Parenting Styles: The Great Debate

Getting to Know Isaac, the day after he was born. What an exhilarating ride it's been!

I’ve been learning and reading a ton lately on parenting styles. Specifically the ones floating around in the camp of the Attachment Parenting, Gentle Discipline styles. I’ve always felt that one is obligated to be informed about both sides of an issue before making a decision or having an opinion, and sadly I haven’t done as much research as perhaps I should have on this issue.

The issue that’s in the forefront of my mind these days is sleep issues. Isaac has never been a “great sleeper”, but he’s never been “the worst” either. Right now we are dealing with him resisting falling asleep at nap/bedtime.

Here’s the thing… there are generally two approaches to getting a baby/toddler to sleep: 1) let him cry it out (CIO) / sleep training, and 2) “parenting-to-sleep”, for lack of a better term. I know for a fact that I have friends on both sides of the debate. Some who have kids, some who don’t yet. There are people for whom I hold great respect on both sides.

We have let Isaac cry it out in the past, to varying degrees of “success”, however we have recently decided that we want to avoid that method from now on. I’m sure some would say we “weren’t consistent enough”, or whatever… but the nitty-gritty of parenting is that it’s not always black and white. There is a lot of “using your judgment/intuition”, which can be confusing at times! You can let him cry and have him doing great, bedtime is a (somewhat) breeze… then wham! he gets a cold. Well, it’s kinda cruel (in my opinion) to let a child who is sick cry it out. Especially because crying only increases the snottiness, until they can barely breathe, etc. So you rock him, and wait until he’s better, then everything is undone!

There is also the issue of *why* he is crying… some believe that a child who is well-fed, with a clean diaper, given snuggles, etc. should be put down to “learn to fall asleep on his own”, and that if he cries, there is nothing actually wrong… he just doesn’t *want* to be alone. Others believe that a child who cries is communicating a legitimate need for physical/emotional closeness. I’ve heard it said that a child who is always rocked/nursed/whatever to sleep will not learn to fall asleep on their own, and will continue to wake up in the night, etc. etc. Parents on the other side of the debate, however, will say that the CIO method “works” only because the baby learns that the parent will not respond to their cries, and thus gives up and falls asleep feeling abandoned.

I have always wondered in the back of my mind… why is it that we (in Western culture) *expect* babies to fall asleep on their own? Most other cultures in the world do not expect their babies to fall asleep without a parent, and stay asleep through the whole night. So where did this expectation come from?

My hunch at this point is that we place these expectations of control on our children, because we are a very “control-driven” culture. We expect to be able to control them, and when they act like, well, children, we seek to “train” them to be more like adults, so that they cease to inconvenience us and our lives. I’m not so sure this is a good thing.

I don’t want to say that the only other option is to rock him for an hour and half until he settles down and falls asleep. I want to find other solutions that will work in a peaceful and gentle manner. There of course many nuances between each stage of babyhood and toddlerhood (rocking a tiny baby to sleep is pretty much just part of the job, whereas with an older baby/toddler there enters into the equation a battle of wills or show of resistance in falling asleep).

The answers are elusive right now, but I am praying for patience and joy in the journey. My babe deserves nothing less, and I want to respect his needs as well as the needs of the rest of my family.

Opinions? Thoughts? Come on, I know you’re out there… feel free to speak up in the comments! (Just keep it respectful and loving of course!)


Keeping it real & humble…


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8 Responses to Parenting Styles: The Great Debate

  1. Jason Carson says:


    I think this topic can bring much emotion as it can feel as if it speaks towards the quality of parenting and even at a more basic level the quality of love that is being given to a child.

    I would suggest that even though this is where emotions can take us, this need for sleep is even more basic as a need to live, having poor sleep for both the parents and child for any reason can be dangerous, unhealthy and this need I don’t feel can be weighted any more or less than a child’s need for attention, love or anything else.

    Anyway this is just a thought, I am sure when my baby comes things will become more than theoretical. I respect you and Chris greatly and will as always support you in the way you choose to do things.

    Miss you guys,


    • Nana Jan says:

      As your mom/mother-in-law, I hesitate to give my comments for fear of interfering. However, its with love, respect and concern I offer the following: As you know, Chris had a very rocky start in life…he was not held right away, spent two months in hospital with blood tests, etc. being done almost daily. When we finally got him home, I was determined to do my best to make up for what he didn’t receive in his first two months of life. I rocked him every night for well over a year; result, he did not sleep through the night until he turned three or so. Do I regret it? Absolutely NO! Did we let him cry it out? NO. Were the countless days of dragging myself around because of lack of sleep worth it? YES. Isaac has gone through many changes in his little life the past few months, and probably needs as much security in your arms as he can get. Will he play games, of course, but you and Chris know your little man better than anyone or any book..go with your motherly/fatherly instincts. Bottom line – you guys are doing a fantastic job! love you, mom

  2. Craig Carter says:

    Beth, As your Dad I happen to know how you were brought up and since you turned out so well, I guess our method must be right! The only problem is that we didn’t follow any one method and came to pretty much the same conclusions you did. With small/sick babies rocking to sleep is a no brainer. With older children, maybe there is a time to do the CIO method: we did it a bit, but not consistently. Is it too mystical to say that you will know at the time what to do? One other thing, from my (older – make that wiser – perspective) rocking a child to sleep is one of the things I now wish I had spent more time doing when I was at that stage of life and I now jump at the chance to do it whenever I can. When your children are young, you think this stage will go on forever especially when you are tired (which is most of the time). But it doesn’t, which is why grandparenting is such a blessing. So carpe deim and rock on!

  3. naomi says:

    After reading everyone’s comments, and discussing it with other people outside of this blog – it kinda sounds like is mix of both works at different times.

    It sounds like sometimes the child is ‘playing’ with you trying to get your attention b/c they know you’ll come if they cry.

    Other comments (not on this blog from elsewhere) suggest that sometimes its good to let a child cry it out so that they will learn that you will come back to them and you have ‘abandoned’ when you are out of the room.

    Then from your dad, Jan, what I have heard from other mothers, is that there is this ‘instinct’ to be there when a child is crying – and what could be wrong with that?

    ps – I can’t believe you dad wrote “Rock On”

    • naomi says:

      opps….I spotted a typo – I meant to write:

      “…learn that you will come back to them and that you have NOT ‘abandoned’ THEM when you are out of the room

  4. Krista says:

    It is sometimes really hard to know what is best. Honestly sometimes it just depends on the child. You are the mother, you know your child best. Both of my boys are fairly good sleepers, and yes, I did use the CIO method some, but not completely. I would go in and comfort, but not pick them up, once I knew they were old enough to sleep through the night and they were hungry/need diaper change, etc. I plan to use the same method with my new baby once he comes, at the appropriate age. Both Stephen & Josh go sleep MUCH better when no one else in in the room.
    And of course they are times they cry and you just know something is wrong. Of course if they are sick you comfort as much as you can. Different situations need different approaches.
    Anyway, hope that made some sense. 🙂



  5. Michelle says:

    Great post Bethie!

    My view is that each family needs to determine for themselves what works for them, and try their best to support their friends who might choose differently.
    There is no universal “best way to do it”.

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