Friday, 25 May 2007

Truby King - a good parenting style...?

If you've never heard of Truby King, his father Frederick was an original member of the Committee of Colonists appointed in October 1840 at Plymouth, Devon, New Zealand. Born in 1858 in New Plymouth, New Zealand he was notable in his day, and in 1917 received the C.M.G. and in 1925 was knighted. He was well meaning in his work, and in the the last 30 years of his life reduced infant mortality in New Zealand from 88·8 to 309 per 1,000 childbirths. He founded the Plunket Society in 1907 to help infants receive a nutritious diet (Source and more detailed bio can be read here. The article was written in 1966 and shows the high esteem in which he was held even then.)

The point is, that the world was a very different place then, and the regimes Truby King suggested were in context at that time which is very different to now. Nothing was known about how the infant brain develops, the importance of forming secure attachments and how this impacts on future development. So what what was so different and what did he suggest? Google his name and a whole host of sites will come up, but a good enough summary is here from a piece by Sebastian Kraemer called Resilience.
Note how the task of childrearing is related to the prevailing moral code. In earlier times God's will was the driving force, but by the early twentieth century it was the survival of the nation that mattered most. The most influential expert of those days was Dr Frederic Truby King, originally based in New Zealand, who launched a successful movement to convert mothers to breast feeding. Besides this laudable aim, almost everything else he preached was quite horrific. The key to the Truby King method was to feed your baby by the clock every four hours and never at night. If you gave in to him he would become spoiled and spineless and, by implication, no use as a soldier when he grew up. To toughen them up, babies were to spend much of the day on their own outside in the fresh air, and should not be cuddled or comforted even when in distress. Mothers were not encouraged to play with babies, because it would excite them too much. Fathers had no role except earning money.
The full piece can be read on this Blog by clicking here

Maybe Daisy Goodwin (Silver River founder) and Hamish Mykura (Channel Four) are not aware of Truby King's methods, but to base part of a show on his principles, and to then say no damage to children will be done is frankly, unacceptable.
Clive Dorman
The Children's Project


Anonymous said...

any other information on Truby king would be greatly appreciated

JenK said...

My father (born 1929) was raised by the Truby King method and it did him immense damage. He had tremendous difficulty attaching to anyone and yet feared abandonment and aloneness acutely. He also had great difficulty attaching even to us, his kids, or showing us affection. I hope NO ONE would raise their child by methods similar to this one ever again.

Anonymous said...

One problem with the Truby King method was that the good times, such as they were with such a damaging regime, meant that food was easily associated with the only real cuddling that came the way of an infant. What a damaging association to create!

For me aged nearly 70, food is still the only real comfort in times of distress.

I have no idea when I have eaten enough. The bleak yawning pit of emotional damage seems unfillable and also unhealable despite many years of therapy.