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Psychologist Says Daycare Screws Kids Up For Life

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Ronda Kaysen: There are many ways to make moms feel like total failures. One of them is to write a book called "How Not to F*** Them Up," and then go on a book tour espousing the myriad ways most moms totally fail their offspring -- which is what British pop psychologist Oliver James did recently.

How Not to F Them Up

His new book warns mothers that such humble acts as putting your toddler in daycare or even, God forbid, calling her "naughty" will cause such irreparable harm that you might as well go put your head in the oven right now.

Oh, and he's also against the cry-it-out method, which he sees as totally soul-crushing. If you're a cry-it-out mama, start saving now for those therapy bills, because they're going to be huge.

So, what happens to these unfortunate youngsters who suffer the indignity of daycare, Ferber and quiet-time-as-punishment? They grow up to be insecure (about 40 percent of grownups are insecure, James says), depressed, lonely and violent souls who get divorced and can't find love.

Babies and toddlers "need to be in the presence of a responsive, loving adult at all times in order to thrive," according to James. And that means that if Mom isn't available 24/7, then maybe Dad, Grandma or a nanny (in that order) might do.

Per James, daycare is akin to abandoning your child at an Eastern European orphanage for the day, so you might as well start stocking up on the Prozac he'll need later in life. (After reading this book, you could just go ahead and get the Prozac for yourself.)

Controlled-crying a la the Ferber method will allegedly cause a lifetime of suffering. "There is good evidence that strict sleep routines do lead to more insecure, and to more irritable and fussy babies," James claims. As far as discipline is concerned, James says that even just uttering words like "Don't!" or "Naughty!" is so harmful that it's like treating your kid "like a dog in a laboratory." He adds that a child sent to his room is apt to feel rejected, abandoned, resentful and angry.

And all you pregnant ladies out there: Don't think you're off the hook if you read the book before you've had a chance to screw up your kid, because odds are you've already failed. James says that any third-trimester stress will raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which will affect your unborn child long after birth. Apparently, just having bad thoughts is enough to ruin your young.

Jeez! After all this, I think I need a drink. Maybe I'll leave the kid at daycare for a few extra hours so I can ponder all the things I've done to harm him so far. And when he comes home, I'll lock him in his room and listen to him cry.

next: 'Sex and the City 2' Review: It's Girl Porn!
20 comments so far | Post a comment now
Danielle May 27, 2010, 5:16 AM

Whatever gets parent’s to take responsibility for their actions and not paying 1 or 2 dollars an hour for child care and get a professional loving one!

Christina May 27, 2010, 6:32 AM

I can’t help but notice this book is written by a man, but directed at MOTHERS, not parents. Typical. And, frankly, a good indication the book should be ignored.

Anne-Marie May 27, 2010, 7:41 AM

I can agree with not using daycare. But yeah, a man preaching to mother’s…well. I think this man has serious issues with his mother & is taking it out on womankind. Get some, therapy, dude. You obviously need it.

Lovey's mom May 27, 2010, 7:52 AM

Daycare is much better than a nanny. My daughter is secure, outgoing and learning more than one person could ever teach her by being home alone all day. I guess you have to find the right one. She’s thriving and loves being there! She’s comfortable with the teachers and they’re the ones I trust to use as sitters. Stop knocking daycare - some of us are lucky enough to find good ones (and I don’t have to watch nannycam videos every night).

sylvia May 27, 2010, 7:53 AM

I hate to say it - but there are some researched merits to some of what he says. Look at kids in society in general….. I can’t say that I’m terribly impressed by the ‘norm’. Everyone justifies slack parenting because ‘everyone else’ does it. Well - it is the new normal, so pat yourselves on the back.
It seems people are irked when they are asked to do the ‘job’ of parenting. You can’t only have the fun parts and the perks - and yes, as un-pc as it is, your TIME is a huge part of the sacrifice. It no longer gets to be all about YOU.
And really? We’re dumping on the fact that it’s written by a man, therefore it isn’t worth acknowledging? Spare me. Usually that response is par for the course when there is a grain of truth involved ~ and the ensuing guilt causes the knee-jerk reaction of denial of responsibility & disparagement of the messenger.
It may not all be everything we want to hear….but it might just be what our children need us to hear.
Yes. It’s hard being a woman and a mom and a wife and a friend and an employee or boss. But stop making children pay the price ~ they’re not the ones who made the choice.
Get over yourselves Girls - start taking the responsibility we all decided we wanted.

melissa May 27, 2010, 8:42 AM

Wow. I wander if this guy ever spent a day in childcare.

Samantha  May 27, 2010, 9:39 AM

um..i think this guy can take his “i’m right and all the mothers are wrong” book and shove it up his @$$!

Natalie May 27, 2010, 12:17 PM

WTF???Who in their right mind would allow a man to publish a book on pregnancy and child care?I know that you do get some single fathers and then there are the men who help with child care because they feel guilty or have been threatned into helping.Some of the ideas in this book are so stupid that they insult my intellegance!!Crazy!!

Nicole May 27, 2010, 12:25 PM

My child’s screwed! Oh well, better luck next time, right? ; )

Christina May 27, 2010, 12:53 PM

Wow, Sylvia, hate much? For the record, I’m a SAHM (not that I, personally, think there is anything wrong with decent daycare), so no there is no “grain of truth” reaction. Just the irritation that, once again, a man who has in all likelihood not raised a child has taken it upon himself to tell womankind (not parents, just women) how they are botching the job. If you don’t see anything wrong with that, well, that’s your issue. Me, I think we are all in this parenting thing together and we owe it to ourselves and our fellow parents (yes, both genders) to be supportive.

Oh yeah, and DON’T call me “Girl”.

Robin May 27, 2010, 1:58 PM

Yes Sylvia, being responsible for our children means being with them 24/7 (even if it means not being able to afford to keep a roof over their heads) instead of finding a daycare that is a beneficial learning environment. It also means never setting boundaries (can’t even tell the kid ‘Don’t!’) and never punishing your child (though I suppose if there are no boundaries then they can’t actually break any rules…) And a structured bedtime? You might as well be feeding the kid rat poison.

This book is ridiculous. Kids need structure to function. The lack of routine and structure preached in this book are a sure recipe for stressed, insecure children that can’t function in a structured society.

Oh, and FYI I’m a SAHM who has never had to use a daycare. And I agree with Christina, don’t condescend to call me “girl”.

Criss May 27, 2010, 3:01 PM

I’m pregnant with my first, but I’m still in my 2nd trimester so I’m allowed to read such stressful things as this book. (Whew!)

I just have one question for Mr. James: may I have his home address, so I can forward him my mortgage bill? See, in order to be a stay-at-home mom, I need to have a HOME. Mine is modest, and, frankly, perhaps not big enough for two adults + one baby. But it still costs money (as does the food those two adults and one baby will eat, and the clothes they’ll wear, and all sorts of other things — wow, that’s a lot of bills I’ll be sending to Mr. James!)

I would love nothing more than to keep my baby with me 24/7. Seriously. Do you know how long I have waited to have this baby? I quit my teaching job and took a much lower paying position (I’m a college-degreed woman, bilingual, able-bodied, highly qualified for a wide range of jobs, but since I wasted my time working in public schools nobody would hire me for anything outside the classroom, other than this grant-funded and therefore measly-paying job) so I could have a flexible enough schedule to BE pregnant, take time off for doctor’s appointments, and not be on my feet all day in the third trimester (oh, and that “avoid stress” thing? Let’s not go there, shall we?)

If I had oodles of cash lying around, I would stay home with my baby all day long. BUT I DON’T. I was silly, and married a man who will be a great father, instead of marrying the jerk I dated before him, who made tons of money but was an overgrown boy himself who spent too much time and money drinking.

If my job allowed me to take my baby to work, I would. I would proudly wear my baby all day long at the office, in the stylish Moby wrap I saw on sale the other day (I’m buying the Moby sling anyway, don’t worry).

This pompous, privileged prick needs to get his head out of his posterior and realize that MOTHERS NEED DAYCARE. And daycare is not the devil, either. Some daycare centers/workers are unqualified and unfit — BUT THEN AGAIN SO ARE SOME PARENTS.

Children are not robots. They are all different. Some will thrive in a one-on-one SAHM or nanny situation, others will do much better in a daycare center, with several adults and several children around. Some children need rigid structure, others are more “free-spirits.” Some children naturally put themselves on a sleeping/feeding schedule, others never settle into routine no matter what the parents do or don’t try.

Children are not one-size-fits all. So please stop generalizing about them.

And, dude, if you’re going to write a parenting book about mothering, when you are a cis male, at least get a mother to co-write it with you. Otherwise, how do you expect me to take you seriously??

How would male bodybuilders react if my scrawny, never-lifted-weights-in-my-life self wrote a book on male bodybuilding techniques? (Hey, I read all these books and research about it!)


Jen May 27, 2010, 3:48 PM

Well said, Criss!

I have a son and he’s in childcare—we don’t live a crazy life—we share one car and have a very modest home. I also unfortunately have a large amount of student loan bills so I’ll forward those to the author as well as my mortgage and grocery bills. Or maybe I just shouldn’t have dared to have a child.

I think different situations work for different families and unless you’re actually in the family you can’t know what’s best for everyone.

Kim May 27, 2010, 6:57 PM

I have to say that I am appalled at the author making sweeping generalizations and putting down choices moms make, but I am not surprised. He wants to sell books

On the other hand to hear such sentiments spouted off by FELLOW MOMS makes me physically ill. I would hope that being moms would make you compassionate towards other women who love their kids and are just trying to raise them to the best of their ability. It does NOTHING to put down other mothers for their choices (or lack of choices) and it feeds the stereotypes and encourages people like this author to keep putting out this kind of negative drivel.

You can keep telling yourselves that you are a better moms than the rest of us, but you are lying to yourselves, and the fact you can’t be supportive of other women, makes me wonder what kind of insucure self-talk must be going through your minds when you lie in bed at night, since clearly you feel the need to belittle others to make yourselves feel better.

Anonymous May 28, 2010, 12:27 AM

I didn’t read the book, and most likely won’t, because the cover looks like garbage. BUT, assuming this one sided article was written by a mother, I would suggest you do a bit more research into child raising. The things he seems to be preaching are common knowledge amongst psycologists and mothers. You wrote, “There are many ways to make moms feel like total failures.”- Maybe you feel like a failures because you are taking the more convienient way out. (You know you are, every mom has those moments)
Even if you HAVE to send your kid to daycare, use the time you have together to be a much better mama. It is such a short time where they really need you. Don’t just blow it off with a simple shrug.
The fact that he is a man has nothing to do with the actual book.
Ps. There is nothing wrong with writing “girls” -don’t get sidetracked.

Anonymous as well May 29, 2010, 3:28 PM

Feel free to take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, it’s from memory and I don’t have the actual research sitting in front of me.

From everything I’ve ever heard, day care or preschool programs are beneficial to the child, in that they allow them to succeed academically later in life. I have also heard, however, that there are minor behavioral issues in day care kids, but they grow out of them by adulthood.

Carol May 30, 2010, 7:37 PM

My SAHM sister-in-law does not set boundaries for my niece. She feeds her fast food, every day.
You know where she’s leared the word no? And how to share? And discpline? And ate fresh fruit? (Besides Gramma’s?)Daycare, two to three times a week so she would be prepared for kindergarten and my sil was bed ridden in her last two months of her pregnancy
My niece still has problems with limits and sharing in kindergarten, but I can’t imagine how worst she would be if she didn’t start daycare at 3 1/2.

Steph June 1, 2010, 12:25 PM

I was born in 1967 and was with my mother 24/7 until I started kindergartne. My mom plopped me in a playpen and had minimal interaction with me. She rarely read a book to us, she hardly ever played with us, she never sat and watched TV with us, and like most of the moms in our neighborhood, was preparing the cocktails by 5pm.

This is in no way criticizing SAHM’s or WOHM’s, it’s just how my generation was raised. Moms who had more than a passing interest in (or egads, breastfed!) their kids were labeled “kooky hippies.” So I don’t really think we can say one generation’s parents were better or worse than another.

I agree with Kim — there’s just way too much judgement by women about other women’s choices.

Christina June 1, 2010, 7:59 PM

I’m pretty sure the only judgmental mother who posted here was Sylvia. The rest of us seemed pretty supportive of one another, from what I could tell.

Patrick  June 27, 2010, 3:49 AM

A lot of the attacks against James because of this book are silly in my opinion.

Firstly, if what he says is true then we should know about it even if we can’t do anything about it. I completely take the point that some mothers need to go out to work and can’t afford nannys but if children are better off with one-to-one care then we should know about it so we can do something about it in the future. An analogy would be dirty drinking water in Africa. There are some places where you can’t get clean water from a well so you have to go and get dirty water from a lake but if no-one tells you that dirty drinking water is bad (on the grounds that you can’t immediately change to clean water) then you can never hope to improve your situation. The same goes for daycare, perhaps the government has put too much emphasis on daycare and not enough on helping mothers stay at home or be able to hire nannys if this is the case then we need to be able to present evidence against daycare and for one-to-one care. James actually says in his book that when given the option most women prefer to stay at home with their children suggesting that there is some intuitive idea that one-to-one care is better for the child than daycare.

Secondly, a lot of women have criticised James for being a man trying to tell women how to care for children. I think the reason most of his book is directed at women is because in our society women are thought of as responsible for children. So, if you’re writing a book about childcare it’s obviously going to be targeted to women. This doesn’t mean that James doesn’t attribute responsibility to fathers as well in fact he does detail the importance of fathers at later stages in child development. It is important to remember that what James says is usually backed up with evidence. If he says it’s prefereable to have mothers looking after children instead of fathers then there’s a scientific reason for it. This is not a book about ideology.

Finally, James is very precise about the type of care he thinks children should have. He doesn’t say that all children raised at home are going to turn out better then all children who go to daycare. Having mothers looking after children at home is one thing but having them doing it well is another. Obviously we’re all going to have stories about terrible mothers who were with their kids 24/7 but that doesn’t address the evidence that good mothering is better than good daycare.

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