When you're encased in your happy little attachment parenting bubble, it's easy to forget how differently some other babies experience their first few years. So I have to admit that I was shocked when I spent the weekend with a family who err on the stricter side of things. My thoughts on this are all in a bit of a jumble, but I wanted to get my reactions down while they're raw. These are my opinions - they may be right or wrong, but they are mine.
First of all there is the discipline issue. This other family seemed to be overwhelmingly negative in their approach to discipline. If their baby girl (just over 1 year old) did something unwanted, like put something in her mouth, their first strategy was to say "No". If that didn't work (and of course it didn't because she was only just 1) then they punished her by removing her from the place of interest or picked her up so she couldn't do anything. There was no attempt to interest her in a safer or more desirable activity - it was just "No, that's it, no more fun". To me it just seemed so joyless.
Our family's approach to discipline is to first consider whether the activity really is undesirable. For example, should I really tell my daughter off for digging in the flowerbeds? Should I accept that she's copying me and learning? Should I direct her to a bit of the garden where I don't mind her digging? If something is unsafe or I really don't want her doing it then I say "No" and direct her to an alternative activity. I am not one of these parents who refuses to tell their children off, but I just think we need to give them a bit of space to explore and learn in their own way. That's just my opinion and it fits with my personality and upbringing. Different people do things different ways.
The thing that really shocked me was the crying it out. There I was, trying to nurse Cave Baby to sleep, while across the hall this other child was screaming her lungs out trying to get her mum to come and comfort her. I fucking hate crying it out. What's so bad about giving the baby a quick cuddle and sitting with it while it dozes off? The particular parents in question are not totally insensitive bastards and they did eventually relent, at which point the baby went to sleep quietly, easily and calmly. But I could not understand why they were so reluctant to sit with it in the first place. How have several generations of parents been persuaded that they should forget all their instincts and ignore their quite plainly desperate babies?
Don't get into the whole "I was at my wits end and I was about to break down and so I left him to cry" business. I understand that, and I understand that sometimes you just have to shut the door and take a deep breath. What I despise is systematic, repeated crying it out. It's not necessary. It stresses babies. Done frequently, it could harm their mental health as children and adults. Why are we, as a society, so afraid of admitting this? We are afraid to say out loud that formula feeding kills babies and we are similarly petrified of saying that crying it out harms babies' brains.
There, I said it. I put my cards on the table. I fucking despise crying it out. It troubles me more than any other parenting issue. I was almost crying myself when I had to listen to that baby's pleas. As my lovely partner himself said, "That baby is such a free spirit, I hope they don't damage her".
I know there are many people out there who are going to disagree with me. But this is what I think. If you are interested in this issue, I would suggest reading "Why Love Matters" by Sue Gerhardt. In the meantime, do tell me what you think about discipline and sleep training.