Thursday, May 24, 2007

Argument against controlled crying

If considering controlled crying, I'd be asking myself some very honest questions about what I was hoping to achieve, what my perception of the process was, and then what my child's perception of the process was likely to be, and finally what unintended consequences the action might have on top of the grand plan of my child learning to sleep alone.

I personally believe the distress of a crying child left alone for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour, is immensely psychologically damaging to them, both in the short and long term.

I also believe the unintended consequences include: long term damage to child's trust in parent and decreasing likelihood of child being able to communicate their needs successfully; blunting of maternal instinct and increasing inability to respond to child's distress and other wants.

Controlled crying may be training your child to sleep alone, but it is also arguably training you to dismiss their cries as "not serious" or "attention seeking" until they are absolutely frantic.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I'd be really interested to see a correlation study comparing parents who leave their children to cry alone and parents who complain that their children tantrum regularly. There seem to be clear links of relationship dynamic to me.

I'd also be interested to see a correlation studying comparing the controlled crying parents with those who complain later that their teens don't communicate with them at all.

And I also think it is worth noting that Richard Ferber, who invented the technique, has since distanced himself from many of the ways people apply it, saying that while it works for some children to be left alone for a couple of minutes and they drop off, he NEVER intended for it to cause hours of distress for anyone.


Anonymous said...

There is heaps and heaps of scientific evidence why not responding to your child's emotional needs and helping them cope with distress is harmful to them and to their ability to lead an emotionally healthy life as they grow up. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced when in distress, is also highly damaging to your immune system so children left to cry for extended periods will get physically ill more often as well. Babies who are left to cry for too long eventually give up but their cortisol levels stay sky high even though you can't see it. So you've taught them to hide their feelings, not to not have those feelings. CC is, IMO, a horrific form of abuse and should be stamped out completely if we're to have any chance of creating a society where people care about eachother and eachother's feelings.

A link that may interest you:

ps. My blog host is offline at the moment so don't be surprised that it's not working!

Friendstacy said...

Clare beat me to it! So ditto what she said.

I still get upset when I think about all the times I cried myself to sleep as a child. Worse, I had to cry silently so as to not let my parents know I was crying because then they'd just get upset and I'd be in even more trouble... It's one of the worst things a parent can do to their children. Far and away worse than anything else I ever experienced (and there was plenty that on the surface seems much more abusive).

emma said...


And yes, Clare, you put it all so much better than I did!

Emma said...

I've been thinking of trying controlled crying with my 1yr old. Previously he has fell asleep with his bottle and mostly slept right through, from about 4 months, but now he his older he is more awake and it is getting harder to put him to sleep at night. I have read about cc and thought it was the only way to get a baby to sleep on his own and prevent having a child that will wake up and climb in bed with you until they are 9. So I tried cc for 1 night, I lasted 20 minutes. How can something that feels so wrong be right? I've gone from cuddling him to sleep to just dumping him in his cot and shutting the door, it's no wonder he feels like he is being punished. We are told that babies have no sense of time so I cannot understand the reasoning behind timing the intervals you let them cry, surely I am just teaching him that he has to cry even louder and eventually mummy will come. This is not behaviour I want to reinforce and I can imagine could lead to tantrums later. As you can see I have decided to check out alternative arguments and methods and I'm so glad I did. Some of the comments on here are a heartbreaking wake up call. It makes total sense that by ignoring his cries I am breaking his trust and teaching him that there is no point in asking for attention because no one will answer you. Not to mention the chemical changes induced by stress. These things make sense, they speak to my intuition. I am going to continue trying to teach him to sleep in his own bed but in a reasurring and supportive way. I want to teach him not just break down hill will!

emma said...

Oh Emma, what a lovely comment! And good on you for keeping researching.

I really believe that sleeping alone is a continuum. You just gently nudge the next stage when thechild is ready until you find yourself with a 14 year old who - duh - has been sleeping completely independently for years.

Some children are ready to fall asleep alone at 2, others at 4 or 5 - a year is really really young to expect it, though. Read lots of boring stories to your baby as he falls asleep :-D