Parenting Woes – Whose Problem Is It Really?

This post has been whirling around my head for more than a year now and I have debated whether it should stay there many a time, why? Because I know this post is going to be contentious, I can only anticipate the comments it will get and the possibility that I might offend many parents is huge. Maybe I’m posting it therefore out of stupidity? Nevertheless I do think it needs to be said so here goes. (I can always delete it later!).

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I’m writing my second book at the moment, called ToddlerCalm (published on October 3rd 2013 – plug over, sorry!), and it’s all about life with 1, 2, 3 and 4 year olds. I’ve just finished up a chapter on brain development, the aim of this chapter being the idea that if parents know what their child is and isn’t neurologically capable of doing and understanding that their expectations will change to something a little more realistic which in turn should hopefully reduce tension for the whole household. My next chapter looks at toddler sleep, again the premise being to myth bust many of the incorrect assumptions we hold in society regarding what a toddler should and shouldn’t be doing sleep wise.

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This then led me to think ‘who really has the problem?‘ Indeed I believe around 90% of what we believe ‘problematic’ when it comes to baby and toddler sleep and behaviour is OUR problem, not theirs. Only somewhere along the line it has morphed into being a problem owned by the child, when and why did this happen?

Is it because we are so ill informed today that we genuinely believe a baby should be sleeping through the night (no longer requiring night feeds) by 6 months? and should be happy to be independent in daycare at 9 months? Do we really believe that two year olds should share, never bite, whine, squeal or hit? Do we really believe that toddlers should understand our logical explanation of why we need them to ‘be good’ and ‘sit nicely’ in a supermarket trolley for an hour?

Incidentally these are ALL myths. In every single scenario I have mentioned above these expectations are incorrect, based on myths and ill informed opinions and NOT current scientifc knowledge. The fact of the matter is that the following are ALL NORMAL behaviours for young human beings:

  • Babies who still take night feeds at 6 months
  • Babies who feed very frequently, particularly in the evenings
  • Babies who wake regularly at night at 12 months
  • Babies who need the security of their parents and don’t go happily to daycare at 9 months
  • Babies who controlled crying or CIO does not work for, short or long term
  • Babies who only sleep when in close proximity to their parents
  • Babies who do not self soothe
  • Toddlers who only sleep when in close proximity to their parents
  • Toddlers who wake early in the morning
  • Toddlers who do not self soothe
  • Toddlers who still wake regularly at night
  • Toddlers who do not share
  • Toddlers who do not listen to you
  • Toddlers who hit/bite/throw/whine/squeal/tantrum
  • Toddlers who do not learn from consequences
  • Toddlers who do not learn from time out/naughty steps/reward charts
  • Toddlers who are not ready to potty train at age two
  • Toddlers who are ‘picky eaters’.

Every single thing on this list is NORMAL for our species, every single thing on this list is HEALTHY AND TO BE EXPECTED for a baby and/or toddler. Nothing on this list is ‘a problem’ in the pathological or developmental sense. I cannot highlight this enough. THESE ARE NORMAL AND HEALTHY BEHAVIOURS OF BABIES AND TODDLERS. They are not problems, at least not problems that belong to the babies and toddlers anyway!

We do however consider all of these problems don’t we? The thing is though these problems therefore do not belong to our children. They belong to US. Let’s not kid ourselves, we have a problem with our baby’s perfectly normal nocturnal sleep patterns, we have a problem with our baby’s needs to be with us beyond our comfort zone, we have a problem with our toddler’s behaviour, we have a problem with our toddler’s communication skills.

So, if the problems belong to us how to fix them? Currently, in our mistaken belief that the problems belong to our offspring, we try to fix them, fix our children that is. Through all manner of methods that have little or no scientific evidence that they are 1) effective, 2) safe – here I’m talking about your ‘Cry it out’, ‘controlled crying’, ‘dream feeds’, early weaning, naughty steps, time out, ignoring the behaviour and covering the child or a chart in reward stickers. Indeed the more antisocial behaviours in my list above indicate an unmet need in the child, why do we not seek to meet this need in order to extinguish the behaviour? Why do we inflict stressful methods on our children to fix a problem that is ours alone?

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None of these resolve the real root of the problem though do they? Because the real root of the problem is us, the adults, the parents. Our incorrect expectations, our misinformed beliefs, our inability or reluctance to modify our lives so that we can cope better with this normal (and transient I might add) behaviour. Our naive following of unqualified child experts. Our lack of proper social and economic support so that we can cope with OUR PROBLEMS.

Personally I find it so wrong that we try to fix our children when they are doing nothing more than the norm for our species, no, indeed the real fixing needs to be done to us and OUR lives. How do we do that? Keep tuned, that post is next on my list!

Sarah

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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Babies, Mothering, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Parenting Woes – Whose Problem Is It Really?

  1. Andrea says:

    I love this post Sarah, you are saying what i’m sure many people are thinking :o). Firstly, i think it is about the support parents get, people are way too busy balancing work and having children. Often people get swept along and are not sure how to parent, they might try things people suggest, they read, they see on TV or their friends and peers are doing – and also trust a HP when the tell them what to do. Secondly, there is guilt, people want to get it right but if they feel like they are doing it wrong or are critisiced then they defend themselves in order to feel justified tha they are a ‘good parent’. My journey has been a rollercoaster, trying not to do what my parents did, trying to find a way that feels right, and all he time people are quick to judge, offer advice and undermine rather than support. Can’t wait for the book :o)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Andrea, I am guessing by HP you mean health professional? I am a maternity support worker worker who fully endorses information by Sarah.I have attended baby calming sessions and wish I had access to such sensible information when I was parenting my babies/ children. I do think that we are influenced by our own experiences as children and peer advice, but hopefully between us we can change the way of thinking and encourage better understanding and expectations πŸ™‚

  2. I feel some relief reading your post! But, must ask, don’t we still need to teach consequences to bad behaviour at toddler stage so they understand good/bad behaviour as they grow up? Or, perhaps the message here is despite trying to teach consequences to a 2 year old, not to be disheartened when they respond with “Go away!”…

    • Hi Michelle, toddlers (under 5s really) do not have sophisticated enough brain development to understand consequences despite what many ‘experts’ may say. Also we should not ‘teach’ them right from wrong, we should model it IMO.

      • Well said. I really do feel relief on a number of points but I do have one query… You say not to “teach” them good/bad but to “model” ourselves, but then what would you do if T starts to tantrum & spits / hits you in anger if a “time out” doesn’t work. (Obviously I don’t spit or hit!)

        By the way, so pleased you said time outs & naughty step don’t work for all toddlers – I was starting to wonder what I was doing wrong!

  3. Cindy says:

    Well done! My favorite statement of the whole article is “Why do we inflict stressful methods on our children to fix a problem that is ours alone?”

    -anxiously awaiting your follow up article.

  4. Your blog sums up what frustrated me when I first became a Mum. Then I learned that I should possibly just try and do what I thought might work and you know what, it worked!! Only a parent knows what their kid is like and how best to deal with it, and if it doesn’t work your way, do some research and try something else! I obediently bought all the Gina Ford books when T was first born. Then when I read that she’s not a mum I chucked them all away. It’s much easier to do some of those things if its not your child, they may work for some people and that’s fine. I wonder if Gina Ford would still insist on her rules even if they didn’t work if she ever had a kid?! Xx

  5. Rachel says:

    Amen! Please don’t delete this post! Before becoming a mum I had literally no idea what to do with a baby and took it upon myself to read a lot, both the so called conventional advice and more recent research. Of course I came to the only possible conclusion from reading the research…babies are not fully developed mini people, and they need our love, compassion and respect in order to thrive. I wish more people would enquire for themselves instead of following advice that comes from a Victorian understanding of ‘good or naughty children’. I find it hard to comprehend that in all other aspects of life we have developed and moved forward in the last 100 years, yet people hold on to these outdated ideas about babies and children.

  6. S says:

    Great post, and very timely after my 15 month old has started to wake at night after being impeccably behaved for a year – it’s difficult at 2 am to stay calm when crying for no reason, but it’s easier for some parents (we are split in our house!) to stay calm, and remember that our child is developing, and changing all the time. In the grand scheme, it’s a minor bump, but the frustration comes from the lack of ability to understand what is the problem – how different life would be if baby could say “mummy (or daddy), I just had a bad dream”, or “i thought you’d left me on my own” etc

  7. Susie Fairgrieve says:

    Not contentious in my eyes, Sarah, all makes total sense, but look forward to your next post for some helpful suggestions for parents! My son rarely slept through the night until he was about two or three, and I had to adjust my expectations – I had to relax about the idea that I would probably feel a bit weary for years, not just weeks. It means a change of daily rhythms and routines, which is really hard when you are juggling work and family life and loads of other demands on time. Luckily running my own company and working largely from home gave me a bit of leeway – I would be at my desk 9am but in scruffy jeans, jumper smelling faintly of baby milk, no make-up etc. Which I would not have been able to do had I ‘gone to work’ in a typical office job. I had a nanny for a month or two, but then decided to be more involved myself as he seemed to need me to continue with breastfeeding and general contact, so I opted for a nursery instead and worked rather strange hours for a couple of years. He really responded to this, never looked back, settled, grew in confidence, and loved nursery. As well as other young mums I met, I found having a few older women around me also helped – by that I mean 50+ – women who were confident but calmer, who had raised their children and had a really good perspective, rather than my contemporaries who were eager but edgy and didn’t have the wisdom in quite the same way.

  8. claire says:

    Very interesting indeed Sarah and a lot rings true there, I admit. I read far to much and beat myself up far to much with my first child. The second was parented by more of an intuitive, common sense approach and less time to worry as occupied with parening the first…I think it paid off, maybe less is more sometimes. Thank you for dispelling those myths! Any plans for Tweencalm? yours hopefully, Claire

    • Indeed, that’s my next project Claire. I sure do need some help there, don’t you wish you were back in the baby and toddler years? Everything was so SIMPLE then compared to life with tweens and teens and ATTITUDE!

  9. Hello!
    Yes, I really, REALLY agree.
    I think a lot of our “problems” stem from fear and insecurity (possibly from the way we were parented?!) so when a child is wakeful a night/ clingy/ shouty/ weepy/ boisterous in public we are primarily worried because of how it reflects on US. We worry about how our parenting will be rated, what others might say about our skills etc.
    I honestly feel that if we were all a lot more secure and let go of our fears, our worries about being judged than suddenly our parenting will be liberated and we will all be able to love more, relax more and enjoy it more!
    Thanks for being controversial πŸ™‚

  10. Niki Clark says:

    Fabulous post – and such great timing!! It resonates very deeply with me as I ‘struggle’ with my (just) three year old daughter’s behaviour. Although I do think her behaviour comes slightly outside the ‘norm’, I have allowed it to stress me out far more than I should have and, of course, this is self perpetuating. The more stressed I become, the worse she behaves. Deep breath!
    Thank you for having the courage to publish your post.
    Niki

  11. Tara says:

    Well said!!!
    My third child is now a toddler and I am a lot more understanding this time around. She sleeps with us and wakes often to nurse, we have never used time outs with her, never used CIO, and potty training…. Well what is that?! Lol
    I remind myself that she is not giving us a hard time, she is having a hard time.
    I wish I had known this with my first child.

  12. cecilia lawrence says:

    So true. I am so glad someone else brings this up as I have been so very disturbed by the way many parents today do not seem to have realistic expectations on their babies/ children. I have been appalled by all the made up ‘ methods” and ways to ‘ control ‘ our children. It is all about independance at an early age, to ‘ Fix’ all the so called ‘ problems ” ( as you say : NOT problems.) It seems to me that people are stressed over the fact the new baby turns all their routines and pre- baby daily life upside down. The baby is expected to just fit into the parents lives. ‘ happy mummy – happy child’ seems to be the justification to do sleep training and to make the child not ‘ disturb’ the parents lives… or early nursery starts even if you are a stay at home mother so you can have your own time! It makes me worried about future generations. It is alot of work being a parent and If you are not willing to let go of your previous self centered life and embrace the slight chaos that parenthood brings, then one should probably think twice. We live in a time where we are so greedy and ‘ want it all”… the career, the money, the great looks and health, and the perfect children…. But I really dont think you CAN have it all without compromising somewhere,,, it seems to me the ones who have to pay the price are the children… ( : I wonder why not more psychologists bring these things up and educate parents. It seems more important to not make parents feel ‘ guilty’ rather than to really look at what is good or bad for a child. It is all parent centred. We need a complete change in attitude.

    • Christina Wright says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Parents seem to expect to get their old lives back (going out, time together in the evenings, cinema trips, ‘me’ time) after a few weeks!

  13. Kamila says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Great post, shame I haven’t red it 3 years ago, when my then 6mts old woke up 4/5x a night and what is seemed I was the only mum ( in “our” group) who couldn’t manage!! I felt so much under peer pressure and incompetent!

    However about 18 mts ago I moved away I just got more relax about the situation and stop push the correct ideas.

    Now my daughter is 3, still wakes up once a night & she loves to sleep next to her mama, but that’s ok ( I love it too, most of the time).

    However, as much as I adore my daughter and would do anything for her, one thing I can’t make myself do it: to have another baby!! As somehow the scary feeling of not being able to coope again is still there!

    Good luck with the book!
    K xx

  14. Great Post Sarah. And yes, you are right it is our problem and ours alone not our innocent children’s. Sadly, we are now living in a severely detached world whereby many parents have none or very little support around them to empower their instinctive, intuitive knowing where their children are concerned. My youngest is currently 2 and is a passionate, spirited soul. She pushes boundaries and I struggle at times to know where to be with it all. I’ve been sleep deprived for about 7 years now. My eldest didn’t sleep through until she was about 4 and my youngest doesn’t sleep through either but I accept that as normal and deal with it. I think we try to fix everything these days and because of the way we live (away from parents, siblings, family in general) we end up putting a huge strain on ourselves. Parenting is a tough job and none of us have all the answers, but it is my feeling that a gentle, loving, conscious approach whereby we can see our own mistakes, learn from them and make changes that benefit the whole family unit are so key. It’s not our children’s fault that the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit. It’s up to us as the adults to try to find the answers so that the pieces will eventually fall into place easily and gently.

  15. Marie says:

    Wow, great article my son is four months old and does his own thing pretty much most if the time, I’m completely led by him. This works perfectly well for us but apparently not so much for people who think its their right to give their informed opinion about his sleeping and eating etc!
    This miraculous ‘routine’ everyone lectures me about may work for some but for us is certainly not a priority.
    It’s hard enough being a new mum without the judgemental comments from people who shake their head because he does not sleep at night without waking!!
    Keep up the good work, ill be watching out for more articles…..rant over!

    • Christina Wright says:

      Go with the flow and follow your instincts as you are doing. Smile, nod, ignore!
      Also whenever anyone asks me “is he good?” I say with as much sarcasm as possible “no he is evil incarnate”. You should see the looks (but they don’t ask again)
      πŸ™‚

  16. julie says:

    Another great post – I always love to read your stuff. Looking forward to the next one sarah – hope the book writing is going well – love and best wishes xx

  17. Ann says:

    My son woke every night until he was 7. Once we moved on from night feeds and the usual baby/toddler issues, He would have ear ache, sore throat, feel sick, need a drink, have a bad dream, be cold, be too hot, wet bed, lost quilt etc. etc. etc. Most of the time I felt he simply needed ME πŸ˜‰ to give him a cuddle and understanding and to deal with whatever ‘problem’ he presented me with. Even now at 28 he turns to me for advice and support on absolutely any topic. Both of my children toilet trained themselves without tears and frustration. They decided when they didn’t want to wear a nappy and when to follow my lead to use the loo. I think it’s OK to gently guide or lead children in these matters, but the choices and timings will be theirs.

  18. Janet Dubac says:

    Wow! Very well said Sarah. This is just what I needed to know and I am extremely grateful to have read this post. I have always thought that these behaviors are not normal and there is something wrong with my kid. Turns out, I am the one who is making it a problem for myself. Thank you for sharing this! I can’t wait to read your next post. πŸ™‚

  19. janetdubac says:

    Wow! Very well said Sarah. This is just what I needed to know and I am extremely grateful to have read this post. I have always thought that these behaviors are not normal and there is something wrong with my kid. Turns out, I am the one who is making it a problem for myself. Thank you for sharing this! I can’t wait to read your next post. πŸ™‚

  20. Jenny says:

    I agree with so much of this, probably all if it. I have a 22 month old. I’m still breastfeeding, didn’t have a full nights sleep for 20 months, refused to sleep train, and so on. I have done lots of research into babies brains and their development. But I went back to work when he was 11 months. Part time for three months then up to full time. I agree that a lot of the actions people take are due to their
    problems or lack of knowledge but sometime we do things because we have to. Some people can’t cope or function on no sleep and financially some need to go to work and this means full time day care. I love reading insights into babies and toddlers but hate being judged when I’ve made well researched and thought through decisions. I look forward to the next instalment but I think I’d have preferred to read them together rather than be left feeling guilty because my baby went to nursery at 11 months. It’s probably too late for that issue to be addressed for me but having details of ways in which we can help out babies adjust to things in a gentle loving way would also help. I agree with so much that you say and really support what you are doing to help educate parents. I hope the point I’m making comes across without looking like a dig or criticism.

  21. Sally says:

    I agree 100% I find myself thinking about things from my toddlers perspective and it all makes sense! My 2.5 yr old is a happy well adjusted little boy who sleeps with me when he wakes in the night ( he starts off in his own bed) has the comfort of still being breastfeeding when he needs it and although shows normal toddler behaviour it is met by me understanding ( or trying too) and comforting and explaining in simple terms why we do things. Life us much easier for us all this way!! But we are seen as not conventional but so what happy toddlers = happy parents!! πŸ™‚ simple x

  22. Kirsty says:

    Interesting post however my now 12, 11, & 7 year old all slept through by 12 months and had times by the front door as toddlers. I agree the problem is often with the parent but there needs to be boundaries for both. My methods haven’t done anything other than give me amazingly well behaved kids who respect all those around them. Time out is often time for the parent to claim down to avoid over punishment.

  23. Bea Esme says:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. I agree but I also feel for all those mums who have to listen to a lot of advice and opinions from family and friends that put them under a lot of pressure and make them feel like there is a problem that must be ‘fixed’.

    I agree with other posts that allude to the fact that it is about perception and if you keep company with other mums with a similar parenting philosophy then you are less likely to feel as though your baby isn’t ‘normal’ whatever that means!

    On a personal note, watching my very clingy baby, who wouldn’t be held by anyone else for more than a few minutes, turn in to a confident and curious toddler has been amazing and reassuring for me to see.

    He’s 15 months now and I feel I can see that I made the right decisions for him. He nursed intensively for months and months and still nurses more than many of his little friends. He didn’t like to be ‘put down’ so he was and is carried regularly throughout the day. He has always refused to sleep anywhere apart from with me and I can’t imagine even trying anything else now with any subsequent babies.

    We get it wrong sometimes, I’m not always as patient and understanding as I’d like to be but overall he is lovingly and carefully parented and I can now see that he has benefited from that. He knows he has worth, he demands to have his own way and he has no quarms about letting us know if something is not right. This confidence in his rights is challenging to respond to at times – especially when it’s at odds with what we know he needs but I wouldn’t change it; he already has far more confidence and self-esteem than I’ve ever had!

  24. I think one of the biggest problems in parenting is that mothers listen far too much to TV program ‘expert’ on parenting, all children are not the same and one cannot apply one hard and fast rule to all children. The topics mentioned here that is being covered in the second book, looks interesting and as a natural health practitioner in South Africa who deal with children and behavioural disorders, one really only have to talk to the parents. A small percentage can be caused by certain metal toxicity which causes the brain to behave is a certain way and food allergies are in fact brain allergies causing behaviour to change. I think all would be mothers have the maternal instinct, but these days children are having children, is there no ‘Mother School” where would be mothers can be sent to see if they qualify for motherhood. If I think that how many degrees and work experience one has to become a company CEO, etc., and yet to bring a human BEING into the world, requires to qualification, just possibly just plenty of motherly love, but this cannot be all.

  25. tiffany says:

    An utterly PERFECT explanation of the problem with the parent / child relationship! EXPECTATION from the adult for the CHILD to behave in a certain, acceptable way, to relieve the pressure of parenting responsibility from the adult!! I had my beautiful little girl later in life and I’m so glad I did….I feel ready / able to be totally ‘selfless’ and it’s no easy task, but I think it’s totally necessary because she is highly dependent…it’s right that she overwhelms my life right now, that she dominates my life with her needs…..it’s how it should be, because she doesn’t know how else to behave….she also needs to learn so much / to physically grow / emotionally develop / intellectually learn…..Being selfless, I think is the no 1 life skill / attribute necessary to be a great parent…because babies are totally dependent on you for everything, so you have to give up your personal needs, because the childs needs are far more demanding / necessary / important….it’s HIGHLY demanding on a personal level….I treat this dependency and my baby with respect and empathy and understanding….I am raising this tiny little beautiful being, how lucky am I….what a privilege….every day she learns / grows and it’s a two way street for teaching / learning; even though I am her parent….I will always play a parent role, but will allow her independence to grow day by day, at her pace, and not expect her to do things at my pace, because it makes my life easier…or because I haven’t bothered to read up on the stages in her development to truly understand her needs….it’s my job as a parent to be aware of her capabilities and needs at any given point!

    ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON….educate the parents, don’t discipline the child!!

    Thank you so much for being a light at the end of the parenting tunnel….Personally you reaffirm what I feel inside….and that’s always reassuring in a world where so much discipline / control / ignorance and ignoring a poor dependent vulnerable childs dependency needs seems to predominantly exist, while adults remain selfish and indulgent…Finding set bed routines through controlled crying methods, just so they can have some ‘adult’ time to themselves, or to connect back to each other…both should be totally devoted and connected to the child, first and foremost….why should we put a baby in a cold room / cot by themselves, when most adults don’t want to be / hate being alone and crave companionship…..

    An adult would become selfless (well some would), for their elders perhaps, would be forced to set their own needs aside in a situation where their elders became dependent / needy through illness etc…it would take over their lives caring for a sick person…it’s no different for caring for a baby….both are highly dependent states of being….more emphasis should actually be given to the a child, rather than trying to educate this poor defenceless vulnerable infant how to act / behave, when it hasn’t got the skill to understand what you’re talking about, let alone what you’re expecting?

    Have you thought about writing a book on caring for more than one child in an attached parenting style? How does it work having more than one child to devote your time to etc? That would be amazing and you clearly have the experience? I wonder if you set the scene for the first, give the first everything they need etc, that they become more independent as a result! i.e. it’s seriously hard work in the first few years, but the more selfless time you give, more you devote during this time, more you just give of yourself, in giving into your childs needs….the greater and more successful the emotional foundation…. and voila, you create an emotionally independent first child by default….because, quite simply, you’ve met their needs and don’t leave them to be an emotionally ‘needy’ adult! needing to ‘play up’ to get your attention, or manipulate you, because why would they need to, if you give them what they need….

    I’m totally enjoying / supporting your theories / practices…..thank you

    • Thank you so much. I’m currently working on a book for parents of 7-13y/olds (and have just finished my toddler book). I have thought about working on one for 2nd/3rd/4th time mothers after that – debriefing previous birth experierences/planning for the new birth/integrating a new child into the family/trying to meet everyone’s needs etc… just wondering if there is really a market for that sort of book though?

      • tiffany says:

        absolutely! go for it….I would definitely buy it….even though I’m 41 now and probably doubtful I’d have any more, Id be b interested in hearing your experience for one, on how you worked the attached parenting model into a multiple children family dynamic! I did read something quite interesting / lovely, which Id overlooked, which is what attention multiple children families don’t get from parents, they make up for with sibling love!! So it all balances out….I can imagine though that if you put in the serious work / effort in the early years with the first baby, well, you’ll create an emotionally stable child, who may at first feel a bit left out with new baby, but will adjust pretty quickly to being an older sibling….but regardless, they all still sleep with you at night……I for one, would just wanna have the most mahoosive bed and let everyone just cuddle up together!! It’s not like they’re going to want to still sleep with their parents when they hit teenage years, so I for one, don’t think there’s any fear in encouraging co sleeping for as long as they need…..if anything, I think it makes them want to leap into independency! When you give a child (or an adult for that matter) what it wants, fulfil the need, the need no longer exists! Voila, healthy balanced child, not needy, just happy!

      • Sam O'Keeffe says:

        I think there would definitely be a market for it. At the mom & baby group I go to all subsequent moms talk about the difficulty of balance with the older child(ren). I like your concepts & try my best to be completely baby-led & ignore other people’s opinion with my 11 week old but I would be more nervous when I have my next child in case my eldest misses out as the bond I have with her now by following my instinct is amazing. Please consider x

  26. Emma says:

    I completely agree with these issues being the parent’s problems rather than the child’s problems and this idea has helped guide me through my sons first four years. However, whilst I never blamed my son for waking through the night or throwing a tantrum etc I recognised that I sometimes did have a problem with this behaviour. So I think it is still ok to try and show our kids how to self sooth or calm themselves down rather than scream etc because it makes all of our lives happier. For example, my husband and I felt we needed our bed to be our space so we always tried to settle our son into his own bed even though he would have obviously slept better cuddled in my arms, and at four he now knows that our bed is only for morning cuddles not a place to sleep and he is and has always been happy with this. Just because something takes a bit more effort or doesn’t seem to be exactly what the child wants doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

  27. sean says:

    I agree with what you say. Does it also follow then that normal behavior for parents in our day and age, would be to expect good behavior, expect our kids to not bite, expect them to understand? My son is 9 years old – he still exhibits behavior that annoys me although he is by no means badly behaved – in fact i think he is an angel. My point is that kids will ALWAYS rub us up the wrong way. I do get though that this article is aimed at people really concerned about their child’s behavior.

  28. I fullheartedly agree! Thanks for sharing!!! I can’t wait to read more!!!!

  29. Marina says:

    Why should this post be controversial? It says the truth. The society of GROWN-UPS has decided that babies and toddlers should do what they should to fit our own program…
    Thank you for having put into words the obvious, or what should be…

  30. Not hard to read at all! As parents we need to support development whilst enforcing only the limits that are truly needed! If parents find themselves changing limits, it probably wasn’t needed in the first place!

  31. julie says:

    Great, reassuring post! I will very much look forward to your next post with the ‘how to’s! xx

  32. Sandra says:

    Hi Sarah,

    How interesting is your message/article. I have a baby under the category of “demanding baby” it’s hard work, my baby finds it difficult to sleep and I give my baby all the reassurance she needs but even that is not enough nor will ever be as if a baby needs constant reassurance and nurturing, then that’s all she need, I’ll carry on doing this even if I break my back, even if I do, I’ll do what my baby needs. I hope not to break my back literally but it is how hard it feels. On the other hand, I enjoyed what you wrote as I feel that “Society” puts so much pressure on mothers that your child should be sleeping by now, developed this and that by now and comparing with this and that. It seems to be the lack of understanding of parents and people and as you put it, “ill informed” about the personalities and behaviours of babies, they are all different. Therefore, learning to accept your own child’s needs is crucial and have the right people e.g. partner, family and friends is crucial, otherwise, mothers will start to question themselves what they are doing wrong! and ending in blaming themselves for it! which is totally unfair.

    Good luck on your book!

    Sandrita xx

  33. Jenn says:

    Do you know anything about “elimination communication?” I read a book about it when prepping to potty train my 1st-born, and it redefined potty training for me. I am going to try to “potty train from birth” my 3rd who is due in a few months, so I haven’t put it into practice yet, but the science behind it makes sense. What made so much sense to me was the idea that babies are born not wanting to soil themselves, and that we train them, by keeping them in absorbent diapers, out of this natural desire. My son, whom I didn’t potty train from birth, was aware of wet/dirty diapers at 16 months, so we started a slow process of helping him reconnect with his body in that way, and getting him to go on a toilet instead of in his pants. He was “ready” much before 24 months, but we also didn’t push it; we didn’t pressure him to meet certain goals for potty training, and he was able to figure it out without much stress for anyone (well, my husband always was a little stressed about a little person suddenly peeing or pooing in the house, but he went along with it and it ended up being a little more entertaining for me to watch him be so wary!).

    In our home, we tend to aim for certain desired behaviors, but don’t worry if we “fall short” of those goals. My husband and I enjoy spending time together in the evenings and having our bedroom to ourselves, but knowing that it’s not really natural for a toddler or baby to wake up alone and be okay with it, we don’t often feel frustrated when a restless kiddo needs a cuddle after bedtime. It definitely reduces parental frustration when you know what is normal infant and child behavior, even if you work towards goals (sleeping in their own bed, using a nice voice and not a whine, eating what is served at meals and not expecting a unique dish, etc) while they are still young. And, by the way, I wholeheartedly believe that what Tracy Hogg said in “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” works: Start as you mean to go on. If you want to co-sleep, then start from the beginning! If you want to make one meal and have everyone eat it, then don’t make pureed baby foods! It’s also good to keep in mind that if you find your family and your children falling into habits you don’t like, you CAN change them, even if it’s hard at first. The sooner you do it and the younger your kids are, the easier it is for you and for them!

    • tiffany says:

      Jenn, i’m intrigued by this concept of ‘elimination’ communication’…..do you have any recommendations on literature? Interestingly enough — appreciate this is a completely different subject — but not entirely — it’s a similar principle to training a puppy to use newspaper — I had an amazing lady / friend / dog trainer once, who educated me as such — you actually get up every 3/4 hours and show the puppy to eliminate outside — rather than ‘teach’ it to stay in a room all night, where it naturally does not pee in it’s bed, but would pee on the newspaper next to it — carefully laid out by a good intending adult! Actually, puppies are incredibly clever and I then tried this when breeding one of my dogs — I had a litter of 6 puppies and every 4 hours through the night, would religiously wake up, and open the back door, and let pups have a roam, when one pee’d (outside), I would praise the puppy — eventually the pups learned and trusted that someone would let them out, and eventually you begin to widen the window — i.e. after a week of going every 4 hrs to let them out — which is actually only getting up once in the night, you then go 4 1/2 hrs, 5hrs, 5 1/2 hrs etc…and eventually the pups learn to hold it, til they are let out…..I started this process around 4 weeks, prob in hindsight, 6 weeks would have done the trick, and to do this religiously for 2 – 4 weeks …..and hey presto, all the pups were pretty much toilet trained by the time they left me at 12 weeks old!! they had the odd accident, (so I was told, but I also kept a puppy, so could see how the process panned out)…..but nothing close to what Ive experienced when I’ve had dogs before from breeders, or since, where I picked up my 4th dog from a breeder who kept the pups in an outdoor shed — clearly they were left to roam, without any encouragement / education etc…and this 4th puppy, at 4yrs old, still has odd accidents, whereas my home bred pup, always barks at the door to go out and she just wouldn’t dream of soiling ‘indoors’…..all the other 5 siblings are the same…..so yeah, I really get what you are saying and thank you for bringing this up, because we are training our kids to have soiled nappies — but what is the alternative with babies I wonder, given we are a civilised bunch of humans, who don’t want a child peeing in our laps haha….or on the sofa, or doing a big poop in our beds while co-sleeping! I’d love to learn more about this? would you put your baby on a potty using the same principle — i.e. every few hours and praise them when they did a wee? haha

      • Jenn says:

        I somehow missed that you responded! It’s over a year later, but the book I read about elimination communication is called “The Diaper-Free Baby.”

  34. What a great article- both challenging our ideas of what we should be doing as parents, as well as our preconceptions about what our kids ‘should’ be doing. Can I ask out of interest, what do you mean when you say dream feeding may not be safe? Thanks πŸ™‚

  35. Joy Godwin says:

    Thank you for stating what my heart has known all along. After much loss, I had two wonderful children. Best advice saved me: A wise, loving and experienced LLL leader and loving mother told me to listen to everything with an open mind, read as much as I wanted and use only that which rung true in my heart and embraced what I I wanted for my children. I found the wonderful closeness and convenience of nursing made it easy to care for my infant and have a happy healthy baby and toddler. We practiced the family bed, offered the sling, our closeness and time whenever they needed it. I tried to be a relaxed and confident mom who my children could trust and I smiled, as much as possible. I learned the art of loving guidance after monumental failures and lessons in humility. When I thought I finally had it down, they were grown and moving out. They are fabulous, loving people. Now when I hear a little one crying, my heart causes me to empathize rather than judge. LISTEN closely to your heart, it speaks volumes of wisdom and can lead to random acts of kindness. I mean parental kindness.
    Example: Empathy: If I were upset, for whatever reason, and my spouse calmly walked me to my room, laid me on the bed and said, ‘You just stay here for a while until you feel calm and THEN you can join us.’. I would NOT be interested in self-soothing. In fact, I would be more than interested in making him perfectly aware of my frustration. Sadly, our infants can’t do that and many lay crying until in desperation, they give up. This behavior is not self-soothing, it is only resignation to the reality of our misunderstanding. We may be able to help them to recover from whatever has happened, but is it enough. I believe we, as parents, need to tenderly and lovingly help our children work through whatever life hands them even if we do not understand it or they are being ‘difficult’. When I hear this term, I want to ask WHO exactly is being difficult??
    How will they learn to care, if we do not show them what it looks like, for REAL? They must learn the importance of feeling dependent, loved and understood to know its value. We will most assuredly reap what we sow!

  36. Zoe says:

    Hi Sarah, great article as always. I eagerly await the next chapter!
    Not until attending a babycalm ante-natal class when I was 37-weeks pregnant last year did I really think about how I was going to look after my baby – I was pregnant, I knew that, but the thought of being responsible for an entirely dependent being terrified me!
    I had my mum advising me on this and that. She bought me Tracey Hogg’s books and would lament at how great ‘Super Nanny’ was, that babies/children should be trained like dogs, and that what’s wrong with society is that people don’t discipline or say ‘No’ to their children enough! And the most repeated phrase of hers, ‘well it never did you any harm!’ Really the smacking, shouting and fear never did me any harm? Oh I wonder where I get my massive issues of self doubt, crippling social anxiety and clinical depression from then Mum?! Anyway, I digress!
    As soon as my little boy arrived almost 12-months ago, I instinctively knew I wanted to breast feed him (having thought the NHS were ramming it down my throat beforehand!) and I was not going to be following any routine, other than that set by my baby!
    Fast forward a year, and everyone comments how content and happy he is. Yes he still wakes 2-4 times a night, yes I still breast feed him, and yes he still occasionally sleeps in my bed, but this is normal! I now ignore the comments from either the older generation or my peers when they say ‘you’re still breast feeding him? No wonder he wakes so regularly! It’ll be habit now. You’ve got to put yourself first, he’ll just have to learn!’ Or ‘just let him cry, he’s old enough to learn now!’ Or variations on a theme!
    Now that he’s nearly one, and toddling around with 6-teeth, he’s in to everything. I’m attempting to follow my instincts and gently parent him, bearing in mind his cognition at this age, but how do I tackle my Mum, who frequently shouts ‘NO’ at him, for example if he attempts to touch her glasses (on her face) or when she suggests I bite him back if he bites me, because she says ‘he’s got to learn’ or similarly when she goes to smack him for being ‘naughty’ as she sees it (which I know will come in the future!)? In truth, I’m probably still slightly scared of my Mum, but I don’t want her out-dated parenting styles impacting my baby!
    (Sorry for the long post!) Thanks again, Zoe x

    • tiffany says:

      I can so understand / relate to your post Zoe…..My baby is just coming up to a year now and I have followed a similar parenting style to yours…..my father is very ‘routine’ structured and he was parented that way and I think also where a baby was treated like a bit of a nuisance, rather than a joy, where he was left outside in the fresh air, while his mum did all her housework! My mum is much more relaxed, but still has a few remarks which make me twinge — all babies need to cry, it’s exercise for them? Or perhaps where she gets louder than the baby, which disempowers a baby (it’s a method and I respect that, but it’s not my way)….I want to empower my child….my mum also suggests weaning baby from boob now, but I really feel she makes these remarks because she see’s how tired I am….but, I really am very happy breast feeding and will do so til baby self weans…..it’s only a few years of my life, and I love the connection we have….but I think the comments like I said, are really just suggestions as she can see how tough it is sometimes for me, especially being a solo mum….I have kept away really from most of my family (siblings and my father) and only had my mum involved, as the majority of the time she is passive, respectful and really suggests things out of ignorance, rather than intent….I felt v protective of my baby, like you, and for me I think that has been the answer — to switch off from those who challenge / disrespect my parenting style, especially while I’m sleep deprived and in the ‘thick’ of motherhood….being a mummy is hard enough, without having your every move challenged…..my only advice, would be to limit the exposure your son has to those you feel don’t respect / follow your parenting styles….that way the majority of his learning is based around your more gentle parenting techniques, which will give him the firm foundation he needs….and he will learn, in small amounts, that the world is a bit harsher and people do have different ways of behaving around him, which really, although painful, does prepare him….I guess it’s how much do you want him to be exposed to harsher parenting styles vs how much do you want to nurture him to prepare him for life…both prepare, but one leaves difficult after effects, the other I believe gives them the inner strength, confidence, self esteem to cope and deflect harsh people in life! and walk away from that type of energy! I guess, what I am trying to say, in an empathic way, is I totally get where you are coming from, and I can relate to you, and personally I have addressed this by distancing myself from those who don’t respect me or my parenting techniques….denouncement, often sends a clear message, especially if people won’t listen or respect you, that do you know what, I am just not willing to tolerate this from you? And I won’t expose my son to this type of parenting…..the trouble is, it also triggers ‘hot spots’ in you, so you have to go away and deal with your childhood wounds — which isn’t a bad thing, but you have to heal from the inside gently, by having some spells of distance, and some spells of attachment, then the healing comes in between…I have spent lots of time in the past having counselling, and part trained in counselling, so I have healthier boundaries now, of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour around me and my baby….if others don’t adhere, respect my wishes, I simply detach with love….until they realise that they will loose me, if they carry on disrespecting me….it’s their choice….somewhere along the line, you have to teach others how to treat you….and maybe have a conversation at some point with your mum, to explain that how she treated you as a child, her parenting methods, did actually affect you in an adverse way…a difficult conversation to have….it’s a life long growth process…and with each generation comes human evolvement…..but we have to teach others, as well as learning ourselves I feel xx good luck

  37. TheBrutalKremlin says:

    HOOOOOOORAY! Somebody with a head on her shoulders! My Great-Grandma and Grandma told me this. I’m encouraged to see a real shift toward common sense and away from the PC Pollyanna parenting brigades.

    Now, hit a home run and do a post on how kids need structure and discipline, and leaving them to wane on their own after they get past the ‘cute’ stage is what’s undermining our society – go on…dare ya!

  38. Anel says:

    Thank you so much for this. What a huge weight we place on our children. I want them to be who they are and enjoy every developmental stage and I really want your book, Sarah

  39. AnΓ©l Olsson says:

    Reblogged this on anelos and commented:
    What a phenomenal woman. I must have her book on Toddlers. My babies are toddlers now. BOOHOO!

  40. Gillian says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Please keep speaking up and encouraging others to stop biting their tongues. Why do we all show such respect for all the old wives tales when we see those sucked in by them? We need to share the truth and new parents are looking for help. Don’t be afraid to speak up! I love your voice!

  41. Grace says:

    I entirely agree that these “problems” are not with the children. I am hesitant to agree, though, that the problem is the parents. Perhaps you could say more about what you mean by that? In my experience of running support groups for parents of babies and toddlers, a majority have acquired these beliefs from healthcare professionals and applied them against their own better instincts. Is that not a problem with the HPs rather than with the parents?

  42. Max Donohoe says:

    So very glad you didn’t delete it! Xx thank you

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