First of all you have to be a middle aged, middle or upper class white man in a position of power or authority. Next you make your story of calculated abuse of your own child public with the caveat that you expect to be vilified. Then stand back and wait for all the gormless plebs reading to congratulate you on your bravery for speaking the truth and confess that they have done the exact same thing.
I am talking, of course, about “journalist” Martin Daubney and his sickening confession in the Daily Fail. He describes how he threatened to leave his wife unless she went along with his plan to abuse their three year old son. She agreed and they proceeded to fit a bolt to the child’s bedroom door and leave him to scream and throw himself around the room for three hours. The reason? Little Sonny wouldn’t stay in his room on his own and his parents were exhausted, desperate and ignorant.
They knew nothing of childhood development. I believe it is very likely that they had made a string of parenting errors and failed to seek reliable support and take appropriate action. With no support, bad information and no better ideas, they resorted to imprisoning their child and letting him potentially harm himself in the quest for some R&R for themselves.
In this earlier article, Daubney describes their son’s traumatic birth and his own consequent birth trauma. Had he done just a little basic reading, he would have known that a traumatic birth can have a lasting effect on babies. Sonny “nearly died” at birth, so I have to assume he had a stint in the NICU, where he was probably left crying by overworked nurses with little grasp of the importance of attachment in newborns. Daubney does say that when they got home Sonny slept in the family bed for the first few months and in a cot in their room for another six months after that. Thank goodness. Until I read this second article I had assumed the couple had gone all Gina Ford on this poor baby, but it appears not.
I would love to know how their baby slept in those early months, what signs of readiness he had shown before they moved him to his own room and why on earth they kept him in a cot until he was nearly three years old! When he started climbing out of his cot they restrained him in a sleeping bag, which he figured out how to get off and one night fell out of his cot when climbing out. It’s one case of restraint, followed by another, then another. Snowballing out of control. Daubney also mentions in passing that they leave Sonny locked in his room until 7am, even though he wakes earlier and that the child goes to nursery, where the day after his three hour long torture he fell asleep on his lunch. I am struggling to find a point in the day where this poor boy enjoys quality time with loving parents.
Babies who have gotten off to a shaky start in life, who have not necessarily formed a secure attachment to at least one parent, often exhibit insecurities as toddlers. This poor boy was desperate to get out of his room, to not be on his own. Interestingly, he didn’t run to their room, he would explore the house. They fitted a stair gate across his door, but at three years old he could figure out how to unlock it and one night ventured down two flights of stairs in his sleeping bag and opened the dishwasher. Clearly, this is exceptionally dangerous and I absolutely do not blame these parents for being desperate for a solution at this point. But I cannot on any level condone their chosen action.
According to the article, Daubney and his wife did not give any thought as to the reasons why their son might be having such terrible anxiety or try to address his deeply rooted insecurity. All they cared about was putting an end to the behaviour by any means necessary so they went for a quick fix. Daubney then describes his mother’s advice and her confession that she had locked him in his room as a small child. And here we come to the heart of it. No doubt she would be the first to follow up this revelation with that old chestnut “and it didn’t do you any harm”. Well no, I suppose not, if you consider very obvious intimacy and attachment issues both with his wife and his child as perfectly healthy.
The research is overwhelmingly clear that poor attachment in childhood leads to difficulty forming trusting and loving attachment with others as an adult. Daubney was himself a victim of abuse (being locked in his room) and has gone on to have the kind of relationship with his wife where he views her body as his to possess, ruined by witnessing her traumatic birth and he resented their baby for sharing their bed and needing his mother and at the point at which his little boy most needed to be held and reassured, he told his wife he would rather leave them both than hold his child and tell him he was safe.
No doubt little Sonny was a high needs child, probably because of his birth and the immediate aftermath, all the more reason to treat him with sensitivity and compassion. But what he got was abuse. Not only does he now know no one comes when he cries, but that he also cannot escape.
You can train children not to cry out when they need their parents, you can crush their spirit and teach them that no one comes to their aid when they are distressed and children learn very quickly. They may become very compliant and obedient for many years, maybe even decades, but still waters run deep and these very same children are the ones most prone to excessive and destructive behaviour later in life, perhaps in their teens, but maybe later.
The response to this article is perhaps, the most shocking thing of all. Most of the comments are supportive and the negative ones have received hundreds of “dislike”s. Many comments state that the readers have done this same thing and make reference to children needing boundaries and so on. Daubney and his wife will not face a social services investigation for their action, whereas a family from the wrong part of town in receipt of benefits almost certainly would. The double standard is as sickening as the abuse itself.
My heart goes out to Sonny, and to his mother. I hope that some how they are able to heal together.