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Leave the Babies Alone?

by on May.13, 2010, under Attachment, Environmental influences, Parent modeling, Parenting

It’s hard not to love the movie Babies. That’s what I chose to do for my Mothers’ Day observance.  It was kind of like eating chocolate… all good! There were none of the not-so-fun parts of babies, like colic and diarrhea and sleepless nights. Just one oooo and ahhhhh after another.

But the cute is not what stuck with me. Several days later, I am thinking about the stark contrast in the way the Japanese and the American babies were parented compared to the African and Mongolian babies.  The African baby was gnawing on a fat stick he plucked out of the dirt. Splinters, dirt, ants, fungus…yuck! Obviously teething, he chewed away. Flash to the sanitized environment of the American baby in his Parent and Me class, daddy swaying to the song about Mother Earth, as they sat on their acrylic carpet squares.

Then there was the Mongolian baby who appeared to have more animals than adults in his life. Like self rising flour, he seemed to be raising himself amidst the raw life on the plain.  He crawls through the obstacle course provided by the legs of  a herd of calves, and the audience waits for him to be trampled.  Contrast that scene to the Japanese baby who is under the constant eye of her mommy or daddy or Gymboree teacher, getting her prescribed movement experience.

In the past weeks as I have launched my new book, I have been speaking to parents all over the country. Among the many points I aim to make, is the need for parents to let go of their death grip.  How can young children ever cultivate independence and self reliance if parents are holding on so tightly? Children need to struggle and fall in order to learn how to pick themselves up and survive.  Dr. Spock said, “A child who has not been well bandaged has not been well parented.”

I am not suggesting that you place your children’s dinner of mush down on the floor and let them all go for it in a giant feeding frenzy, including smushing the white goo on the youngest sibling’s head. Nor am I condoning a child sharing his bath water with the family goat. I am abundantly grateful for all that we, in our disease free, safety precaution filled America, are able to offer our children. But Babies sure made me think twice about the good parts of what children learn when they are sometimes left alone.

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