The Empathy Foundation Network

Growing empathy for a peaceful world

I watched a bit of the show on the ABC last night called "Bringing up Baby". It reflects very clearly the move during the last century from the early socialising mode to the helping mode of parenting that Robin Grille talks about in his book. The show compares three styles of baby parenting. Firstly the 50's routine/military method of Dr Truby King where the baby is seen as manipulative and is given a strict routine, then the Spock approach that proposes a balance between mother's and baby's needs and focuses on mother's inner knowing, and thirdly Leidloff's Continuum Approach. I found some of the programme quite disturbing and kept switching to another chanel. Some of the programme showed me, how we as a society, can be so out of touch are with empathy. One part that really moved me was when the older sister (probably around age 8) wanted to cuddle the baby who was not to be picked up between feeds. You could see the yearning in the older child to connect, nurture and love. How sad that this amazing sibling bond was not being forged in a most natural way because of a theory about how a baby should be brought up. Another disturbing part was when the mother had tears because she had left the baby to cry itself to sleep but kept saying "I know I am doing the right thing". I could not understand how breaking the baby's and mother's heart could ever be the right thing. On the other hand it doesn't mean that Continuum Approach parenting is a piece of cake either.
I am also concerned that in this day and age such a disconnected form of parenting can be approved to be in a TV "experiment". Some of the programme felt like child abuse to me.

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Every time my boys cry i respond to them. I cant handle the controlled crying business it goes against my instinct as a mum and as a human being - sure im tired i have a 3 month old and a 2and a half year old who still cries out in the night for us so we repond. fulfilling their need to be close to us will help humanity in the long run xoo
HI Rita,

I am in the process of reading Jean Leidloff's The Continuum Concept, with 12 weeks to go until i am a mother. My friend leant me the book after we had a discussion about some of my thoughts and ideas about handling a newborn baby. I basically am thinking about how i dont want to feed my baby and then put it back in a cot, I havent purchased a pram as i would prefer to use a sling!! He suggested I read this book and have a think, who knows what i will do when the time comes. I think i will need some time to adjust to the change of not having a baby kick and move about all day inside of me as much as she will (i think its a girl!)

I am also sure that there is no one right way to do anything! I am hearing plenty of different methods and ideas and from that i will formulate my own little way of doing things..


I flicked past a bit of this the other day and found it a pretty silly program. I too was disturbed by the 'maternity nurse' 'apparently not a real qualification, so the ABC has started screening a disclaimer to that effect before each show) who advocated controlled crying, no eye contact and prioritised 'routine' above all else.

I read today that the mother shown learning the apparently cruel and unnecessary routines, though, has nothing but praise for the method 2 years on. Personally, I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of our decision to not attempt much in the way of sleeping/eating discipline in our and Olivia's life. I think empathic discipline might be something worth exploring...
What is the mother praising? The child or the convenience to her? I have had many "good" kids in my early childhood class. The challenge with many of them is that they have lost their capacity to explore, risk take, disagree, be outrageously spontanious etc. And this is at age three. I believe these are the children who have learnt to survive by losing themselves. By age three most children are naturally co-operative when they are in an environment that meets their needs. Children who are not able to participate in the preschool environment in a fairly reasonable manner will be found to have some developmental challenge (speech delay, gross motor delay, social development delay etc) that means they cannot yet attain the state of development that their peers have attained. My question is... if as an adult we lived for one year in this type of relating or rahter no-relating - to people we love and who we want to love us - what would that do to our sense of self, self worth, pleasure in life etc. Children at least have the same needs as we do as adults. That is, to be part of a community, to be loved and affirmed through words and actions, to feel like we belong, to feel safe etc. The trouble that is the needs of a young child cannot be easily met by one or two adults - hence the convenience and popularity of some of the more "military" types of parenting. Actually a team of loving siblings/cousins aged 8-14 years is one version of heaven on earth for a baby and new Mum. Empathy means to put oneself in another's shoes. How bad does it feel as an adult to cry yourself to sleep believing there is no-one there for you? Why would I put a baby through that? Now the topic of empathic discipline is another whole area and I am all for that. A starting comment from me - routine is one way that we as human's develop a sense of security and safety. It also allows very young children ( I mean the under 2's) to become empowered as they learn the routines and can actively master the routines themselves.
Hi Rita!

Yes! I watched that show too, funny about the timing, I had just been reading through the initial chapters of Robin's book when it came on!

It is amazing how persistent the child rearing practices from the 50s are...a neighbour of mine from a few years back insisted on always putting her baby down so that it would not become dependent on her touch/warmth for comfort. He ended up developing into quite a sturdy toddler, he would never laugh at just a tickle, but if you really rough and tumbled with him he would giggle to no end.....

...yes, the program did seem like child abuse to me too -



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