In June of 2012, I became a grandmother for the first time, the magical beginning of a new generation. As a child of the fifties, I can remember the Dr. Spock protocols of “letting babies cry”. Dr. Spock, both a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, believed that babies must eat and sleep on a schedule. According to his writings, he thought if babies were picked up when they cried, they would only learn to cry more often and they would not stick to a sleep schedule; something that would supposedly have negative effects on the children. Spock believed that babies should not be picked up nor hugged and kissed too frequently otherwise the children would grow up to be weak adults who could not cope in our harsh world. His book was second only to the Bible in sales.
While the nineteen seventies brought new ideas about natural childbirth and more natural childrearing, it is amazing how the teachings of Dr Spock advocates have survived. For more than forty years, I have been involved in mental health research. My company, now called I Ching Systems, has worked to develop balancing instruments based on principles of eastern medicine and designed to restore inner equilibrium. In order to develop this technology, we had to spend many years studying the sources of mental and emotional imbalances. Our research has lead to the examination of common parenting practices. After looking at the histories of many our research subjects, we can say with certainty that these aforementioned parenting ideas are seriously flawed.
Many western mental health practitioners, trained in the traditions of psychoanalysis, have been taught to believe that children come into the world with character problems in place. Underlying the teachings of psychoanalysis is the idea that children are essentially negative beings who will use crying as a way of getting unneeded attention and support. The belief is that if children are not “disciplined” from the beginning that they will grow up to be weak, spoiled adults who manipulate others to get their needs met. These ideas assume that children are negative beings who have to be disciplined into becoming positive people.
From what we can see, babies are more like neutral sponges, absorbing whoever and whatever their parents have to offer them. Healthy babies cry when they need something. Usually they need to be fed, have their diapers changed or they need to be held. It is probably true that babies need to do some crying just as a form of expression and release. It is also true that babies get enough natural crying in every day in the process of communicating what they need to their parents. And, that babies do not need any form of extra suffering to create stable and healthy adults.
In fact, from what we can see, babies who are left to cry and are not fed, changed and held when they need to be, grow up to be scared, adapted, unhealthy adults with all kinds of protective behavior patterns in place. They become grown-ups with unnatural, repetitive behavior patterns developed to survive early childhood but patterns that have little functional value in adult life. For example, many of these patterns appear to involve sacrificing one’s needs for the sake of keeping a relationship or job that is not serving the person in the first place.
It looks to us that babies who are fed, changed, held and cared for without inflicting artificial “Crying Sessions” become stable, healthy, secure adults who can ask directly for what they need and want, and respond directly to the needs and wants of other people. Consider for a moment the childrearing practices of many American Indian societies that assume children are positive spirits who have come to fulfill a mission. These societies have no outstanding records of raising weak children with character problems. Imagine what a marriage would be like if a husband decided not to respond to his wife’s needs immediately as a way of teaching her discipline. Or if a wife decided not to respond to her husband’s needs as a way of helping him become a stronger man. What you would have is a dysfunctional, unhealthy marriage.
he natural instinct of healthy parents is to assume their babies are essentially positive entities with legitimate needs and wants, and to respond to the needs and wants as they arise. Those parental instincts are based on heart-felt love for one’s children. Your heart will tell you to attend to your child when he or she is crying out and these are parental good instincts to follow. Most parents who try to follow the Spock method have a bad feeling inside when they let their babies cry. That bad feeling is telling us all something. It is telling us to follow our hearts and care for our kids.
There are times when it is okay for children to cry but those are usually not in infancy. If your three-year-old picks up his baseball bat and wants to use his brother’s head as a ball, then it is important to stop that behavior. If he screams because you will not let him have his own way, this is a perfectly healthy time for crying. If your four-year-old daughter wants to throw food at her sister and she cries when you stop her, this is a healthy time for crying. But when babies cry for something it is best to assume they are healthy, positive children with healthy positive needs that should be attended to.
Finally, when we began our company some thirty plus years ago, my personal goal was to develop a technology that would create enough inner balance in an individual to end the legacy of mental instability and even madness so often passed on from one generation to the next. If you grew up with unstable parents, like most unstable parents, they probably passed their difficulties on to you, their children. If you carry the legacy of instability and fear, and do nothing about it, you will pass these conditions on to your children and they to your grandchildren.
If we want to raise healthy, natural children we must follow our hearts and our instincts and take good care of them. We must also do our best to fix ourselves, if needed, so we do not pass on the legacy of instability and distress. For more information about raising natural children and fixing any legacy of family imbalances, contact me at [email protected].