No Baby, No Cry: The Blame Game Resurfaces

According to a recent posting in the on-line version of Psychology Today, parents who allow their babies to “Cry it Out” end up with damaged children who will turn into maladjusted and possibly dangerous adults.

Written by Dr. Darcia Narvaez, the post states: “We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.”  The vicious cycle continues! Nothing like a sweeping generalization to stoke the fires of fury and judgement.

Naturally, irresponsible statements like the quotation above cause defensiveness, which just quickens the cycle of judgement.

On one side, Crying it Out is often portrayed as allowing a three-week-old baby to shriek and cry to the point of vomiting and passing out. (Most popular sleep training methods like Ferber and Weissbluth recommend not starting a sleep routine until about four to six months of age.) On the other side, co-sleeping parents or attachment parenting parents are portrayed as fawning on their children and allowing the child to run the show, no matter what.  (Actually, Dr. Sears, one of the popular proponents of Attachment Parenting encourages parents to use positive discipline and set limits.)

All sides of sleep-training or non-sleep-training arguments seem overly willing to throw extreme views and examples at each other. Those of us in the middle are left to wonder if one or the other is correct. Do my son’s anxieties stem from the two nights of crying it took before he began to fall asleep on his own?  Is my daughter demanding and uncooperative because she was left to wail for hours in the dark?

Oh, wait!  I never used the “Cry it Out” method with my daughter. Hmmmm. Then what on earth could it be?  Her personality, maybe?  Her age?  My overly hovering parenting techniques? (And yes, I do tend to hover just a bit.)  Perhaps she is in need of so much attention because she co-slept with us until 14 months? But how does that explain my son’s desire for lots of affection and attention?  Could it be, just maybe, that they are children? Or, even more likely, it’s because we’re all just human beings.

How parents and caregivers choose to raise children is as individual and personal as it gets. Is at least one parent at home? Boy does that make a difference with sleep habits, doesn’t it?  It also influences the decision to breastfeed or not. How big is your living space? Back in our 650 square foot apartment, we decided to co-sleep with my daughter to avoid waking up her brother during the night.  That decision was based purely on proximity, not on any researched philosophies. It worked for us, but it may not have worked for others.

What angers me about so-called articles like the Psychology Today piece  mentioned above, is that it’s clearly an attempt at divisiveness.  Using “research” from a decade (and even a century!) ago, the author is merely asserting her agenda to chastise parents who don’t adhere to her beliefs. Dr. Narvaez is not providing new information – although she presents her assertions as a recent discovery with merit.  It harms parents, especially first-time parents, and it causes rifts between people who should be offering up advice to one another with  support, not judgement. There’s enough of that to go around without it masquerading as an unbiased and scientifically researched piece of information.

Hopefully the stigmas associated with most parenting choices (I hesitate to say all, but I can’t think of any without some sort of stigma.) won’t continue to keep parents from discussion how they parent and accepting that we’re all just trying to do the best we can for our children and ourselves.

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  1. Really smart story, Kristin. Darcia Navarez has a terrific bio, but it leaves out perhaps the most important qualification: has she raised children of her own?

  2. Looking at her and her husband’s website( I don’t believe she has children.

    So a woman, who has never has children tells mothers that they are damaging their children if they use a CIO method. She also says mothers should breastfeed for 2 – 5 years and supports “Stone Age Parenting”. All of these may be fine if that’s what a mother wants. But when a woman, especially one who has never raised a child, comes out and tell mothers they are failing if they don’t do what she advises, she is doing more harm than good.

  3. Great post. I really hate the divisive nature of so many parenting articles these days. It leaves parents constantly wondering and worrying about if they are doing the right thing by their kids rather than just enjoying the process and their children for the unique individuals that they are.

  4. “Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being.” The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery.

    Thanks for that, walter.

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