Natural Child Rearing - Babies & Young Children

The Village

Appropriate Technology
Calculators & Resources
Blank page
Blank page
Blank page
Blank page
Creating New Institutions
Farming & Gardening
Food Production & Stocking Up
Homesteading & Tools
Household Tips
Hunting & Fishing
Jewelry & Decoration
Natural Health
Preparedness & Self-Sufficiency
Skills Inventory & Development
Stocking Up & Storage
Traditional Skills & Crafts
iowa unemployment

There has been a great push in this country by child rearing experts and the medical profession that children must be "socialized". It has been a pivotal buzzword for educators and parents alike. It is a main reason for the negative swell toward homeschooling. Yet, it is my contention that what we need to foster, from birth, is natural instinct. Natural instinct is what we understand as the survival instinct. It is an innate instinct of distrust. It is the instinct that alerts us as we start down a dark alleyway on our way home from work. It is the instinct that forces us to take a step back from a new person that we meet that sets off alarm bells in our brain. It is this instinct that must be fostered in our children and future generations.

From the moment our children are born, they are whisked away from the mother in the arms of another. As parents, we hand our babies off to Aunt Betty and Uncle Ernie, the day care worker, people we meet, and those we don't even know, the girls at the office, and those child care workers at church and the gym. It is expected. Those that don't hand their children over are scolded, scorned or scoffed at. Negative comments about the welfare of the baby are passed around behind the back of the cautious parent.

All of this passing around from person to person and situation to situation kills the child's very first survival instinct- distrust. A baby who is bonded closely with his primary caregiver will not take kindly to being passed from person to person. They will scream until they are returned to that person whom they trust above all else. A child who has been passed around and has never bonded closely with one primary caregiver will not display any sense of distrust with strangers or strange situations at all.

This initial distrust can be observed in the animal kingdom. From cow calves to elephant calves, the animal that is left with its primary caregiver, usually its mother, will not allow human contact. It will not stand to be touched or petted. It will scurry behind the knees of its mother and peer out at the unfamiliar person.

On the farm, we observe this all the time. Our beef cows calve in the field and are raised by their mothers. Our dairy cows, on the other hand, are separated at birth and raised on a bottle. They bond with the people who feed them. What about the beef calves? Any cowboy can tell you how tough it is to separate the momma's and babies. On the other hand, the dairy calves will follow even the farm dog around with no sense of danger or distrust.

How does one begin to foster a sense of distrust in children? Can it be learned in fifth grade when the local policeman comes and tells the school kids not to talk to strangers? Studies have shown over and over again that children will go to strangers, leave with them and trust them. Is this the result of our "socialized" society? How does this translate to these people as adults? Are these people more apt to find themselves in difficult situations, unable to distinguish a potential threat to themselves and their loved ones?

Allowing a baby to bond closely with one or two people is critical in fostering the survival instinct. It is natural. In fact, it is the most natural thing in the world. How does one start? Start by breastfeeding. Feeding time is bonding time. In a survival situation, powdered baby formula might not be available. Breastfeeding not only encourages a close bond, but it is also very convenient. A family on the move may forget a bottle, but I can guarantee that they won't forget Mom.

Wear your baby. During the daylight hours, wear your baby. Native cultures have always used various slings or wraps to keep their baby close while working. Only in modern times have we developed all sorts of contraptions to keep baby happy and away from us so that we can go on about our lives as usual. A sling or Maya wrap allows you to keep your baby content all day and close for feedings. In a survival situation, it keeps the baby quiet, warm and content.

Wearing your baby also offers the benefit of not having to share your baby with strangers. A baby in a stroller invites a host of onlookers and well wishers, exposing your baby to a host of strangers and their germs. A baby in a sling is almost always content and is but another step in the bonding process.

Sleep with your baby. Many people will surely sneer at this one, but sleep, like feeding, is a time of trust and deep bonding. Learning to sleep is important for an infant. Putting your child in another room, closing the door so you can't hear them screaming is certainly not natural. The cry of a child is supposed to drive us to action, it is part of our survival instinct. Sleeping with your baby is natural, all species of animals sleep with their offspring. In any survival situation, it may be necessary to share close quarters with your family members, it should be the norm, not the exception.

As baby's become toddlers, don't push them into the unfamiliar. I see this all the time at family gatherings, a parent forcing a child to sit on Grandpa's knee. Respect your toddler's sense of distrust; someday his life may depend on it. We must stop pushing our children to be "social". If a young child refuses to go to someone or resists a situation, clearly, there is no reason to force it on him. That child will never learn to trust his instincts, because we, as parents, don't trust his instincts'. Let the child lead. We are always bothered by our children's reluctance to accept new situations and people not because we want what is best for that child, but because we are afraid of what other people will think about us and our style of parenting.

By not respecting the reluctance of our children toward people or situations, we teach them to ignore their own internal warning signs. Only humans are unique in this, any other species would certainly perish.

Toddlers will always test and push their limits, but a toddler who trusts his caregiver and has bonded closely will be alert to that person's subtle nuances and body signals. In an unfamiliar situation, a toddler will stay close to the one he has bonded with. Often, without words, that person can convey a sense of unease or distrust of an individual or situation thereby keeping the toddler safe from possible danger without being so obvious. The child who has not shared this close bond, will often wander off, oblivious to dangers until an adult chastises him for his misdeed.

Indeed, it has been my experience that the caregiver with whom the toddler has bonded becomes the nucleus around which the toddler experiences the world. Initially, the toddler will always stay close, venturing off only in safe, familiar surroundings, staying close, often within touching distance, in unfamiliar territory or around new people. The toddler will engage in an activity, always keeping the caregiver within eyeshot, traveling back and forth between the activity and the caregiver. Thus the toddler learns to trust the world under the watchful eye of his primary caregiver, the one that he trusts above all else.

It is critical at this stage that the caregiver does not take advantage of the trust that has been built up to this point. If the toddler is not aware of some danger, a sharp, warning tone of voice will stop the toddler in mid action. All parents' possess this "emergency" tone. Unfortunately, this sharp, warning tone of voice is also often used in non-emergency situations, i.e. "Stop kicking your feet at the dinner table!" All effectiveness is soon lost and the toddler will learn to ignore the "emergency" tone of voice. Abusing the power of the "emergency" tone also erodes trust. The sky can only fall so many times.
In conclusion, if we truly wish to give our children an advantage in life, we should begin at birth. Our comfortable lifestyles have made us complacent. Civility towards others at all costs has caused us to abandon and ignore our own instinct of distrust. In the great name of socialization, we continue to place our youngest and most defenseless citizens in possible peril by ignoring their protests. If we, as a species, are to survive in the uncertain future, we must take our cue from the natural world and once again learn to foster the survival instinct in our babies and young children.

The Memsahib Adds: Andrea makes makes excellent points in her article. In our extended family we have noticed the same phenomenon that Andrea describes. In our extended family, the children who were bottle fed and put in day care are continually is hazardous situations because they have no caution. They wander away from the family at the zoo, at restaurants, and at parks. Furthermore they are easily led astray by their peers because they are not bonded to their parents.

Parents who choose a "close parenting" style will need to steel themselves against the pressure they will receive from relatives and neighbor that will chide them for not properly "socializing" their kids. Well meaning church members will repeatedly urge you to leave your children in the church nursery. Friends will chide you to leave your children with a sitter for the sake of your marriage. Ignore them! We used hear this from our family. But, we have seen the result: our kids are confident, competent, and safe. They can be trusted when using an axe or a gun. They are not shy, and in fact are quite good public speakers, (Although we purposely sought out public speaking training for our children, initially in a 4H club.) My advice is to raise your children solidly, dispense fair and impartial discipline, and minimize their exposure to television. You won't be sorry.