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It’s Not Tough Love, But It’s Still Tough!

Pussy Willow

This is a message of support and compassion from the mother of a one-year-old to all of you family members practicing CRAFT.

As I spoke with another Allies team member last week about our attempts to get our babies to sleep better, I realized that there is a real parallel to be drawn with the work of CRAFT.

The whole "let them cry" approach (aka Ferberizing) often makes people cringe because frankly, it sounds a bit cruel. But I believe it is closer to the CRAFT method of approaching a suffering Loved One than it is to "tough love."

As we parents of babies stumble through the up's and down's, stress and confusion of trying to get that little person to sleep properly, we often fall into the baby's trap. They cry, we come running.  Despite the fact that it would greatly behoove baby (and the whole family who is losing sleep) to learn the skills of self-soothing, we often fall into the pattern of imagining that crying = suffering so we must go save them from the horrors of being alone in their crib. We imagine we'll be able to soothe them better than they could soothe themselves. 

It took me a while to understand that I was not actually doing her a favor by going in there all the time. It was counter-intuitive to say the least for me to grasp that by letting baby cry a bit and figure things out for herself, she would suffer less in the long run. And the same goes for my own suffering.

So often we think we're being helpful by trying to solve their problems for them.  Our intentions may be very, very pure: we simply want to reduce their pain and suffering. Yet in a way, we are sending a lack-of-faith message to our Loved One (or baby): I don't trust you to navigate this on your own. These good intentions that we follow blindly can often lead us to enable the wrong behavior.

I just wanted to say that these last few months of sleep training have given me renewed respect for the un-learning and re-learning we ask you to do with CRAFT. For the discomfort of breaking old patterns. For the difficulty of self-examination. For the sometimes excrutiating feelings that come from stepping aside and allowing our Loved Ones to stumble or even fall without being there to catch them every time (read more on 'natural consequences'). 

The idea of Natural Consequences can appear callous if misinterpreted. But I am convinced that when we practice letting them reap what they sow (barring great danger to themselves or others), we are helping them learn absolutely essential lessons. We are helping them to see  —through their own eyes, with their own senses and their own realizations — what needs their attention.

We can do this, guys. 



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)