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Volley Ball No Bawler

December 15, 1995

This past fall on the volley ball court another episode in the ongoing saga of child training was played out on a nearby pallet where a mother daily deposited her crying nine-month-old daughter. Every afternoon when we played volley ball the parents would take turns sitting out of the game and entertaining the little griper. This is their first child and they are both good parents. They thought it was their duty to meet their daughter’s “emotional” needs. You wouldn’t be a good parent to let your poor child sit on the pallet alone and cry—would you?
You can’t imagine how hard it is to keep your mouth shut sometimes. Well, this was one of those times when I didn’t. I finally blurted out, “Why don’t you just let her cry? If you don’t go to her, she will learn to entertain herself.” Several days later I noticed that the child was sitting alone without crying. When a friend started to go to the little girl, the mother warned her off saying, “Don’t go to her, when you leave she will start crying.” Again I butted in, suggesting that the mother do precisely that: Every ten minutes go to the cheerful child and pat her on the head. When you walk off she will cry; but she will see that the crying will not prevent you from leaving. Over a two hour period, you will continually reinforce your indifference to her demanding whine.
In just a few days the little girl was content to play alone and to receive periodical attention without crying to manipulate others into servitude. Today she is the most cheerful and happy baby around. Her mother is as proud as a young hen with a double yoke egg.

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