All posts by The Attached Family

API of Orange County, California (USA)

By Angela Adams, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

August 2008

When a parent comes to your group, what can he/she expect? What meeting format do you have?

When parents come to our group, they can expect open arms and smiles. There are parents with newborns, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. Even parents who are pregnant with their first will come for support and information. The group is very casual and relaxed.

The meetings are usually started with an introduction by one of the leaders, an explanation about Attachment Parenting, a brief round-robin introduction by the parents (i.e. name, ages of children, what city do you live in, etc.), and then discussion of that month’s topic. There is always time left for open discussion, so families can talk about any questions or concerns they may have.

Of course, no one is obliged to speak. If you’re the silent type who prefers to absorb the information and just be in the environment, please feel free to enjoy the meetings that way. We want everyone to feel comfortable, supported, and at ease. We also have a lending library with books and DVDs available for check-out.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

Some examples of our discussion topics include:

  • Staying Attached at Mealtime
  • A Fresh Look at Discipline
  • Maintaining Balance in Family Life
  • I Love You Rituals
  • Self-Care and Nurturing Yourself
  • Nighttime Parenting
  • AP Beyond Babyhood.

Our open forum is also a popular time. Parents are welcome to discuss any concerns or issues they’re experiencing at that moment in their parenting journey. For example, families want to know how others handle toddler biting and how they make bedtime a smooth transition. If it’s a concern for you, odds are that others are going through or have gone through the same thing!

Are kids welcome?

Children are always welcome to our meetings. There are some toys available for play, and the parents all try to help each other watch and entertain the kids.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

A social support system is important for every person. Not all people who attend the meetings have “problems.” Some simply enjoy the fellowship, sharing of experiences, and talking about their parenting journey. When people do have concerns or questions, an API group is a supportive place to work through some of the issues your family might be dealing with. Learning new things, seeing what might work for your family, and talking with others sometimes requires more strength than staying stuck. We support families who reach out and encourage that connection with others. On a simpler side, most everyone enjoys having this time to meet new friends, chat with old ones, and just connect.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

All of us benefit from connection. An API Support Group is a place for people to give and receive emotional and practical support. It is a source of information, understanding, and comfort. You are welcome to vent your frustrations and voice your concerns without fear of being criticized. The support group is a respectful and warm environment full of people who are all on this parenting journey. It’s a valuable resource and one we encourage all families to be a part of.

API of Downriver, Michigan (USA)

By Kate Scheller, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

We are excited to say that API of Downriver was formed last October, making this our one-year anniversary!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

When a parent comes to a meeting, he/she can expect a very friendly and laid-back atmosphere. We have an excellent meeting space that holds books, toys, games, puzzles, puppets, etc. for the kids to play with. There is a room helper, and the children are always in view and can choose to play or sit near their parent.

We start with introductions and an icebreaker question, then move into the meeting topic. Our meeting style varies depending on the subject or the group; it’s really go with the flow. If it’s a very small group of just a couple of us, we try to make it more personalized within that given topic. No parent ever has to talk if they are not ready to do so. We really want all parents and child to feel comfortable and relaxed.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We have all types of discussions. We really try to follow the group’s cues and steer our meeting to their needs and questions. I think the most common questions are about sleeping better, eating better, and behaving better…the 3 Bs! I have heard some really excellent responses from our parents. We seem pretty lucky to have such a great group of parents!

Are kids welcome?

Yes! Kids are encouraged to come, as well as dads! My oldest loves meeting days, because he gets to come play. We really have a great meeting location.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I’d say, you really are missing out! If you asked any one of our members, not one would associate the group as a bunch of parents with problems. I think we all see it as a place to let your hair down, be in company with  who understands you, a place where you can speak freely, ask honest questions, and not be judged. It’s a place to bounce ideas off of other parents, share your knowledge, and gain some of theirs.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

If you haven’t yet attended an API meeting, now is the time. Even as a Leader, I still gain so much from our meetings. I think, sometimes, people have a fear of attending a meeting because they feel they aren’t “AP enough,” so if you are sitting out because that’s how you feel, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! There is no API standard. We all practice the principles in our own way; therefore, all of us can offer a unique perspective. At each meeting, we always remind parents to take what can fit and work into their family and leave the rest. I really can’t stress that enough. So what are you waiting for? Get to a meeting!

API of Port Angeles, Washington (USA)

By Naomi Davidson, API Leader & Support Group Leader, API’s Technology Coordinator

Congratulations on your accreditation as an API Leader! How does it feel?

I am very excited! It feels a lot like earning a degree. I went through a long process that required a lot of juggling, time management, and focus–and I finished it! Now I am eager to walk through the doors that this accomplishment has opened up for me.

What API Leader training was like?

There were many books to read: three required and four of my choice. Leader Applicant Liaison Lisa Feiertag sent many questions for me to answer, which came in stages. These questions caused me to do a lot of self-reflection, and the deeper I got in the process, the more I knew I wanted to become a leader. When I came to the role-playing exercise, I felt a bit intimidated, but with the great support of Lisa and a friend who recently became an API Leader, I was able to work through my challenges and successfully accomplish this task. The training overall was enriching and empowered me to feel like I will be a successful leader.

It took me a year and half from when I began the process to the end. However, I took about a nine-month break during this period, toward the end of my pregnancy and during our move to Port Angeles.

What prerequisites are there to becoming a leader?

A leader must agree with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting and the Leader Guidelines, submit an application, provide two recommendations, as well as become an API member and pay an application fee.

Why did you decide to become a leader?

I am extremely passionate about parenting, and I love all children. I want to do whatever I can to help children get their best start in the world. I believe all parents want this, and I believe API has the tools to accomplish it. I feel like my passion for Attachment Parenting and my experiences will help other parents either feel like they are not alone in their “different” form of parenting, or inspire them to listen to their inner voice and become more securely attached parents. I am looking for this support myself, and I believe starting a local group and being the leader will help me find the support I need and help me provide support for others.

What was your inspiration?

My happy children–all six of them–and my childhood. Peggy O’Mara has been my hero ever since I found Mothering Magazine many years ago. If I can help others raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children, I will feel like I have contributed to the positive changes in this world. This is my goal.

What do you look forward to most with leading an API Support Group?

I am new to my community and know very few people. I am very much looking forward to meeting other like-minded parents and being able to provide a positive environment where we can all connect, educate, and support each other.

What kind of format are you planning?

My first meetings will be the conversation style: leading a discussion with a prepared topic and encouraging other parents to share their thoughts. My meeting time is in the evening, so I plan to end the evening with a storytime for the kids. We’ll see how it grows from there.

How do you hope that your group can most benefit local families?

I want them to feel like they are not alone in their parenting journey, that they have a group they can turn to on those days when they run out of rope and need to find more, that they look forward to our times together, and that this time fills their parenting cup, so they can go home and be the best parents they can be. I also want my group to grow to have other events and traditions that will help provide the support needed to maintain happy families, such as a Welcome Baby program, regularly scheduled play dates, and gatherings.

API of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York (USA)

By Jamie Birdsong Nieroda, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

I decided to go through the leadership training shortly after my son (and second-born) came along. We had a challenging adjustment, even following the ideas in Adele Faber’s helpful book Siblings Without Rivalry, and something about having a support group resonated for me. I had attended one support group meeting in New York City (API-NYC) years before and found being able to post questions to their Yahoo! group (like how to handle exclusion in four-year-old girls or naptime with two young children in the home) so helpful. That community was such a conscientious and wise group of women, and I longed for that on Long Island!  Thus began my journey. I completed my training and held my first meeting in March 2008 when my son was just over a half-year old. My first meeting had about six attendees and my last one (September 2012) had 18 attendees. The group has grown in strength each year, and while it has ebbs and flows, it’s always a positive experience for me witnessing parents providing each other support and community!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

Parents can expect a warm welcome as soon as they walk in the door! As we all arrive, we visit with one another and help our children acclimate to the meeting space, which is a library room typically (although we do meet outdoors in the summer at Port Jefferson’s harbor). We always start with an icebreaker question (“What is the most challenging thing going on for you as a parent right now?”  “Share an example of how knowing ‘where your child is’ developmentally helps you respond more compassionately or appropriately to them and their behaviors.”  “What was bedtime like for you as a child, as in what routine did you have (if any), which parent handled bedtime, were you welcomed into a family bed or did you sleep by yourself or with a sibling, etc?”  “What is one way you attempt to feed with love and respect?”).

Beyond that initial icebreaker that gets everyone comfortable, I like to switch things up. Sometimes, we just have an open meeting where people can bring their own meeting topic based on the Eight Principles of API. I’ve been doing that more since our meetings have been drawing so many new mommas (and the occasional father, which is always wonderful)! Sometimes, we divide into breakout groups, particularly when we are over 12 or 14 attendees (or have a high ratio of older children), and I provide a point of discussion or give a behavioral scenario for parents to discuss different gentle discipline approaches. Often, we have a round robin where everyone gets to expound on the principle we are covering or offer feedback to others. I want everyone to have time to share, to ask questions, and to feel like they’ve gotten some answers or at least discovered that others are experiencing the same questions. I want parents to leave with new like-minded friends. No one ever has to speak; responding is not required. A lot can be gained by listening as well! Everyone tends to want to share though, because there is such power in coming to a meeting where you feel heard and understood. While a meeting can feel therapeutic or healing, we are really parents (and other caregivers) sharing with a community. It could just as easily happen around someone’s kitchen table, though we wouldn’t all fit! At the end of the meeting, we often have a Circle Time for the children where I or another mother leads seasonally appropriate songs and fingerplays. It’s a nice way to re-connect with the children and to bring the energy level back down as we break up and disperse. We stay in touch between meetings through a Yahoo! and Facebook group to continue the conversations: Much that happens in our parenting lives can’t wait a month to get feedback!

Besides our regular meetings, we love to have supplementary meetings every few months to discuss Attachment Parenting-related books.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We discuss variations of API’s Eight Principles. A hot button topic for many of us is specific discipline concerns and questions; a lot of great feedback is received by parents on this topic. Sometimes, hearing specific words and examples gives parents the words they need the next time the situation arises. A parent recently told me of a situation with her five year old protesting bedtime (possibly having an adjustment to a new sibling coming along). We discussed specific phrases and approaches she might use; the suggestion the parent liked was similar to what she already was saying to her child but different enough that she felt it might be more of a soothing balm for her daughter to hear.

Sleep and bedtime rituals come up a lot, as well as first foods fed, breastfeeding in public, dealing with criticism from family or friends, how to support a firstborn when adding a new baby/sibling to the family, preparing for childbirth, and finding balance with personal and family life. I always leave refreshed and with renewed inspiration. Our meetings are like a large Sharing Circle with a bit of a playdate feel as well and also with a “we’re family” feel: It is so nice to see some of the same women each month over the course of years and to feel that camaraderie and community.

Are kids welcome?

Yes, children are always welcome to API meetings, and at API of Suffolk County’s meetings, it’s more the anomaly that they are not with their parents, but it does happen on occasion. I set out crayons and paper and some wiki sticks that a parent donated. The kids use those to form “sunglasses” or other 3D objects and they also place them on the library walls since they don’t harm the space in any way. We also set up chairs to serve as a “train” or “airplane” and the children make tickets for anyone to ride the train. On occasion, we bring a parachute for parachute play. The meetings have their limitations in that we always need to be aware of what the children are doing and step away if needed. That, too, is part of parenting and a part of attending a support group with children.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I have my Master’s in Social Work and have worked as a Social Worker counseling both foster children and their families, whether biological, foster, or adoptive. I’ve worked in other therapeutic milieus as well, so I understand this concern people might have and the stigma associated with attending a support group. However, it’s almost hard for me to wrap my mind around that perception, because I view these meetings more as simply community, a parenting community, like a large potluck or Women’s Circle but with a group of mothers, fathers, caregivers, aunts, whomever shows up! It’s like meeting with a bunch of your friends one morning a month to share about your life and to leave inspired! Really, who doesn’t need to discuss parenting with people who understand, who aspire to the same principles (though how it unfolds may look very different, which is part of the beauty of it!)?  To someone uncertain about attending, I would try to listen to their fears and empathize with their concerns while also providing some perspective about how relaxed and normal these meetings are!

I’d like to share here something I noticed recently at our September meeting: I looked over to see one mother wearing another momma’s child in an Ergo carrier, as the child slept contentedly. This image speaks to the community we’ve built and the relationships that have grown between API of Suffolk County’s members. So I’d say get yourself to an API meeting, wherever you are! The connections you will make are a gift that you (and the receiver) need as a mother or father doing the work of parenting. And the eighth principle of parenting, Finding Balance in Personal and Family Life, speaks to that!

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

We have a lot of fun! It’s community at its best, because you are with people who understand you and do not judge. I’ve noticed that, on occasion, a meeting attendee will preface their comments to the group with, “I’m not as AP as you all are, but…” One attendee pointed out how she has uttered those same words in the past and how, when she hears others say it, she finds it so amusing because it is evident, as each woman speaks, that all of API of Suffolk County’s attendees are coming from a respectful and nonjudgmental place, and conscientiously trying to find the answer that “fits” for their family and their unique child that presents him or herself.

When Relatives Criticize

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q:  My relatives criticize Attachment Parenting. They question my ability to parent and tell me that I am jeopardizing the children’s development and keeping them dependent and attached for too long. How can I best fend for my views and protect my children from my relatives’ intervention about breastfeeding, bedsharing, and wanting to be with me?

 

A: One of the main reasons we find it so hard to inspire respect from relatives and friends is because we seek their agreement. When my children were young, my father used to interrupt every one of my attempts to explain our parenting philosophy; he would say, “That’s rubbish” followed by, “Let me tell you how it works.” He never heard what I had to say. Continue reading

Don’t Believe Everything in the News: What Pro-Spanking Research Misses

By Ralph S. Welsh, PhD, ABPP, the “father of Belt Theory,” www.nospank.net/welsh.htm

I was horrified to discover the [2010] media attention given to the findings of Prof. Marjorie Gunnoe’s small, twice-rejected-by-peer-reviewed-journals, study on the positive value of spanking children. It gives an extremely bad message to many desperate parents of troubled kids who are stumbling around trying to find the best methods of discipline in dealing with them. Moreover, there is a mountain of data flatly refuting her claims that can be found in thousands of carefully planned and executed studies on the relationship between spanking and later aggressive behavior. Why the media would spotlight this shabby piece of research is beyond me.

Parents of angry, troubled kids are already confused and frustrated with these youngsters. They don’t need this kind of “scientific” support in justifying their strong desire to throttle a kid who is giving them grief. Just this week, I evaluated an angry 15-year-old youth in detention who was being constantly suspended from school for fights and insubordination, and was heavily into marijuana. He admitted he was full of anger, but did not know why, but indicated that his mother frequently use to beat him with a large wooden spoon. During an interview with the mother, she admitted it, laughingly commenting, “I even broke a number of spoons on him, but it just didn’t do any good.” His father was in full support of the discipline, explaining, “We were never as rough on our son as my parents. I was hit with belts, extension cords, and shoes, and whatever my parents could pick up.” They both attributed their son’s delinquency to his ADHD and bad friends, and were looking for a military school in which to place him, as if he hadn’t been exposed to enough authoritarian rule already. Continue reading

Transitioning Home: An interview with Catherine Myers, director of the Family & Home Network

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

Many new parents or parents-to-be would like to stay at home with their children but find the transition from a professional career to a stay-at-home lifestyle to be a bit bumpy. I certainly did. I was used to fast-paced days as an investigative news journalist and often nights and weekends as an assistant managing editor. I wanted to stay home after my first baby was born, but I had quite the learning curve as my life slowed to the pace of caring for a baby. I wouldn’t have traded any of those amazing moments of watching my children grow, but it would’ve made for a smoother first few years if I had been more prepared for how life changes with a new baby, especially if you’re a newly minted stay-at-home parent.

Recently, I had the chance to interview Catherine Myers, director of the Family and Home Network (FAHN) about their new Transitioning Home online program, offered to parents wishing to explore this option to practice the Attachment Parenting International sixth parenting principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care.

RITA: Catherine, it is so good to talk with you. Can you tell us about FAHN’s mission and what you offer parents?

CATHERINE: Family and Home Network, founded in 1984 and originally named Mothers at Home, is a nonprofit organization offering affirmation, information, and advocacy to parents. Our mission is to advocate for parents and children concerning their need for generous amounts of time together and to support parents by affirming the choice to be home or to cut back on paid employment. For almost three decades, we’ve been listening to parents and learning from them. We are nonpartisan and recognize that there are many perspectives on almost any question faced by parents. We aim to serve as a clearinghouse of information and to offer parents lots of opportunities to learn from each other. Advocacy is an important aspect of our work; it includes speaking out to the media and to policymakers, promoting inclusive family policies and encouraging parents to speak up for themselves.

For 22 years, FAHN published the award-winning monthly journal Welcome Home; we also created four books, other special publications for parents, and information papers for policy makers. Today, FAHN continues to reach parents throughout the world with its publications, website, social media outreach, and online workshops. Our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls on policymakers to respect parents’ choices about the ways in which they meet their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities.

RITA: Why did you decide to found FAHN? What was your inspiration?

CATHERINE: The organization was founded by three at-home mothers whose goals were:

  1. To help mothers at-home realize they have made a great choice;
  2. To help mothers excel at a job for which no one feels fully prepared; and
  3. To correct society’s many misconceptions about mothering.

Over the years, the organization’s goals have evolved and expanded to include at-home fathers, as well as families in which parents share and/or divide the income-earning and caregiving responsibilities. Family and Home Network has become both more inclusive and more focused on the critical importance of nurturing relationships between children and parents.

As for my involvement in the organization, it began in the mid-1980s, when my children were young and I was a reader of the monthly journal Welcome Home. Soon after I moved to the Washington, D.C. area, I answered a call for volunteers and began my decades-long involvement with the organization. I learned so much from my colleagues, and was inspired to return to college to finish my degree. Weaving my work and my studies together, I graduated recently with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Human Development, Parenting, and Policy.

RITA: Why did you create the Transitioning Home program?

CATHERINE: In listening to parents, FAHN realized that although support is important to all parents, those who have just decided to leave the workforce to be at-home parents are especially in need of information and affirmation. To meet the needs of these parents, we first created a book, Discovering Motherhood, and then a workshop series, Transitioning Home. Meeting once a week for six weeks, the Transitioning Home workshops offer parents opportunities for reading, reflecting, and discussing. The workshop materials include informative articles, essays written by parents that explore thoughts and feelings, and both individual and group exercises designed to help parents clarify values, tasks, and goals. First piloted in 2004, the Transitioning Home workshops were re-introduced last spring using new technology—Google+ hangouts. Participants can join in right from their homes. Those interested in future Transitioning Home workshops can sign up at www.familyandhome.org/content/transitioning-home-discussion-groups.

API Auction Item!

For the API Auction running from October 18-31 during the 2012 AP Month, FAHN is offering a custom Transitioning Home workshop, to begin between January and April 2013. The winning bidder invites up to eight people to participate–we meet online right from our homes. Catherine Myers will be facilitating this workshop, and she looks forward to thought-provoking discussions and once again witnessing the power of parent-to-parent support!

RITA: Why do you believe that it’s important that parents are able to choose to stay home with their children?

CATHERINE: As API knows, there is an abundance of scientific research showing the importance of providing consistent and loving care to children. Parent-child relationships require time–and each family must weigh many factors in making decisions about time. Other factors include health and special needs, job requirements of one parent (such as travel or long hours), commuting distance, and career preferences. Current public policies offer a panacea: support for parents who use paid child care. Meanwhile, parents who choose (or want to chose) to care for their children themselves are ignored. Highly-respected scholars have proposed inclusive policies such as a early childhood benefit. This benefit would give low- and moderate-income families a choice: spend the funds on child care services or use the funds to replace some of the lost income of a stay-at-home parent. Our current public policies offer only one option: child care—and this is often not the best choice for children or the choice parents want to make. We must remember that families do not make one choice and stick with it—many parents’ decisions about employment change. Flexible, inclusive public policies would support families as they change and adapt over time and with the changing needs of their children.

RITA: Thank you so much for your time and insights, Catherine. Is there anything else you’d like to offer?

CATHERINE: It’s important for parents to speak up to their elected officials. Corporations contribute millions of dollars to advocacy for “working families” (among these contributors are child care corporations). Lobbyists for working families focus on policies designed to help parents stay in the paid workforce. Families with an at-home parent have no such lobbying presence. FAHN has just added an advocacy tool to our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies. We hope to see lots of API parents speaking up for inclusive family policies!

Caring for Our Children

Explore the API parenting principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care by reading the “Caring for Our Children” issue of the Attached Family magazine. Inside, you’ll read:

  • Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker, API’s cofounders, on why this principle is just as fitting for stay-at-home parents as working parents
  • Richard Bowlby–that’s right, son of the “father of Attachment Theory,” of which Attachment Parenting is based–on how a baby chooses an attachment figure
  • On whether preschool is necessary for child development by Naomi Aldort
  • And much more.

Join API to access your free electronic copy!

Parenting for a Sustainable World: Cultivating a Reverence for Life

By Lysa Parker, MS, CFLE, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International, coauthor of Attached at the Heart, www.parentslifeline.com

**Reprinted with permission from Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine, www.pathwaystofamilywellness.org

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I truly understood the deep connection between early childhood experiences and how they affect our relationship to the earth and all living things. In my work with children, I found that many kids seem to have a natural affinity to nature, but this affinity must be nurtured, or it gets buried like so many other gifts.

When my oldest son was an infant, he was always calmest when we were outside. He could be in a full wail, but as soon as we went outside his crying stopped. To this day he loves to be outdoors, and when he feels the need to get centered and calm, he will go to his favorite place in a nature preserve or a park. There is a spiritual, unknowable, meditative energy in nature that evokes awe and reverence if we will be still, listen, and observe.

Check Out This Issue of Pathways Magazine to Get a New Perspective on TIME’s AP Coverage

Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine highlights Attachment Parenting in its newest edition featuring TIME cover mom Jamie Lynn Grumet in a real-life family portrait. This issue includes features by Jamie Lynn, API cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson, and other experts providing a historical perspective of the AP Movement, a biocultural anthropological overview of child-led weaning, and a discussion of the TIME cover and its cultural backlash in the context of a consciousness shift toward global wellness.

The Man Behind a Movement

While doing research years ago for another project, I learned about the work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) and his contributions to humanity. He was a theologian, medical doctor, philosopher, scholar, speaker, writer, musician, and humanitarian. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for building a hospital in West Africa and devoting his life to treating the people there, who suffered from disease, famine, and the ravages of war.

As I was doing research for this article, about the relationship between Attachment Parenting and the environmental movement, I kept coming back to Dr. Schweitzer’s work. He is best known for creating an ethical philosophy in 1915 called “Reverence for Life,” a philosophy that he considered the basis for morality, which he referred to as a universal principle of ethics. In his 1923 treatise, Civilization and Ethics, Schweitzer wrote: “Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Rever­ence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil.”

According to The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship website, Dr. Schweitzer stressed “the interdependence and unity of all life,” and is considered by many to be the forerunner of the Environmental and Animal Welfare movements. In 1962, author Rachel Carson dedicated her revolutionary book, Silent Spring, which ignited the environmental movement, to Dr. Schweitzer.

The Reverence for Life ethic may seem obvious to those who have highly developed capacities of empathy and compassion for all living things; for others, it takes an awakening of conscience, with some re-educating about how our actions impact living systems. The family system is one that has been neglected for too long and is our only hope for future generations, so we have to view all living systems as integral parts of the whole. What we do, how we interact with each other, and what we teach our children will determine how they treat others and engage in the world. Being the quintessential observer and philosopher that he was, Dr. Schweitzer understood this well and addressed the importance of teaching children, stating: “Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, and the third is by example.”

“As the middle child of five born to a hard-working father and a stay-at-home mom, the main tenets to maintain sanity and stability were practicality and resourcefulness. There was always a purpose behind our collection of four-legged friends. We raised sheep, rabbits, ducks, and a goose. Each of the children had husbandry chores in addition to house­hold responsibilities. Mother always had a large garden. I have very fond memories of the apple cider assembly line production in the front yard. Mom and Dad still have the apple press in their kitchen, albeit as an ode to the past. A lot more time was spent harvesting food at home than time spent grocery shopping, or any type of shopping; mom sewed, and the clothes moved from one child to the next. With four girls, this was a cost-effective approach. When I recently decided to start our gentleman’s farm (three Nigerian dwarf goats, six free-range chickens, two dogs, and a cat), it was to recreate that synergy for my son, which had developed in me a strong work ethic and a great appreciation and respect for nature’s generosity.” ~ Cathleen K.

Attachment Parenting

Someone said, “When you change the way you view the world, the way you view the world will change.” That’s what happened to me 30-odd years ago when I became pregnant and read Suzanne Arms’s book, Immaculate Deception: My world view changed and the activist in me was born. I was later introduced to the breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting world through La Leche League meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, where I discovered my passion and mission in life, to advocate for children and their families.

Initially, my journey into Attachment Parenting was one of trepidation, because I didn’t know anyone who had older children that had actually parented this way. With the support and experience of other mothers at the meetings, and watching them interact with their children so lovingly and respectfully, I couldn’t resist my awakening intuition that told me it was right.

“In general, my daughter has less stuff because we followed some attachment principles. We didn’t buy things like a baby monitor, a play gym, a baby bathtub, pacifiers, mobiles, or most things meant to soothe or occupy a baby. We kept her close, and her entertainment was whatever we were doing.” ~ Carrie N.

At one meeting, I met Barbara Nicholson, and we became lifelong friends and sisters in this journey ever since.

In the early 1990s, we learned that many Attachment Parenting groups were popping up across the country, but there was no distinct or cohesive movement or clarity about what this new phenomenon actually was. Everyone seemed to have their own interpretation. The term “attachment parenting” (AP) was coined by Dr. William and Martha Sears, and was defined by the principles they called the “Baby Bs” as a way of helping parents learn to empathize and become more attuned to their infants. (These included “birth bonding,” “breastfeeding,” and “belief in a baby’s cry.”) Their books were our lifeline, because no other pediatricians, let alone mainstream society, were supporting our choices.

As educators, we saw the disconnection of our students due to dysfunction in their homes, and we felt strongly that it was due in large part to parents not having ac­curate parenting information or support. In 1994, Barbara and I formed our grassroots, non­profit organization, Attach­ment Parenting International (API), to provide parents with the evidence-based information they need to debunk the bad advice of many popular parenting books (some still popular today), and created parent support groups around the country and internationally.

At that time, many AP families were also involved in the Environmental Movement, but we knew that we had to keep our message simple and focused strictly on principles related to the parent-child attachment relationship, just as La Leche League International later decided it had to focus on breastfeeding rather than par­enting. It didn’t mean that we didn’t value or appreciate natural living lifestyles, just that we knew we had all we could handle in terms of promoting the attachment message. We also understood that if we could help par­ents raise empathic children, then that empathy would carry over in all aspects of life.

Some felt that the Searses had created a parenting formula, but what they really taught us was to trust our intuition and the reasons why this empathic style of parenting was so critical to children, the family, and society. Their overarching message helped us learn to respect and trust our baby’s cues and our own instincts; the baby will tell the parent what she needs through her body language and cries, and the parent’s sensitive response to her cues will teach her the first lessons of trust. And that was just the beginning.

“I was already very involved in the environmental movement before I had children and had learned not to ac­cept things at face value and consider what is truly best for families and the earth. So when I had children, attachment parenting was a natural fit. It is more about connection and less about material things. Now our eight-year-old son is helping our family with recycling, gardening and composting. I also homeschool using Waldorf methods and philosophy, which is all about inculcating reverence for life, and I think that really helps, too.” ~ Kara C.

Creating a Conscience

The Searses have long taught that when we see the world through our children’s eyes, our worldview changes. We begin to feel more respect and empathy for our children’s feelings, and act accordingly. The way we are treated as children and the example our parents set for us are the primary determining factors in develop­ing a conscience.

Every child’s brain has the capacity to develop empathy, compassion and remorse, all of which comprise the inner workings of the conscience. The brain is a “use it or lose it” organ, so the window of opportunity to develop these capacities is in the early years of a child’s life. These early experiences don’t rest solely on our interpersonal relationship, but also in what we are taught about our relationship with the ex­ternal environment—teaching the value of and express­ing appreciation for the natural world.

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Parenting for a Sustainable World

With the Searses’ permission, API expanded on the Baby Bs to create The Eight Principles of Parenting. These are intended to provide guidance for the optimal development of children that we can strive for, but they are not intended to be standards of perfection. They can be used as core principles, regardless of what name is used for the parenting style: Attachment Parenting, natural parenting, conscious parenting, or original parenting. API recognizes that there are many configu­rations to what constitutes a family and, depending on their life circumstances, parents are encouraged to use what works in their family and leave the rest.

With the Reverence of Life ethic in mind, these Eight Principles are designed to be respectful of the needs of the newborn child who comes into this world with a set of expectations: to be held, fed, protected, and loved in a multi-sensory bath of smells, touch, and loving words. There is an intimate connection, also known as attunement, that arises out of the day-to-day care to the point where the mother or primary caregiver can begin to intuit what the child is feeling and what his needs are before the child has words to express himself.

The principles themselves are based on respecting the natural systems–the less interference, the better. For example, “Feed with Love and Respect” encourages breastfeeding as the ideal attachment model: It’s natural, it’s designed for the human infant, there’s no waste, and there is respect for the hunger cues of the infant, rather than adhering to rigid schedules. In environmental terms, it is a natural, closed-loop system that has a natural flow or rhythm.

With slight adaptations, the principles can easily be adapted for older children as well.

  1. Prepare for Parenting: Become knowledgeable about your child’s emotional, developmental and cognitive levels.
  2. Respond with Sensitivity: Stay emotionally responsive.
  3. Feed with Love and Respect: Strive for optimum physical health.
  4. Use Nurturing Touch: Maintain a high-touch relationship with your child.
  5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting: Develop and maintain positive sleep routines.
  6. Provide Consistent, Loving Care: Be physically present and emotionally available for your children.
  7. Practice Positive Discipline: Preserve the connection with your child.
  8. Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life: Navigate the challenges of modern society.

“Becoming pregnant was akin to opening the flood­gates: My intuition increased tenfold, my artistic juices overflowed. I was genuinely fascinated with the evolution of pregnancy, and invited a commu­nity of friends and family into the delivery room to welcome Jackson into each daily adventure. The tenets of Attachment Parenting make complete sense to me. Even though I was introduced to the work after Jackson was born, I had already embod­ied much of the ideology. I consider parenthood a privilege and a responsibility. I think of mother­hood as the invitation to create, contain, and let go. I cherish every cuddle, knowing a self-possessed nine-year-old is around the corner, and then I will have to be satisfied with hurried pats on the back. Why rush it? I have surrendered my ideas of how I thought it would/should be and accepted the messes and the madness. I do pick my battles—holding strong on ritual (family dinners and reading books before bedtime) and respect for the adult and the child. It’s amazing what we hear when we really listen. If I’m consistent, he will be too. I may be raising an only child, but I am clear that how I treat him will affect how he treats others through­out his life, including his own family.” ~ Cathleen K.

Parenting and Permaculture

There are a multitude of similarities between Attachment Parenting and the Green Movement, particularly the Permaculture Movement. Sometimes parents are attracted to Attachment Parenting, because it already fits their lifestyle and philosophy. More often, parents find Attachment Parenting, because they are looking for a better way of raising children, and as a result find their own consciousness awakened, realizing that their children present a greater purpose for society, and as such, feel more obligated to teach them to be good and compassionate stewards of the earth.

The concept of permaculture can be difficult to define. Some describe it as “a connecting system between disciplines,” or “observing nature and the natural flow of systems.” Permaculture ideally is “a closed-loop system, taking responsibility and producing no waste.” Many AP parents consciously choose to take responsibility to minimize material things that create waste.

David Holmgren, one of the originators of the permaculture movement, helped to create 3 Permaculture Ethics and 12 Principles as the framework that can be applied in ecosystems, businesses, communities, and the nation. I would add families to that list.

The 3 Ethics are:

  1. Care of the Earth
  2. Care of People
  3. Fair Share (for everyone)

The 12 Principles are:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns and details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

To learn more about the 12 principles, go to www.permacultureprinciples.com/freedownloads.php.

In Australian, filmmaker Peter Downey’s film Anima Mundi, collective voices speak of the urgent need to help the earth achieve balance—that we must “evolve or perish, grow up or die,” because, like it or not, the world is changing. As we witness various groups and politicians point fingers of blame, our reality remains the same: Our populations continue to increase, while our resources dwindle away and the climate continues to change. We can and must raise new generations of children who will become adults who are conscious, concerned and committed to helping heal the earth. Attachment parenting families are doing just that.

As humanity slowly comes to the realization of the damage we have done to this living organism we call earth, we have learned some hard lessons along the way. We must take personal responsibility, and teach our children well.

“I think it’s because we are very mindful of our choices. Just as we care for our children by making decisions to do everything in their best interests (whether that’s babywearing, cloth diapers/wipes, organic foods, etc.), we extend that same mindfulness and respect to others in our families, neighborhoods, and environment. I think because Attachment Parenting has such a core value of respect, we don’t only respect our children, but also everyone around us. We want the earth to be a good, clean, and healthy place for our children to grow up, and for everyone else’s children, too.” ~ Jennifer Y.

Why Ask Permission to Touch the Baby?

By Suzanne P. Reese, IAIMT, author of Baby Massage, www.infantmassageusa.org

The concept of asking a baby for permission for anything can be foreign to a lot of people, not just parents. Resistance often lies in, “The baby won’t (or can’t) understand what I’m saying” or “I don’t ask my children for permission for anything.” Given where we are in Western culture, these are logical filters through which many people’s thoughts run: Babies don’t understand much of anything and children should be learning to ask permission of their parents and elders, not the other way around.

Take an infant massage training or class and get ready for a cultural paradigm shift.

When I meet parents who claim their baby didn’t like massage, so they stopped the practice, the first question I ask is, “Did you ask permission to massage?” Often, parents are a bit stumped and the common answer is, “No, why would I do that?” Ah, let me tell you!

Asking a baby for permission to massage is critical to having a successful exchange of communication. Basically, baby massage is communication. Since baby massage is different from many other ways and reasons we touch our babies, it’s important babies learn they have a say in the matter. Baby massage is not about getting dressed or bathed, it’s not about getting strapped into a car seat — all things that usually have to happen in the course of any given day. Baby massage is a mutual agreement between parent/primary caregiver and Baby that communicates, “I love you.” It’s a reciprocal exchange of love through touch. When a baby is asked for permission to massage, the baby is receiving messages that communicate, “I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I’m listening, I want to understand, I love you,” and, fundamentally important, “You exist.”

Babies learn about their world through the interactions they have with their primary caregivers. When a baby is asked, “May I massage you?”, this is a key moment in fostering empowerment in the child. The child is empowered to learn to follow his/her state, mood, and know that this is a situation in which he has a choice. Additionally, the baby is learning this is a choice that will be acknowledged, understood, validated, and honored — all basic human virtues that babies need modeled for them to emotionally thrive.

With this, the baby is establishing a sense of who he is and is learning an early lesson that will stay with him for life: healthy social boundaries. When parents practice modeling healthy social boundaries with their infants, these babies grow up to understand how to be sensitive to other people. These early experiences can foster the ever-important quality: empathy.

Do babies understand the question? Yes! Babies understand a lot of things. It has nothing to do with spoken language, and everything to do with intention. Babies are intelligent beings who, often, are not given the credit they deserve. Babies know what they like and what they don’t like, and they are always communicating with the people in their world through nonverbal cues. Parents don’t have to actually say out loud, “May I massage you?” All they have to do is think it, feel it, and Baby will respond.

How will parents/primary caregivers know what their baby is saying? In the world of infant massage, we say “The baby is the teacher, and the parents are the experts.” You know your baby best.

So, let’s get back to the massage and asking Baby for permission. Once permission is granted, the massage can commence; however, throughout the massage, the baby’s cues and signals must be observed and honored. If not, then the massage becomes a treatment, a “do to” rather than a “do with” and that defeats the trust factor that asking permission can help establish. An infant’s primary psychosocial task is to establish trust, and being sensitive to the baby’s cues that say “I’m still OK with this, I like it” or “I’m all done, please stop” is critical to the trusting bond that baby massage and other forms of nurturing touch can help build. If the baby cannot trust, if the parent/primary caregiver does not establish that massage is an exchange that is safe, predictable, and reliable, then the success rate of the baby “liking” the massage plummets. For families that report their babies did not like the massage, it is these same families who did not know to ask their baby for permission. They unknowingly demonstrated to their baby that the massage is like any other “do to,” and the baby cannot trust that his signals that communicate “I’m not ready for this” or “I’m not in the mood for this” will not be honored.

Establishing healthy social boundaries early on in life can carry itself with the child throughout all relationships in life. Children who have healthy and safe relationships with their parent/primary caregiver void of blame, shame, and humiliation are children who can cope with the adversity and challenges of potential problems later in life. A well-attached child who is challenged by an attempted violation (physical or emotional) is likely to be a child who breaks that social pattern early. This is the child who is has the insight to recognize the discomfort, to stop it in it’s tracks by knowing how to say “no,” and to not fear going to the parent/primary caregiver — a place that has been established as safe, predictable, and reliable. The child sharing the experience can expect to be heard, understood, and validated. This is empowerment that starts with early health,y physical exchanges that honor a relationship built in trust.

Every time we touch our children, we are communicating something. When we ask for permission to touch, children learn to extend that same grace to others. This is humility in action. “May I massage you?” can make all the difference. All-of-a-sudden, a baby who previously gave signals that he didn’t like his massage is communicating in smiles and coos. This baby is finally part of the conversation, and he is willing participant in the exchanges that will continue to build a solid foundation of trust. It’s an infant’s primary developmental task. Trust is a primary task in any relationship, so this approach works in any relationship, because all humans want to be acknowledged, validated, and understood. When it comes to matters of the heart, infants are not so different from their caregivers, and this is a lesson in human virtues that starts well before kindergarten.

The $120 Swim Lessons: Should We Let Children Quit an Activity After Committing?

By Judy Arnall, director of Attachment Parenting Canada, www.professionalparenting.ca

This was the summer my son was going to learn how to swim! He was seven years old and old enough to agree to the lessons when I asked him in March. I signed him up and paid the $120.00 Come July, he was feeling more anxious about it and resisted going the first day. Once again, I was faced with the age-old parenting question: “Should I make him go, or let him stay home?”

As a parent, we want to provide our children with a taste of the many wonderful experiences that life can offer. We flip through pages of booklets of the many offerings of classes, day camps, and preschools, and envision our child loving the sports, art, music, science lessons, camps, and activities. We take time to sign him up, write checks, arrange transportation, and prepare him for the first day. The first day arrives and he doesn’t want to go. What to do now? Should we drag him to the activity kicking and screaming, or give in and let him miss?

It depends on your child and your goals for the activity. Does your child usually complain until he gets there and then loves it? Or does your child complain loudly the whole time he is there and all the way home? Did you sign up your child to acquire skills, socialize a bit more, or for a little down time for you? Continue reading