LETTER: Dr Spock's babies

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The Independent Online
From Mrs Hilary Luck

Sir: It is difficult to believe from her ill-informed criticism (Letters, 31 January) that Constance Long has actually read Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock.

When faced with the task of rearing a family in 1963, I had no role model from my own parents. My father had left us, leaving me to a very unhappy mother. Having no wish to repeat this pattern, I turned to Dr Spock.

About 90 per cent of his book is a totally practical encyclopedia of child care, dealing with such mundane but essential matters as nappy rash and when to call the doctor. He first touches on discipline on page nine, in a paragraph headed "Children like to be kept good". A short quotation sums up his approach, defined in more detail in other sections.

The way we avoid irritation, whether we realise it or not, is by keeping our children under reasonable control and by being extra firm or sufficiently disapproving when things first threaten to go wrong. Such firmness is one aspect of parental love. Firmness, by keeping children on the right track, keeps them lovable. And they love us for keeping them out of trouble.

It is difficult to see very much wrong with that as an attitude to discipline, and surely impossible to see it as permissive and damaging.

Incidentally, my three children have grown into successful, considerate adults, despite Dr Spock and their being educated at the local comprehensive school.

Yours sincerely,

Hilary Luck

North Ferriby, North Humberside