Google+ Authentic Parenting: Autonomous babies, babied children

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Autonomous babies, babied children

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc
There's quite the paradox in the way children are cared for handled in Western society.

On the one hand, babies just can't be autonomous enough and have to be squeezed and pushed to become individuals right away (if possible the day the are born).

An entire set of training practices exist to ensure the autonomy and individualism of newborns.

  • Having them cry it out in cribs in separate rooms, in order to have them finally be able to self settle. Just never ever ever put them in the bed with you, because you'll never get them out. 
  • The push for having them sleep through the night in early infancy. 
  • Don't pick them up too much, you'll spoil them. 
  • Don't carry them around, they'll get too attached to you. 
  • Leave them with a secondary caregiver as soon and as often as possible, because otherwise, separation anxiety will be hell and they'll be on you like a post-it. 
  • Ignore their crying, they're just manipulating you! 
  • Have them potty trained at 2,5 years old, have them walking and talking as soon as possible. 
  • Whatever happens, just make sure they're not behind (behind on what, one asks oneself). 
  • Please don't breastfeed them beyond six months, once they have teeth they are ready to eat solids, right. Nursing beyond one year old? Hey if they're old enough to ask for it, they shouldn't get it, and anyway, if you continue like that, they'll never wean.

They are to sit still, shut up, be quiet, don't mess around and be 'good' by the age of one.
All of this to make sure they're out of your hair as quickly as humanly possible (and preferably even quicker).

Courtesy of memekode on Flickr
Yet on the other hand...

Children are being babied way beyond infancy, into childhood and even into adolescence.

  • They are being spoon and bottle fed way beyond a reasonable age. 
  • They get a pacifier jammed in their mouths and a blankie in their hands until they are off to primary school. 
  • They get mush for dinner and puree for lunch. 
  • They may not eat with decent cutlery, even in primary school. 
  • They are not allowed real scissors, real paint or art supplies.
  • They are not allowed choices, responsibility or decisions and they are not to be trusted until they are out of you house. 
  • They have no rights.
  • They may not speak when grown-ups do. 
  • They can't do anything unless it is age appropriate. 
  • They sure as hell shouldn't mix with anyone older or younger than themselves.

Now doesn't this strike you as odd? Why do so many fail to see the discrepancies in this way of child rearing?  How do we expect these children to grow up responsible, secure and unique individuals? It's completely mind-blowing.

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  1. Oh my gosh!!! That was great. In my job I have to evaluate infants and toddlers under 3 years old. So many parents want their kids to be little adults without adult rights. I leave homes sometimes so distraught because they seem to have their expectations so out of wack.

  2. Yes! What is up with that disconnect? Thank you for articulating this.

  3. Wonderful post! I never put it together in my head like this but you are spot on!

  4. Agreed!!
    Thank you for posting!


  5. Alot of the comments you make it the first section of your post are stereotypes of the 1950's childrearing. No one I know treats their child like that...

    1. Thank goodness! Unfortunately, many I know do. :/ But it's exciting to hear that there are people who don't know anyone who does stuff like this!! :)

    2. Thank goodness! Unfortunately, many I know do. :/ But it's exciting to hear that there are people who don't know anyone who does stuff like this!! :)

  6. Christine, I am happy that obviously you live in a very wholesome community, it gives me hope to hear communities exist where these practices are out of date.
    Yet I can assure you that - when it goes beyond the people you know - these practices are still very current. They are being advised by doctors and parenting books, magazines and websites.
    Have you opened a parenting magazine with an article about sleeping lately? Sadly it is not yet outdated, though I agree, it very well should be.

  7. A-frickin'-men! Yes, people are all too anxious for their infants to grow and develop, and yet they do baby them even in adolescence. As a girl scout leader, we're having a heck of a time getting our 5th grade girls to take much initiative and show any leadership skills. They just expect to be spoon-fed everything!

  8. hmmmmm this is very true. thanks, gives me something to ponder.

    the really funny thing is that instinctively all moms know that the cruel baby handling methods they're using are wrong. how many times have I heard some crazy justification speech from a woman, and I never even told her she was wrong! a guilty conscience accuses itself.

    whenever I hear a mom guiltily reveal that they're STILL breastfeeding their 2 year old, or that their child sometimes sleeps in bed with them, I tell them "it's ok, those things are good for them. you're not doing anything bad, you're making your kid feel safe." and usually Im rewarded by a look of relief from a mother who really thought she was doing something bad.

  9. I think that, overlooking the spelling errors, this article betrays the authors holier-than-thou attitude. From the very first sentence she assumes that the only parents who "care" for their children are those who employ the same, and only the same, practices as she does. Did it ever cross your mind that there may be other parents who also care for their children and love their children more than anything in the world, but those parent's circumstances may not be the same as yours? Just because you subscribe to Third World, alternative child-rearing practices, does not give you the right to judge, and certainly does not mean that you are open-minded. So, open your mind to those who do things differently. Maybe you too can learn something.

    1. I'm a couple years late on this comment...but what are you talking about? You are missing the point of the piece which is to highlight the paradox of main stream society setting up babies to become independent as soon as possible, but then when they are older, they are treated like babies.

  10. In response to the previous comment, I understand that everyone parents differently, but I do believe that the author has some good points. Much of the parenting practices that are 'subscribed' by today's parent is about the parent's agenda, not the child's. Further I take offense to the reference to "Third World, alternative child-rearing". I believe this is why the author wrote what she did, to show that much of the parenting behaviors that exist in the western culture pushes babies and children to become independent to quickly when every aspect of their being (physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual) is dependent on the parent. For instance the cry it out method is so damaging to the development of a baby, it greatly saddens me that this method is perpetuated and reinforced by medical practitioners of which parents 'choose' to listen to. These same practitioners also believe that baby formula is just fine to give to babies, when In fact has been proven to pose health risk to the developing infant. Further, wearing your baby on your body has been shown to have many benefits to the child and the mother- tell me- why is it that our culture has not accepted this as mainstream, just has the stroller has been accepted. Perhaps you need to open your mind and your heart to the little people of the future, because their healthy development is in jeopardy.

  11. I have to agree with the article whole heartedly. I am often shocked by the extreme disconnect that I see loving mothers parenting their babies with. Feeding them under blankets, placing them on public floors in bucket car seats, and covering the stroller, so god knows what is in it. This sort of "not seeing" the baby really scares me.
    @anonymous- Well what would you have us learn then??

  12. Great article, thank you. I've re-blogged it on my blog. :)

    @anonymous: I love it when people only read what they want to read. NOWHERE in her article did the author say ANYTHING about parents who choose to parent as in part one not loving their children (as much) as 'Third World alternative parenting' choosers. Please read it again and then come back with a revised statement. <_<


  13. This article actually made my heart hurt, because the points made are so true. Very well written.

  14. I agree with some of this an though I am a breastfeeding, cosleepinf, baby wearing mom, I have friends who have done things differently. I would never imply that I love my baby more than love theirs. I do hear what you are saying but I also understand anon comments about how you are comic off holier than thou to them. Also as for the older kids, I don't see that. I see kids who can say and do anything and parents who don't like to say no to them. I think what you were describing was a couple of generations ago. We are not in the generation of entitlement. That comes with it's own set of problems.

  15. The majority of the damaging mainstream child-rearing practices are driven by fear; fear of not being independent enough to care for oneself; fear that they won't have normal sleep patterns or eating habits; fear that they won't be successful if not disciplined properly; the list goes on. However early 'training' is already known for causing psychological damage but old habits die hard. There is a reason why mothers attuned to their child's needs feel that such manipulative methods of getting a child to 'be' a certain way is wrong. We are so concerned about how a child will 'be' later on that we forget that that they are thinking.feeling people right NOW.

  16. I guess guilt causes nasty reactions. I thought it was a great article. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

  17. Is being babied and not having any rights the same thing? I think every bit of what you are saying are examples of parenting that takes away all power from the child. Autonomous to is all rendering children powerless. I see these expectations as one in the same as opposed to two conflicting fields of thought . And thank you for exploring this subject. Something that definitely needs to be addressed. I was just saying to my husband the other day that it is sad that children are dictated to practically thier whole lives and then we wonder why they fail to make good decisions for themselves when they finally get the choice.

  18. From my experience, a lot of those things are things that people of an 'older generation' - shall we say - try to push on new mums. It does sound quite 1950'sish. The people who have given me the most grief for how I parent, the "do you EVER put him down?" or "your STILL feeding?" "he doesn't sleep through the night yet?" "he's not toilet trained?!?!?!" "you dont have to pick him up every time he cries" "breast feeding past 2 is for the mothers selfish benefit" have all been my parents age... or my grandmother... or dumbass GP's...

  19. @Krista: You have a very thought provoking statement there...
    "Is being babied and not having any rights the same thing?"
    Personally, I tried to treat my baby with as much respect and self-direction as possible, though it is true that most people think that babies are nearly inanimate objects with no thoughts or feelings and treat them as such, ie highly controlling, from controlling their environment to what/how/when they eat etc...
    Even though I call what we do to older children eg spoon feeding and not giving any options babying them, these are things I never did with my own baby.
    I would suggest parenting for social change by Teresa Graham Brett if you want to read into the whole parenting/control paradigm (I have a review on here somewhere)

  20. Thanks for the book suggestion. Headed to the library tomorrow! I love anything my Naomi Aldort on this subject! I too raise my son by always looking at what his needs and desires are first. I am always looking for support in this type of parenting as our society is so driven by what is and isn't socially acceptable. I don't care if my son isn't the best "behaved" child in the store or the restaurant. I want him to grow up knowing and trusting his own inner voice, not my voice in his head telling him how to behave so that others will praise me as a parent. Besides, having raised him (he's two and a half) without any discipline I always get comments on how awesome he is wherever we go. Anyway, I love your blog and I am so glad to have come across it. I will definitely pick up the book you suggested. Thank you.

  21. AMEN. With the post would be cleaned up (spelling/formatting) because the message is perfect.

    1. thanks Janine. It's a very old post, I'll check it again and go over the formatting


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