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Comments to the Aware Parenting Institute

Comments received in 1998

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January 20, 1998

From the dozens of books that I read when I was first pregnant, there are two that I feel made me the parent that I am today: The Family Bed (Thevenin) and The Aware Baby (Aletha Solter). Most importantly, The Aware Baby taught me how to allow my babies, now young children, to have their feelings. Because I learned how to give them the opportunity to cry, they feel completely validated on a day-to-day basis. How many of us adults are so lucky?

Why does our society abhor the act of crying? Dr. Solter has taught me that to hold and love my babies and children while they cry will allow my kids to really feel okay about any feelings that they are having. And even though I still feel stressed when they cry (stomach tightens, hot flashes, guilt, anger and sadness). I know that they NEED to cry (so do I), and the uncomfortable feelings I get are conditioned responses from many years ago.

I am convinced that if all the babies born today were given the right to cry, we would see an incredible improvement in society in the years to come. Perhaps if every mother read Dr. Solter's works, we would have no more war. I have never felt so strongly about anything in my life as I do the idea of validating other human beings...especially from day one!

My five-year-old son is extraordinarily communicative. Since the day he was born, he has been HEARD. He always knows that whatever he is feeling, thinking or saying is HEARD by me and his father. He has been given permission to HAVE his feelings...mostly because he was allowed to cry. I am also an advocate of the P.E.T. model (Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training) which promotes active listening. If a baby or child (or adult for that matter) is allowed to cry and is actively listened to, then how validated they must feel! The results are astounding!

Abby Greer
Ravenna, Ohio, U.S.A.

March 11, 1998

Dear Aletha,

I have read your articles but have not read your books. Your website is 100% in line with my thinking. I believe that too often, shoving a breast into a toddler's or child's mouth can stifle their expression of feelings. I feel we should teach children to verbalize their feelings rather than use comfort measures such as nursing, eating, smoking, drinking, or whatever. I believe that crying is good. What I need clarified is whether or not you advocate not soothing children at all by hugging, rocking, etc. while they are crying. I believe that if a child is hurt and is crying, a parent should ask her if she would like to be held while the pain goes away. What do you think?

Many regards,

Judy Arnall
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Reply from Aletha Solter:

Thanks for your message. I make it clear in my books that no child should ever be left to cry alone. With infants, I recommend always picking the baby up and looking for immediate needs. Once all needs have been met, I encourage parents to continue holding babies while they are crying to provide loving emotional support. It's important to establish a genuine listening relationship right from the start. Past infancy, most children who are upset for any reason will spontaneously come to their parent to be held if they feel safe enough to do so. If not, I would certainly offer to hold a crying child.

I tend to avoid the words "soothing" and "comforting" because these terms mean different things to different people. To many people this means trying to repress the crying through artificial means, such as jiggling or rocking, which are often done out of the adult's nervousness or anxiety with strong emotions. However, in the sense of holding and allowing, yes, by all means! There are ways of holding that shut down and repress, and ways of holding that provide emotional safety and space to express feelings. It is the latter kind of holding that I recommend, and it involves much more than just physical closeness. It is a state of being with a child that allows the child to be and express who she really is and what she is really feeling without any adult discomfort getting in her way. This is a difficult concept for people who have never been deeply listened to themselves. I think it's important to strive for this kind of acceptance in any relationship, not only between parent and child. But any holding is better than none, even if one is uncomfortable with the crying. At least the child will feel accepted on some level (unless the parent becomes abusive, of course, in which case, it may better for the parent to distance herself momentarily until she can regain control of herself). I hope this helps to clarify my position on this important issue.

By the way, my new book, Tears and Tantrums, is now in print.

July 7, 1998

Dear Dr. Solter,

I am French Canadian, so I'm sorry for my poor English. I would like to thank you for your work and tell you how my life changed when I found your first book, The Aware Baby. We get a lot of comments when parents see me and my husband when we encourage my little girl to cry. We try to explain and try to help other families, but it's very hard because people are so afraid and feel so bad inside. People are so afraid of emotions. Sometimes I feel alone, but to see my little girl so happy, then I realize how it's so good to cry. Since I encourage my child to cry, I encourage myself to do it.

Thank you again for your help.

Sylvie Magnan
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

August 24, 1998

Dear Dr. Solter,

I am a 22-year-old young mother of a 14 ½-month-old son. I would like to applaud your book, Tears and Tantrums. I'm a psychology major, and a lot of what you state in your book I believe as well. I don't believe in spanking or other punishment. The other day, I held my son when it looked like he needed to cry (he had been real fussy the whole day). He cried for about 15 minutes and fell asleep in my arms. When he woke up, he looked so relaxed and happy. I truly believe in your work and methods. I wish more people knew about this.

Paula Vazquez
San Angelo, Texas, U.S.A.

Sept. 27, 1998

I just happened on your site a couple of days ago, and I am happy that someone else recognizes the healing power of tears. I am living proof of this.

In the fall of 1979, at my second session with my therapist, I could not talk because I was crying so hard. I just took out my handkerchief and put it over my face, and he said, "Let it all out," which proved to be the magic words. I let my mind stay right on the scene that was bringing out the tears. Dr. C. just sat there listening and never said a word. In about 15 minutes the tears stopped, and I was drying up my eyes and thinking and talking about what I was going to do the next day. I was ready to leave, almost before my 50-minute session was over.

I went to Dr. C. for 24 sessions over a period of two-and-a-half months. I was 56 years of age at that time, and I got out the feelings that had been kept in since I was about two-and-a-half years old.

"Tears ARE the catharsis of the soul." None of this was painful. I have asked a lot of people, and no one says that crying is painful. It is a relief. Where do many psychologists get the idea that crying is painful?

Evan Grant
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

September 28, 1998

Gosh, where to start? Well, how about just a heart-felt "thank you"for giving to all of us parents who are struggling to do what feels true to our hearts. You've taken the approach of attachment parenting and made it so accessible to those of us with older children. My youngest son is like night and day since I have shown concern and interest when he cries instead of denying his feelings and his need to express them. I've just started applying Aware Parenting to our lives as a family, but I look forward to the journey ahead. It looks to be a richer one for all.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A.

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Comments from 1996 and 1997

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