It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Will I hurt my child if I let them cry without immediate comfort?” Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s response on today’s episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Andrea: My little baby girl is crying and crying, and I’ve been told I should comfort her right away, and I’ve been told it’s okay to let her cry it out. Which one should I do? Let’s ask Dr. Leman today.
Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you were with us today. Welcome, if this happens to be your first time, love to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes, only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
Well, I am so appreciative of this question today. It’s an audio question that you can leave at birthorderguy.com/ and put just about any number. This episode is 333 if you want to. And at the bottom, those little microphone and you can leave your audio questions. So let’s jump into it today and hear what we are asking Dr. Leman.
Speaker 3: Hi, Dr. Leman. I’m a first time mom of a two-year-old son. So the other day I came across a book and it was speaking on the brain wiring of newborns, how depending on how quickly a mother responds to her baby’s cries and needs, will wire their brain to let the baby know if they are worthy of love and valuable, and if they have a secure foundation. And of course, meaning if the mom doesn’t respond, then that kid is not valuable and it can affect their relationships early in life.
So of course, after reading that, I bawled my eyes out because I was raised on the cry it out method. And I think also being a first-time mom, you kind of think, “Is this newborn manipulating me?” Which I know it sounds funny now, but anyways. I just wanted to see what you thought about that, because I’m sure there’s a healthy balance, but also want to know if you believe that, and if you do, how do you also take today and make sure that kid does feel secure?
Again, I don’t see any signs of my son feeling insecure. I have changed a lot of my ways since becoming a new mom, but at the same time, I don’t want his brain to be wired this way. So what is your advice and take on all of this? I appreciate it.
Dr. Leman: Well, let’s start with a disclosure. I never enjoyed physiology, so not claiming to be an expert on how your baby’s brain is wired, et cetera. But when you talk about responding right away to a child’s cries, to me, it’s situational. If it’s bedtime, for example, or nap time, and you have fed your baby, nursed your baby, changed their pamper, tucked them in, and laid them down and they cry, I would let them cry. Okay.
So I’m sort of where you were. You said your growing up, that was sort of your attitude into motherhood, and that would be mine. So in situations where you’re laying a kid down for a nap or night-night if the child cries, I wouldn’t go in there. Now, all you mommies that have little infants have monitors, where you can see what’s going on. A child can roll over and get their arm stuck, or you name it, that’s why you have monitors. So obviously, the safety and wellbeing of your child is always a number one.
But crying with a child, can be very purposeful behavior on an infant’s part. They learn that they cry this nice warm body comes and picks them me up and pats my back and rocks me. And if you want kids to go to bed at night and stay asleep, you don’t go in every time a kid whimpers and try to comfort them.
What gives kids security is routine. And since you’re a first-time mom and your child’s two already, you’ve developed a sense of rhythm with that child. It’s the infant-mommy dance, so to speak. And you get to know your kid and you get to know the signs of when it’s time to lay your child down for a nap. And you get to find out quickly, does your child like a little music? Does that help them go to sleep? Do they have one of those little windup things that go above their head that plays a very soft little melody as they fall off to sleep?
So my basic response to you is with all deference to a professional who’s written a book about how the brain is wired, so be it. Take that person’s information and do whatever you want with it. I’m not here to sit in judgment of that. But I can tell you that behaviorally, if you respond to every cry a child makes, you’ll end up with a cry baby. You’ll end up with a baby who’s crying all the time.
So again, in general, I’m of the school of thought, let them cry it out. You’ve heard me on this podcast, many times, when kids are beside themselves and you put them in a room, you’ve heard me say, well, a kid will kick a door, scream, yell, they’ll do everything. What do you go in there and try to calm them down? No, you let them meltdown, and 15 minutes, 20 minutes, sometimes a half hour later, the kid will fall asleep on the floor. Not the end of the world. Hopefully, you have a fairly clean floor. But in general, that’s my take on crying.
If the baby is in their playpen and the baby’s a year old or 13 months old and the baby all of a sudden cries, would I go in and check in the next room? Yes, I would. I’d check, see what’s wrong. Maybe they got caught in the net or twisted or something happened. So again, use your judgment.
I don’t think this is rocket science, this kind of thing. I think my message to parents is, have a routine, get to know your child’s routine, and that child really sort of dictates the routine. If they start crying at every moment you rush in, all of a sudden, there’s no routine, it’s helter skelter. And the kid just becomes conditioned that, “If I scream, that nice warm body will come pick me up and rock me.” So be careful on it, that’s what I’m saying.
Andrea: So you’re saying that if we give them a routine and we kind of follow what their routine is, but we let them cry a little bit, then eventually, they’re going to kind of fall into that and they’ll cry less.
Dr. Leman: Right. And they’ll create their own routine. What I’m saying is, you sort of dovetail yours to theirs. Every child has a little different rhythm. Some kids will show signs. Some kids will rub their eyes. You’ve seen an infant rub their eyes, a toddler rub their eyes. And that sometimes is a clue that, “Okay, it’s nap time.” Where we get in trouble as parents, is when we break out of that routine. “I’m just going to run down to Starbucks and meet my girlfriend. Yeah, I know it’s nap time, but she just called and ooh, a Starbucks sounds real good right now.”
And so you go, and from the time you leave your house till you get down to Starbucks, to the time you get back, it’s an hour and a half. Now you got the kid an hour and a half off schedule. Are you going to pay for that? In all probability, you will. So schedules are not to be militaristic to the second, to the minute, but keep in mind that your kid does have a very natural cycle that you want to plug yourself into.
Andrea: So what about bonding in other ways?
Dr. Leman: Oh yeah.
Andrea: Nursing or you’re reading a book and you’re playing with the blocks. Are those the times that that child feels cared for? If I’m not going and picking them up when they’re crying, where does this sense that they’re worthy of my affection come from?
Dr. Leman: I hope I’m not misinterpreted in this, but I don’t think your responding to a kid’s cry has anything to do with bonding. The bonding is, when you’re holding that child, when you’re reading this story to them, when you’re playing with them, when dad is throwing your infant three feet in the air, and you’re hoping he catches them, that’s all part of bonding. The snuggle time together, tucking them in, reading them a story, all the little tactual stimulation that you give kids during the day, is all part of bonding; the verbalization, the eye to eye contact.
I mean, there’s all kinds of classic studies where if you deprive kids of tactual stimulation, you’re going to create all kinds of problems in that kid’s personality. Kids need softness, they need touch, they need words, they need vitamin E. All that’s a part of bonding. Just reacting to the cry is not bonding, per se.
Andrea: Yeah. I hope this is encouraging to that mama, that cried after she read this book, because she’s used the cry it out method with her two-year-old that she has not done anything wrong. And it sounds like she loves this kid and she’s probably doing all those things you just described.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. She’s being probably, a little reactive to reading that book. I can think of a few books you could read to be more helpful than that one when it comes to being a good parent, but she sounds like she’s a good mommy.
And first time parents, I mean, if you look at how you reared your firstborn child, parents, okay. Everybody just think of how you felt when you brought that baby home from the hospital and all that, and compare it with how you were with a third born. You’ll see, there’s a remarkable difference in how you responded to things. You learn from being a mommy. You learn from being a dad.
So it’s natural to wonder, you see these things. If I’m a parent and I read that, I think I’d be getting way ahead of myself by reading too much into that.
Doug: So when we come back, I want to ask about the concept that we’re doing damage, psychological damage to our kids. But I am super excited about our friends at Revell-Baker and what they are offering you guys. Between October 1st to October 31st of 2020, you can get this book called The Birth Order Book for a mere $2.99.
Andrea: An eBook
Dr. Leman: That should never happen. You should not be able to get The Birth Order Book for $2.99 under any circumstance. And I can protest to the publisher and they say, “Leman, we’re in charge of these. So we love you. We love your books, but it’s available for 2.99.” So all I can tell you is, take advantage of that sucker. Strike while the iron’s hot.
Andrea: Here’s an Amazon review: An easy and insightful read. Helpful in family life, as well as business. This was an impulse purchase at a big box store. And I had to buy a couple more for a friends. It’s an easy read yet, really accurate. I laughed all the way through it at the positive and negative attributes. I’m an oldest child and this book was pretty spot on. I have found this helpful in family life, as well as business.”
Doug: So go get The Birth Order Book between October 1st of 2020 to the end of October of 2020, for a mere $2.99, wherever your eBooks are sold. And now, a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: Okay, parents, I’m going to give you a little guilt today. Your kid’s homework comes home. After dinner, the whining starts. “Mommy, I need your help.” “Honey, you can do this.” “No I can’t. I need your help.” And before long, these kids who have criminal type thoughts, are able to take you into their little spider web and chew you up. And before long, you will have finished 19 of the math problems. And I know the punchline here, you’re mad because you only got 14 of them right, you found out.
Hey, listen, it’s his homework, it’s her homework. Give them a place to do their homework. Give them a time. Every kid’s different, some right after school, some after dinner, whatever. But stay out of your child’s homework. If you really need help, hire a tutor, and good luck.
Doug: So Dr. Leman, one of the things that I think people would say, which is probably bad to use the word, I think, is this concept that we are doing psychological damage to our children if we let them cry. Where does that come from?
Dr. Leman: I don’t know. Those are probably the same kind of parents that think that your infant ought to sleep with you, that your toddler ought to sleep with you. We read things like that into devastation of a child’s personality, you’re neglecting their basic needs. I mean, if you want to bring up a child, give them a sense of independence. Give them a room or a space, I know some kids have to share rooms. Give them that place that’s their own. Let them develop their own identity. That’s why we are always urging parents to treat kids differently. Why? Because they’re different personalities. What works for one, doesn’t always work for the other.
So when I hear things about, you’re going to do psychological damage to a child, I mean, yeah, if you’re abusing a child, you sure will. Being neglectful as a parent, you sure will. Being demeaning, yelling, screaming, letting kids see things that are very inappropriate at a young age on a screen, yeah, those things will do damage to a kid. But letting a kid cry because they had a meltdown or when you tuck them in a bed, they cry, let him cry. And to read into that, that somehow you’re doing psychological damage, is bull crumble, in my opinion.
Doug: Well, we let our kids cry out a fair amount, and you did a great job also, Andrea, of nurturing them and loving them, and especially when you’re breastfeeding them, and we would play on the floor with them. And I’m just telling you, last night, our 20-year-old, our 18-year-old, our 16-year-old and our 15-year-old, we were like, “Hey guys, do you want to watch a movie? Do you want to play around?” And literally, our 15-year-old said, “No, why don’t we just sit here and visit as a family?”
Dr. Leman: Oh, gee.
Doug: I was like, “Oh wow.” And our daughter whipped out a computer and started reading us all these jokes that were just hilarious. Well, clearly, our kids, they feel bonded. I mean, it’s antidotal that it’s just one family, but I’m just saying the other thing is, I think it’s what you said is our kids feel independent enough that they know who they are and they have enough self control to do what they want to do, which is a huge blessing at this age as well.
Andrea: It’s really what we do when they’re awake and we’re active together, not during bedtime, that they know where we’re going to play a game. We’re going to laugh at the meal. We’re going to listen to funny music in the car or a story in the car, whatever fit where we are a family, and we go on walks or whatever it is. Not whether or not I run to them every time they whimper.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. So I think predictability, the mundane and a schedule, and not a militaristic schedule, is a good way of creating a sense of security in your kids’ minds and hearts. Having parents that are on the same page, who really manifest the fact that their yes is a yes and their no is a no, I think builds character with kids and gives them a sense of security as well.
Doug: Well, and this is why we do this podcast, because there’s lots of questions out there that all brand new parents have. And I really appreciate you leaving this question. It’s a great question that you’re asking and it took guts to do that. Kudos to you. But this is why I say, go grab one of the Leman books, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Have a New Kid by Friday and this Birth Order Book. It just gives you confidence that you can do this.
And I think the thing that Dr.Leman keeps saying is, the consistency, you being the parent, not authoritarian, not permissive. You do those things and all the rest of these other things that make you bawl your eyes out and think you’re the worst person in the world, it just gives you confidence that you are a great parent.
And I would say, Andrea, then I’ll ask you, it gave us the confidence that we could just love our kids more, actually.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Well, kids, again, keep in mind parents, you give kids an opportunity to give back to the family. That gives them a sense of wellbeing as well. Even the three or four-year-old can help on load a dishwasher and dump garbage from a small container into the larger one. And there’s things that your children can do at an early age to give them the feeling that they’re giving back to the family, that they’re part of it.
And we tend to write off the little ones and dump all the responsibilities on the older ones. And as kids get older, especially into high school, you got to lift some of those chores and let the littler ones pick up the slack.
Doug: Well, again, thank you for this question. And if you would like to leave your own, you can go to birthorderguy.com/ and put just about any number, 333 on down. And there’ll be a microphone at the bottom, hit that microphone and leave an audio question and we would love the answer it. If there’s one that you’re like, “Hey, they haven’t answered this one,” feel free to leave it.
And a quick reminder, you can get The Birth Order Book October 1 to the end of October of 2020, wherever eBooks are sold, for a mere $2.99 cents and it is a great, fun book to read. And we love being with you and adding to your parenting toolbox. And we look forward to the next time we get to hang out with you.
Andrea: Have a great week.
Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.