I missed the Dad 2.0 Summit this year; which is basically the official annual conference for daddy bloggers.
Conveniently, The New York Timespublished an article on their website a few days ago, which does a great job of filling me in on the conversations that took place there without me.
While I wish I would have known about Dad 2.0 Summit beforehand, because I totally would have flown out to Houston to been a part of it as I am now marking my calendar for next year, at the same time it sort of sounds like the main takeaway from Dad 2.0 is the same point I have been writing about for years now on The Dadabase:
Dads don’t want to be seen as idiots who make messes and who are sub-par parents.
It’s subtle, yet very present in media. I feel that there are still too many companies getting it wrong. Allow me to critique the Robitussin commercial featured at the top of this post, for example.
Of this 17 second commercial, the first 2 seconds are done right.
We are introduced to a mom and dad who are together putting their baby to sleep. They lovingly look at each other as if to mutually say, “I love you and our new addition to our family.”
But then, from 0:03 to 0:06, the dad coughs, waking the baby and earning a frustrated and disapproving look from his wife. By 0:07, we see the dad give his wife a pat on the back right before he walks away to go grab some Robitussin for his cough, seen from 0:10 to 0:12.
There is some resolve by 0:13, when the dad returns, this time not coughing, as the mom is able to lay down the now sleeping baby in the crib.
Okay, so that commercial wasn’t horrible, but it needs some revisions to earn the respect of dads like me.
If they had to make it to where the dad coughs and wakes up the baby, he could have appeared to be less of a [jerk] if, when he came back from taking the Robitussin, he took the baby from his wife, allowing her to go back to bed, then putting the baby to sleep himself.
When you really consider the role of the dad in this commercial, all he really did besides just stand there, was that he made life harder for his wife.
And seriously, pause this commercial on 0:05. Check out the look on the wife’s face…
No husband ever wants to receive that look from his wife.
But when I see a commercial like this, I am not offended, but I do think, “There’s just another dad-bashing commercial feeding into concept that the housewife desperately needs another product because of the mess her husband made.”
Part of my passion as a daddy blogger is attempting to make it taboo for dads to be portrayed as the classic idiot in ads. I’m not even asking to be seen as the hero. I’ll take neutral at this point.
Back in 2002 while in college, I was a substitute teacher. I remember how for several Kindergartners, I had to make sure they took their medicine for ADHD. I didn’t agree with what I was doing, but I wasn’t their parent; nor was I even their real teacher.
Recently I pitched this question to everyone on Facebook and Twitter:
“How young is too young to medicate a child for ADHD and/or bipolar disorder?”
Very few people were willing to answer this question, but those who did A) are school teachers and B) replied that children shouldn’t be medicated for those things at all.
I think in our culture it has become taboo to talk about this subject openly because so many adults are on some kind of prescription for depression. To speak against medicating any person for a psychiatric disorder is a sure fire way to offend plenty of people in your social network of friends, family, and random people on Facebook you pretend to remember from college.
But I’m not talking about adults being treated for psychiatric disorders, I’m wanting to have an open discussion about kids being medically treated for these things.
The question I am asking is how young is too young for a child to be treated for ADHD and bipolar disorder?
See, I am trying to find out how America truly feels about this issue; whether you support it, oppose it, or are confused by it.
(I’m not talking about Autism, by the way.)
I should point out why I keep relating ADHD and bipolar disorder as if they are related. That’s because, according to the documentary Frontline: The Medicated Child (available on Netflix streaming, pbs.org, and YouTube), of all the children who are diagnosed with ADHD, 23% of them also are diagnosed as bipolar.
As of 2008 when the documentary was made, there were over 6 million kids being treated for ADHD and depression. I can’t imagine that number has gotten any lower since then.
See the slippery slope? Get medicated for ADHD at age 6 and work your way up to depression medication by the time you’re 10 years old.
It’s evidently unethical and socially unacceptable to test out psychiatric drugs on children before the drugs go out on the market, so children are given the same medication that are given to adults.
Either way, kids become the Guinea pigs for these drugs.
So how are children diagnosed for these psychiatric disorders anyway? According to Frontline: The Medicated Child, it really just comes down to a doctor’s simple analysis:
The key behaviors of ADHD sufferers are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
And for bipolar disorder: euphoria or irritability, grandiose ideas, excessive talking, racing thoughts, and unusual energy.
I guess the question is, how is every kid in America not a sufferer of ADHD or bipolar disorder? More importantly, how is my 16 month-old toddler not the poster child for these psychiatric disorders?
Obviously, I’m leaving myself open for someone to say, “You don’t know what it’s like to raise a child with ADHD and/or depression…”.
That’s right. I don’t and I won’t.
Because I’m drawing the behavioral boundaries for him; even now. He can’t even speak a full sentence yet, but he is already very aware of what he can and can not do.
That’s the exact phrase I recently Googled; “Is it wrong to let your baby cry it out?” The results were nearly equally mixed; from stay-at-home moms to doctors.
What my wife and I had been doing was not working for our son so I decided to step up and be proactive. Yes, I am one of those parents who unashamedly uses the controversial “cry it out” method when it comes to getting my son to go to sleep.
Granted, there are many versions of the method; some more harsh than others. Today, I would like to share with you my version of it.
When my now seven month old son began crawling over a month ago, his former sleep schedule became abruptly derailed. He began putting up a fight when it was time for him to go to sleep every night.
My son Jack became so preoccupied with his newly acquired mobility that his body just couldn’t stop moving, despite the fact he was exhausted and desperately needed rest. He would even crawl in his sleep!
It didn’t take long for me to see the connection between his mobility obsession and his inability to fall asleep with the comfort of my wife’s usual routine with him. The new normal was that it would take my wife 90 minutes or more to get him to sleep.
Needless to say, she was worn out and frustrated by the time it was over. And I was frustrated to see her so frustrated. Not to mention, by the time she got him to sleep, it was nearly time for the two of us to go to bed.
I respect the concept of quality time in our marriage. And it just didn’t seem kosher that A) it should be that much trouble to get our son to bed and B) that our quality time together should be interfered with so greatly by something as seemingly natural as a baby falling asleep.
After barely skimming a chapter of a book on “crying it out” and a few websites, I decided to apply what I had learned. The first night, it took my 43 minutes to get my son to sleep. The second night, 27 minutes; the third; 17 minutes. And now, a week later, I can often get him to sleep within 10 to 12 minutes. (Tonight, it took me less than 5 minutes!)
Not only has the method caused my wife and me to be better relaxed and rested, but it also does the same for our son. He wakes up less during the night now.
He goes to sleep a little earlier and wakes up a little later. That’s not to say I’m excited by the fact that I have less quality time withhim during the day; but I do recognize that he was being deprived of quality sleep time before I started applying the method.
I recognize the common concern that the baby will become psychologically damaged by the process. I disagree; not the way I do it, at least. In fact, I proclaim that for the babies in the world who need the “cry it out” method, they actually become psychologically nurtured.
My son’s developing emotions have not yet successfully connected to rational thinking. Half of his body is telling him, “Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” The other half is saying, “I’m tired! I need sleep! I’m so sleepy it’s all I can think about!”
That’s where I come in. I help my son make those connections in his brain. And I do it with the structure and strength he craves. I view it as an early form of discipline. Not discipline in the form of punishment or discomfort, but in the form of guidance and assurance.
Here’s a brief look at the Nick Shell version of the “cry it out” method:
1) As it gets close to his established bed time (6:30 PM), I take him to his bedroom and shut the door, letting him play for a few final minutes on the floor with his toys.
2) When he shows signs of being ready to go to sleep (rubbing his eyes, being unable to sit well), I wrap him up in his blanket and begin gently rocking him. I make sure that he is physically comfortable as I hold him; not holding him too tightly.
3) When he begins doing his “protest cries” (crying at the top of his lungs), I give him a hug by holding him more firmly- but only in that moment of him belting out his cry; so ultimately during the two seconds he lets out a cry, I hold him more tightly, but obviously not squeezing him or hurting him.
4) As his eyes close, I continue rocking him in my arms, waiting for him to officially fall asleep and start snoring.
5) I wait a few more minutes to make sure he has entered a sleep deep enough to endure my lying him down in his bed.
6) Then I hold him over his bed for another minute, but ceasing to rock him. This prepares him for the landing.
7) I slowly yet steadily lower him to his bed and remove my hands from his head and legs, lying him down. I wait another minute to make sure he is going to stay asleep, then I quietly leave the room.
8) If it any point from Step 3 to Step 7 he refuses to stop crying for more than one minute, I carefully set him down in his bed and leave the room. The first time I leave him, I’m only gone for one minute. The next time, three; then five, then ten. But never more than ten minutes pass before I return to try again. Each time I return, I restart at Step 3 by re-wrapping him in the blanket and gently rocking him.
The most crucial element with this method is that you, the parent, are consistent. Do it every night. Never give up during the middle of it.
When necessary, I remind myself that I am the one who controls my son, not the other way around. I don’t give him the ability to frustrate me with his illogical behavior; instead, I frustrate him with my logical behavior. He doesn’t get me worked up emotionally; instead, I redirect his emotions.
I realize that may sound intense to some, but I believe my son needs structure now more than he ever has needed it in his life. I believe if I let him have his way and take 90 minutes or more to fall asleep on his own, I would be sending a message to him that he is able to make the rules. I believe for him, that could actually be psychologically misleading and damaging. I love my son, therefore I use this version of the “cry it out” method.
In closing, I write this with the assumption that at least 70% of readers passionately disagree with me on this issue. By no means am I trying to convert anyone to this seemingly unloving yet effective method. I simply want to share what works for me (a normal guy; not an expert) and tell the other side of the story- to answer the question by saying, “No, it’s not wrong to let your baby cry it out.”
I welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree. Just remember, I don’t approve comments that insult the character or intelligence of other commenters or of myself: Make it constructive, not destructive. Make it legitimate; not sarcastic and condescending.