Parenting psychobabble gets results, after a fashion

One of the hazards of so-called ‘experts’ making unfounded claims about harm from parenting practices they don’t like is that – especially in the Internet Age – not only parents are reading their words. There are plenty of adults who are looking, rightly or wrongly, to blame their parents for their own issues. Being that classic psychotherapy (at least as it’s depicted in the moves and on TV) often starts with delving into one’s childhood experiences in an attempt to gain insight into one’s current behavioral patterns, it’s not really surprising that people look to the current scientific knowledge (or pseudoscience masquerading as knowledge) about parenting to try and figure out how their parents, perhaps unwittingly, screwed up their lives.

Thus we have people blaming their Asperger’s on vaccines or their fear of abandonment on having been born via C-section, and other such facile conclusions. But I have to admit that the CIO Recovery website really is…um…in a class of its own.

Keith DeJarnet is a 41-year-old man from Sarasota, Florida, who, according to the story he presents on his website, suffered a crisis of sorts several years ago due to his divorce and later, the imprisonment of his beloved brother (on what might be a drug related charge). In his despair, he became an alcohol and food addict, gaining an immense amount of weight and spending his days (and too many nights) eating, drinking, and playing video games.

Keith tells the truly uplifting story of how he was able to turn himself around and find new meaning to his life by using various self-help techniques, primary among them a “belief management” technique called Avatar. As their website puts it:

Rather than presenting you with another set of beliefs to live by, Avatar awakens you to a natural ability you already have to create and discreate beliefs. With this skill, you can restructure your life according to the blueprint that you determine.

One discovery many people on the Avatar Course make is that what you are believing is less important than the fact that you are believing it. Avatar empowers you to realize that there aren’t “good” beliefs and “bad” beliefs. There are only the beliefs that you wish to experience and the beliefs you prefer not to experience. You create an experience of yourself as the source, or creator, of your beliefs. From that place, it is very natural and easy to create the beliefs you prefer.

The approach seems to be somewhat related to cognitive therapy, though I don’t think the latter supports creating beliefs in quite such a willy-nilly manner (in the sense that the beliefs have to be connected to reality in some way).

Through the therapy, DeJarnet states that “Eventually, I was able to figure out that a lot of the issues I had that were limiting my life were based on the damage done by CIO”. He doesn’t clarify exactly how he came upon that epiphany. He defines CIO both in terms of sleep training, but also as “those who’s [sic] parents held the belief that if you pick up a baby when it cries that you’ll spoil it and they were left to “crying it out” “, and states he was “subjected to both facets of CIO as an infant and toddler”. Mind you, I am emphatically not claiming he’s making this up – DeJarnet may very well have been subjected to abusive and/or neglectful treatment in his childhood, some of which may have taken the form of leaving him to cry for long periods of time, night and day.

It does seem clear, however, that DeJarnet is talking about abusive/neglectful parenting practices which bear little to no resemblance to Ferber or Weissbluth’s techniques – which, to remind you, involve short-term crying in the context of healthy, loving parent-child relationship. In this, he erroneously conflates all babies being left to cry, for any reason and no matter for how long, with CIO sleep training techniques. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn (and the resources page on his website suggest this) that he was guided to this conclusion by various online parenting resources which use these dishonest tactics.

DeJarnet, however, goes one step further: he has also “figured out” that CIO (as he defines it) is the cause of all sorts of psychological ills, including seeking out abusive relationships, obesity, and even pedophilia. He further promises to reveal how CIO is also at the root of “Stalking, Romance Dependency, Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, Unwanted Pregnancies (and) Approval Dependency”. Now while low self-esteem may very well be at the root of some or all of these maladies, it doesn’t necessarily follow that CIO (in either context) is the cause.

The website has been up for a couple of years now, yet it seems that though at least some of the shriller anti-CIO, pro-AP/NP advocates are aware of it, they’re reluctant to use this website and its proprietor’s story as ‘proof’ that CIO damages in the way they claim. If I may attempt some of my own armchair psychology – perhaps, on a subconscious level (or perhaps not-so-subconcsious 😉 ), they realize the fallacy of the scare tactics in which they engage, and are perhaps a little ashamed by the unintended results of their hyperbole?


12 Responses

  1. Wow. What ever happened to personal responsibility for ones actions. For example: I am fat because I choose to eat ice cream every night for 3 months. It is not my Mother’s fault. It is my own poor choice. I now choose to stop eating ice cream late at night. And I will loose the extra weight.

    Also Ferber has a good program. Many folks have had huge sucess with his program and their kids now sleep through the night. Wow what a concept!

  2. lose…I meant lose. Not loose. It is still early here.

  3. And I’m indeed still waiting for the actual scientific long-term studies done on adults that were CIO babies and now have issues that they can actually link to the fact that they were CIO babies. When those studies are done I may possibly change my views but until then I’ll let my LO CIO for 5 minutes before she goes to sleep and feel bad about it at all while my mommies on other forums are still asking how to get their 16 month old to STTN!

  4. wait!! I though that vaccines were the root of all evil… we simply can’t have two causes of every human disease. it’s just too confusing for my simple mind. Now how I am supposed to know who to sue?

  5. So many ways to screw up my kids, it’s just so hard to choose!

  6. Now that my son is crawling, going to sleep is harder and harder. We used to be able to spot exactly the moment when he would peacefully go down in the crib, but now he just keeps moving all over the place, past the point of his own exhaustion.

    So, last night, about an hour past his bed time, I put him in his crib. He protested for ten minutes, and finally fell asleep…sitting up. I had to go move him.

    What kind of website is he going to start to explain the trauma this caused?

  7. After reading DeJarnet’s story, I’m left wondering about what characterized the rest of his childhood, and how he came to the CIO-as-culpret conclusion. It’s hard to imagine that sleep training in the context of loving and nurturing parenting could possibly lead to such trauma, and the complicated mix of experiences that guide our development shouldn’t and can’t be reduced to one single defining factor. There are a lot of holes in this narriative, and though I don’t want to discount anyone’s experience of suffering, there’s something fishy about this story, and at least the way it’s presented, makes me doubt its legitimacy.

  8. Having one sibling imprisoned on what sounds like drug-related charges (I say this because of the last item in the site’s Mission Statement ) and another die an untimely death is certainly suggestive of a somewhat less than ideal childhood. But there is really too much information missing to come to a firm conclusion.

  9. I started my parenting career in a new parent support group of 14 women and have developed relationships with about as many parents with kids about the same age as mine outside of the group, so a pretty broad selection and variety of approaches, including various forms of CIO, I am sure. The *only* child that I think might have a rough road ahead is the one whose mother, in my layman’s opinion, is a total nutcase. She had completely constructed a persona for her child by the time she was three months old and seems to have *a lot* invested in her creation (the persona more than the child), so I imagine she will be surprised when she gets push back from the girl herself. As for the rest, choices for one strategy or another doesn’t seem to have as much impact as much as the bulk of them being pretty balanced people creating pretty balanced homes. OMG, could it be that none of these choices matter at all???

  10. How on earth would CIO cause unwanted pregnancies?

    Either you purposefully sabotaged yourself by not taking birth control or something, and thus the pregnancy was not unwanted (if you did so because you have low self-esteem, doesn’t make the pregnancy less desired), or you didn’t have access to education as to how to prevent it, which is the fault of the area/society you live in, or you were in an abusive relationship and he prevented you from accessing birth control, and it’s not your fault; or you were on birth control and it failed. Does he mean to suggest CIO can magically make condoms break 20 years later, or can magically make hormonal BC ineffective?

  11. Whoa…There is some crazy stuff out there Check out our psychobabble free blog: . If you and/or the people reading your blog are interested in learning more about Dr. Weissbluth, than you should check us out or link up to us. We will not only be talking about sleep but will be addressing media, temperament, and other issues affecting children.
    -Daniel Weissbluth, MD

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