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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cry It Out: A Failure to Communicate

Long before I ever became I mother I, foolishly, presumed to give advice to new parents. As many often do. I was an unresearched supporter of the "Cry It Out" (abbreviated CIO) method and encouraged moms I was friends with to "be strong" when their resolve in this method was fading. Behind their backs I would scoff at their weakness. Didn't they know that it was best for their child? If they can't do this their children were doomed to become bratty and spoiled.

Odd position to take especially since, even then, I was very interested in doing things the "natural" way. I've always had a sense of trepadation when it came to deviating from the natural process of things. But why such a blindspot? I think it's just because I'd known so many experienced parents who swore by this method and their kids had turned out ok. And it's just the way things are done, or so I thought. Funny how relatively new things permeate society on so deep a level that we forget things were ever done any other way.

Since becoming a parent the idea of CIO becomes more and more unfeasible. And now I have become a mother who is scoffed at because I am "weak" and "permissive", doomed to have a raving brat forever swinging from my apron strings. I am fine with people thinking that because now I am certain it isn't true. At 5 months old my AP baby enjoys his alone time. He spends quite a bit of time rambling around in his walker or examining all the colorful toys on his jumper. Because, I believe, he is already secure in the knowledge that whenever he needs something mommy and daddy will be there to take care of it.

I'll admit, I came into Attachment Parenting somewhat by accident. We sort of fell into it very instinctually. I breastfeed, so cosleeping became the more desireable prospect if I had any hope of getting sleep for myself. We birth bonded so babywearing grew out of that very naturally. And maybe it's selfish because it does make my family's lives much easier. But isn't the ultimate goal of CIO convenience?

Consider this, CIO is a relatively new parenting style. First known publishing of materials outlining this method date at around 1907. For thousands of years prior, and today in countries outside the US, Attachment Parenting is the norm.

Children are very intelligent. As humans one thing that sets us apart from animals is the gift of language. Simply because a child is not capable of communicating phonically does not mean there is no language value to their method of communication, even if we are not always able to understand it.

Parents are often assured that as long as the child is dry, fed, and well (not ill or injured) that their child is crying for "no reason" and to ignore them. I wish we would think of our children in more human terms. When was the last time you stood in front of someone and cried for no reason? We cry sometimes just because there are times we feel we need to cry. There is some pent up emotion that wants to express itself but that is still a reason. Why would a child be any different just because they are young? Youth is no exemption to the desire for self expression.

What does ignoring our children's expressive cries tell them? Well ask yourself this, what would it mean to you? Try and recall all the communications failures you've experienced in your relationships and how frustrating and painful they are. How have they negatively affected the quality and level of trust you have in that relationship? Do you really think that it's best to "train" your child to accept that as normal from birth and to not expect any better from the most important relationships in their lives?

What are we really afraid of when it comes to responding to our child's cries? I don't think the idea of raising spoiled children is the real reason. If we teach our children that their emotional communication is unimportant and to be ignored we are really training our children to bury their emotions. To foster a sense of safety with regard to emotional communication is to open ourselves up to confrontation with emotions. Being trained to bury emotions ourselves, we fear we may fail at confronting them in a healthy way.

It's so important to not only focus all our efforts on raising them to be hard workers and future leaders but to remember we are raising future spouses, parents, and friends. We have a responsibility to equip them for success in these areas and not just to train a child to be more "manageable" in the here and now.

Please take the time to sit down and talk to your child no matter how old. If you have a babbling infant stop talking and listen to them. When they are finished respond positively to them. If they are crying for no reason you can discern, hold them, use a soothing voice and speak gently to them and don't be stingy with the hugs and kisses! It's been said thousands of times, in relationships and the workplace, communication is key! Raising a child who is an excellent communicator is raising a child that excels.

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