Dictatorships are good for babies – and bloody great for dad

Don’t listen to those shoe-shunning hippie parents. Babies need discipline.

Dad holding newborn

Fascism has few redeeming qualities, which is not to say it’s totally pointless. Those military uniforms are the sexiest. And who doesn’t love a train that runs on time? But otherwise it is mostly shitty. It requires poverty and powerlessness to really take off, and dumbness helps too.

There is one area though where it still works a treat. It is the perfect strategy for early childrearing.

Babies are dumb, but not dumb as in stupid. I’ve got one, and he’s great! But he’s just one year old. If his mum goes into the other room, he cries because he thinks she’s blinked out of existence (again).

Last week, when he was quiet for a minute or so, I found him trying to eat a two-week old crushed blueberry off the back patio concrete. He’s not even good at Duplo.

One day he will be a brainbox. Probably … no, definitely a genius. But for the moment, the idea that he knows best – about when he should sleep, or where, or what he should play with, or what sort of thing he should eat – is absurd.

Our household runs as a sort of benevolent dictatorship of two – his mum and me – and we enforce the house rules with jackbooted ferocity. This works, and I recommend it.

Sid, my boy, goes to bed at 7pm on the dot. This is unless his second sleep goes past 4pm, in which case it’s lights out at 7.30pm. When he was learning to take the bottle, he was always fed in the same chair. Now, when he is eating meals/throwing meals on the floor/seeing how far he can thumb banana into his ears, it is always from his high chair.

He’s also slept in his own bed, in his own room (albeit with open doors between his and ours) since he was four months old. If he cries, one of us (me … literally always me) goes in to reassure him that we love him and that he is a special guy.

I might lift him out of his cot to rock him, give him pats, or tell him stories about Warnie’s effort at Amazing Adelaide. But back into the cot he goes. And back into my bed go I. We don’t negotiate.

It is gruelling, all that persistence – sometimes the rocking and comforting takes hours and hours. But trust me, it’ll pay off.

“Babies develop a sense of safety and trust when they have good, solid routines. They know what’s going to happen next, and that helps them thrive,” writes famed psychologist Dr Karen Ruskin, author of The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices.

Dr Ruskin is probably not a lot of fun at parties, but she knows her shit. And her kids probably know, at midmorning naptime, cot means sleep.

At our place, 7pm bedtime means the night belongs to us again. We can watch TV, drink wine, or eat meals that have not come straight out of the freezer.

I reckon this tactic is way better than the go-with-the-flow approach often promoted by many modern-day parents like mummy blogger and former Block contestant-turned singer Amity Dry.

When I read that she would take her bubs on “outings and coffee dates, where I would hope my babies slept in their prams or in my arms” or to “restaurants and concerts, rehearsals and meetings”, I thought ‘forget it’. Her argument was that as a result, they are now “very social” and well-adjusted kids. HAH.

My boy may miss out on this so-called ‘adult socialisation’ that comes with being dragged to cafes, but I reckon parents are missing one big point: They are deluded about how tolerable their kids are to those around them.

We’ve all been on the other side. Before I had a kid, being subjected to the slow-drip ‘adult socialisation’ of someone else’s sprog on a night out at a restaurant was a pain. Now I’m a dad, when we want to eat out, I get a sitter. And Sid sleeps, because it’s gone 7pm. He benefits and so does everyone else at the restaurant.

Fascism isn’t for everyone. When it is employed against a powerless underclass [think 1930s Germany or Bigger Loser], it is abhorrent. But that doesn’t apply to babies. A previously mentioned, babies are dumb.

Rather than stifling their spirit, this strict scheduling is smart. It creates spaces for them to be creative. Rather than just giving them free reign, it gives them the reassurance that they’re loved at regular, predictable intervals.

As a long-term parenting play, fascism sucks. But for now, it’s actually good for the kid – and it’s bloody great for the dictators.

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