Worse than discussing politics or religion?

Etiquette tells us not to discuss politics or religion during dinner, and I don’t think I always follow that rule, but I have found another topic that is about as sensitive as politics and religion and that is parenting.  
Yesterday the AttachMode family went to another family for dinner. We don’t know them very well but met through a mutual friend and they invited us to their mansion (yes, they have ‘real’ jobs and therefore earn real money) for a barbecue. And as you probably know from reading this blog, BlueEyes sleeps in our bed, is being worn in a sling and drinks my milk. You can call this attachment parenting, although I don’t necessarily want to be associated with people who think their parenting style is superiorand who are needlessly spreading diseases by not vaccinating their kids.
Anyway, the dad of the family that we visited proudly announced that they started the “Cry-it-out method”. Since I didn’t want to be judgmental (and since I was at the same time trying to persuade BlueEyes not to throw wooden blocks at a huge flat screen TV) I didn’t say anything but just asked how that was going for them. He said it went well and that the night before it only took 15 minutes of crying before the kid succumbed to sleep. At 5 they decided the baby was sleepy and they put him in bed. He immediately started crying and they set the timer for him. After 5 minutes one of them went upstairs and came back within seconds, only to leave the baby crying for another five minutes. At 6 the baby was brought downstairs again to drink some milk, but after that he was immediately placed back in his crib and continued to cry. When we left at 8 the baby was still crying but the parents didn’t go upstairs every five minutes any more, but only occasionally and they always came back really fast and left the baby there crying. 
The whole thing broke my heart, and I’m not sure if this is what the CIO method is about. I don’t think crying for 3 hours straight is still considered self-soothing… I didn’t dare to say anything about it yesterday, and today I’ve spent the whole day wondering whether I should have. And that’s why this made me realize that talking about parenting is an even more sensitive subject than talking about politics and religion.

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10 Comments

Filed under attachment parenting, baby, babywearing, breastfeeding, sleep

10 responses to “Worse than discussing politics or religion?

  1. Anonymous

    That doesn't sound like the greatest application of CIO. Though I will admit we didn't get it right the first time. Though why you would invite people over while in the middle of figuring out CIO is a mystery to me. I don't think we ever let ours cry for that long. Maybe an hour a few times.

    What would you have said, if anything? I know people get upset at crying babies, but that's just what they do.

  2. I know that babies cry, but we try to minimize the time that BlueEyes spends crying BY HIMSELF. When he cries I try to figure out why he cries and tell him why I think he is crying and that I understand what (I think) is going on. I wouldn't want to be left by myself to cry either, especially if I didn't have the ability to express myself otherwise.
    I guess I wish that I had said something like that.

  3. Yeah, it's easiest not to talk about these things around here where we live (a very traditional red state). I almost died when we had a friend's kid who was not yet one year old over for lunch and we heard the mom tell him that if he threw his food one more time she was going to “thump” him. (Move things out of the way and distract was our technique at that age, and for a couple more years after that. She didn't actually hit her kid so I didn't say anything, just moved stuff out of the way.)

    There are a lot of versions of CIO. The one that Ferber, the main popularizer of CIO, recommends is much more gentle than what your friends were doing. In places where CIO is prevalent, women sometimes want permission not to do it and have a lot of guilt if they don't do it. (Around here the message is that if parenting doesn't hurt, you're doing it wrong.) I tend to stick to a general line of how we're the laziest parents on the face of the planet and we've always done what is easiest for us no matter what anybody else says (which is the essence of AP, not having a “superior parenting style”), and our kid has surprisingly and amazingly turned out just fine. None of the dire warnings came to pass. He's been putting himself to bed since he was 3 years old in his own bed, despite co-sleeping. He walked early and plays on his own despite slinging. He eats healthy food and is healthy, despite never eating on a schedule etc. etc. etc. And, I'll say, what is easiest is different for different parents and for different kids and that's because nature knows what it's doing.

  4. “When he cries I try to figure out why he cries and tell him why I think he is crying and that I understand what (I think) is going on. I wouldn't want to be left by myself to cry either, especially if I didn't have the ability to express myself otherwise.”

    I don't think this would have flown so well, given they were in the middle of doing it. If anything, sympathetically suggesting alternatives or just asking questions is probably a better way to go. (Because sometimes parents are doing it because of peer pressure, but sometimes they're at their wits end trying to figure out how to get more sleep.)

    If the kid was younger than 4 months, I might feel like I needed to mention that CIO supposed to be dangerous before 4-6 months and that if they really want to do it they should get the Ferber book because there's so much misinformation on CIO out there.

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  6. In “blue states” opposite things seem to happen =) The parents are frequently super-tolerant and permissive with their kids: “We just don't forbid anything, you know. They will learn one day”. And so this “other kid” beats all your kids, destroys a couple of toys, hides several more, and also steals one in the end, – while wining / throwing tantrums / crying all the time (depending on the personality of the kid). Argh. All extremes are terrible =)

    Especially since parenting isn't even a good predictor of how the kid turns out eventually! (See “The Nurture Assumption”). Why would not parents around just give up on all these theories and stick to something simple that would work for them personally? =)

  7. Yeah, we spent some time in one of those cities as well (it isn't the blue state, so much as the suburban/urban blue city in those cases, and even then only an upper-middle-class subset… lots of ex-lawyer SAHM in our experience). Where they have multi-hour parenting classes on how not to parent your child (Alphie Kohn is very popular, “non-violent parenting” is another). It was equally crazy.

    Here's our rant on extremes: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/our-parenting-philosophy/

  8. I don't think this would have flown so well, given they were in the middle of doing it.
    You're right, and now that I'm thinking about it longer, I think I should have said that they shouldn't feel embarrassed to go and comfort him or something along those lines. Because maybe they felt it was impolite to leave during dinner or something like that. And explain more about how we do things with our baby. The baby was 6 months old by the way.

  9. Yes anything extreme just seems… well extreme I guess. But responding to 'extreme parenting' stays the same: it's hard to say something without insulting people and hurting their feelings, because most parents are very convinced about the method they are following.

  10. Anonymous

    That must have been very hard to hear a baby cry that much. That is so uncomfortable for me and especially when I am lactating. I would have had to come up with some excuse to leave.

    I don't get how it can be good to train a 6 month old that you won't respond to their cries. It is an important way for them to communicate!

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