Trauma starts in how we put our children to bed…

I’ve often said we live in a culture of abuse. I’m not always explicit about what that means. Here is one simple example of how we are out of touch with the nature of our being and impose abuse on ourselves and our children. Even in infancy we do harm to our children without meaning to. The below article I’m citing speaks of leaving children in cribs, alone to fall asleep at night and how that makes the child experience the terror of their life being threatened.

I actually remember the feeling of being left in my crib alone as a small child. My parents did the “cry it out” method of falling asleep. So what does this really mean? Crying until a child gives up, and realizes his/her parents will not come and keep them safe, right? What an awful lesson for the infant and yes, it’s a trauma. Most Western parents learn that this is the right thing to do. We do many many things that counter our nature, including leaving small children and infants in daycare with strangers to take care of them. Altmentalities wrote a good piece about that here.

Some of what is at issue when we start to look at how we raise our children these days in the Western world is that NOTHING in society supports parents today to bring up healthy kids.

Most families can’t opt to have parents at home even if they’d like to do that. We need to do some serious reorganizing of our society and the economic reality makes that difficult today. If we as a society actually made the upbringing of children a priority, though, it’s entirely possible to imagine a world in which the raising of children is made the most important thing that we do. Because it is the most important thing that we do. These are things we really must think about.

Why Young Children Protest Bedtime: A Story of Evolutionary Mismatch: The monsters under the bed are real. Peter Grey, Psychology Today

But clearly something is missing in this explanation from the experts. Why do infants and young children choose to challenge their parents’ will on this particular issue? They don’t protest against toys, or sunlight, or hugs (well, usually not). Why do they protest going to bed, when sleep is clearly good for them and they need it?

The answer begins to emerge as soon as we leave the Western world and look at children elsewhere. Bedtime protest is unique to Western and Westernized cultures. In all other cultures, infants and young children sleep in the same room and usually in the same bed with one or more adult caregivers, and bedtime protest is non-existent.[2]. What infants and young children protest, apparently, is not going to bed per se, but going to bed alone, in the dark, at night. When people in non-Western cultures hear about the Western practice of putting young children to bed in separate rooms from themselves, often without even an older sibling to sleep with, they are shocked. “The poor little kids!” they say. “How could their parents be so cruel?” Those who are most shocked are people in hunter-gatherer societies, for they know very well why young children protest against being left alone in the dark.[3]

Until a mere 10,000 years ago we were all hunter-gatherers. We all lived in a world where any young child, alone, in the dark, would have been a tasty snack for nighttime predators. The monsters under the bed or in the closet were real ones, prowling in the jungle or savannah, sniffing around, not far from the band’s encampment….

…When your child screams at being put to bed alone at night, your child is not trying to test your will! Your child is screaming, truly, for dear life. Your child is screaming because we are all genetically hunter-gatherers, and your child’s genes contain the information that to lie alone in the dark is suicide. (read the rest)

How might we create a world where our children feel as safe as possible so that they might be free to explore their deepest potentials and grow up to be as healthy as possible, body, mind and spirit?


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