held close- but because they are older, I probably push more than I should. As far as CIO, babies/toddlers/preschoolers will learn to sleep on their own when they are ready. They don't have to be "trained" to do so. My daughter nursed to sleep EVERY night and naptime for almost four years. Now, just a few months later, she sleeps on her own, in her bed, throughout the night. I didn't have to force it, and yet, we ended up in the same place- peacefully. Just as children learn to walk, talk, read, and ride a bike at different stages and ages, they will also learn to self sooth when they are ready! Samantha, you are asking for time limitations to differentiate between being ok and not. That's hard to say. Twenty minutes may be ok for one child, but another may not healthily handle two. Alli, if you are with your child, reassuring her with your voice and touch, that is not completely CIO (to me). Although it still may not be what I would choose to do (but closer to what I sometimes had to do with my twins, who I couldn't always pick up and hold right away because of another baby and a toddler to tend to), I think of CIO as being the child in the room by herself, without anyone there to help her figure it out or reassure her that she's not all alone to deal with her discomfort herself.

Patty Teichroeb said...

This is a little late of a question but I just started reading your blog (love it!) I am 100% for attached parenting as I have done so with both my kids. My son is 11 months, he has slept with us or in close range from birth, he has never been left to concern here is that in the night...he is waking in our room or bed and climbing off, playing, poking us, sitting on our heads, smacking us to wake up, crying etc. Our mattress is on floor with bed guard, door closed to keep him in, no danger, completely baby proof..but This will go on for hours and no one will sleep. I am not lazy, not selfish etc. I am exhausted and feel it is unhealthy for my mental health to be up laying my son down constantly litterly off and on for 8 hours a night. Do you have any advice for me? I am so desperate.