Monday, August 1, 2011

Unnatural parenting

There is a somewhat modern movement out there called "Natural Parenting", or "Attachment Parenting". Really, all that is modern about it is the name, as the concept of being a failure of a parent and not raising decent kids is as old as humankind itself. Anyway, I am here to pick apart "Natural Parenting". Buckle your seat belts.


"Natural Parenting" (NP) has many facets, not all of which I disagree with. For instance, these parents typically also don't circumcise (check), "cosleep" (check, but a term I detest), and "babywear" (their demented term for carrying baby around in arms - check again, but a term I detest even more).

By themselves, these are all good things. But life is not all sweetness and light. No battery only has a positive side. All that loving gushy parenting (which I am guilty of) needs to be balanced with equally strict, put-the-smack-down, I'm-the-boss-so-shut-up-and-do-as-you-are-told parenting. Yes, I will bend over backwards for my kids if that is in their best interest - which is why I expect them to do as I say even when they don't like what I think is in their best interest, or in the best interest of those around them. If I am good enough to drive them across town to the library and then feed them all ice cream while they play in the pool, they better return that favor by acting like decent human beings  towards each other, me, and others or I will cloud up and rain on them real quickly.

It's almost like NP parents look at their child as a helpless, never-sinning newborn their entire lives. Carrying a newborn in a sling, or having a baby in bed to nurse at night, is very different from a toddler throwing a fit because they don't want to take the nap they so badly need. The baby has a legitimate need, while the toddler is being selfish and manipulative to his/her own detriment, and the detriment of the parents' sanity. I always shake my head in pity when anyone with a child over, say, age 1 or 1 1/2 mentions how hard and frustrating it is to get their child to sleep at night. To me, that's easy. If you can't stop your child from getting out of bed when they are one, when they have been told not to and understand what you are saying, you will have a hard time stopping them from getting into trouble as a teen.

I think that's where many parents miss the boat. Just because I won't let my tiny nursling languish in a crib to "cry it out" when they have no concept of what it is I am expecting them to do (i.e. fall asleep without a fuss), doesn't mean that the same child cannot be taught what I mean when I say "Lie down and don't get up" a year later. Humans are extremely smart, parents just need to give their children more credit. 

Not so with "Natural Parenting". On the Attachment Parenting Blog, a misguided lady named Kelly wrote an article in May on why she is not raising obedient children. She also blogs about "positive discipline and unconditional parenting" on her own blog, bless her heart.

I wonder if her kids have stopped rolling on the floor laughing yet. Kelly, by her admission, is one of those mothers who doesn't just not believe in spanking. She is against punishment in general, even if that consists of nothing more than taking away a privilege. Reminds me of the "no consequences" mom - they are probably best of friends in real life. As realistic of a life as you can have where there are no consequences to your actions. Let's hear it from her own mouth/blog:

To me, the word “obedient” has such a negative connotation when used in reference to raising children; it literally means to obey.  

Um, duh, that's kind of obvious.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." (Eph 6:1)  

"Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord." (Col 3:20)

I guess it would be nice if my kids followed my orders just because I said so.  Put your toys away.  Eat this food.  Find new friends.  Date this person, not that person.  Take this job, not that one.  Have your first child by this date.  Buy a house at this random location on the map, just because I said so.
And this is exactly where Kelly is in error, though her motives and thinking are no doubt nothing short of idealistic and naive. Telling kids what to do when they are kids IS a parent's job. Telling them what to do as adults IS NOT. Is Kelly suggesting that parents should never tell their underage children what to do, ever, in any area of life? Surely, she could not be meaning that. Does she make her kids brush their teeth, eat vegetables, learn their ABCs, say "please" and "thank you", and on and on? What if they refuse, even after Kelly makes every effort to make the kids realize that they really want to be doing those kinds of things because they are wise and polite things to do? Children ARE under our jurisdiction. Adult children ARE NOT. By then, they are old enough to suffer the consequences (there's that bad word again) that come from bad decisions on their part.

I am guessing that when Kelly's kids were babies, she diapered, dressed, bathed, fed, and otherwise cared for them. I am also guessing that the babies at such a young age never offered their input or opinion on the matter. Yet, I am CERTAIN that Kelly is not expecting her children to still need her help with dressing, grooming, and feeding themselves as adults because they didn't get a chance to argue with her about these issues sufficiently as a child.

"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:" (Pro 1:8)  

"My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:" (Pro 6:20-23)

I want my kids to think about what they’re doing; assess the situations they’re in and make internally motivated decisions.  I don’t want them to do things just because I said so.  Though I know that with the number and types of interactions I have with my kids at their current ages of 4 and 6 years old, doing things because I said so would certainly be nice sometimes.  All of the questioning, reasoning, arguing and explaining I hear after a simple request does get time-consuming and tiring.
Yes, indeed it does get tiring, and not just for the parent, but also others who get sick of junior being a know-it-all who questions anything he is told to do. I am sure teachers just LOVE these types of kids.  
Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. (Proverbs 29:17)

But I appreciate the thought my kids put into their explanations to not do something I ask.  
This single sentence is proof positive that raising non-obedient children will drive a parent to insanity. Tip: don't "ask" your children to do something. TELL them to do it. That's why God made you the parent and not the other way around.

Raising non-obedient kids will become very important in several years when they are out alone–maybe with friends or maybe truly on their own, in either case, without parents–and must evaluate an emotionally or physically risky situation.  They need to be able to recognize their feelings, appreciate the significance of those feelings, and trust their instincts to make a considerate and educated decision; a fitting decision.  Not an obedient decision.

Again, Kelly is forgetting one important point: We as parents love our children and want what's best for them. They are under our authority for their own safety and well-being. The same is not true for outsiders such as teachers, friends, babysitters, etc. who may or may not have the child's best interest at heart. Just because a child is expected to come WHEN MOTHER OR FATHER SAYS COME does not mean that they need to be taught to run up to anyone else who calls them (who could potentially be a predator) unless specifically instructed to do so by a parent beforehand.

I would like to bring up a similar example that my readers may be better able to relate to: Have you ever had a paying job outside the home? Did your boss/job "ask" you to do certain tasks, or was it rather "if you don't work you don't get paid"? Does it make the boss a tyrant just because he expects people to work if they are being paid to work? But does taking orders from your boss mean that you have to obey anyone who tells you to do anything? Of course not - only those who legitimately exercise authority over us.

Personally, I think that parents who subscribe to "natural parenting" do so to have an excuse for why they have failed to raise children that are considered pleasant by anyone outside the immediate family. Those of us who look at their child and think "What a self-centered little brat!" are just not smart enough to understand the complex psychology behind such lack of child rearing.

I have often wondered why people would chose to allow their children to act however they feel like acting, because surely it must be embarrassing at best, and driving them to the brink of insanity at the worst. If I had to pick just one root cause, I would say it is selfishness: parents want to be their child's best buddy at any cost, because it makes them feel all good and cozy inside. That is not love for the child you are feeling, it is love for yourself.
"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Pro 19:18)
 "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Pro 29:15)
Obviously, taking the time and effort to discipline a child is never pleasant for either party involved, but sadly, it is necessary.

Kelly, no doubt, is a very nice lady who is doing what she thinks is best. Her only problem is that she forgot to use the Bible, or at least past human experience, as her guide. She is going on what feels right and natural to her. The Bible has very harsh words for parents like her:

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
(Pro 13:24)

I am not claiming that every offspring of NP fanatics will grow up to be dealt with by the courts and morgues, although many no doubt will. But I wonder how many of these children will grow into adults who never go to church, fornicate as young adults, commit adultery once they are married,  get addicted to drugs/alcohol, and generally live only to gratify themselves and their flesh and are an abomination in the sight of God, their ultimate judge. 

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. - (Proverbs 29:15)


  1. "If I am good enough to drive them across town to the library and then feed them all ice cream while they play in the pool, they better return that favor by acting like decent human beings towards each other, me, and others or I will cloud up and rain on them real quickly."

    Perfect-I couldn't have said it better myself. My husband and I work very hard so our children can have the best life possible while keeping in mind what is in their best interest and asking very little in return. It's not as if we life in some third world country where children are often expected to do hard labor. Obedience is also a safety issue. I bet if Kelly's children decided to run out into traffic, she would wish she had taught them to obey then.

  2. I have been listening to S.M Davis sermons on successful parenting and it is so simple as being firm (using the rod) at the same time being gentle (no anger or wrath) and being consistent. When I hear people say why don't babies come with instruction manuals? I say they did- The Bible! If children don't learn to obey their parents they will never learn to obey God. What a generation they are raising, I cringe to think about it.

  3. I have to say I don't always agree with everything you say but THIS post is spot on.

  4. I also disagree with you quite often, but I agree on this post. I also cosleep, wear my babies, practice extended breastfeeding, and do many other AP things. But you better believe my kids get a spanking when they need one.

  5. Amen, amen, and amen. Preach it. Spot on.

  6. Oh man, has this got me riled up. Because I agree with you so strongly and I just want to go on and on and on....
    The thing with children who have no consequences, as you've pointed out, is that they are miserable to be around. These parents do not take into account anybody else's comfort or, dare I say "right" to enjoy themselves while sharing the world with these disobedient, unruly kids who have not been taugth even the smallest bit of self control and respect for others.

    My sister was a "never say no" mother and she and her husband actually stood up to eat their meals because their toddler wanted to climb on the table. Can you imagine at family dinners...."everybody please clear your plates, our precious baby wants to play on the table."

    When my kids were younger and questioned my decisions with "why?" sometimes I'd explain and sometimes I'd say "I don't have to tell you why...." That certainly raised some eyebrows of other moms, that I wouldn't always take the time to say "well, you see, if you stay up until 11, then you are crabby and rude the next day..... blah, blah, blah...."

    I think many parents are afraid of their kids. They are afraid to make them mad. And as the mother of two young adults, as I notice their peers in this phase, I can certainly tell the ones who were raised with a "never tell them no" philosophy. Sad, sad, sad.

  7. Everyday I am agreeing with you more and more.

  8. This was wonderful, thank you!

  9. Since I once left a comment disagreeing with you, it's only fair I leave a comment saying I completely agree with you and wish more parents felt the same!

  10. I disagree with you. I looked at that website about "Natural Parenting" and it seems to be promoting mutual respect between parents and children, preserving the dignity of children, and fostering a sense of empathy in children. No where does it say that you should never discipline or punish children; only that when you do, it shouldn't be harsh or infringe on their dignity.

    And in Kelly's defense, you didn't really comment on what the point of her article was: that's it's better for kids to learn how to think critically by questioning authority than it is for them to be trained to blindly follow any command, even commands that don't necessarily make sense. Every kid realizes that "Because I said so!" is a pretty stupid reason to do anything, so any parent who gives their kid an order should at least be able to explain to their child the importance of that order. I've spent a few minutes reading Kelly's blog, and her kids seem to be very well disciplined.

  11. A fantastic post Zsuzsanna! I am so glad that you posted on this topic...I read about this "style" of parenting a few months ago and found it absolutely disturbing!

    Parents who subscribe to this namby-pamby parenting and shrink at the words: obey, smacking/spanking, discipline and authority, need to stop loving themselves and love their children!

    Great post!

  12. Loved this post. I'm going to share on FB.

  13. This post could not be better! Thanks for it. I've been looking forward to it since you mentioned it a while back.

    Firm, kind and gentle. Not complacent nor angry.

  14. Good post! It seems like people are typically on either side of the scale... they're completely into Attachment Parenting (including the no spanking thing), or they go so far on the other side that they think it's wrong to share your bed with your baby (for fear of becoming a child-centered home).

    Obviously, the best balance is achieved when you use the Bible for your guidebook to raising children.

  15. I AGREE with you! I not only disagree with most of what you say, but HOW you say it. I also disagree theologically with most of what your husband says.
    But this post was spectacular and should be printed in a professional journal. Well said. used scripture in context. Thank you!

  16. Very good post. I have seen children "left to themselves" and they are some of the saddest children on the planet. If only more parents would get their noses into the Bible rather than the television screen, they would truly see the need to properly train and raise their children!! Children NEED this sooo badly!!! Great post! :)

  17. Wait, I'm confused. Wasn't this blog post published a couple months ago? I remember commenting on it?

    I think the AP philosophy is great for babies but it falls apart after awhile. You can't nurse a kid to sleep forever, although some try.

    At some point, a child's needs change and they _need_ to cry as part of learning they can't expect to get their way 24/7.

    A two-year-old crying is NOT the same thing as an infant or baby. Too many AP mommas don't get this--I read their angst ridden posts on message boards.

    My toddler cried for an hour because I gave her crayons for the tub--a fun thing most kids like. She cried when her cup was empty. All sorts of silly things. Some times I gave her a hug, or talked to her or walked away and let her figure it out.

    We don't spank, for many reasons and I continue to find ways to discipline without spanking. I would suggest not confusing the issue as one of spanking vs. not when it's truly simply a lack of discipline. You can raise a responsible, obedient child without lifting a hand.


  18. How come you never address anything about Jews, Jews for Jesus, Israel being not the holy land, but the Jewish state, or the idea of Jews being the chosen people on your blog? Is it taboo in your husband's church or something?

  19. Everyone obeys something. Kelly mentions that she enjoys hearing her children's explanations why they do not do what she "asked." I wonder if her children appreciate hearing Kelly's explanations why *she* will not do anything *they* ask? Oh wait, she probably does everything they ask. Every group has a leader. Every person submits to someone. Kelly hasn't stumbled upon some earth-shattering, fascinating, and completely acceptable new form of parenting: she has simply abdicated her and her husband's place as the authority and given that authority to the kids. And she is too blind to see it, unfortunately.

    As I said, everyone obeys someone. Someday, those children will be shocked to find that at real school, or a real job, they will have all kinds of bosses, and they will be forced to obey which will be a shock if they've always *been* the obeyed one in the past.

    Or, they could choose not to obey, and suffer the consequences, unless we are living in a truly anarchic society by then.

    It is not child abuse, unreasonable, mean, or unwise to teach children to obey. It is the single most important thing you could ever do for them, and it is obeying God, which is important, too.

  20. Hmm.... I have practiced attachment parenting (not completely.. but in many ways) for many years. I also know many other families who have.

    Just remember.. attachement parenting doesn't mean the same for everyone. :)

    We should all just use some common sense when it comes to parenting and we'd all be better off. I think blogs, websites, books, etc.. written on how to best raise kids has done nothing but make people convinced it's so hard and complicated no one can manage it without help LOL

    I also do not agree with most of Kelly's ideas.. but don't throw the entire attachment parenting "movement" in together. It doesn't look like that for many people. :)

    Also, babywear does NOT mean carrying your baby around in your arms. It means WEARING your baby in a sling. I love the term and "wore" all of my children. :) (have always had plenty of baby slings and owned a business selling them so touchy subject LOL)

  21. It has been my experience that MOST parents who do not agree with discipline (and I'm not only referring to spanking..) are the parents who have not been successful in getting their children to behave. I love my child SO MUCH that I will not do him the injustice of NOT disciplining him! Discipline is EVERYWHERE..I love what you said about the workforce. Rules/boundaries/consequences etc...all, in my opinion, are extremely healthy and positive for everyone involved.

    Well written post.

  22. Also think a very well written post. I would like to know your views on the "Pearl Method" which quite a few fundamental Christians seem to follow.


  23. Beautifully said.great informative post.

  24. Imagine how lucky we are to get Kelly's little brat in class every year. (Not literally Kelly's brat, but may as well) Then the teacher gets to spend the first half of kindergarten teaching the kid the word NO. I love volunteering in kindergarten so I can scare them with my Evil Eye.

  25. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This post was great! I also co-sleep, baby wear, and breastfeed and I feel like most people who do the same are getting sucked into this stupid attachment parenting crap! One lady from a breastfeeding group I attend posted an article about how spanking lowers children's IQ's...seriously!?!? Then someone commented on it about how they don't punish or reward their children, they just treat them like people. I'm sorry but last I checked EVERYONE gets punished and rewarded. If I speed I'll get a ticket, if I work I'll get a pay check. When these kids grow up they are going to have alot of adjusting to do when they get out in the real world! Sorry to go on and on but it's so refreshing to read your blog and see that it's possible to naturally ( as in no vaccines, natural births, breastfeeding, cosleeping) raise obedient, godly children!!

  26. Another ignorant post about something you obviously have no clue about. You can beat your kids all you want, but those who don't aren't less "holy" or "christian" than you. Some parents choose to treat their children with love & RESPECT... as HUMANS, not animals. & yes, I'd LOVE to see what you have to say about the Pearls & their brand of child abuse that has turned deadly in too many instances.

  27. Your anonymous comments crack me up. They love to show their ignorance and take everything you say way out of context! Now I guess you don't love or respect your children and beat them! lol

  28. Love this post! Of course you need to let your children make choices, AGE appropriate choices. You don't let a 3 year choose to stay up all night or let a 15 year old take the car for the weekend.

    I don't spank my kids, but it doesn't mean I don't discipline them. My daughter is one of the most strong-willed children on this planet and I cannot imagine how she would be at almost 13 years old if we had not disciplined her when she was 2.

  29. Anonymous August 4, 2011 10:15PM LOL!! I think this is the same Anonymous that's left you many nasty, jugular aimed comments on other posts. This Anonymous seems to find something to attack you with in anything you say, no matter what, or how ridiculous the argument!

  30. AMEN sister! Thank you for "unwrapping" the attachment parenting package and separating the good (child nurture) from the insane (lack of discipline). The danger with any "movement" like this is when it has some good mixed in with bad. People agree with good info. But the good info. falsely adds credibility to the whole thing, and people are deceived into buying the whole package... Just like they do in legislation.

  31. You said, "If I am good enough to drive them across town to the library and then feed them all ice cream while they play in the pool, they better return that favor by acting like decent human beings towards each other, me, and others or I will cloud up and rain on them real quickly."

    I'm not sure what you mean by expecting them to act like decent human beings. Because children, when they have been on an outing, complete with physical activity, free play, and sugary snacks, tend to be wound up, tired and crabby. So do adults. Maybe that's a better explaination of your tendancy to "cloud up and rain on them."

    You said, "Carrying a newborn in a sling, or having a baby in bed to nurse at night, is very different from a toddler throwing a fit because they don't want to take the nap they so badly need."

    I would say that a toddler that is expereincing fatigue and frustration is likely to shout about it. That is -just as much- a reflection of their age and their needs as a baby's behaviour around needing to be cuddled and nursed.

    I can't imagine why that would be considered selfish, and I question your use of the word manipulative. The toddler needs comfort and boundaries because that's what toddlers need.

    You said, "If you can't stop your child from getting out of bed when they are one, when they have been told not to and understand what you are saying, you will have a hard time stopping them from getting into trouble as a teen."

    But I'm sure that teens and toddlers need very different parenting techniques and skills.

    You said that a 1 year old can be taught what you mean when you say, "Lie down and don't get up" -- I agree that they can be taught what you mean, and I would also say that they can be taught what happens when they don't follow the instruction. BUT neither of those things that the child can 'understand' makes a 1 year old capable of full impulse control. They simply aren't.

    You wrote about God's commands to children, as if God gave those commands to toddlers. That's not reflective of proper interpretation. God gives commands only to those whom He holds accountable -- those above 12 by Jewish tradition. But otherwise, one would assume it means children at least old enough to understand and process language.

    You said, "Telling kids what to do when they are kids IS a parent's job." I'm not sure where you got this idea. The Bible says our job is to raise and disciple our chilren. Ruling and instructing them might be part of that, in some cases -- but it is not manditory by the Bible.

    You said, "Don't "ask" your children to do something. TELL them to do it."

    I think that there is a time for both techniques. There are many things that children could be asked to do, that they don't have to do.

  32. You said, "I think that parents who subscribe to "natural parenting" do so to have an excuse for why they have failed to raise children that are considered pleasant by anyone outside the immediate family."

    I think you have grasped something true, but not completely understood it. It is true that NP parents consider many things about their choices to be more important than a child who is pleasant to be around. Their parenting reflects their values, just as your parenting reflects yours.

    Many NP discipline techniques take more effort (and more time) than pain-based techniques. They are also less effective in controlling behaviour 100% of the time. The human instinct to avoid pain is a strong instinct, and can be used effectively to rule over other people. There are just some parents who consider it inappropreate to use pain to control their children.

    I see no basis for your assertion that children who do not endure harsh parenting are more likely to be godless. Most members of our current generation went through corporal punishment, yet the majority of them are godless and engaging in open sin. I chalk that up to humans being broken and sinful. I don't think a parent can parent the sin nature out of anyone, no matter which techniques they choose.

  33. I agree with what you say... sort of. I am a big believer in attachment parenting, and am against punishment as well. But, what you described I do not agree with. I don't agree with punishing a child... for example - child disobeys, so no computer. I agree with natural consequences because there are consequences in life. I don't believe in spanking at all... thats just me. What you described, the woman never teaching her kids anything, I don't agree with. I simply think we can parent gently.

  34. I have recently begun reading your blog, and I must say that I have enjoyed nearly everything I've come across, minus the obvious posts of how dark and far from Christ our world has become, but sometimes you have to go there to open up some folks' eyes. My family and I are from IL and we appreciate your husbands sermons and listen often via the podcasts, in fact I believe my husband has listened to several hundred hours of Pastor Steve's preaching over the years, and I'm quite fond of your homeschooling/parenting lifestyle as I am a new wife and mother myself, "learning the ropes" if you will... This post is especially insightful to me as I can often times fit into the "attached parent" or "crunchy mom" category and have many friends with small children who eat sleep and breathe cosleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing and anything else you can find on the natural parenting facebook page yet they have some of the worst mannered, most ill-behaved children I have ever come in contact with. This is not the way God intended for us to raise our children. The issue I find most confusing is how on earth do you "sit down and have a talk with a 2 year old"? What can you possibly say to a person who's intelligence has been collected over an entire 2 years of their life? As many times as I have had the discussion of child rearing with my "natural" friends, I have never been able to grasp their concept on discipline and proper training of a toddler going into young child years, but your post on this matter has shed a tremendous amount of light on the subject. I see more clearly where this fad type of parenting style becomes a lifestyle that is not of God, and is definitely not a righteous way to raise a family. My husband and I believe in most of the methods one would consider "crunchy/natural parenting" but we also believe in spanking, as a means of respect and discipline. After all, I do believe what makes us live to be more Christ-like is fear of the Lord as well as respect. If we do not discipline our children then we will not have any respect in return from our children.
    Again, I absolutely LOVE your blog, and thanks for sharing such a wonderfully written and well thought out post. GOD BLESS! -Mrs.D-


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