You can watch the video version of this post on my Facebook Page.
Today we are going to be discussing Blanket Time.
Just incase you aren’t in the Posse yet, I’ll recap what happened. So a newer-ish member of the Posse Julia posted what seemed like a pretty innocent question- which was basically “Hey- in another group I’m part of they’re talking about this concept called “Blanket Time” and I was wondering what y’all thought about it?” and then my phone basically melted. Not really, but pretty close. The way she explained it was that you basically put a blanket down and don’t allow your child to leave the blanket for an increasingly long period of time. And everyone was thinking that was a strange and awkward concept at first- but then another member Katelyn chimed in with the origin of it and I believe my exact words were “what fresh hell is this?”
So I went and did a little bit of research.
First, Julia confirmed that this came up in just a typical Mommy group- not some extremist Christian group or anything. And before anyone comes at me- I identify as Christian myself- but there are extremists in every religion- there are extreme Christians just like there’s extreme Muslims. So let me be very clear- because this is going to come up a few times- this is an EXTREMIST CHRISTIAN THING apparently.
I did a bit of Googling, and it seems the first time “Blanket Training” was introduced into the world was in a book called “To Train Up a Child”. Now- this book…I really have no words for this book. There are deaths attributed to this book- that’s really all I should have to say about it. It’s heinous. I’m just going to call it “THAT BOOK” from now on. It’s like…I actually think someone made this point in the Posse too said it sounded like training a dog. And that’s pretty much it. And we’ve talked about this concept a few times- but always in the context of Time Outs. It’s like training a dog. Rewards and punishments.
Blanket Time as described in THAT BOOK, is basically- you put a small blanket on the floor, and you tell your infant or young toddler to stay there. And when they don’t because they won’t, because they’re BABIES WHO ARE CURIOUS ABOUT THEIR WORLD- you hit them.
Now I found a bunch of variations on this theme when I was googling. There was one blogger who denounced corporal punishment but still said LOVED blanket time because she’s an introvert and she needed “quiet time to hear her thoughts.” I found the Duggar blog. I can’t believe I’m even acknowledging the damn Duggars…where Michelle Duggar talks about her variation which is “Quiet and Still time” where she sits her babies on a chair and tells them to stay quiet and still for increasingly long periods of time. I found one blog that again, seemed more reasonable that advocated for just putting them back on the stupid blanket but then if they were what the blogger called “micro-rebellers”, and I will deal with that term in a minute… and move just a hand or a foot off the blanket to quote “slap the offending hand or foot and remind them their entire body needs to remain on the blanket.”
So what do these people seem to think they’re accomplishing with blanket time?
Every single blog spoke about self-control and what they called “parameter skills” which I took to mean basically staying where you’re told. They talked about independent play. And they also all spoke about “first-time obedience.”
So let’s talk through these 3 things.
The first goal they’re trying to accomplish is self-control. Okay not a bad goal… a vague goal but not a bad one. Self-control can mean a lot of things. What I took it to mean when reading these various blogs wasn’t self-regulation but some kind of strange impulse control. But it wasn’t really impulse control they were talking about because they weren’t talking about stopping yourself from impulses. They were talking about stopping yourself from using your natural curiosity. If a baby moves off the blanket, you hit them. Or the less harsh ones suggested “placing them firmly back on the blanket.” But here’s the thing- BABIES ARE WIRED TO EXPLORE THEIR WORLD. They’re wired to explore and investigate and discover. That is literally their job. Eat, sleep, poop, find stuff and figure out how it works. That’s your biological imperative from birth to age 3. They’re not REBELLING AGAINST YOU by moving their bodies. “90% of the stimulation and nutrition of the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” That’s a quote from Dr. Roger Sperry who is a Nobel Prize winner. So no, you’re not teaching them impulse control because it’s not impulsive. Also, impulse control is an executive function that develops around age 2. From my reading, blanket time is meant to be used with babies from about a year to age 2 with the goal of by age 2 they know what happens if they leave the blanket. So, you’re trying to teach an executive skill to a child who is developmentally incapable of mastering that executive skill because it’s hasn’t even begun to develop.
Now here’s the really horrifying part- some of the more extreme blogs I read has Moms on them bragging about the fact that they could put their child on their blanket and call them from across the house, and the child wouldn’t leave the blanket because they knew it was a baiting technique. There are Moms out there BRAGGING about BAITING their child and then punishing them- generally corporeally- for “misbehaving”. Y’ALL.
What is the ACTUAL goal of this then? Because all I’m seeing is that it’s taking perfectly normal and expected behaviour and arbitrarily turning it into misbehaviour. Come when you’re called unless your standing on a blanket. Then I’m going to beat you for it. That is fucked up. I’m sorry but that’s just WRONG. That’s not self-control! That’s not impulse control! That’s not self-regulation! That’s brainwashing.
So you can already tell how I feel about “blanket time.”
Goal 2 was Independent Play.
Yay! Independent play! We talk about that a lot in the Parenting Posse. Child-led independent play has tonnes of benefits. It encourages free thinking, problem solving, processing real world situations, self-regulation, coping skills, identity construction, practising power dynamics, group coordination, rule making and breaking, analytical skills, early math and reading skills, and so much more.
BUT: the operative word there is “Child-led.”
And this goes back to a topic which drives me crazy on the regular and I will probably do another livestream about another time because it’s a HUGE topic but that is WHAT IS AUTHENTIC PLAY?! What makes play, play?! And ONE of those things is that is child-led and child-determined. It is SPONTANEOUS and FREELY CHOSEN.
When you put out a 2×3 foot blanket and sit your child on it and physically punish them for removing themselves from it that is neither spontaneous, nor is it freely chosen.
Some of the blogs I read directed parents to put what they deemed “quiet toys” on the blanket to occupy the child. They suggested things like Vtech toys with flashing lights and soft books. So, basically not toys but distraction devices. A 12 to 36 month old is not reading a book. They might look at the pictures for a short while but that’s not play. And toys that flash and say “Green triangle!” when you hit the green triangle aren’t toys, they’re entertainment. So no, you aren’t teaching your child independent play skills. You’re teaching them to sit down, shut up, and occupy themselves when you arbitrarily decide they ought to.
MOST of the blogs I read said not to give them anything to do and that the child should just “sit and be still.” Which is CLEARLY teaching them to play independently- RIGHT?! No.
So we’re O for 2. It’s not teaching them impulse control or self-regulation, and it’s not teaching them independent play skills.
Okay- last one. First-Time Obedience.
Listen. I know that it’s frustrating when your kids ignore you and don’t listen the first time. I was actually just going over data from the survey questions people give when they join the Parenting Posse– just the other night- and “Not Listening” was the #1 thing parents said was driving them batshit crazy about parenting little kids. And I get it! I do- it’s frustrating when you ask them to do something and they don’t listen. I get it. I really do.
But if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, I don’t want obedient children. That is not a goal ANY of us should have is obedient children. Obedient children are MINDLESS children. Mindless children do stupid shit because they aren’t thinking critically. They aren’t paying attention. We want kids who THINK.
That’s why I put together the Logical Consequence Process. That’s why I’m always talking about declarative language and controlled choices and natural consequences. All those things teach children to think critically. So THIS IS A BAD THING to be teaching children. I don’t want “first time obedience” which is basically doing what you’re told blindly. That’s not something I want. For anyone! Because obedience is a habit. First we obey our parents, then we obey everyone else. Critical thinking is a skill, it’s a muscle we have to build…we can’t be like “Well, I want my children to obey their elders…but once they get out into the world I want them to think for themselves and march to the beat of their own drum.” That’s not how this works.
We’re raising adults. Not children. We don’t want to raise adults who do what they’re told without thinking of the consequences, the intended outcome, and whether they’re okay with that. This is training them, like a dog, to sit and stay for no other reason than they’ve been told to sit and stay. Not okay.
This whole Blanket Time concept is such simplistic, surface, BASIC thinking. It demonstrates zero knowledge of early childhood development or best practice. NONE. There is no evidence that supports this practice. And the truth is this practice didn’t come from anyone who has any training in early childhood development at all. It came from a Christian extremist who twisted some scriptures to support their personal view on how children should be raised, which is to be seen and not heard. To do as they’re told without question.
Back in November I told y’all the 2 questions you NEED to be able to answer to raise competent, confident, well-behaved kids. 2 easy questions: What don’t they know how to do? AND how am I teaching them to do that? And we’ve established here tonight that this whole blanket time thing isn’t teaching kids what people seem to think it’s teaching them to do.
Now if you’re like “Okay- but I DO want to teach my kids how to self-regulate, how to play independently, and how to listen to me…” Take a gander at the description below this post for my Scripts for Managing Crazy-Making Behaviour. Now- these scripts aren’t focused on any of these 3 things…but they ARE focused on helping you speak to your child in a way that promotes critical thinking. They’re kind of a SPRINGBOARD for you to start moving towards promoting critical thought. And once you download them- you’re on my email list. And that means that next time I run my 8 Skills Your Child Needs to Be Misbehaviour Proof webinar- you’ll be the first to know about it. And that webinar DOES teach you the skills your child needs to self-regulate, play independently, and listen.