Moral Landscapes

Living the life that is good for one to live

Five Things NOT to Do to Babies

When I had a puppy, he hated to be ignored or left alone. At those times he would chew up the furniture. Babies hate these things too, but they can’t damage the furniture to let us know. Instead, their development gets undermined and we and society have to live with the anxious and depressed results. Read More

Ignoring these rules breeds loneliness

Thank you so very much for these wise words. As a specialist in loneliness I see people all the time who have been treated 'well' as babies, but who have a lifelong sense of powerlessness as a result of being left on their own when they were very young. They feel they cannot trust grown-ups and have a hard time feeling at ease with other people. I think we all should know more about the issues you brought up and take better care of our children.

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this post. I am a mother of a 15 month old wonderful boy and my husband and I have chosen to enable him to grow up in the way you describe, which is not always easy. We live in France and here the general rule is something like "we promote individualism and self-sufficiency, therefore let your kid manage his life". When our son was born, we were told (by a pediatritien) to put him in his own room (where he would spend nights and beter parts of days alone), not to hold him too often, and to give him to a daycare as soon as possible to avoid him becoming "tres fusionel". I am 40 years old without any experience with babies, parenting or the like, but fortunatelly with the ability to recognise nonsense when I hear it. So, our child spends most of his time with at least one of us (we have decided that I stay at home until he is at least three), we kiss him and hug him as much as he wants and needs, and we try to understand his needs to our best abilities without suffocating him with our care. As a result, he is becoming a curious person open to the world who is not afraid to try and fail and who brings out the best in people whom he meets regardless of their age. So, thank you again for this post, it was a real pleasure to read it.

More Things Not to Do


They're bigger than they look, and cause clogs.


They really don't like that at all, and nosy neighbors may call the policE.


You never know if the other person has good hands.


Babies have no sanse of humor, and have terrible taste in music.


Whiny little brats!

This would have been great,

This would have been great, if it was at least clever and somewhat funny.

Keep your day job Jerome.

Oh yeah?

What's a day job?

For what it's worth, I

For what it's worth, I thought it was clever.

I totally agree


My kids are all grown and I always interacted with them. I see mothers pushing their baby in the grocery cart, oblivious to the child's constant plea, "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? ...)

What idiot told them that this was the way to deal with a child?

When your child asks, "Mommy" or "Daddy" --- reply "What?"

Answer their question and move on.

Many people don't have the good sense to raise children.


You certainly come across as

You certainly come across as a very empathetic person.

Manners maybe?

Probably being pedantic here but I do not agree with answering a child "What?" I know when my children answer my call with "What?" I am far from impressed. How about "Yes?" or "Sorry, I missed your question?" or "Can you say that again for me, I didn't hear you properly". Actually talking to babies/children in a way that we expect them to talk to us and others is just as important as the other points the article mentions.

well i must be a terrible

well i must be a terrible mother . my children are both well ajustied,well rounded children. i left the to self sooth as babies, i slaped my daughters hand when she went to touch and oven infact ive done most the stuff you have said not too.You're theory is wrong, how do i know this, im actually a mother.I didnt look after a puppy or watch some mice . i had kids, love them ,cherish, them and care for them.i really think that people who wish to work in child development need to actualy have a child before they start trying to teach others to be parents.wouldnt you be grumpy if you where passed around to strangers, Yes , well so would a baby. The baby was happy and content when passed back to its mother because it was alowed to be still and not handed to people it didnt know . this is all you're opinion and my opinion is that you are a moron who clearly wasnt left to cry for long enough.

"I was spanked and I turned

"I was spanked and I turned out fine"

As was I. ive had to once

As was I. ive had to once with each of my children to stop them hurting themselves.i would much rather them have a slap on the hand than seriously hurting themselves on a firee which could well have serious long lasting damage. Letting a child stick its hand in a fire is abuse. As a parent you have a duty to safeguard.

Yes, you must be a terrible

Yes, you must be a terrible mother. Good thing your children were surrounded by other people, sounds like they fortunately got love and support from others. I could be cruel and mention the numerous and obvious grammatical errors in your comment, but that's irrelevant, even though it was difficult to understand what you are trying to state. I found this article to be directly on point, very informative and without a doubt, CORRECT. so glad to see society is finally catching up. When I was raising my children (both grown), everyone told me to let them cry it out, to put them down, or even - spank them. I chose not to, despite constant criticism. My own mother, thank goodness, agreed with me and even commended me on my choices. Do you want to be left alone to cry yourself to sleep? Do you want to be shut away in a room, by yourself, when you need something? Babies are not tiny dictators. they are not trying to control people. They are humans and should be treated with constant care and love. Sure, it's a tough job, but society will the winner when parents start parenting. As for your last sentence of your comment, "anonymous", well, I think we know who the moron is, and it's NOT the author of this article.

Good general advice

Yikes your response was as harsh as the original posters was defensive. I think what works well for one child might not work for another so I take the advice given in the article as good general advice.

I personally don't think spanking is effective in the long term, there is enough evidence to suggest that it hurts a child's self esteem and often creates an environment for lying. If the OP find it differently, then I suspect she made up for her shortcomings in other ways that produced a positive effect on her children. More power to her.

I had one child, I knew I only had enough emotional energy for raising one child and I was right. She turns 24 next month, has a college degree, a good job and is very loving. To me she is perfect.

She always tells me what a great mother I was. I wasn't. I made a lot of mistakes, I never spanked her but did raise my voice when upset (something I have learned to suppress with lost of maturity and St. John's Wort) I suspect her memories reflect happy times because she is such a great person.

Well said! I have raised

Well said!

I have raised several children. Happy healthy children. This article is all wrong!

You would have had some

You would have had some interesting points if it wasn't for the claim that all the author did was state her opinion. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with every single point of the article but she clearly did not just type out her opinion, that's why there is what is referred to as a 'reference list' at the bottom of her article which backs up her 'opinion' with actual evidence.

Not terrible, but that doesn't mean you're right either.

I'm also a mother, of a very happy and well-adjusted child who has never been hit. If my child went to touch something that wasn't safe for her, I told her no and re-directed her. That worked perfectly well for me. I don't think you're a terrible mother if you love your children and do your best, but if you feel good about what you've done, then why are you so angry and calling those who believe differently morons?

My sister used a form of

My sister used a form of parenting like this and her daughter is a nightmare. Bratty, disobedient and obnoxious. Without discipline she treats her mother as a slave to cater to her every whim. As you don't know me you cannot make assumptions about how much I love my children. You mentioned my grammar and spelling. I'm dyslexic so unfortunately I have issues and do not at all mind this being pointed out. Every child is different and this may work for some but not me. My children are high achivers and I have been told by numerous health professionals,teachers and family members that I am doing a fantastic job. My own mother is a psychologist and has also comended me. parenting has to be learned through experience and not a text book. I can see that we are not at all going to agree on this subject and I refuse to let your comments bother me.

Oh my goodness…this is

Oh my goodness…this is exactly whats causing the demise of our nation. Children need limits! There is just as much "research" that shows that discipline and firm boundaries are enormously beneficial to a child's psyche. I do agree that babies should be held (I rarely ever put mine down and even slept with them until around 18 months) but sometimes babies cry and NOTHING will soothe them. Implying that a parent should be able to somehow figure out exactly when and why an infant is screaming is unrealistic at best. I'm not a huge fan of letting them "cry it out" but sometimes it gets to that point. Sometimes they just need to have a good cry and go to sleep. Haven't you ever felt that way?? As far as not spanking…I'm not even going to go there except to say that kids these days are hell to be around and I believe its because parents are codling them and failing to effectively discipline them. My kids feel loved and secure because I held them constantly as infants, taught them how to self soothe around 14-15 months, and spanked their butts from 2-5 years. Now I RARELY have to discipline them because I was consistent with both affection and discipline.

Most Americans spank.

Most Americans still spank, so the whole "American kids today are hell to be around" isn't an argument that makes sense to me. Of the kids I know who are on the... wilder side... most of them are spanked. By and large, the gentlest, happiest kids I know really are the ones who experience gentle discipline (but that's purely anecdotal, and I know everyone has a different perspective and their own biases at play as well).

But also, the article is talking about babies specifically. I think if anyone is punishing BABIES, then they don't understand much about child development (or moral, compassionate behavior). And a significant portion of Americans who spank begin while their child is under the age of one, so saying "Don't hit your babies" is sadly necessary advice for many.

There are too many of us

There are too many of us "anonymous" people in here now so I am now anonymous 2 just for ease. I posted the comment previous to yours and I totally agree with you. Dispite just being told I dont love my kids by a total stranger I to love to hold my kids.They get sick of hugs and kisses . I make sure I tell my kids everyday that I love them.I totally disagree with this article and im so glad im not the only one.

Oh good, parent shaming.

Dear parents, your job isn't hard enough so we decided to write this article to make you feel like crap about yourself. We thought loading you down with unrealistic expectations phrased as absolutes would really twist the knife. Enjoy your worthlessness. Sincerely, Dr. Narvaez, et al.

Also, anyone who starts a

Also, anyone who starts a parenting article by comparing children to puppies has already excused themselves from the pool of reliable resources.

Couldn't agree more! Every

Couldn't agree more! Every time I hear or see something that talks about a new way to parent or the right way to parent, I can't help but think great, another article that's going to tell me how much I've screwed my children up. There is so much information out there and all of it contains dire warnings of what you'll end up with if you don't follow the 'right' advice.

Oh good God, no!

I have to say, this is fairly bad advice. Then attacking the person who let them learn to self soothe and be alone...because that is exactly how we are born and die? Being alone in this life, at times, is inevitable. Seriously, you want to talk about "getting in the habit of crying," well, what about them getting in the habit of needing attention to feel good about themselves or to feel like they belong? What if they are so addicted to attention that they will do anything to keep it?

For example: "Mother," Yes? "Nothing."

Mom? Yes? well, nothing.

Mom? Yes dear? Let's go play. I am busy dear, we will play later.

Mom? Yeah? Can we play?

etc etc etc etc

How is that healthy?

Yes, with infants, they need more attention and holding and caring, absolutely. But this is extremism and you are damaging a lot of people's families and their children's ability to be well adjusted. By three months they better learn to be alone, because otherwise they will be sorely disappointed. Especially by three when their little sibling comes along. Oh hell no! Now that baby gets 100% of the attention? BAM! You are in a world of hurt now, friend.

Anyone who isn't attacking me, silently sitting at your desk wondering whether this is the way to raise children, please, go read the following book. We lost our way when we followed Skinner in the 50s, then about faced and have no boundaries or setting up of self empowerment and autonomy. It has led to a ridiculous amount of mal adjusted mental health in this country. I know, I am in the field. For those who attack me, I am sorry. You deserve better.

Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs.

I'm going to guess that the

I'm going to guess that the author has no children. Because anyone who can make a direct correlation between letting her child cry and her child later becoming "inflexible, self-centered and easily stressed out" obviously hasn't been a parent (or perhaps, not a parent of multiple children). The children (and I've raised 5) I let cry the most as babies are the most relaxed, easy going, and caring of the bunch.

Claiming an absolute here causes you (the author) to lose all authority.

I am so glad to see that the

I am so glad to see that the last 4 comments actually make sence. Personally i have no problems with people i dont know telling me that i dont love my children. I know i do and thats all that matters. As i said my kids are well adjusted,loving,well mannered and beautiful inside and out.I am not saying they are angels but they are perfect in my eyes. A profesional can tell a parent all the text book rules of parenting but no one knows thier child like a parent.

What about males?

"This means caregivers have to be especially calming and sensitive to the baby’s signals—teasing her into relating, but only when she is ready."

What's with the female pronouns? As a male victim of horrific child abuse at the hands of women for my crime of gender (something I think is far more common than our society is ready/willing to understand) I am deeply offended and utterly alienated by your wording. I'm seeking a psychiatrist and it's frightening to see that trained professionals can be as ignorant and insensitive as this. It makes me think twice about seeking help.

all anyone has to be is a "good enough" mother

Not perfect, just good enough.

But my little Sister and I didn't have even that. Our mother was mentally ill; she had a severe personality disorder that impacted her ability to care for us in anything close to a normal way.

I, her first-born, received the brunt of my mother's negative, disordered perceptions and feelings and her acting-out behaviors when she triggered into rage and/or paranoia. My mother actually believed that I, her first-born, an infant, hated her and was critical of her. She also felt that I'd trapped her in a marriage she was ambivalent about (which makes no logical sense, because I arrived over two years after my parents were married; I was planned!) Yet, my mother retained that view of me, for life.

My younger Sister was actually wanted and loved by our mother, who identified with Sister as the second-born girl, and yet our mother's disorder made my little Sister's life a living hell of abuse. Sister and I were able to share our experiences with each other as adults; as children, I was too jealous of my Sister's arrival to want to be friends with her. I sensed that she was my replacement. My mother herself actually corroborated this for me, when I was an adult. I hadn't wanted to believe it, but it was true.

Bottom line: there are variations within child-rearing styles that are healthy and OK; this is demonstrated when the children arrive at adulthood relatively mentally healthy and functional, joyful, and self-actualized.

But I invite psychologists and psychiatrists and mental health researchers to investigate really thoroughly those households where the child is severely dysfunctional, suicidal, aggressive, violent, highly manipulative, or unmanageable at a relatively young age.

I'm willing to bet that in such cases covert parental emotional abuse and/or physical abuse and/or sexual abuse, or emotional neglect by the parent or parents, is present in the child's life, even if its denied and covered up.

Racist much?

Why do these articles always include romanticized anecdotes about "natives" who, in their poverty and simplicity, know so much more about parenting than the selfish western white women? Africa is an entire continent with an incredibly diverse array of cultures. Are we to believe that all African mothers let their children learn about fire the old fashioned way -- by getting burnt? This is the Noble Savage trope, and it's tired, and insulting, and racist.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Darcia Narvaez is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Executive Editor of the Journal of Moral Education.


Subscribe to Moral Landscapes

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.