Dear Pearls: Crying Is How Babies Communicate

I spent an hour this evening at the park with Sally and Bobby. I put Bobby in a swing, and gave him a good push, and you should have seen his face—it was like he’d just realized he had wings! After he’d been in the swing for about fifteen minutes, I took Bobby out to take him to play with something else. He immediately stiffened and started screaming, bucking and thrashing until it was all I could do to hold onto him (he’s getting big!). So I put him down and watched him crumple, collapsing on his side and wailing like the world had just ended.

I knew what he wanted—it was clear. Bobby was upset that I had taken him out of the swing and was making that known. Nevertheless, the voices in my head inevitably show up at moments like these, the voices of my parents, channeling the Pearls.

He’s trying to manipulate you. 

You can’t let him win. 

You mustn’t let him get his way. 

You need to nip his rebellion in the bud.

Fortunately, it’s been long enough that these voices are no more than a contrast against which I live my life. And so, without skipping a beat, I put Bobby back in the swing. He immediately quieted and gave me the biggest smile. I gave his swing a push and he broke into spontaneous laughter.

See, being a baby, Bobby doesn’t know any words yet. This means that the only way he can communicate what he wants or needs is through fussing and crying. What he did this evening was not rebellion, it was communication. And he communicated really well, too! I knew exactly what he wanted, and since I love him and care about what he wants and since it wasn’t any trouble anyway, I gave him what he wanted. I hadn’t taken him out of the swing because we had to leave, I had taken him out because I thought he had probably had enough—and he responded by letting me know otherwise. By communicating. You know, the only way babies have to communicate.

But here is what Michael and Debi Pearl have to say about that in their child training manual, which my parents followed religiously:


My nine- and eleven-year-old daughters came in from a neighbor’s house complaining of a young mother’s failure to train her child. A seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened, clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry expression on a baby’s face can resemble that of one instigating a riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?” My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back, “Switch him.” The mother responded, “I can’t, he’s too little.” With the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the switch, my daughter answered, “If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be spanked.”

The Pearls would say that Bobby was throwing a temper tantrum—wailing to get his way—and that I should refuse to “give in” to his attempt to control me. Indeed, my mother used to “train babies out of crying” by refusing to get them out of their cribs when they were crying, instead waiting for them to be quiet and then “rewarding” them for being cheerful by getting them up. Unless a baby was hungry, had a dirty diaper, or was in pain, its cries were assumed to to be rebellion—and rebellion must not be rewarded.

I have to say, parenting is so much more pleasant when you stop viewing your cihldren’s every action through an adversarial lens—when you stop seeing them as little hellions trying to “control” or “manipulate” you. It’s also a lot more pleasant when you actually know something about child development, come to think of it—and when you’re willing to actually listen to your child instead of imputing a whole book full of terrible ideas onto them.

And honestly? I’m pleased to know that Bobby is old enough to know when he wants something and to communicate that to me. That should be seen as a good thing—he’s starting to develop his own personality and knowledge of himself as separate from those around him, the first step on the long process of growing up. :)

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Teni

    Wow, that is utter sickening that not only do/did the Pearls abuse their own children, they encourage the kids to instruct parents to abuse theirs! If any nine-year-old told me to “switch” my seven month old, she’d be kicked out of my house in a heartbeat and not allowed near any of my children again…

    • Conuly

      Really? Because I wouldn’t like to blame a child for being abused. I’d rather keep talking with her in case she either said something that was worth calling in to child services about or was still impressionable enough to learn better.

      • Niemand

        It’s not about blame, it’s about safety. If a child said that about my child as a baby, I’d want that child safely away from mine. It’s not her fault, but she’s not a safe person to have around younger children. If possible, I’d engage her in a discussion of why it was inappropriate to hit children, especially babies, and I’d consider calling CPS (though doubt that that would do any good with a “good Christian” family like the Pearls) but I wouldn’t let her around my child.

      • Conuly

        Well, I probably wouldn’t leave my infant unsupervised with anybody’s ten year old for any length of time, so I doubt it matters.

      • Basketcase

        I wouldn’t have a child that told me to physically discipline my child anywhere near my child fullstop – supervised or not. Supervised means I would have to put up with that person critquing my parenting, which would make me mad, so easier to send them away and not have them back.

      • Conuly

        I don’t like to blame kids for their parents. And the comment I was replying to definitely was doing that.

  • Conuly

    How sad for his daughters in that anecdote! Notice, of course, that all that “switching” didn’t give them the manners not to be snotty to adults.

    • Truthspew

      I think you were going for condescending too. Unbelievable!

      • Conuly

        I’m not sure if you mean “I think your comment was trying to be condescending as well” or “you forgot to say that the kid was condescending to another person”, so it’s hard to know what the correct reply is!

      • Truthspew

        No – in other words the condescension on the part of the kid trying to tell an adult to beat a child.

      • Conuly

        Oh, good! I completely agree, then.

    • NeaDods

      The Pearls have certainly passed on the attitude that it’s more important to sneer at anyone not just like you than for a child to respect an adult. I wonder what the story was like from the “young mother’s” point of view?

      • sylvia_rachel

        Sadly, it was probably just a particularly obnoxious sample of the “mommy drive-by” genre of comment to which new mums are perpetually subjected. When my daughter was a baby, I found there was practically nobody, including total strangers, who didn’t have a strong opinion on what we were doing wrong. Although I guess I’d have been pretty seriously shocked by a 9-year-old telling me I should be hitting my baby. (Hitting kids, never mind babies, is pretty unpopular where I live, thank goodness.)

        I definitely remember, as a kid not too much older than 9, handing babies back and saying “Looks like you need to feed him/her” (or words to that effect) because they’d started chewing on my shirt and I didn’t have the equipment to feed them with. But it would not have occurred to me to tell an adult that their parenting sucked.

      • Basketcase

        Thats a completely valid statement to make – My husband has said it to me a couple of times recently! But I agree, telling other people how to parent is awful. I’m so glad to have avoided it for the most part.

      • KristinMH

        Yeah, today I was waiting at the bus stop with my 1-year-old and witnessed an old guy scold another mom because her 3-year-old was in a stroller. He actually wagged his finger in her face! This being Toronto she and everyone else in the vicinity just ignored him and pretended it never happened. But yeah, everyone thinks they know how to parent your child better than you do.

        Opinions: they’re like assholes. Everybody’s got one.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Hi, neighbour! :)

        I’m in Toronto too, and although I didn’t grow up here, I was acclimated enough by the time I had DD to be *shocked* by the fact that total strangers were suddenly getting in my face with unsolicited parenting advice.

        Mind you, I am baffled by three- and four-year-olds in strollers. (Also, by people who bring their tiny babies on the bus in HUGE strollers, and park them right up front so no one else can get by, and then glare at you when, in squeezing by the huge stroller, you jostle it. But that’s not a parenting issue, that’s a being-considerate-of-other-people issue.) But I just tell myself there’s probably a mobility issue that’s not immediately apparent to me, and move on.

      • Monala

        People with babies/toddlers but without cars, or who drive someplace but then have to park and walk, don’t have much choice but to use strollers.

        In defense of 3 and 4 year olds in strollers: if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, that kid’s going to get tired. And they can be very heavy at that age if you have to carry them for a while.

        In (partial) defense of big strollers: until a child can sit up independently (which can vary, depending on the child; my daughter couldn’t sit up independently until 10 months), the child needs the big strollers because they can lay down in them. They can’t do that in a small stroller. Snuglies and backpacks are other options for carrying babies, but those don’t always work in bad weather, or if the kid is too heavy and/or the parent has a bad back or a lot of other things to carry.

        In my city, you are not allowed to block the bus aisle with a stroller. You can park it in the handicapped seating area (since those seats can lift up and lock for wheelchair usage), as long as no one who is elderly or disabled has to use it. Otherwise, the parent is required to take the baby out and then fold the stroller up. Usually, someone on the bus helps the parent to do this, because the driver can’t move until the parent is seated, and no one wants to hold the bus up while a parent is struggling to hold their baby with one hand and fold up a stroller with another.

      • wmdkitty

        Well, if they’re not up for walking long distances, plan accordingly.

        My wheelchair is a matter of need.

        Your stroller is a matter of convenience. And no, you don’t need a stroller the size of a HumVee to support your kid.

        Also, if the kid needs to be on wheels, well, they make pediatric wheelchairs for a reason.

      • Christine

        Buying a stroller that isn’t the size of a HumVee is financially not an option for most families, unless they have a small child. And if the child is small enough to fit into a folding stroller, you don’t need a stroller for them.

        But I don’t see why a child with physical disabilities should be put into a wheelchair instead of a stroller. They take up comparable amounts of space, and I’ve never seen a child’s wheelchair that entertains kids as well as a stroller does.

      • Monala

        A stroller IS NOT a mere convenience for many families. A single mom I know has a 1 year old and a 3 year old (she left a domestic violence situation). She works part time and goes to school part time. She has no car. She has to use a double stroller, and she takes the bus. The stroller folds up, and as I said in another comment, in my town you have to take the kids out and fold the stroller on the bus. But on the sidewalk, she’s going to take up a lot of room. This is not a convenience – it is a NEED.

      • wmdkitty

        Three? Sorry, but that kid is too big for a stroller, and ought to be walking.

        Stop being such an entitlemoo — strollers are 100% optional. If you think you “need” one, you’re not thinking hard enough.

      • Libby Anne

        I don’t understand how this thread turned into a debate about strollers, but I’m going to step out and say I think you’re wrong here. At three, a child isn’t old enough to take a long walk without growing tired. When Sean and I take the kids out for a walk, we take the stroller for Bobby, but somewhere along the line Sally ends up in the stroller and Bobby moves onto Sean or my shoulders. She simply needs the break.

        Further, strollers are very handy for carrying all of the paraphernalia you have to have with you when going out with kids—the diaper bag with extra snacks, diapers, outfits, etc. If I go out for relatively short walks just with Sally, I won’t take the stroller, but if it’s a long distance or I have both kids, I absolutely and for certain will take it.

        And I have to say, I seriously don’t understand the stroller hate going on here. Strollers are incredibly handy for parents going out with small children, and can make the difference between deciding its worth it to go out and deciding it’s too much work to extend the effort.

      • sylvia_rachel

        See, I’m only somewhat sympathetic to the parents-without-cars-have-no-choice-but-huge-strollers argument, because I was (and am) a parent with no car, and I only took a stroller on the bus once before realizing it was a terrible idea. I will acknowledge, however, that I was aided in my quest to not use a huge stroller by having a baby who was (a) not very large, as babies go, and easily totable well into toddlerhood (she was 20 pounds at age 2), and (b) STRONGLY OPPOSED to strollers. Given a choice between a happy baby in a baby sling and a shrieking-as-though-being-tortured baby in a stroller, I think most people would make the same choice I did.

        Obviously kids do get tired. But I suspect that kids who spend less time in strollers and carseats get tired out less quickly — exercise is one of those things where, the more regularly you do it, the less exhausting it is. I know I was often amazed at how long DD could keep chugging along when she was small.

      • Christine

        They don’t need to be that small. My daughter is 13 kg at 15 months. She recently LOST weight to get down to that. I don’t even need the carrier half the time though. Sure, if I’m going to be walking a long ways to catch the bus, but if I’m just going shopping or going to the Early Years centre, or anything else where it’s a 10 minute walk for me she walks and/or is carried just in my arms.

      • Mogg

        My youngest sister was a metre tall by the time she was two years old. The only solution was, yes, a big stroller for a child that looked four or five, but was only as capable of walking long distances as the two year old she actually was. And even a three or four year old will get tired more easily than an adult, but be too heavy to carry for long.

      • wmdkitty

        Yep, and that’s why you plan around that, instead of using a baby-tank and forcing your tired child to accompany you on mind-numbing errands.

      • Mogg

        Sure, where possible. What do you do when no babysitter is available, or it’s a family day out with other children to look after and you’re likely to be on your feet most of the time, or any of those other situations where a pusher for the toddler to rest in is helpful or necessary? Leave a two year old at home by herself? Dangerous, not to mention illegal where I am. She just didn’t fit in a small pusher. As it was her feet could touch the ground if she didn’t keep them on the footrest. This is the real world, not Alice in Wonderland where people can be shrunk to fit.

      • wmdkitty

        You’re not very bright, are you? When you don’t have a sitter, STAY HOME. If it’s a family day out, again, this can be planned for in advance by NOT scheduling over 9,000 things for your toddler (and family) to do — you know, respecting your kid’s limits. (This has the added bonus of reducing tantrums because your kid isn’t over-tired.)

        I do understand that sometimes you have to take them with you, and it’s convenient for you to just stick your toddler in a stroller, but… NO. When your child’s “stroller” takes up more space than my motorized wheelchair, we’re gonna have a problem.

      • Conuly

        Sometimes you can’t stay home. If I have to do the shopping on the bus, I’m bringing my kid. And even that one activity can tire out a preschooler. You don’t know other people’s situations, so please – stop assuming

      • Noelle

        Ya can’t always stay home. Some days ya gotta eat.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        They typically fold up easily and compactly. You are not the only bus user. You can share the spaces. Busses where I live have 2sides for that purpose

      • Monala

        If a child’s stroller takes up too much room for you, why don’t YOU stay home? Then you wouldn’t have to deal with it. You want consideration, but don’t realize that other people have challenging situations too? Parents without cars have to take kids to day care, go to work or school, pick the kids up, and buy groceries. And in many cases, the only way to do that is via the bus. So a stroller IS a necessity for many parents.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yes, that’s the other thing — lots of kids look older than they are, and because mine is small for her age and I’ve only got one, I recognize that my first-glance estimates of other kids’ ages may be way off.

  • Jolie

    I wanted to leave you a comment, and ended up with something huge/a bit offtopic. So here it is :)

    May be waaaay far-fetched… but I’m making a quite interesting
    connection between your articles on parenting and those on relationships
    and sexuality. And a ton of other stuff, in a “super-theory of
    everything” sort of way :P

    A philosophy professor once told me
    that adopting a liberal or conservative moral/political identity comes
    down to a fundamental metaphysical assumption about human nature:

    That is: people who believe human beings are inherently good, valuable and
    more or less able to make good decisions for themselves are lead by the
    implications of this assumption to become liberals. People who believe
    human beings are inherently evil, sinful and/or often incapable to make
    good decisions for themselves are lead by the implications of this
    assumption to become conservatives.

    The most direct implications of this are:

    If you believe people are usually good, then you will be more likely to
    view relations as cooperative and, when conflicting interests arise, to
    seek compromise taking everyone’s interests into account; whereas if
    you believe people are usually bad, you will see relations as
    predominantly adversarial and buy into the “if I don’t impose *MY* will
    they’ll all walk all over me”.
    (2) If people are usually good, then
    they function best when they actualise their individuality and reach
    their maximum potential. If people are usually bad, then they function
    best when they submit to authority- as opposed to doing what they
    please. (This is why you will be much more willing to accept a
    diversity of lifestyles,
    behaviours and forms of personal expression as valid or virtuous if you
    believe people are generally good; whereas if you believe people are
    evil, you will be more likely to belive that they an only be
    saved/disciplined/made to live together if they follow one particular,
    clearly defined script.)
    (3) On a wider level, if you believe human nature to be
    inherently good, then in order to have a virtuous society you need to
    nurture it; if you believe human nature to be inherently evil, then in
    order to have a virtuous society you need to coerce it.

    Now this plays out interestingly within a wide array of moral issues.

    model”: Children are individuals with minds and needs of their own- and
    this is great. We need to teach them critical thinking so that they can
    develop their individuality; along with mutual respect and cooperation
    so that they can relate to others and reach their maximum potential
    “Humans-are-bad model”: Children are little bundles of sin- we need to teach them absolute and unquestioning obedience lest they succumb to their sinful nature.

    model”: “When your child disagrees with you or talks back, he/she may
    have a point. Listen, weight desires against risks and take into account
    their arguments as much as it is wise or feasible”.
    model”: “When your child disagrees with you or talks back, he/she is
    being rebellious and if you listen or show any consideration to what
    they have to say rather than punishing swiftly, you will turn them into
    out-of-control evil beings who cannot submit to authority”.

    model”: Your children’s education must offer them a taste of
    everything, so that they can experience as much of the world as
    possible, in a constructive and mind-opening way. Being exposed
    to/finding out about different cultures, different lifestyles and
    mentalities without being told by an authority figure “this -one is the
    right one, all others are wrong” is an empowering experience, which
    gives you the info and perspective you need in order to figure ut who
    you are and what you stand for as an individual.
    model”: Your children’s education must shiled them from the corrupting
    influences of the world; being exposed to/finding out about different
    cultures, different lifestyles and mentalities (other than from the
    perspective of an authority figure telling “this -one is the right one,
    all others are wrong”) is dangerous; because it may seduce you into deviating from the right path.

    model”: Follow your wishes and your inclinations; define yourself and
    find your place in the world. You may choose to follow a successful
    career, pursue knowledge, make art or be a stay-at-home parent. All of
    this depends on what you like and choose to do, within the limits of
    your talents and capabilities; not on what your parents like and surely
    not on the shape of your genitals.
    “Humans-are-bad model”: Your heart
    is deceitful, ignore your wishes and your inclinations; instead, let
    tradition, religious doctrine or figures of authority decide your place
    in the world. Regardless of how your personality is like and what you
    enjoy doing, if you’re a man you must be financially successful and
    provide for your family- and if you’re a woman you must stay at home and
    raise kids.

    “Humans-are-good model”: Your body belongs to you;
    it’s the greatest instrument you will ever own, use it to express your
    individuality. From here follows that both whether/when to have sex
    with a willing partner and whether/when to have children with a willing
    partner is your prerogative as well.
    “Humans-are-bad model”: Your
    body is lustful and greedy and this is horrible. Censor it. Society
    needs to have laws, regulations and taboos to keep your body and what
    you can do with it in check in order to control your life- lest you
    become sinful and evil.

    “Humans-are-good model”: Ethical sex
    means fully and enthusiastically consensual sex that is mutually
    pleasurable for all involved. It happens between two (or more…)
    individuals who respect each other and responsibilities regarding its
    consequences are understood and taken by those involved. It can take a
    multitude of forms, some of which might be more statistically common
    than others, but as long as it is fully and enthusiastically
    consensual/mutually pleasurable none is “better” than the other. Some
    people like opposite-sex partners, some people like same-sex partners;
    some like lace panties and some like fluffy handcuffs; it’s all part of
    what makes us wonderfully diverse individuals. Furthermore, because as
    long as it is enthusiastically consensual/mutually pleasurable any kind
    of sex is good, it is unethical to “slut-shame”/”virgin-shame”, be
    homophobic or otherwise judgemental concerning how people who aren’t you
    have sex.
    “Humans-are-bad model”: Sex is shameful, sinful and
    degrading, but -alas- we need it in order to reproduce. This is why it
    should be done only within heterosexual marriage, for the purpose of
    procreation; preferably, it should happen with the lights off in the
    missionary position, and the woman is best advised to lie back and think
    of England. Sex is unethical when it is “impure”- that is- done outside
    of what this traditional script demands.

    model”: Your past relationships did, indeed, change who you are, and
    they are part of your identity, like everything that happened to you.
    Maybe you picked up ideas, expressions of mannerisms; and most certainly
    you have memories- some good and some bad. Like everything that
    happened to you, it is part of your personal journey; and (unless they
    were abusive) it’s probably a good thing they happened to you. Someone
    who is unwilling to deal with the fact that you have one or two exes
    probably has their own issues to work out.
    “Humans-are-bad model”:
    Your past relationships took away a piece of your heart and made you
    undesirable to good men. You are now “damaged goods” as a result of both
    your selfishness/thoughtlessness and your ex’s taking advantage of your
    character flaws and then abandoning you.

    model”: Women who dress and act in a certain manner do so in order to
    express their personality, or otherwise because they so wish and it’s
    their prerogative. Regardless of how provocative a woman dresses/ if she
    chooses to dance and flirt with a guy at the bar/ how many sexual
    partners she has before, men are fully able of grasping the concept that
    none of these equal consenting to sex or make her “no” to sex any less
    “Humans-are-bad model”: Women who dress and act in a
    certain manner do so in order to tempt men into sinning. Men are
    slobbering beasts with no self-control who will be driven to have sex
    with a woman who dresses provocatively or flirts with them; with or
    without their consent. Therefore, if a woman wore a short skirt in order
    to invite male attention and she got raped, she is to blame because she
    provoked the beast with no self-control.

    model”: If someone falls on financially hard times, they probably had a
    streak of bad luck; or are otherwise underprivileged because of
    personal circumstances and/or structural inequality. The State should
    have a safety net in place in order to provide even the disadvantaged
    with the basic means to reach their maximum potential as individuals ;
    therefore we should have welfare, free daycare for single parents and
    other similar measures.
    “Humans-are-bad model”: If someone falls on
    financially hard times, they probably are sinful or lazy; the State
    should not assist them but instead leave them to deal with the
    consequences of their own choices.

    I think it’s very telling that
    the Pearls, for instance, and other conservative writers, appeal to
    readers’ fear much more than progressive/liberal authors would. It all
    comes down, more or less, to whether you think of “human potential” as
    something that should be actualised or, in the very contrary, something
    to be feared. I’m wondering if it is the case that people are more
    likely to turn to fundamentalism if they have suffered significant
    disappointments from the people dear to them… Or (that’s actually one
    of my favourite sociological theories) people turn to fundamentalism
    because they don’t feel able to cope with the pressure of making choices
    for themselves and striving to reach their maximum potential: so they
    turn to an ideology that can give them clear, simple answers; and build
    this whole web of “only we are saintly, everyone else is wicked” in
    order to justify it to themselves”.

    Thoughts on that?

    • badgergirl

      Maybe this is a bit off topic, but I found your points so insightful that I’m copying them and taking them to my therapist’s tomorrow. I was brought up in “people are bad” mode, and have gradually been shifting to “people are good” mode. Yes, I’ve been poor and abused. But if I had to live my life in the belief that everyone is out to abuse me and keep me downtrodden, I wouldn’t be able to live. I’d wind up either a chronically depressed, anxious, and paranoid case like my grandmother, a hypercritical and sarcastic loner like my father, or a shut-in and suicide like my little brother. Thanks for pointing things our so clearly.

      • AnyBeth

        Wishing you well. All the best with the journey.

      • Jolie

        (((hugs))) :)

    • The_L1985

      It almost works, but my conservative father and equally-conservative mother don’t see eye to eye on a lot of those issues. To wit:

      Mom always made sure I knew the reason for a rule, so that I’d understand what sort of things to think about before acting. Dad wanted me to obey without question.

      Both parents agreed that I should learn about a lot of things, to become well-rounded, and with the exception of rap music, I was allowed to listen to any genre I wanted. Dad wanted me to go to Catholic schools (didn’t get his way because there weren’t any in that part of the state) so I’d be taught the “right” perspective on everything, and I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV. Movies for adults had to be watched by my parents and approved before I was allowed to see them.

      Mom defines my success by whether I’m able to make a happy, satisfying life for myself. Dad defines my success by how much money I make. (I’m female.)

      Both parents seemed to have a “people-are-good” view of the human body. As far as sex goes…well. Dad doesn’t go so far as to demonize people who have pre-marital sex, but if you’re not using protection, you’re a slut and no boy would ever respect you. No clue what Mom thinks about the issue.

      They don’t believe in “emotional purity,” save for the concept that children are “innocent.” Their primary motivation for disliking child molestation appears to be, not minimizing harm to children’s bodies and psyches, but keeping children “innocent.” I call BS, based entirely on preschool memories of “playing doctor” and the like.

      So your ideas aren’t totally universal for ALL conservatives/liberals, but the extreme conservatives I knew from school fit your model to a T. Remember that some conservatives are a bit more moderate than the ones who make it into the public eye.


    • Truthspew

      Yes indeed. I’m one who believe there is inherent good in the world so it explains my liberalism. And I found the notion that we are all born with original sin to be amusing if downright ridiculous. Just go read the book of Genesis for your answer to WHY I find it amusing. You see, when Cain went out of Eden and east into Nod who were these ‘other’ people? And how are we all descended from them?

      I often wonder if whoever wrote that text put in that little section as a test to see who could put two and two together.

    • Marian

      See that works… it really works in a “super theory of everything” sort of way… until you get to economics. Then, all of the sudden, conservatives seem to think that humans are inherently good, and if we just put no regulations on them at all, all the companies would act in a non-exploitative way and the free market would handle any companies who were exploiting people / the environment / what have you. And then liberals look at what’s happening in our world and go “are you nuts???” Without checks on them, all companies will act in an exploitative way to maximize their profits, and we need to make sure that people are protected by putting regulations on the companies that protect their workers and the environment. In other words, people are inherently bad and will choose to exploit to gain profit.

      Not to say I don’t think you’re on to something with this idea… I think you really are… but how do we explain this one place where it seems totally backwards???

      • Rosa

        The explanation for that is that it’s not people in general who are assumed to be economically virtuous, it’s high-status people – the owners of companies, the managers of workers.

        If you add in an adoration of hierarchy and belief that high status comes from God, on the conservative side, the theory covers pro-business economics and a bias toward harsh law enforcement.

      • Marian

        Good point. And I suppose the flip side would be that liberals recognize that putting someone in a position of power has a tendency to corrupt their good nature, and therefore the safeguards are to protect them as much as the people they are in power over?

      • Rosa

        You would hope so. Unfortunately I think an over-valuation of people in authority is pretty universal. But in theory, recognizing that power corrupts is an important part of most Enightenment discussions of government.

      • Sam D

        I haven’t read “Wealth of Nations,” but I understand this is covered by Adam Smith: basically, he didn’t like corporations, because they distanced decisions from the direct condemnation of a society. If an owner makes a bad decision, everyone knows it, and can stop associating with that person. If a corporation makes a bad decision, who do you yell at when you meet them in the street? You can withdraw your retirement savings and invest elsewhere, but yelling at yourself isn’t much good, because you didn’t actually make the decision you’re upset about.

        So, I guess the moral is people may be good but groups can be less so when there’s no specific accountability.

        I hope that makes sense.

      • Karleanne

        Actually, the way I was taught about capitalism was based on a “people are bad” assumption: The reason capitalism is the best economic system is because it is the only one that takes into account human selfishness and pits those competing interests against each other for overall human good. Of course, I believe that’s largely hogwash, but that’s how it was taught.

      • Brightie

        Thanks. I guess I should’ve kept reading before replying. :)

      • Christine

        While that might explain the theory of capitalism, it doesn’t explain the arguments which are made claiming that people would freely give money to help others, with the implication that there would be just as much charity money available if the government didn’t take it in taxes, and we need to give more control to the donors.

      • Jolie

        Is this a typical conservative (rather than libertarian) argument? I’ve heard things like “struggling single mothers had sex out of wedlock, so they need to deal with the consequences” from the conservative side more often…

      • Christine

        Honestly, I wouldn’t know what sort of labels to apply to the different groups. I know I’ve seen letters “It’s good that CIDA defunded MCC*, we should stop funding development at all: this would result in tax cuts and then people would have more money to give to their favourite charities, and MCC would have more money” (This was followed by a brilliant rebuttal in the next issue analyzing the amount of donations following recent tax cuts.)

        *denominational development agency for the Mennonites. Mennonites are one of the denominations that have a lot of conservatives, so the letters in denominational magazine is a good way to see liberal-conservative ideals battle out (ad nauseum).

      • Alice

        I think it’s because they see the government as a greater evil because it is secular, and therefore it should have as little power as possible over the economy, over home-schooling, over guns, etc. And yet you hear of many fundamentalists who would love it if American was essentially a theocracy, so the only reason they advocate a lassiez-faire approach is because they can’t manipulate the government the way they manipulate their sheep.

      • Brightie

        While I don’t understand the liberal side of the economic view in relation to a good/bad humanity interpretation, I think I can explain the conservative letting-it-work-itself-out view.

        The idea is not “humans are good when it comes to economics.” The idea is “humans are selfish. They will act in their own interest. If the best way for them to attract new customers and maintain customer loyalty and up their profit margin is to be reasonably ethical in their behavior/not make a scandal and to make products which will keep people coming back, which is assumed to be true, then the selfishness of humanity will work to keep businesses on their best behavior.”

      • Liriel

        But if humans are selfish, then the customers shouldn’t *care* that the companies are behaving unethically, so long as they aren’t the ones affected by it. Abusive practices to the employee would be perfectly acceptable to said selfish consumers, so long as they didn’t result in an inferior product. Heck, inferior/dangerous/mislabled products would be fine, too, so long as it didn’t end up hurting the bottom line (and that includes when consequences are six years off and the decision-maker has a five-year contract).

      • Jitterbits

        I’m ages late to the conversation, but for the most part, it seems conservatives absolutely do feel this way, not caring about companies behaving unethically unless they feel it directly affects them. The only thing I can think of that conservatives have boycotted for is those companies that recognize lgbt people as actual people. And I would bet money that conservatives are more likely to shop at places like Walmart than liberals are. They also seem to think that the marketplace will magically sort things out, unable to recognize that monopolistic-type of power severely skews the power of the customer.
        There was also that interesting study that showed conservatives were *less* likely to purchase light bulbs that were labeled environmentally-friendly, because apparently they really *do* hate the environment and/or “liberal” causes that much.

      • LL

        Oh, and guns. Conservatives insist that we must see every human being as inherently good ONLY when it comes to the free market and guns. Humans are evil from birth in every sinful little way and MUST.BE.CONTROLLED, but when they are given every opportunity to exploit entire nations, ecosystems and populations through building their own wealth or blast away hundreds of people with weapons, they are completely innocent to the core. I mean, obviously.

      • Jolie

        I guess this could, to a point, fit the model too; in a “we must always be prepared for war/ we must wage war because people-are-evil”, or “we have the moral right to exploit those people because they are evil and we are saintly”.

    • Brightie

      I think there is definitely something to this. But it’s not quite this cut and dried, in some cases. For instance, there are people who lean conservative/fundie but who are perhaps not super-authoritarian, in my experience, who have something like a “humans aren’t totally bad but they are flawed and don’t always know what’s best for themselves” model. So… more of a continuum?

      • Jolie

        Indeed :)

    • George

      What if you think people vary widely on a sliding scale from good to bad, with some of them being kind and loving and some of them psychopaths? and good and bad are invented by humans anyway and are things that people can become, through being beaten and neglected, or supported and nurtured? This is my view and for the record, I’m a liberal. I don’t think anyone is born ‘evil’ or ‘good’, but some are born with a higher potential for violence, less self-control or greater empathy, which the experience of their life can then shape to good or evil.

      • Jitterbits

        Ages late, but I think you touched on another trait of liberals vs. conservatives. Conservatives tend to see everything in very stark, well-defined black and white terms while liberals see the numerous shades of gray. Furthermore, conservatives are more likely than liberals to judge based on stereotypes because of that black-and-white, clear-cut viewpoint they have.

    • Sheila Crosby

      When you’re a toddler, having the all-powerful giants who run your life reaching for the plumbing line every time you express an emotion or make a mistake is not likely to convince you that people are good.

  • The Elite Kaboom

    The Pearls utterly disgust me. I don’t think it’s even possible for my distaste for them to grow any more. Hitting babies because they cry- WTF are the babies supposed to do, send an email?

    Also, if I’d spoken to an adult like Pearl’s daughter does in that anecdote, I would have been in serious trouble. For someone with such “obedient” children, they sure are disrespectful. I also probably would have called CPS if someone said that to me, although I don’t have children of my own.

    • Sally

      I was thinking the same thing. I thought the 9 year old was shown as “the smart one” and that that was totally inappropriate for someone who believes adults are supposed to be in charge all the time. I guess it’s OK for a 9 year old to tell an adult how to parent if the 9 year old is a Pearl.

  • John Evans

    Two of my friends taught their baby some basic hand signs for concepts like ‘more’ and ‘enough’ before he could talk. They say it cut down on frustration for everyone considerably. It’s only a single data point, but still an interesting idea.

    • lana hobbs

      we were pressured to teach our firstborn sign language, but the kid spoke several words by four months old, long before he had enough motor control to sign, so it really annoyed me that people kept pushing me to teach him signing…. In most cases, though, i think sign language can be very helpful, especially where a kid is slightly delayed in speaking. Communication can be so frustrating for kids.

      • lana hobbs

        heck, communication can be frustrating for adults :D

      • Conuly

        I think the idea is that most kids are going to have control over their hands before they have control over their mouths and tongues. If your kid was speaking ANY words at four months, it’s not the other kids who are delayed, yours is advanced!

      • lana hobbs

        yes, sorry, that is what i meant. I only meant it’s even more beneficial when a child’s speech IS delayed. I’ve baby sat kids who weren’t even saying single words at age two, and it was so great when they could sign for what they wanted, and one little boy even signed ‘thank-you’ regularly :D

      • lana hobbs

        my few attempts to teach my sons sign language (each before a year but i can’t remember exactly for the second one) went like this. Me: “drink” (sign for drink) (repeat three times) ‘can you do it?’. kid (grin) ‘dink!’
        so then i didn’t bother. they’re both really verbal little dudes :D

    • grindstone

      We did baby sign language with our son. He only picked up a couple of words, but the utter relief on his tiny face when it was clear that we understood him….nothing short of miraculous. Just the one sign for “milk” was like having the clouds part on our relationship to our baby.

  • Jacob Hugart

    On the subject of babies and communication, I read a book by Oliver Sacks, “Seeing Voices,” when I was in college. I’d read other books of his, but thought this one was about synesthesia (the crossover of sensory perception) because I hadn’t read the subtitle on my copy: “A Journey Into the World of the Deaf.”

    As a result, I was surprised by the concept, though it was still an engaging read. What especially surprised me was the discovery that infants born of a hearing parent and a deaf parent who uses sign language are able to sign well before they can articulate linguistic sounds. In fact, right around six months of age, or so, a child can probably sign his first sign, whether or not he can hear.

    When my wife and I became parents in 2000, we found there are books and videos that teach you some basic signs you can use with your child. (I recommend the ones that use an existing sign language, such as American Sign Language, rather than making up your own signs.) You can go online and find signs for practically any word you want. You’ll notice when your child is interested in something, and learning the sign for it helps you enrich his world.

    My son’s first sign was “ceiling fan.” I often joke that it was his first word, before explaining that it was signed. But he used it in a room at a restaurant with ceiling fans that we hadn’t noticed. We had taught him that because he’d been fascinated by the fan in his bedroom.

    There are other useful words like “toilet,” “ow,” “milk,” “water,” “eat,” “drink,” and “more.” My son knew these, and others, by the time he was a year old. It didn’t slow down his verbal development, but because he was able to put labels on his world at an early age, I think it accelerated his reading and communication skills. He reads and writes above grade level, and has no trouble speaking up in front of a group.

    When you mentioned your son wanting to swing more, I realized that I would have asked, “More?” and made the sign. If he signed back, I would have kept swinging him. As you say, it isn’t rebellion to enjoy something and express disappointment when it ends.

    • Terri Anne

      My brother taught his two children to sign before they learned to speak. It saved a lot of frustration because the children could make their wishes known more easily. I found it fascinating that small children unable to talk knew exactly what they wanted.

    • Sally

      We too used baby signs. I think “ceiling fan” was one of our oldest’s first words, too! I agree that “more” is a very helpful word. We just don’t want people like the Pearls to start recommending baby signs and then expecting the babies to use them consistently, such as the sign for “please,” and then ending up with situations like Libby Anne’s little sister in a recent post she wrote! But in the hands of parents who follow their child’s developmental lead, it’s great!

    • Rosa

      weirdly, my son was way more frustrated with us after he was able to talk (we did baby sign, but he only picked up a few words – more, change, please).

      I think before he could talk he just thought we were misunderstanding him; after he was speaking, he realized we were not complying with his requests part of the time even though we knew what he wanted.

    • Christine

      My daughter learned the sign for “milk”. She decided that it was a fun way to move her hand, and did it all the time. Thus ended my interest in teaching her signs. She’s 15 months now, and my mom keeps trying. I’m not sure if my mom just wants her to learn ASL, or if she honestly can’t understand the LO’s vocalizations.

  • Jaimie Bell

    “Calling down damnation”? For stiffening, clenching, and baring gums? I would at least expect some screaming to liken it to Hell. :)
    News flash: Seven month babies don’t have a “way” to not get. All they have are needs at that point. And obviously they are not being met.
    Take away the cruelty, to watch the sheer ignorance in a society where solid information is readily available just makes me shake my head. Some serious training in childhood development as well as basic infant care classes are needed here. Or is that a gross understatement?

    • Libby Anne

      I sometimes feel like there ought to be some sort of child development/nutrition/parenting class that every new parent has to take. I have no idea how to mandate something like that, though, and concerns about implementation and possibilities for abuse (I’ve heard of Christian groups running these sorts of classes for local social services and teaching the Pearls’ methods, I am NOT KIDDING). But in my ideal world, every new parent would take such a class. I mean, we have people pass a test before we let them drive, but we don’t make any sort of effort to offer even voluntary training programs before letting people parent. In a world where children were truly valued, this would be different.

      • Niemand

        You’ve outlined the reasons why I don’t favor any kind of requirement in real life (the possibility that the classes will teach the Pearl method or something similar, the difficulty in enforcing, the possibility of prejudice in enforcement), but I think that in the ideal world every fertile person would have (perfect and perfectly safe) birth control implanted and only removed when they wanted a child AFTER they took a class that frankly told them what they were in for and what they would need to do to raise a child successfully. They could still get the implant removed and have the child against advice, but they should at least be told what they are facing before they get into it.

      • saramaimon

        your ideal world is semi mandatory birth control??? ugh.

      • Alix

        Why not? Better than a bunch of unprepared people having a bunch of unwanted babies.

        I guess I just really, really don’t see why birth control is a bad thing?

      • Jayn

        Birth control isn’t bad. But forcing it is getting into issues of bodily autonomy, and once you involve the government in deciding who can and can’t reproduce you get into rather dangerous territory that has a nasty history in this country and others.

      • Alix

        Ah, fair point, and one I should’ve thought of. Thank you for bringing it up.

      • Niemand

        That’s the primary reason that I wouldn’t ever want something like this in real life: I just don’t trust society to make good collective decisions about reproduction. That and because we don’t have anything like side effect free birth control that is perfect for everyone.

        The bodily autonomy issue is a good point, but I think if it is possible to have it removed any time you want to (which should include not having it put in at all) as long as you can demonstrate that you know and understand the risks of refusing should take care of that issue. Then the problem becomes parental coercion…I remember hearing about a case recently where a 14 year old was being pressured by her step mother to get pregnant via artificial insemination (the step mother ordered sperm ostensibly for herself and made the child inseminate herself). How do you prevent that sort of thing?

      • Brightie

        Ideal world a a place where children are always chosen, never “oops”? Assuming that these classes don’t cost money or have much of a waiting list to get into, doesn’t sound bad to me…

      • Ibis3

        I think Parenting should be a mandatory high school course. Maybe half credit for Sexuality, half credit for Parenting.

      • Kristen White

        My UU congregation has a parenting class/support group combo. It’s not ‘taught’ per se, but people bring in helpful articles they find and the parents of older kids act as resources for the new parents. It’s usually based on the positive parenting/communication approach. I wish everybody had something like it! It was so helpful to get reinforcement that I’m not hurting my child by parenting gently, and to see people with older children who had been raised that way and were respectful, kind, and well-behaved.

      • Jaimie Bell

        I agree. If I saw a baby do that, my first thought would be GI upset. I would ask the mom, what did you just feed him? Because it seems like something isn’t agreeing with his little system.

      • John Evans

        I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. We require people to have licenses to drive cars, but nearly anyone may raise children. What’s up with that?

      • saramaimon

        Being a parent is a relationship, not a a job. I resent treating it as a job.

      • Alix

        Uh, it’s both. There’s a heck of a lot of work that goes into parenting, and yes, that makes it a job – but it’s not like “job” and “relationship” are mutually exclusive categories.

        Many, many people have no or little idea about child development. Many parents are “winging it” when it comes to raising their kids. My sister broke down crying a few months after having her first baby ’cause she felt like she MUST be doing stuff wrong – because everyone had an opinion, everyone knew how she was doing it wrong, and she’d had no education in parenting herself, so she had no way of knowing if they were right, or her instincts were.

        What on earth is wrong with giving parents greater support? With preparing them for the complex task of raising a child? With educating them, so they have a better idea of what they are doing?

        Oh, right, it’s just a “relationship,” so it should just “happen.”

      • The_L1985

        Relationships of any kind don’t “just happen” either. You have to stay in contact with a friend, or you grow apart. You have to constantly communicate with a lover, or that love fades and turns bitter. You have to compromise with people sometimes, or they won’t associate with you anymore. All relationships are work–why would parenting be any different? :)

      • Alix


      • Sparrow

        As an ex-evangelical I’m really grateful for your blog Libby-Anne, but while I think the state should make parenting classes/ health visitors/ other appropriate support available free to make sure parents and children stay healthy and safe, I really could not condone a mandatory test before people parent.

        Deciding that some women (and yes it’s usually gendered) are unfit to be mothers has had horrendous consequences in the past, with women with disabilities or mental health conditions being forcibly sterilised party on the assumption that they should never be ‘allowed’ to be mothers on the basis of prejudicial assumptions when actually, with the right support they could have made good parents. How do we prevent such abuses being inherent within a parenting ‘test’ in a society that still has serious problems with the way it views and treats disabled people? How do we prevent such a parenting test from discriminating against poor women, or women from minority backgrounds, or single mothers?

        I agree that parents need more support and there should be good accessible parenting education, not least because educating parents greatly improves outcomes for children, but a ‘parenting test’, particularly in a society still riddled with inequalities and injustices, does not seem to me the way to go.

      • Libby Anne

        But that’s exactly what I said. Too much potential for abuse. And I was thinking of all of that when I said it, too.

      • AnyBeth

        Um, you did say you had concerns about potential for abuse, but your parenthetical suggests that you were thinking of the parenting methods these classes would teach, instead of how the testing (or required class time) themselves could be discriminatory. You may have been thinking those things, but I don’t think it was exactly what you said.

      • Libby Anne

        Sometimes parentheticals aren’t meant to be inclusive. I said potential for abuse, and that’s what I meant—potential for abuse. Maybe I should avoid parenthetical a in the future, for fear people will take them as all inclusive.

        But actually, if you reread Sparrow’s reply to my comment you will see that she indicated that I am in favor of making people pass a test before letting them parent, right here, right now, when I specifically said I am NOT. That is the thrust of what I was replying to.

        That said, I am grateful to Sparrow for going into more details on the problems. People need to know this stuff.

        Perhaps the implication that I didn’t know any of that when that is basically what I’m studying in grad school grated on me too, but then I don’t talk about what I’m studying in grad school here on the blog, so I wouldn’t expect her to know that.

      • Sparrow

        Sorry Libby Anne, I realised on re reading the comment that you weren’t suggesting that mandatory parenting tests would be a good idea but couldn’t figure out how to edit my comment accordingly.

        I think I replied so quickly because having read the rest of your blog I was very surprised that you wouldn’t see the problems of such a test given that so much of what you write is so considered and insightful – but as you obviously do I apologise for criticising something that you didn’t actually say. I’ll read a bit more cautiously in future.

      • Libby Anne

        It’s not a problem, I guess it just rubbed me the wrong way because one thing I’m passionate about is making sure not to be imperialistic, whether it’s over women in other countries or women in our own country. Glad we’re on the same page there. :)

      • Monala

        I wrote this above, but I am so glad I was able to take parenting classes at, believe it or not, a Christian crisis pregnancy center. In the parenting classes, I learned some important lessons, ones they
        stressed again and again: you can’t spoil a baby. If your baby cries,
        it’s because he or she needs you. Responding to your baby’s cries as
        quickly as possible is how your baby learns trust and security.

      • The_L1985

        So much this. My education major required some basic child-psychology courses, and they stressed that the most important lesson an infant can learn is trust. Can they trust you to be there when they need you? Can they trust you to feed them enough? Can they trust you to love them?

        If you don’t respond to an infant’s cries, then the lesson the baby learns is “Mommy and Daddy are unpredictable and can’t be trusted. Nobody will ever help me. I am all alone in the world.” This can seriously screw up the child’s future psychological development, and lead to badly maladjusted adults.

  • lana hobbs

    Sometimes I’ve gotten frustrated with my kids for screaming – and it’s worse with the ‘he’s in rebellion and you’re helping him on the road to hell!’ rhetoric in my head. But i try to appreciate that my kids are usually communicating as well as they can – and even at ages 2 & 3 (with verbally advanced boys) they still resort to screaming or hitting. but i sympathize because i sometimes feel very strong anger or irritation i don’t know how to express and have been known to stomp my foot in frustrations after spilling something – how much more trouble must they have nicely articulating those things? I have thanked my sons before for ‘communicating so clearly’ – when that communication was a timely shriek of fury. any of the parents/peers from my old homeschooling group would probably think i was bonkers :D
    it just isn’t right for parents to impose their wills on their children whenever, and expect not a word (or a peep) of opposition, or protest. Sheesh I remember being treated that way and aint no way i am going to take that as the way parenting SHOULD be done – with all the burden of understanding and giving up placed on the baby.

    • Monala

      I’d say that even older kids struggle with communicating clearly. And I echo what someone wrote above, about how your posts are so helpful in my own parenting journey. This morning my almost 8yo had a meltdown in the car on the way to school, over something that seemed relatively minor, ending with her telling me she hated me as she got out of the car.

      I arrived at school frustrated and shared what had happened with a co-worker, who sympathized, saying that happens with her 10yo son sometimes, “because kids can sometimes be brats.”

      As the day went on, that comment started bothering me more and more. I thought about how the night before, I was getting my hair braided and hadn’t spent any time with my daughter beyond greeting her when I got home. Her dad took her to gymnastics, checked her homework, and read with her before bed. Usually I do at least some of the evening activities with her. So I started wondering if maybe this was a reaction to not having any time with me. I resolved to

      • Monala

        I think I got cut off! Too long-winded, I guess. Anyway, I resolved to give her a big hug when I got home tonight and make sure to spend some good time with her. She greeted me at the door with a big hug of her own, telling me she was sorry about the morning. And we had a wonderful time hanging out tonight. :)

      • lana hobbs

        now see, that’s beautiful parenting :D i’m so glad you were understanding with your daughter!

  • grindstone

    There is a huge difference between crying for something and a full blown temper tantrum. Kids will have meltdowns, hell, even adults have meltdowns and we don’t beat them for it. My son knows that he can have a tantrum, but I don’t have to listen to it; he gets banished to his room until he can gain control. But a seven-month old? That’s not a tantrum, that’s stress at not being in control of anything at all in the big scary world, or being over-stimulated, or having the fun end before you were ready, or being hungry, or having to poop, or having to sit in poop or any of the other things that babies face. They are NOT children, they are babies.

    I don’t advise beating children, but what the Pearls condone with babies is nothing short of barbaric.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Unfortunately, the idea that babies “throw tantrums” or “pitch fits” is not confined to the Pearls and their ilk — I’ve seen post after post after post on very mainstream parenting boards from mums going “My [5/6/7/8/9/10]-month-old is already hitting the Terrible Twos and throwing tantrums all the time!” And although there are lots of people out there replying “That’s way too young to talk about throwing a tantrum. He’s a baby. He’s not doing it to get to you, he just can’t talk yet”, etc., there are also lots and lots of people replying with stuff like “He needs to learn that you’re the parent and he’s not in charge” and “Just ignore him” and “He’s obviously spoiled and needs to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around him”.


      • Christine

        I would say that there is a difference between crying and tantruming, but I also see some of it in my 15-month old. There are time (especially when she’s tired) that she reacts more strongly when she notices that someone’s watching. That said, the standard tantrum-managing techniques of simply putting the child where they can’t hurt themselves isn’t appropriate at that age.

      • Monala

        I received services from a Christian crisis pregnancy center, and I’m really glad I did. One of their requirements was taking parenting classes, and they really helped me. I wasn’t raised with the Pearls’ teaching or Christian homeschooling, but I had still absorbed many of the general world’s unhealthy messages about parenting.

        In the parenting classes, I learned some important lessons, ones they stressed again and again: you can’t spoil a baby. If your baby cries, it’s because he or she needs you. Responding to your baby’s cries as quickly as possible is how your baby learns trust and security.

      • The_L1985

        I don’t like the idea of the “Terrible Twos” either. I love how inquisitive two-year-olds are. They’re like little explorers in an uncharted territory, and they want to learn all the whats and wheres and whys any way they can. I have tons of second-cousins, ranging in age from 6 to 25, and I’ve found that I tend to spend the most time with them when they’re between the ages of 2 and 10. It’s just so fascinating to watch them put together a basic picture of the world.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I also hate that term. Two-year-olds are great! The age I found really trying, actually, was three — SO sensitive, SO energetic, SO inquisitive, SO unable to cope with disappointed expectations, SO determined to “do it myself” … and also she discovered whining. I find meltdowns relatively easy to handle, but the whining drove me nuts.

        When DD was three, I spent a lot of time repeating this mantra to myself: Having a three-year-old is hard. But being a three-year-old is harder. She will grow out of it.

        The worst thing was that I got ZERO sympathy from my mom, who just kept telling me about much, much crazier things I did when I was three ;)

      • Jess

        I have a 2 year old, so I get the “Terrible Twos” thing. It’s a remarkably fun age. It is also very trying. Though, I don’t obviously like it, the temper tantrums and stuff are pretty much not the issue. I get that he is emotional and he still doesn’t have the vocabulary to express everything he wants/needs and that 2 year olds will tantrum. For me, it is more about safety and minding. For instance, at a grocery store, he won’t want to sit down in the cart…throws tantrum…finally get moving with him all buckled in. Buckle is useless and he wiggles out of it and starts standing and jumping in the cart. Tell to sit down. Sits down for about 2 minutes. Wiggles back up and does the jump routine again, nearly falls out of cart, gets me nasty looks from some lady walking by. Sit him down again and buckle, he throws another tantrum. This goes on every couple minutes for the whole of the trip to the grocery store. It is maddening. I know it is normal 2 year old behavior, but it is also dangerous and so I have to admit, that I get jealous sometimes of the ladies pushing their 2 year old by, sitting up straight in the cart, without a whimper or an attitude. Maybe they beat their children into submission or maybe they just have better behaved kids, or maybe they are just better parents in general. But I will never begrudge a mom for admitting that she is struggling with her child’s particular developmental stage, because it is difficult. I think it helps immensely to know WHY the kids are doing what they do so you can figure out how to best deal with it or at least deal with your own emotional health. I think two is pretty terrific and amazing to witness. But there are moments when it feels pretty terrible too. Just being honest.

      • The_L1985

        Yes, but so many people use the phrase “Terrible Twos” to refer to all toddlers, implying that your child is just automatically going to be a little terror ALL THE TIME. Even the rowdiest toddlers do settle down now and again. :)

        Plus, the stereotype “helps” you to think of your child’s protests as “baby is defying me/acting like a wild animal!” instead of “The baby’s not happy. I wonder what’s making Baby unhappy?”

    • saramaimon

      I’ve observed how some very fussy and temperamental babies became much happier and calmer when they learned to talk.

  • JarredH

    It seems to me that the real issue here is needs and wants. Listening to you talk about the Pearls, I get the impression that children aren’t supposed to have their own needs and wants especially those that conflict with those of their parents. Kinda like how women aren’t supposed to have their own needs and wants, especially those that conflict with those of their husbands.

    It’s not just that Bobby is being rebellious for communicating his desire to keep swinging. he’s rebellious for even just having such a desire.

    • NeaDods

      This! Oh, you said it better than I did. Children and women are to do what they’re told, period, and if they don’t they are following satan. Period.

  • smrnda

    Seriously, babies can’t talk, don’t necessarily understand language, don’t know much about the world and don’t have adult-level motor control. Of course they’ll be frustrated by a world that often makes no sense, where everything is way too big and what does she expect them to do? Babies cry all the time not because babies are selfish, but because adults are kind of selfish and if it weren’t for babies being demanding, they wouldn’t get the care they need.

    In the end, it’s people like the Pearls who are selfish, who can’t for an instant put the needs of a child ahead of their own insecurities and need for ego stoking.

  • NeaDods

    “What he did this evening was not rebellion, it was communication.”

    Libby Anne, you’re assuming the Pearls think that children have anything worth communicating. And the impression I’ve been getting from your stories and the comments here are that authoritarian parents DON’T think that kinds have any feelings, rights, or opinions worthy of listening to, much less respecting. All of the baby-beating advice teaches children that they must swallow down their wants, fears, thoughts, even needs, lest they inconvenience their parents.

    On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been wondering if you’re going to address that woman who forced her foster child to get pregnant. It intersects with your posts about teaching homeschoolers to fear social services and adopting children for the parent’s glory, not the child’s needs.

    • The_L1985

      She did what to her foster child? I didn’t hear this story–how old was this kid? What horrible things was the foster-mother doing to try to get her pregnant?

      • Libby Anne
      • NeaDods

        The kid was 14 when she started, apparently miscarried early on, and then “took” when she was about 17. It was artificial insemination. But what made me think about Love Joy Feminism is that the mother was also an American who was paranoid about social services, homeschooled, and got all her children from fostering/adoption. She came up with this scheme when she wasn’t allowed to adopt a fourth child… so she decided to have one of the ones she had fill in the gap. The British hospital staff twigged to how oddly she was behaving at the birth and finally called in the cops.

    • Libby Anne

      Ah yeah, I need to do that, you’re right. What I’ve been thinking about lately is the claim that only good parents would decide to homeschool—because who else would go through all the time and effort and extra work involved if they didn’t love and care about their children, when public schools offer to take their kids off their hands for hours each day? This claim, which I grew up on and have seen made in comments here, simply is not true, and the case you refer to makes that clear—homeschooling attracts a lot of really good parents who want to invest extra time and energy into their kids, sure, but it also attracts egotistical narcissistic abusive parents who like that homeschooling lets them completely control their children’s lives without outside interference. So yeah, let me see if I can put a post together on that, then.

      In the meantime, you might be interested in this page I’ve put together:

      • NeaDods

        Oh, thank you for that link, yes I am!

        Again on a side note – ever since you switched to Disqus, I can’t see comments at work (it’s blocked there) and the browser on my phone won’t take my password. So I’m reading just as avidly, but I can’t comment very often anymore. :(

      • NeaDods

        Reply part II – “the claim that only good parents would decide to homeschool” is, in my opinion, as factual as the claim that only responsible people would decide to own guns. There *are* responsible gun owners, just as there are responsible and caring homeschoolers – but the percentage is far from 100, because gun owning (and child “owning”) can also be used to feed into a person’s problems and need to have power over others. In one case, it’s having power over strangers with a weapon. In another, it’s having power over the smaller… with multiple weapons from the rod through withholding necessities like food, shelter, and education.

  • Kristen White

    I love your posts about parenting. I’m sure it’s not all sunshine and flowers, but I love the glimpse into a parent/child relationship that’s about love and respect and not just authority. That’s what I’m trying to get with my son. He’s very strong-willed, so I’m having a hard time negotiating between being firm and also gentle, but we’re working it out together. The way you treat your children with respect has been really inspiring to me. I’m a high school teacher, and I guarantee that the kids can tell when teachers are placing real value on their opinions and feelings, rather than being either dismissive or patronizing. Treating a person with respect doesn’t undermine your authority as an adult–it increases it. Children’s needs and desires may be influenced by their maturity, but to children, those needs feel just as critical (maybe even more so) than anything an adult feels. When your entire mental world for 15 minutes is the happiness you get from swinging, and that goes away, it is sad! It’s not wrong to express that!

    When my son has tantrums or acts stubborn, I sometimes get the impression from family members or other adults that if I would just “lay down the law” with him, he would behave differently, but I don’t understand that. Yes, I need to be firm. There are limits to how he can behave, but my priority is to build a relationship so that when he is older, that strong will can be channeled toward working together to achieve his goals, rather than turning into a constant battle of wills between us. I hope that by consistently treating him with respect, even when I am correcting his behavior, he will see me as an ally rather than an enemy. That works with my students. I constantly get comments from the counselors or other teachers about how they can’t believe such-and-such student isn’t a behavior problem in my class because he’s always misbehaving in other classes. Sometimes I can understand it, but sometimes it takes me completely by surprise because I’ve never seen even the slightest hint of disrespect. I think it’s because I never treat my classroom like a battle of wills, so the students never feel like they have to prove that they’re in control.

  • Beutelratti

    I think another problem that the Pearls have is that they assume that
    something that they perceive as annoying was also intended to be

    How are babies supposed to know what other people find
    annoying? I don’t think they have the capability yet to project. They
    know what they find pleasant and what they find annoying. Do they really
    have the mental capacity yet to realise that the people around them
    perceive annoyance and pleasance as well and most likely differently
    than they do? And even if they do, would they care yet?It’s as if the Pearls expect a child to come into the world with a fully developed brain that only needs the proper input.

    Babies scream not to annoy parents, they want to communicate something
    unpleasant. It’s like the Pearls automatically assume the worst, even in
    babies. It really shows their defunct view of the world. I’ve heard
    mothers talk about how they learnt to understand their babies’ specific
    needs. How can you ever truly listen to your child if you automatically
    assume rebellion and defiance and get the whip out at every chance you

    • lana hobbs

      “How can you ever truly listen to your child if you automatically
      assume rebellion and defiance and get the whip out at every chance you get?” you can’t :( and they would say you aren’t supposed to listen. because you teh parent are teaching what is good, and they, the children, must learn from you. the burden of listening is all on the kids.

      • Beutelratti

        Which again comes back to the point of how far young children are even able to listen. :/

        If a baby gets whipped for screaming, I imagine the result will only be more screaming. An unpleasant situation is not going away by being whipped, the situation will only get more unpleasant and will most likely result in more screaming. It seems pretty counterproductive to me … apart from being absolutely vile and hideous.

      • kecks

        they will stop screaming eventually if always screaming results in more pain. this methods ‘works’ with dogs, horses, kids, fishes, any kind of living being insofar it gets the desired behaviour if you do it correctly. you also get lots of fear, pain, abuse and the like of course. which is horrible and wrong and … idk. reading the pearls statements or watching their videos makes me just so sad.

      • Beutelratti

        Until there is a particularly “willful” child … then you have another Lydia Schatz.

        You know, since 2000 children in Germany have the right to a non-violent upbringing. That includes a prohibition of corporal punishment. That makes me wonder how much the Pearls would protest and scream persecution if something similar would ever be implemented in the States.

    • j.lup

      The idea that children under 18 months of age are capable of ‘rebellion’ is absurd. Babies may be ‘willful’ (in the sense of wanting and desiring things and becoming capable of having a physical impact on their surroundings), but babies that small don’t regard themselves psychologically as separate and distinct entities from their parents.

      • The_L1985

        Hel, they don’t even recognize that objects don’t disappear off the face of the earth when you can’t see them yet!

    • The_L1985

      A lot of 5-year-olds can’t project yet. I said and did a lot of things at 5 that bothered people, because I didn’t see how anybody could take things a different way. (One that the teachers at my elementary school used to joke about was, “My name is [name] and I’m a genius. My brother, [his name] is just a regular person.”)

  • psykins

    Just a question as someone new to your blog…are your kids really named Sally and Bobby, or are you just a Mad Men fan?

    • Libby Anne

      I’m definitely just a Mad Men fan. :P

    • Alice

      Wow, I can’t believe it took me this long to realize that!

  • George

    To think of anyone ‘switching’ a seven-month old makes me feel sick.

    • The_L1985

      My mother used to tell me stories of her grandmother sending her out to the back yard to “pick a switch.” *shudders*

  • Saraquill

    Leaving her children to wail in their cribs makes me uneasy. Babies feel more than hungry/wet/hurt. They could be crying because they’re scared or lonely, for example. My baby cousin would start to get fussy because she wanted to spend time with her mom.

    • Composer 99

      I’ve noticed that to some extent with my 19-month old son. He’ll fuss if he wants more snuggles with me before bed and I try to put him in his crib, but if we spend a bit of extra quiet time in the evening when that happens, he’ll happily go down.

  • Basketcase

    H.O.L.Y. F.U.C.K.
    My 4 week old can “pitch a fit”. Do they think I should be spanking him?

    At least 99% of the time, I know why he is doing it – I’m not getting his food into him as soon as he wants, his wind is trapped, or he is unhappy about having clothing taken off him.
    I just cant believe this advice. Its insane.

  • Monika Tillsley

    I’m interested to know what would you have done differently if you had needed to leave the park at that point?

    I agree with your methods. We did the same thing and only began modifying our response to crying as our daughter learned to speak. Now at 4 she is expected to talk about her needs not cry and scream. If she cries that probably means she won’t get whatever she wanted (or not right away). We have never hit her or spanked. There have been times I have been frustrated with her, and angry so I can see why people spank but our children are people separate from ourselves and we have to consider their wants and needs. They are smaller and more dependent but no less full people.

    • Whirlwitch

      I agree with you and with Libby Anne. In the situation of needing to leave a park with a protesting toddler, I have left the park, carrying her or leading her by the hand if needed, while accepting her protests and expressing some sympathy with her desire to stay in the park despite us having to leave.

      When my godson used to have crying jags, at an age when he was verbal, I would tell him that I knew he was upset, but until he stopped crying and spoke to me, I could not resolve his distress. I did this with sympathy, not anger, because I knew he wasn’t refusing to speak his needs – he was genuinely too overcome with emotion to do so. He needed to learn to master his emotion enough to express himself in words, but his inability to do so wasn’t an offense or act of rebellion – he just didn’t have the skill yet.

      I have been tempted to spank children, but also tempted to hit my spouse, and some friends and family members – nobody gets under your skin like someone you love and are close to! In all cases, I rejected the impulse as wrong. Wanting to hit does not equal a right to hit, even if you can get away with it. If we expect children to resist their worst impulses, we as adults should most definitely do so.

  • wmdkitty

    Re: Mandatory Parenting Classes

    Adoptive and foster parents have to take parenting classes. I don’t see why simply extending this requirement to all prospective parents is somehow a bad thing — a sliding-scale fee system with “scholarships” and other forms of aid for those who need it would be an absolute necessity, though.

    • Niemand

      The practical issue is enforcement. How do you stop people who haven’t taken the classes from becoming parents?

      The other question is what would be taught. Given the “abstinence only” education in schools, I have no confidence that the classes wouldn’t be taken over by the Pearl types.

      • wmdkitty

        Ooh, good points. Darn.

  • Mishellie

    How cool. Now you know your baby, who can’t even talk yet, likes to play on the swings. That’s a really cool moment and the Pearls passed on every one of them.