There was an article published recently declaring that children as young as 6 months can lie. You can read it here.
Now that you're back, let's discuss.
The premus here is that there is nothing really wrong with the child when they cry, therefor they are lying and manipulating their care giver into responding to them. Seems basic enough. I'm sure everyone who's spent any time around kids has encountered this - baby cries, nothing seems wrong, you pick baby up, baby stops crying. So obviously they were just trying to manipulate you, right?
Or let's consider this. Baby has limited means of communication. Baby is feeling lonely, stressed, cold, uncomfortable, itchy, whatever. Baby cries and is picked up. Whatever was bothering baby suddenly isn't bothing them, they stop crying.
Yeah, sure, but the researches covered this, they said babies would cry, wait for a response, and then cry again. Well if most babies start doing this at 6 months then Hana is ahead of the curve. At around 4 months she learned that she could "call" to us when she woke up in the morning. It isn't really a cry, but I suppose that's what it would sound like if you didn't know what she was doing. That's how we knew she was awake and ready to get out of bed in the morning. She wasn't making us think something was wrong, she was just communicating in the only way she knew how.
So why do babies "cry for attention" - I have a theory. Babies start life with the ability to communicate. There are signals they make when they are hungry, when they need to eliminate, when they are tired, when they need to be held etc. The first few months of life is spent refining this communication. For example:
Mother is watching baby. Baby moves towards mother's breast. Mother makes no response. Baby moves hands to mouth. Mother makes no response. Baby sucks hands. Mother makes no response but wonders what's going on. Baby cries. Mother feeds it.
Next time things are similar:
Mother is watching baby. Baby moves towards mother's breast. Mother makes no response. Baby moves hands to mouth. Mother makes no response. Baby sucks hands and whimpers. Mother feeds it.
And the next time:
Mother is watching baby. Baby moves towards mother's breast. Mother makes no response. Baby moves hands to mouth. Mother feeds it.
Ok so it might not be quite so smooth as that and it takes a lot more practice, but you get the point. Baby and mother develop their own language in order to get things done. If these signals are missed in the early months then the baby resorts to crying. Not crying to manipulate, but crying because that's how they've learned to express their needs.
So why does this happen?
Because we live in a culture where children are seen as less than adults. Their needs aren't as important and need to be controlled, scheduled, or extinguished. We're told by relatives, strangers, friends and (most appalling) medical professionals that if we're not careful a baby will quickly gain power over us and manipulate us and we'll become slaves to our children. The only way to stop this is to very early teach a baby "who's boss". There's even the perpetuating myth that crying is good exercise for babies and is actually necessary for proper lung development.
Give me a break! Look at things from the eyes of the child. Hana is in the "grab everything and put it in mouth" stage. She's so funny to watch because her mouth is almost ALWAYS open waiting for whatever it is she's trying to get her little hands on. We're pretty good about keeping safe things within her reach, but every now and then she's grab a forbidden object (my glasses for instance), and we'll have to take it away from her. We try our best to always trade things because we want to teach her to give, not to take, but it's not always that easy. So she cries.
Now some would say she's crying so that I'll take pity on her and give her the object back.
I say she's crying because something she worked hard to get has been taken from her and she doesn't understand why. She's frustrated, confused, a little angry and has no other way to expect that. Yes, she'd stop crying if I gave it back (wouldn't you?), but that doesn't mean the purpose of the cry was to manipulate. I don't give it back. But I also don't dismiss how she's feeling. I let her know I understand she's frustrated and upset, but that she can't chew on x because of y. Then I try to find something that will make her happy.
Why do I react like that? Firstly because that's how I would want to be treated. Secondly because I want to teach her to name and express her emotions in a healthy way. Thirdly because I want her to see that her feelings are valid and important so that she'll learn to validate and respect the feelings of others.
There's this idea floating around that parents are either dictators ("because I said so" sort of thinking) or permissive (let their kids have whatever they want no matter what). As with almost everything else, there is middle ground. It is possible to set boundaries for children (because everyone needs healthy boundaries) without minimalizing their feelings, needs and wants. Yes, even wants. I get things I want but don't need (like tonight when I asked Ben to go get me some popcorn at 10 pm...my husband is too good to me!), so I extend the same ability to Hana. No, she won't get everything she wants, and as she grows up I'll t each her how to choose what is important, but right now I make those choices for her. I hate the language of control that is used when talking about parenting. We need to empower children, to support them in their emotions, in their explorations, in their desires. There's this cultural attitude that allows us to put adult motivation (manipulating emotions for a desired response) on a child's behaviour (having no way to express how they feel but crying).
It's human nature to learn behaviour through what we see and experience. If power is taken away from a child then they will take away power. If feelings are dismissed they become uncaring. I honestly think that if the world had a healthier view of children we would have a lot more healthy adults.