Transforming families around the world
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Comments to the Aware Parenting Institute
Comments received in 2001
(The most recent comments are at the bottom of the page)
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Please note that this is not a personal advice column. If you are a parent in need of advice or support, please visit our Parent Support Page or schedule a telephone consultation with Dr. Solter. Click here for more information about her consultations.
February 9, 2001
Hi! I just discovered your website and like your ideas very much. Do you have any advice for parents of children who are 9 and over? (I have nine and ten-year-old boys.) Is it possible to start this process after being a somewhat aware parent, but using time-outs and rewards/consequences, and succumbing to societal and familial pressure to "control" my children? I always know, as I'm dishing out a consequence or time-out, that I'm not allowing my child to express his feelings. Or I think, as I'm ordering my sons to their respective rooms because they are fighting with each other, "Maybe this is a normal expression of rage and anger they have with each other or with me and I'm suppressing it!" So needless to say, your articles and information really spoke to me. Any information you could give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much.
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for your message and interest in Aware Parenting. Yes, it is definitely possible to start parenting differently at any stage. Although my books discuss children up to 8 years of age, people have found that my second book, Helping Young Children Flourish, is beneficial for older children as well (although some of the information does focus on early childhood). My book, Tears and Tantrums also has worthwhile information that can be applied to chilldren of any age, and even adults. You might also be interested in Thomas Gordon's book, Parent Effectiveness Training (recently reprinted).
February 26, 2001
This is a comment for recommendation number 8 in your list of Twenty Alternatives to Punishment. I don't think it is a good idea to tell children that they can skip brushing their teeth just because they're so tired. They are going to be tired every night so that they don't have to brush their teeth. So I don't agree with number 8.
Fort Lupton, Colordo, U.S.A.
Note: the comment above refers to Aletha Solter's suggestion that reads: "I'll let you skip brushing your teeth tonight because you are so tired." Here is her reply:
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for your comment regarding my suggestion in my list of Twenty Alternatives to Punishment. I agree that this could lead to problems, especially in a family where the atmosphere is very authoritarian and the children will look for any excuse to get their own way. However, if the atmosphere is non authoritarian, the message the child receives with this suggestion is that the parent is flexible and sensitive to the child's needs. The point I want to make with that example is that no rule should be considered too rigid (except those involving safety, such as the use of a car seat). When a child is ill or very tired after a family outing, for example, there is sometimes no point on insisting on a bath or a teeth brushing, if this would lead to a prolonged struggle. These routines can wait until the next morning. I think if you make it clear that this is an unusual exception, most children will not then begin to feign tiredness just to avoid having to brush their teeth. I found with my own children that a little flexibility on my part made them even more respectful of the household rules, and willing to comply with them.
March 4, 2001
I read your book, Tears and Tantrums. In Holland it's called: De taal van huilen. My baby, who is five months old, cries a lot and I always used a dummy (pacifier). Yesterday I tried to let her cry in my arms, and after half an hour she was really satisfied. So it works, and I will try to do it this way now. The only thing I don't understand is if I should never use the dummy. She always gets one when she sleeps. In your book it's not clear to me if I should continue using a dummy or not use one at all.? I hope you can answer this question because I am very impressed by your book and your method. Thank you.
Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for your message. I am pleased that my book has helped you. I do not recommend the use of dummies (pacifiers) at all because their use at bedtime can prevent babies from crying to release stress. This often causes babies to wake up at night, still needing to cry. However, as mentioned repeatedly in my books, babies should always be held when they cry. My book, The Aware Baby, includes an entire chapter on sleep. You might find more helpful information in it. The Dutch title is Baby's weten wat ze willen. You might also be interested in the free Aware Parenting e-mail chat group sponsored by Yahoo groups. There you can discuss with other parents about how to implement this approach in the most loving and effective way.
March 10, 2001
Dear Ms Solter,
I have read your books with much interest and have found them very helpful, as the mother of a first-born three-month-old son who cries a lot (esophagus inflamation and colic have been blamed, and do indeed exist symptomatically, whether as a cause or result of anxiety, I don't know). You do not mention clearly in your books what difference, if any, actual physical pain makes in the attitude parents should have toward their crying baby.
Here is another, more theoretical question. You say some studies have shown that adults are less violent in countries where babies are held a lot in the first few months. That, of course, applies, first of all, to Africa; but African people can be terribly bloodthirsty as adults. The genocide in Rwanda and quite a few other wars going on on that continent show the amazing cruelty these people can be capable of. To say the least, they don't seem better than us in that respect. How do you account for this?
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for your message. I am pleased that you have found my books to be helpful. I discuss physical pain in all three of my books. The attitute toward crying is the same as for emotional pain, but I do recommend that parents try, first of all, to alleviate the source of pain as much as possible. After that has been done, if the child is still in pain and needs to cry, this crying should be accepted rather than repressed. When a child has an injury, the immediate response is to cry. This crying should be accepted while administering any necessary first aid to the injury. There is evidence that physical pain can diminish simply by feeling it rather than avoiding it.
In reply to your question about cultures where babies are held a lot, there are studies that show that very peaceful cultures do follow that practice. However, that factor, although NECESSARY for a peaceful culture, is obviously not a SUFFICIENT condition. In my books I mention that protection from trauma and opportunities to heal from trauma are major factors that will allow a person to grow up to be non-violent. In some parts of Africa, children are spanked or beaten, removed from their mother at an early age, and/or subjected to traumatic rituals involving physical pain. Many African children live in poverty, suffer from debilitating illnesses, and have their basic needs for adequate nutrition unmet. Furthermore, crying and raging are generally not recognized as healthy healing mechanisms. When people are not protected from trauma or allowed to heal from it, then violence is an almost inevitable result. Furthermore, when a country is at war (either with itself or with other countries), this severely traumatizes the children (and adults as well), causing anger and terror, leading to more violence. So the cycle of violence continues.
March 20, 2001
Hats off to you for such a wonderful book! It was one of my husband's and my "Bibles" when we had our first child six years ago. Now I like to use it as a gift when friends have babies. The world would be a better place having read and followed this one little book!
Please send me the ISBN number for The Aware Baby to make it easier for me to order it here in Canada.
Victoria, BC, Canada
Thank you for your comments and enthusiasm about The Aware Baby. The ISBN number is 0-9613073-0-7, and the price is $11.95. A revised edition of The Aware Baby will soon be published (in May, 2001). The ISBN number for the new, revised edition is 0-9613073-7-4, and the cost will be $15.95. Starting in April, the first edition of this book will be available (only directly from us) at a greatly reduced price of $5.00 per copy, on a first come, first served basis as long as we still have copies in stock. This does not include shipping fees. Please see our website for our current ordering information and shipping fees. We require prepayment (international money order or U.S. check).
March 27, 2001
What, if any, information do you have concerning circumcision, and what is your group's stance on this?
Cocoa Beach, Florida
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
In reply to your question, here is a quote about the circumcision of male infants from the new, revised edition of my book, The Aware Baby (publication date: May 2001):
"Researchers have found that physical pain experienced by infants during the neonatal period can have long-lasting effects on future development by sensitizing the infants to pain. Infant boys who had been circumcised at birth cried more during routine vaccinations at four and six months of age than those who had not been circumcised. However, they cried less if they had been treated with an anesthetic cream before the circumcision to lessen the pain (but still more than those who had not been circumcised). Before deciding to circumcise your son, therefore, you should be aware of the potential long-term emotional effect on your baby of this procedure. If your religion has a tradition of male circumcision, you may wish to consider an alternative ceremony that leaves your son's penis intact."
April 8, 2001
This Aware Parenting stuff is great. I've really learned lots of new things. I learned the disadvantages of time-outs. This is really great.
Bellflower, California, U.S.A.
May 4, 2001
Dear Dr. Solter,
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your research and your books on babies and infants, especially the things you say about crying. I am the mother of a seven months old baby boy. After a harmonious pregnancy and a wonderful birth he was a happy baby from the start, with a good feeling for rhythm. I did know that crying was normal, but I didn't expect it to affect me as much. Most of the time I could be very patient, but sometimes I got so uncomfortable, irritated, and I guess I still had the notion that I should help him to stop crying. I had bought your book Tears and Tantrums (in the Dutch translation) right after my son's birth. And although I felt instinctively that you were right I needed until this week (when my son all of a sudden started waking up 3 or 4 times at night) to put the knowlegde into pratice. I had to overcome my own fear of really letting go and just accept the feelings that my son has. We started holding him lovingly whenever he wants to cry and the result has been just amazing. It was as if he had been waiting for this. He responded instantly. I understand now that it is not up to me to determine how much crying my son needs. He usually has the need to cry before he takes a nap or goes to sleep at night, and he will cry for about 5-10 minutes. Then he falls asleep peacefully on my chest, or my husband's, and sleeps through the night. And he wakes up with this big smile. I am no longer confused or annoyed about his crying, because it now feels like he is telling me about his day and I can listen. And everytime I am deeply touched by the trust and confidence he gives me. I feel like I need these times with him as well because they show me how healing crying can be.
Thank you again!
Dr. Sabine Hiebsch
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 5, 2001
I was looking over your 20 alternatives to spanking for a child development class, and I am deeply distressed by them. Your options put the child into power. I am the child of a broken marriage and my parents disciplined me in completely different ways; my mother was for spanking and my father was against it. I knew exactly how to get what I wanted from my father, but I knew that my mother always meant buisness. These alternatives give leeway for further disobedience. The children will push until their objective is carried out if they know no one will stop them. I'm aware of the abuse that exists in this country, but passive parenting will only lead to spoiled adults, used to getting what they want.
San Dimas, California
Note: this comment is about Aletha Solter's article, Twenty Alternatives to Punishment.
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for your comments. Your childhood experience of pushing against the limits and trying to get as much as you could (by going to your father) is typical of children who have at least one authoritarian/punitive parent. When parents use democratic approaches to discipline, the children have no need to push the limits or rebel. The concept of "disobedience" does not even enter into the picture, because parents use conflict-resolution methods that inspire the children to be cooperative and responsible.
Perhaps you are confusing democratic (non-authoritarian) parenting, as described in my work, with permissive parenting. There is a huge difference. Aware Parenting is not permissiveness. Many people, like you, think that the only alternative to authoritarianism is permissiveness. This is incorrect. Permissive parenting (or, as you call it, "passive parenting") will indeed lead to spoiled adults used to getting what they want. But children brought up with democratic discipline, as described in my books, typically become compassionate, responsible, and non-violent adults.
Research has shown that spanking only leads to further violence. (Please see my reply to a comment from April 14, 2000 in which I posted references to several research studies showing that spanking correlates with later violence. You'll find it in the archived comments from 2000) Other studies have found a correlation between spanking in childhood and later affective disorders such as anxiety and depression. My work is based entirely on scientific research. I cannot endorse a practice, such as spanking, that has been proven to have long-term, negative psychological consequences.
May 6, 2001
You, my dear woman, apparently do not believe in moral absolutes. You evidently do not believe in God (which makes absolutely no difference whatsoever, because not believing in Him does not make Him go away). The children who go around shooting their peers are products of your methods of parenting. They have been taught to do as they please, and that there is not a consequence for wrong behavior. In a sense, you are teaching them that there IS no such thing as wrong behavior. I am an eighteen year old college student, and I want my children growing up in a world that respects their elders and honors God. Please reconsider your methods and think about the lives you are ruining. During my first year at college, I have attained a lot of knowledge, but sometimes people learn too much for their own good. They forget to think about other people besides themselves, and they feed warped behavior in their children. Thank you for reading this.
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER:
Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with me. The philosophy of Aware Parenting is based on scientific research in child development, and not on any religious or spiritual belief system. Our instructors are free to follow any religion they choose, or they can be entirely non-religious. Therefore, I do not normally share my personal religious or spiritual beliefs.
However, I am willing to share my moral conviction that it is wrong for humans to harm other humans. Punishment is harmful to children, and therefore unacceptable. It is entirely possible to teach children appropriate behavior without harming them. Children learn by imitating their parents. An effective way to teach kindness and respect is by treating children with kindness and respect. The children who have been treated gently and kindly, as described in my books, are NOT the ones who will grow up to become violent. Research has shown that almost all violent criminals have been severely punished, abused, or traumatized in some other way during childhood.
I have passed your comment on to one of our Aware Parenting instructors who is also a Christian Spiritual Counselor. His reply is below.
REPLY FROM DAVID RAMSEY (a certified Aware Parenting instructor in Tacoma, Washington, and a Christian spiritual counselor):
I would like to respond to your comments from May 6th. Like you, I similarly "want my children growing up in a world that respects their elders, and honors God."
I would first ask you to read Dr. Solter's' work more thoroughly, as I think you are making the common mistake of understanding her methods as permissive parenting. Please read about her explanation of "democratic (non-authoritarian) parenting" either in her books or in the brief explanation found recently in the comments section on her web site. (Editor's note: See the comment posted above.)
As a teacher for 17 years, respect for adults is very important to me, and I am dismayed at its continuing erosion in our culture. I was brought up under an authoritarian model of parenting that was mostly "respect me or else!" In my initial teaching I used this approach myself with the generally effective results of outward respect towards me. However, the price was high with the shame, resentment, fear, anger, and the atmosphere of conflict that always resulted. Now I get respect that is spontaneous, heart-felt and very satisfying, and I get that respect in only one way, by giving it. I try to hold these children to high standards of behavior, not through punishment, but through dialogue, example, meeting their needs, and helping them make thoughtful choices. In doing so, I don't have to compromise my own needs in the process. With the amount of emotional damage I regularly see, this is far from easy, but I find it very rewarding.
As far as what I think you mean by "moral absolutes" and "honoring God" I find that Dr. Solter's approach fits well with my experience of a loving and compassionate God who I believe exerts no power over one thing, and that is our loving response to Him. This response can only come freely and without coercion. I do believe our Creator wants us to live in Godly fear, but in the sense of wonder and awe, and not from fear of punishment. Ask of yourself, what view of God helps your own spirit to grow and become strong, a God who punishes "wrong behavior" or a God of loving compassion who helps us recognize the consequences of our behavior and who allows us to freely choose to be more loving and responsible?
June 13, 2001
I have only briefly skimmed thru your site, but knew immediately that I had found a place which shares my beliefs in parenting. Through many years of watching many of my nieces and nephews being raised on Ritalin, I have come to believe that the labels placed on such children should be "attatchment disorder", in place of ADD, ADHD, OCD, etc. If one were to take a poll, I would be willing to bet that a large percentage of these kids were born to teen parents, also.What I have read about attatchment disorder deals mainly with adopted or foster children, but the signs and symptoms are almost identical to those in the ADHD questionnaires used to diagnose these kids...
I will continue to speak out against drugging our children. It has become an epidemic which stands on the basis of these labels, which drug manufacturers just happen to have the perfect pill for. A pill cannot teach a child to function or cope in this world. As with a case of cancer, the cancer itself is treated, not just the symptoms. Would it not be preferable to treat what is underlying the symptoms in these children? I have seen many kids on Ritalin or Adderall, and not one of them is in therapy or counseling.
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Comment received on June 11, 2001, posted with Aletha Solter's reply on June 22, 2001
(Translated from German)
I have read the German edition of your book, The Aware Baby (Warum Babys weinen). A year ago my son was born, and so I was interested in any tips that would help me to do everything correctly and well...In the book, everything is always described so idealistically. It's obvious that the crying of a child can be very liberating, and it often has no place in our society because it is not well enough known that it can be healing. On this point the book has helped me to try out something different, and it has always supported me.
However, a threatening undertone disturbs me, which says that if it isn't done this way the child will become a drug addict or otherwise disturbed. The whole responsibility rests on the parents and the way the child is raised. However I find that each child also raises himself, has his own character, and later will be responsible for his own behavior. One can't blame everything on other people.
The family situation is not always so ideal. Parents don't always have as much energy and time as a child needs, and other people are not always there for support. (They think that staying with crying children and accepting the crying is completely beside the point.)
I also see praising and punishing a bit differently. We live in a society and must stick to rules that we have agreed to. This sometimes goes against what we would like to do. I find that such limits must also be set for children. And when they overstep the bounds, there must be a consequence. It doesn't have to be violent, but sometimes it is good to hold and protect a child.
The most important in everything is to do it with live and listen to oneself. And so sometimes I don't jump up right away when the baby cries because I simply can't, and would only be angry. If one isn't always consistent, I don't think there's any harm. And I am convinced that, with love, other methods don't do damage either. We always make mistakes, and sometimes, at the time, we don't know exactly what is a mistake.
I needed to share my thoughts, and I find it a good thing that this web site exists. Is there any more information in German?...
Hearty thanks to those who have organized this, and friendly greetings,
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER
Thank you for your comments and interest in Aware Parenting. I appreciate your feedback about my book, The Aware Baby. I do recognize the importance of inborn temperament on children's behavior. But this temperament interacts with the environment to which the child is exposed. There is considerable evidence that the kind of experiences a child has early in life greatly affect the child's development. When someone becomes a drug addict, violent, or mentally ill, it is vital to search for sources of trauma in early childhood. It is not enough simply to say that the person is responsible for his or her own behavior. I don't want to frighten parents or make them feel guilty, but I do want parents to know that how they treat their children is extremely important.
I agree that I have described an idealistic way of raising children. The reality is that many families will be unable to meet this ideal because of financial, medical, or emotional stresses. That is why I emphasize, in all of my books, the importance of parents obtaining adequate support and help. But children have intense and legitimate needs that must be met if they are to grow up emotionally healthy. I try to be an advocate for the children. If I were to write that children don't need as much attention as they do, or that it's okay for parents to ignore children's legitimate needs if it is too hard to meet them, then I would feel as if I were betraying the children.
As for rewards and punishments, I agree that our society is full of laws that must be obeyed, and that there are consequences for infractions. But this doesn't imply that this is the best way to teach children appropriate behavior or to help them learn. Hundreds of research studies have demonstrated that the use of rewards and punishments is harmful and ineffective for children in the long run.
I think it's important to ask ourselves the following question: When our children are adults, do we want them to refrain from robbing a bank simply because they are afraid of getting caught and sent to jail? Or do we want them to refrain from robbing a bank because they have high standards of moral behavior and know that a robbery would ultimately be hurtful to others? In other words, the goal in raising children should be to produce citizens who are compassionate and caring, and who would act morally and obey laws even if there were no negative consequences for breaking them. If we teach them early in life that they should act in certain ways to avoid getting punished or to obtain an immediate reward, this only undermines this goal.
You mention holding and protecting a child. I am not opposed to setting limits in those ways. Stepping in and stopping a child from doing something that is dangerous to himself or to others is not the same as using punishment. We don't have to create artificial, painful consequences for children to learn appropriate behavior.
I agree with you that we parents are not perfect, and that our occasional mistakes or moments of impatience will not permanently damage our children. However, we must allow children to express their emotions in order to heal from any pain our mistakes may have caused them. If we allow them to cry and express anger at us, they can grow up emotionally healthy in spite of our mistakes.
All three of my books have been translated into German. (See Foreign language editions.) You will also find an article in German on this web site ( Wan tun, wenn dein Baby weint), and the Principles of Aware Parenting in German (Grundregeln des Bewusst-Elternseins).
July 11, 2001
I read The Aware Baby and was captivated by your theories. I am interested in your opinion about early exposure to different activities for babies and toddlers. When my daughter was three months old, I started to take her to a music class and a storytime once a week (both those activities lasting about one hour long). My mother thought I was too hasty. But I think we raise children in a very different manner today than we did 30 years ago... These weekly classes have had a great impact on my child. She now loves books and music. When she turned 15 months old, I gave her crayons, stickers and a notebook to draw in. Now that she is 18 months old, I am teaching her to use her toothbrush every morning as a ritual, and we are starting potty training. Am I being too fast? Is it beneficial or premature to expose a child early to some activities? It is true we live in a faster and more competitive world where we secretely wish our children can excel at a young age. But can it be harmful to them? Is it a lack of respect to their rythm? Am I burning essential steps of her development? Thanks for your wise advice.
Isabelle Tahar Miller
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER
Thank you for your comments. It is important to play with babies, and to talk, sing, and read to them, but this can be done in a spontaneous, unstructured way, with careful attention to babies' cues for the kind and amount of stimulation that is appropriate. (Some babies are more easily overstimulated than others.) Also, I don't recommend teaching babies, in the usual sense of the word. Any stimulation should be enjoyable, playful, and unpressured, whether it's in a group setting or individually. Babies should never be forced to sit and listen to something if they prefer to do something else. Don't underestimate the importance of free, unstructured play. Babies need plenty of time to move their bodies and play with simple objects. I recommend informal playgroups with opportunities for babies and parents to meet and interact freely with other families, and to sing and play together. As for toilet training, in The Aware Baby I recommend waiting at least until the age of two, and using a child-directed approach.
August 13, 2001
Congratulations for your book (The Aware Baby). It is helping me to understand my own childhood and the missing parts of my own father role. Furthermore, it is going to help me understand better my own clients. I work with a technique called "Holotropic Breathwork," which includes fast breathing, evocative music, and bodywork. Most of unfinished experiences from childhood would surface during the sessions and would follow the themes that you described in your book. I did my training with Stanislav Grof and would recommend his books highly. Perinatal memories are one of the topics.
Sâo Paulo, Brazil
September 10, 2001
Thank you, Aletha. Your books have given me hope and joy. I have embraced the attachment parenting philosophy deeply and reverently with my child since conception. He is now 20 months. He has never been separated from me, as I know that until 18 months babies don't have the conceptualisation to realise they are not being abandoned. However, I am a single mum with no family nearby to mind my son. We live alone, and I am feeling like it would be appropriate to put him in a family day care situation for a couple of mornings a week, so I can get a massage or some counselling, give a little back to myself. I know of a carer who is lovely and I feel confident with trying it out. However, I am afraid that my son will feel rejected, that he is simply too young to share one adult's attention with four other children, even if only for four hours, twice a week. What do you feel? It isn't a desperate situation, I enjoy being with my son day in, day out. However, a little nurturing for me could improve my life a lot.
South Golden Beach, Australia
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER
Thank you for your comments and positive feedback about my work. In my books I emphasize attachment parenting, but the mother need not be the only person to whom the baby forms an attachment. The mother is obviously necessary for breastfeeding the baby, but between feeding times, it is beneficial to allow babies to form attachments to other adults. These attachment figures should preferably the baby's father and one or two other warm, caring relatives. Ideally these people will be familiar to the baby right from the start, and it will be possible to leave the baby with them for gradually longer periods of time. If the father or other close relatives are not available, then other loving adults can be effective attachment figures. In all cases, babies should not be left with a caretaker unless they know the person well and are comfortable with him or her.
I also warn parents against placing babies in group care, especially during the first year. Babies thrive best when the adult/child ratio is one-to-one. Between the ages of one and two years, a one-to-two ratio can work fine for short periods of time. At that age, many parents fine that a good group care arrangement is with an adult who has a child of a similar age, who can be the child's playmate.
Having said that, there are no right or wrong answers to your question. For you as a single mother, you must balance your own needs with those of your child. In my consulting practice, I have noticed that when mothers sacrifice their own needs too much, they become resentful, and their children sense this and begin to show symptoms of insecurity. Your child may thrive in the home-care situation that you describe if you take the time for him to get to know the woman and the other children, and feel comfortable with them. On the other hand, it may be too overwhelming for him. It is important to base your decisions on your child's reactions, and let him indicate what is best for him. Also, don't forget that your child is developing quickly, and a situation that doesn't work well now could work out just fine in another six months, when he is older.
Of course, none of this would be an issue if we all belonged to tribes, clans, or villages in which to raise our children. Because these are not automatically built into our social structure, we parents must create our own "tribes." This is one of the major challenges of parenting.
FURTHER COMMENTS FROM ZUVUYA FLAME (in response to Aletha Solter's reply)
Thank you very much for your detailed response. This is actually a major issue for me as I have put in so much energy and love into my child having a secure, attached beginning and I feel scared to jeopordise it now. I've always wanted to keep him out of group care till he was three, as I am aware that even the best group care situations are still inadequate to meet children's needs. I am now reinspired to try to organise an alternative situation, perhaps a swap with another parent, whilst maybe seeing how he does in the family daycare by going with him a few times, and leaving him for a half hour, then an hour etc.
I feel deeply honoured to have had this correspondence with you. I am known as the Aware Baby woman, as I have two copies of your book constantly in circulation that I lend out, and now it is like that with Helping Young Children Flourish...I want to thank you again, and on behalf of all the other parents that I've steered toward Aware Parenting.
October 9, 2001
Dear Aletha Solter,
When I was pregnant with my daughter Luise I read the German version of Tears and Tantrums ("Auch kleine Kinder haben grossen Kummer"). Your arguments convinced me and I decided together with my husband that we would allow our child to cry whenever she would need it. And she cried a lot in her first weeks, or should I better say months?
The birth lasted very long, and Luise must have had difficulties taking her first breath. In her first six or seven days she cried to "forget" this. With one hand she tried to take away something from her neck. She repeated always the same gesture, and cried and cried. But after a few days with one to four of these "cry-times" a day, she stopped it, and it didn't come back. We always held her when she cried, but didn't do anything else.
In the following months she had also times when she cried a lot. I didn't always know the reasons why, but I felt that this crying was important and good for her. Luise was very fast in sleeping through the night (after four weeks)....
Last Monday was her first birthday. Luise never has been ill. She walked very early and she laughs all day long. She is interested in everything, and is able to concentrate very long in comparison with other children of her age...
I'm sure she is not more intelligent than other children, and I'm also sure that we are not the parents of the century. Some of it may only be luck. But I want to thank you for your theory about tears. I'm convinced that it is the reason why Luise is a happy little girl.
November 5, 2001
Dear Dr. Solter,
I just wanted to tell you that I am so grateful, and I can't tell how much I am surprised, that someone has already done all the work and come to SCIENTIFIC PROOFS that humans are born to function, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with their instincts and nature, if these are respected rather than despised.....Other books are maybe helpful to understand many things, but yours make the WHOLE thing clear.... I think that if we want this method to spread, we have to start by your understanding and nonging way of treating people. People are not willing to collaborate until they feel understood. And I have a strong feeling of hope about your work, because of this respectful approach. Because it's the only thing that works. To give people what you want from them.... It's not common, because you must be satisfied yourself in order to give.... but there is a lot of hope, when I think of the way my generation has grown up (I'm 21)... Thank you again, and I wish you tremendous luck with whatever you are doing. It's SO important, and I believe in it with all my heart.
November 17, 2001
Dear Dr. Solter,
Thank you so much for this information about crying, discharging, healing. My two year-old son has always been very clingy to me, as well as a "big crier", bawling at the slightest injury or provocation from another child. I have been using your approach for the past several months and cannot believe the transformation in him. We had several very long bouts of crying when we first started this (one episode lasted over an hour and a half) and I was struck by how much he just needed to cry and have me listen to him. I remember during one crying bout he slowed down at one point and looked out the window at the sky. He observed aloud that the sky was blue and orange. I validated him. Then he started crying again, saying "I don't want the sky to be blue and orange!" It was quite funny, but I saw how much he just needed to discharge! As for the transformation, well, he has become far more independent, secure, confident, and just happier. Before this approach I spent so much effort trying to get Jeremy to stop crying (using mostly distraction methods) and now, ironically, he cries less than before! Also, his ASTHMA is BETTER! I do not believe this is a coincidence.
Thank you again!
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
December 28, 2001
How can I thank you enough? My four-year-old daughter is highly intelligent (taught herself to read by two years) and especially at one and two years of age had very frequent and long tantrums (often one-and-a-half hours long). I really did try to do the very best I could, and read lots of parenting books relating to the subject, because I never felt like I was doing the "right thing," and I was extremely frustrated and often angry. Whatever I tried didn't "work," and worst of all, it made me madder, and I was losing control. I just had a nagging feeling that there was a better way out there, so I kept looking.
Then, one day (unfortunately not until she had just turned four), I discovered your book, Tears and Tantrums, in the Rosie Hippo catalog. It was a profound moment. I cry because I wish she could have benefitted from it sooner, but at least my one-year-old son will not have to wait as long. Your methods work, and the logic behind them makes sense. In particular, the aspect that crying is an evolved mechanism was a profound revelation to me. My husband and I often discussed how early man would not have been able to deal with the tantrums. Perhaps since both my husband and I are medical professionals, your references are important to me also.
My children have instantly benefitted, and most important, my attitude and patience have improved VASTLY now that I realize what is going on physiologically and emotionally when they cry. I can't even begin to explain how much better things are for everyone now!
Although we have never spanked our children, and try to avoid punishing, your book has easily convinced me that there is a lot of improvement we need to do to discipline our children without punishment. It is often very difficult, but we will always try to do our best, now that we are aware...
Rochester, New York, U.S.A.
December 30, 2001
I was very happy to find this site. It confirms many of my own ideas about the correct way to raise children.
I do have some comments to make about the article on the use of Ritalin for children diagnosed with ADHD ("The Drugging of Children: A National Disgrace.") You said that the status of ADHD as a medical disorder has not been established, yet the disorder is in the DSM, and when you think about it, other mental disorders are diagnosed based upon a patient's, or parent's, or doctor's subjective description of the patient's symptoms, which is the same criticism you present for the criteria used by doctors when diagnosing ADHD.
Also in that article, you ask if we are not setting our children up to become drug addicts later in life. I wonder, have any clinical studies been conducted to establish that as fact? And you state that children are forced into unnatural passivity while watching television, and that this is followed by a rebound effect: a "burst of pent up energy as soon as the TV is turned off." I'm not familiar with the "rebound effect", and you did not provide any references for it.
I don't mean to sound unfriendly, but your offhand way of presenting opinion as fact, and fact without corroborating testimony or references, is not good science. I think you have a wonderful site here. I also believe Ritalin is over-prescribed, and that educational administrators have too much influence, and are able to bring too much pressure to bear upon parents to impose medication upon their children.
I am one of those children who were "spanked for my own good" into submission at home. I did spank my children, perhaps a half-dozen times, before I quit in disgust. I think you are providing a wonderful service to generations of children to come. I will spread your doctrine as though it were my own.
Randi J. Narkevic
Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A.
REPLY FROM ALETHA SOLTER
Thank you for your comments and feedback about my article ("The Drugging of Children: A National Disgrace").
I originally wrote this article for publication as a newspaper column, a format in which scientific references were not appropriate, which is why the article does not contain any references to scientific studies. (In my three books, on the other hand, everything is supported by references to scientific studies.)
When I wrote that the status of ADHD as a medical disorder has not been establised, I meant (as explained in the next sentence of the article) that no biological factor has been found to be the cause of ADHD. This is also true for many of the other so-called childhood "disorders" listed in the DSMV, including "oppositional defiant disorder" and "conduct disorder". For more on this, please see psychiatrist Peter Breggin's books, including Talking Back to Ritalin and Reclaiming Our Children.
There are studies indicating a possible link between stimulant use in childhood (medically prescribed Ritalin) and later drug addiction. See for example, Lambert, N. (1998). Stimulant treatment as a risk factor for nicotine use and substance abuse. (Published in the NIH consensus development conference program and abstracts: Diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Health, pp. 191-200).
The "rebound" effect after watching TV is described in Jerry Mander's book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and also in Marie Winn's book, The Plug-in Drug. See also the following articles: Halpern, W.I. (1975). Turned-on Toddlers. (Published in the Journal of Communication. Vol. 25(4), pp. 66-70), and Moreland, K.L. (1977). Stimulus control of hyperactivity. (Published in Perceptual and Motor Skills. Vol. 45(3, part 1), p. 916). These articles document a possible causal relationship between TV viewing and hyperactivity.
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