This blog post has been written by Oliver James, psychologist, Guardian columnist and author. His books include ‘Affluenza’ and ‘How Not to F*** Them Up’.
Here Oliver describes the subject matter of his latest book ‘Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat’ – having had the benefit of trying Oliver’s Love Bombing technique with my own son, I can heartily recommend this book if you are struggling with your child’s behaviour.
Nine year old Tim hated himself, he told his mum Marianne he was ‘rubbish’ at everything and became more threatening towards his talented older sister.
Marianne was at her wits’ end, having tried everything suggested by her son’s GP and teacher, including a stricter punishment regime. My advice was to try the opposite – a technique called Love Bombing.
It entails giving your child a very intense, condensed experience of feeling completely loved and completely in control. It works best with children aged three to the onset of puberty and can be applied to depressive children such as Tim, as well as classic cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or when a child is aggressively defiant. It also works well for shyness or academic underachievement. But there does not have to be any ‘problem’, it would improve the well-being of both parent and child in almost every case – over 100 parents have done it (put ‘love bombing oliver james’ into google to see thousands of threads).
Interestingly, a significant number of the parents who found it useful had used strict routines with their babies or toddlers. They reported feeling that the Love Bombing seemed to reset their child’s emotional thermostats as well as enabling them to parent in a more loving and effective fashion (for a more detailed account click HERE and for my view that strict routines with babies are harmful click HERE).
The child is told that they are going to have a period when they can do whatever they like, within reason. during this time, they have the exclusive attention of a parent. the child is in charge of where they go and what they do, including meals and bedtimes, and told he or she is loved, along with lots of cuddles, as often as possible. The period can be 48 hours, a single day or shorter bursts. Whatever the duration, the experience needs to be rekindled daily for half an hour for lasting effects.
Perhaps surprisingly, children are more willing to accept boundaries afterwards. the opposite of stricter discipline is often what is required when a child is playing up. they are feeling needy and deprived, loveless and powerless. Give them an intense period of feeling loved and in control, and the neediness and anger dissolve.
Almost all the arents who have done it report a more biddable, calmer child. parents who have been sucked into a nagging, niggling pattern become more authoritative.
Marianne took Tim away for 48 hours to a hotel. he chose it and they spent time watching TV and messing about. a week later she said, ‘it definitely worked. so far we haven’t had any major unhappiness.’ eighteen months on, the self-loathing was extinguished. tim recalled, ‘the best bit was just being alone with my mum.’
As part of a professional couple Marianne could afford a hotel. but dozens of parents have found ways of doing love bombing that require little or no cost.
It might sound like just spending ‘quality time’. this is something entirely different. Going that extra mile into the love bombing zone can save you a huge amount of grief – and it can be a whole lot of fun.
To learn more about Oliver’s Love Bombing technique visit www.lovebombing.info.
The study opens with this paragraph:
“Behavioral techniques effectively reduce infant sleep problems and associated maternal depression in the short- to medium-term (4–16 months’ postintervention). Despite their effectiveness, theoretical concerns persist about long-term harm on children’s emotional development, stress regulation, mental health, and the child-parent relationship. “
Behavioral sleep techniques did not cause long-lasting harms or benefits to child, child-parent, or maternal outcomes. Parents and health professionals can feel comfortable about using these techniques to reduce the population burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression.”
Potential Methodology Issues Not addressed in the Study:
Perhaps the most interesting part of this research is this:
“There was no evidence that a population based targeted intervention that effectively reduced parent-reported sleep problems and maternal depression during infancy had long-lasting harmful or beneficial effects on child, childparent, or maternal outcomes by 6 years of age. Thus, this trial indicates that behavioral techniques are safe to use in the long-term to at least 5 years.”
Read that again, I’m pretty certain I dispute their claim that it has no long lasting harmful effects given the parental reporting, strange timing of cortisol testing, lack of information on what techniques the control group used, promotion of authoritative/controlling parenting as the optimum type, lack of information of life before 7 months of age (or in fact not much about life afterwards aside from financial questioning – what about childcare for a start) and lack of in-depth information about bonding (why no Ainsworth ‘Strange Situation’ type testing?). No the most interesting part to me is even with all of the above limitations in mind this research tells us there are NO LASTING BENEFITS to sleep training……Now which paper picked up on that then?! No, thought not.
So what DOES the research tell us?
Sarah Ockwell-Smith (Founder of BabyCalm)
You can read more of Sarah’s articles HERE.
Price. A, Wake. M, Ukoumunne. O and Hiscock. H. ‘Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial’ Pediatrics; September 10, 2012;