All posts by The Attached Family

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

True Sharing Can’t Be Taught

By Shoshana Hayman, director of The Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

When educational television tries to teach young children to share, it’s helpful for parents to know how the desire to share really develops in children.

My two granddaughters, five and three years old, recently watched a program that talked about sharing. No sooner did the show end, when the girls had a fight over a game they didn’t want to share. Oops! So much for the half-hour lesson on sharing! If I hadn’t learned from Gordon Neufeld, PhD, how children develop the capacity and desire to share, I would have been very frustrated, wondering why the girls weren’t implementing what they had just “learned” five minutes ago from the colorful and engaging television program.

Sharing isn’t something that is learned. True sharing comes from feelings of caring, together with the ability to think about the “yes” and “no” feelings of sharing. In other words, when you care about someone, you will want to share with him.

Ah, but that is not enough! There may be reasons why you don’t want to share at this particular time, and now you must weigh these considerations and decide if you will share, when you will share, and how much you will share. There are sophisticated emotions and thoughts, contradicting each other, that must mix together in the brain during this process: “On the one hand, I’d like to give it to him. On the other hand, I haven’t finished using it myself. Oh, but what if he breaks it? Now I remember I promised my little brother I’d let him use it first!”

In fact, a child’s brain is not even ready for this task of taking all of these things into consideration before the age of five years old, and then, like a muscle, this part of the brain must be exercised so the growing child can take into consideration many things at once. This is called integrative thinking – a level of maturity that takes time to develop, and requires of parents to be patient and trust in the process.

Efforts in creating programs to teach sharing to preschoolers may be doing more harm than good. We are setting up an expectation that children are capable of mature behavior that is not realistic for their age. This creates frustration for parents, which they may dump onto their children. We put pressure on children to make them share by telling them it “makes Mommy happy,” “you’re the big girl now and you should know better,” or “if you want people to share with you…” without realizing that this hijacks the child’s own budding spirit of wanting to share with others. Now, he may be sharing, not because he cares and wants to, but rather because he wants to gain approval. This kind of sharing turns the quality of giving to others into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one. The child’s own ability to decide if he can indeed share and still respect his own limits has now been compromised.

It’s important to remember that when we expect a child to share before he is developmentally ready, we may be inhibiting his true spirit of caring. Instead of sharing because he cares, he now shares because he wants to gain approval, thus turning sharing into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one.  We can be assured that if we are caring toward our children and guide them in a spirit of caring, their own spirit of caring will develop, and as they mature and develop integrative thinking, we will see the fruits: caring that comes naturally and spontaneously from their hearts.

How Independence and Maturity Develops

By Shoshana Hayman, director of The Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

A father of an 18-year-old boy recently consulted with me because, among other things, his son had totaled the family’s car. As any parent would be, this father was very worried about his son’s poor judgment, impulsiveness, and lack of consciousness. How could he give him responsibility if his son could not handle it?

As our children get older, we expect them to be able to handle more responsibility and become more independent. We intuitively know whether or not we can count on them to cooperate with us and be able to make commitments in order to achieve a goal. They should also be able to sense danger and exercise caution accordingly. In addition, they should experience the feelings of caring that are needed to temper their reactions and impulses. True independence also requires of them to be able to consider different sides of a situation, different points of view, and different contexts in order to make mature decisions. We also hope that they will be conscious of the values needed to guide them through life.

As children get older and develop these abilities, we naturally and spontaneously live together cooperatively.  It doesn’t even occur to us to ask questions about how much independence to give a child, because we can see that he is moved by consideration and a growing desire to take more responsibility. He is developing the character traits of a mature person. Continue reading

Cosleeping Reality: Your Toddler’s Bedtime May Be Yours, Too

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

Q: Every night, I put my 13-month-old daughter to sleep in our family bed, but shortly afterward, she wakes up and I have to start all over – breastfeeding her and helping her fall asleep. This keeps happening, and I cannot stay up with my husband so we can have a bit of time for ourselves. She also wakes up a lot at night. How can I help my toddler to stay asleep?

A: Some babies and toddlers sleep deeply even after you leave the room, while others become anxious sleepers unless you stay with them at all times. When you leave your toddler in the family bed by herself, her experience is the same as sleeping in a crib because you are not there. Your daughter is obviously not able to sleep away from you even for a short time.

Using sleep as a “babysitter” to provide couple time works well for some families, but not for everyone. Even babies who are able to stay asleep in another room often stop being so accommodating as they grow older. Continue reading

Why Early Attachment Matters for Childhood, and Beyond

By Peter Ernest Haiman, PhD, www.peterhaiman.com

The quality of love a mother gives during her child’s first years of life has a tremendous and long-term impact on that youngster. A life that could be described as emotionally healthy, happy, harmonious, constructive, and productive depends on the quality of maternal love received at an early age. This is a fact well known by psychologists.

Unfortunately, however, many parents remain unaware of the importance of maternal love for the very young child. Nor are they aware of the problems that can result during childhood and adolescence if an infant does not form a proper early attachment.

Here, we look at what Attachment Theory (Ainsworth 1978; Bowlby 1969) tells us about the importance of early relationships for the development of an individual’s basic sense of security in life. By “attachment,” we mean the relationship formed between the infant and the primary caregiver. The “primary caregiver” is the person, usually the mother, with whom the infant most frequently interacts. Through bonding with this caregiver, a child develops expectations about the extent to which he or she can acquire and maintain secure relationships, as well as beliefs about others’ trustworthiness in relationships.

The relationship between an infant and his mother can lead to two possible outcomes: secure attachment or insecure attachment. In other words, the experience can be positive or negative. Let’s look first at the positive outcome:

Secure Attachment

An infant develops a secure attachment when her mother sensitively and appropriately meets the child’s needs. From an infant’s perspective, sensitive and appropriate mean the mother observes and understands her needs. Sensitive and appropriate also mean the mother responds in ways that please and satisfy her child. A mother who fosters her child’s secure attachment meets all needs soon after the child begins to show distress or cries. The mother’s behavior is always tender and affectionate.

Secure attachment is also created when the mother holds or cuddles her infant and toddler in ways that are comforting. The mother reflects the infant’s behaviors and responds in ways the child enjoys. For example, when the baby smiles, the mother smiles at the infant. The infant shows pleasure and interest in the mother’s smile.

The mother who fosters secure attachment is in tune with her child. An ongoing, interactive harmony develops as the mother learns to understand, interpret, and then appropriately react to the child’s behavior. She successfully communicates to her youngster that the child’s behavior is respected, interesting, and significant to her. For example, when an infant babbles, makes sounds or syllables, or begins to talk, the mother notices these new verbal abilities and responds in ways that lets the toddler feel valued. The acquisition of speech is greatly facilitated when a mother holds, smiles at, and talks to her infant (Bus & van Ijzendoorn, 1988).

Infants and toddlers love to explore and play. Mothers who wish to foster security in a young child provide toys and activities in which the child expresses interest. Because infants, toddlers, and preschoolers enjoy making choices, parents who want their child to feel secure provide opportunities to make choices throughout the day. These mothers also allow the amount of playtime the youngster wants. Without interrupting, they allow the child to focus on an activity the child finds interesting and do not distract the child until he or she becomes bored with that activity.

Mothers desirous of having their child form a secure bond with them also evaluate their own childrearing behaviors. They do this by paying attention to the child’s reactions to them. If at any point the child becomes distressed or acts out or displays insecure behavior, the mother does not blame the child. Rather, the mother looks to her own behavior and adjusts it to provide greater security and unconditional love.

The childrearing behaviors described here allow an infant or toddler to feel secure. These behaviors also build a foundation of social harmony between child and mother. The child enjoys being with the mother, and the mother enjoys being with the child. The way an infant reacts to the mother reveals whether the child feels his or her needs have been met in ways that are pleasing. Contrary to popular belief, this kind of parenting will not spoil a child. In fact, spoiled, dependent, misbehaving, and demanding children are created when parents consistently violate these childrearing practices.

Insecure Attachment

When maternal love is not consistently forthcoming, an infant develops an insecure attachment. In this case, the bonding with his primary caregiver is incomplete and unsatisfactory. For example, when the infant cries or shows distress or expresses a need, the mother does not respond, or only responds after a significant delay. The mother may act in loud, abrupt, or exaggerated ways that scare the youngster and cause insecurity. The mother does not spend time holding and cuddling her infant or child. She does not regularly play with, talk to, or exchange smiles with the child. Instead, the mother may attempt to impose her own interests on the child, such as by providing toys and activities of her own choosing. In general, none of the intimate behaviors that occur during secure bonding happen, or these behaviors happen so infrequently that they are not noticed by the child.

As a result, the child becomes frustrated because his or her needs are not being met responsively. The child begins to expect that this will happen whenever a need arises. Thus, the child fails to develop trust in adults and in himself or herself. In short, the child becomes insecure rather than secure.

Many undesirable outcomes can occur when a child forms an insecure attachment. Youngsters who experience insecure attachments at home also form insecure attachments with their preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers. These teachers often have difficulty building a relationship with these young students because these children harbor negative views of adults. The children are not trusting of their teachers and may act out in class. In turn, it is difficult therefore for teachers to learn about these children’s needs and to respond to them in a manner that helps them learn and adjust (Bowlby 1988).

Effects of Secure and Insecure Attachment

The type of emotional attachment established during the first four or five years usually lasts a lifetime. The pattern of early attachment significantly influences the quality of love relationship an individual will have as a teenager, adult, and even as a parent with his or her own children. Let’s summarize what research has concluded about the effects of secure and insecure attachment:

  • Children who experienced a secure attachment at one year are better able to explore on their own than are insecure infants (Waters, Whippman, & Sroufe, 1979). Secure toddlers are more independent than are their insecure peers, and as a result, more curious and interested in exploring the world around them. Secure infants and toddlers develop a sense of agency; that is, the sense that “I am a person” and “I can do.” Insecure infants and toddlers are far less curious, and are far more inhibited and withdrawn (Kagan, 1981; Suess, Grossman, & Sroufe, 1992). As a result, secure children are better able than are insecure children to master the environment using their senses. They are also better able to perform related motor actions than are insecure infants and toddlers (Matas, Arend, & Sroufe, 1978).
  • Numerous studies have concluded a positive relationship exists between the development of secure attachment in the early years of life and later social competence (e.g., Coleman, 2003; Lieberman, Doyle, & Markiewicz, 1999). Preschool children who are secure demonstrate better social skills and school adjustment than do their insecure peers (Sroufe, Carlson, & Schulman, 1993). Elementary schoolchildren who are secure are significantly more accepted by their peers and have more friendships and are less lonely than are less secure children (Kerns, Klepac, & Cole, 1996). The attachment security a child feels throughout his or her early years has been associated with that youngster’s later ability to pay attention, focus, and learn in school. Children with secure attachment histories earn higher grades and are more goal-oriented and cooperative than are students with insecure attachment histories (Crittenden, 1992; Jacobsen & Hofmann, 1997).
  • Insecure children are more likely to struggle academically than are secure children (Wong, Wiest, & Cusick, 2002). Secure children successfully bond with their teacher, view their teacher favorably, have the confidence to succeed, and use the teacher as a secure base from which to engage in academic tasks and challenges (O’Conner & McCartney, 2006). Children who have experienced secure bonding later have high self-esteem and are confident in their ability to excel academically. These children prefer to be challenged in class and are more motivated to learn for the sake of learning than are their insecure counterparts.

According to Attachment Theory, the most essential task of the first years of life is the creation of a child’s secure bond to the mother. Many studies have demonstrated this by examining the interactions of mother and child and by contrasting the long-term behavioral outcomes of securely and insecurely attached children. More recently, research has shown that the type of attachment formed during infancy affects right brain development (Schore 2002). In fact, this biologic foundation can last a lifetime.

References

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: Assessed in the strange situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bus, A. G., & Van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (1988). Attachment and early reading: A longitudinal study. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 149(2), 199–210.

Coleman, P. K. (2003). Perceptions of parent-child attachment, social self-efficacy, and peer relationships in middle childhood. Infant and Child Development, 12, 351–368.

Crittenden, P. M. (1992). Treatment of anxious attachment in infancy and early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 575–602.

Jacobsen, T., & Hofmann, V. (1997). Children’s attachment representations: Longitudinal relations to school behavior and academic competency in middle childhood and adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 703–710.

Kagan, J. (1981). The second year: The emergence of self awareness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kerns, K., Klepac, L., & Cole, A. (1996). Peer relationships and preadolescents’ perceptions of security in the child-mother relationship. Developmental Psychology, 32(3), 457–466.

Lieberman, M., Doyle, A. B., & Markiewicz, D. (1999). Developmental patterns in security of attachment to mother and father in late childhood and early adolescence: Associations with peer relations. Child Development, 70, 202–213.

Matas, L., Arend, R. A., Sroufe, L. A. (1978). Continuity of adaptation in the second year: The relationship between quality of attachment and later competence. Child Development, 49, 547–556.

O’Conner, E., & McCartney, K. (2006). Testing associations between young children’s relationships with mothers and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 87–98.

Schore, A. N. (2002). Dysregulation of the right brain: A fundamental mechanism of traumatic attachment and the psychopathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 9–30.

Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Shulman, S. (1993). Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence. In D. C. Funder, R. Parke, C. Tomlinson-Keesey, & K. Widaman (Eds.), Studying lives through time: Personality and development (pp. 315–342), Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Suess, G., Grossman, K. E., & Sroufe, L. A. (1992). Effects of infant attachment to mother and father on quality of adaptation in preschool: From dyadic to individual organization of self. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 15, 43–65.

Waters, E., Wippman, J., & Sroufe, L. A. (1979). Attachment, positive affect, and competence in the peer group: Two studies in construct validation. Child Development, 50(3), 821–829.

Wong, E., Wiest, D., & Cusick, L. (2002). Perceptions of autonomy support, parent attachment, competence and self-worth as predictors of motivational orientation and academic achievement: An examination of sixth and ninth grade regular education students. Adolescence, 37(146), 255–266.

Playful Learning

By Rita Brhel, managing editor & API leader

I am quite happy with the preschool that my children attended, although it took a lot of interviewing teachers and visiting sites, and a bit of trial-and-error, to find a program that I agree with. And now that my daughter is entering Kindergarten, I wonder if we will begin the process of finding an appropriate, like-minded school all over again?

A major concern of mine about organized school programs outside the home is the lack of child-led play offered. The preschool programs that I turned down for my children were focused so narrowly on teaching reading, writing, and math for “school preparation” that they missed the best learning opportunities provided by a child’s natural inclination to explore. Preschoolers are wired to learn through play, not through deskwork.

Nicole Polifka, MEd, Head of Early Childhood Professional Development at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, shares my concern, adding that even childcare programs designed for infants and toddlers are increasingly becoming more geared toward academic testing and orienting away from free play.

“Play is very complex,” Polifka explained. “A very big difference between promoting intelligence in a child and just promoting academics: With the latter, there is a lot more they need to learn.”

Teachers tend to view play and learning as opposing forces when in fact they are synonymous for children, she said: “Play and learning are partners, not competitors. Learning is a whole-body experience. Learning by doing creates a ton of positive things for the brain.” Continue reading

Attachment Parenting Isn’t Asking Too Much…Our Society Is

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

There is still a lot of discussion centering on Attachment Parenting, even though the controversial TIME coverage was almost three weeks ago, which is equal to eons away in our instantaneous, cluttered, sensationalism-saturated mass media. You know that something – some issue, some news story – has made it big when it’s still being talked about this long after the buzz first began.

TIME is hardly the first to bring Attachment Parenting into mainstream light and not necessarily in a good light. In all fairness, the articles included in the TIME package on May 21, 2012, were probably the most fair, least biased of any mainstream coverage on the parenting style that I’ve seen. But it still perpetuated a lot of myths: One that particularly irks me is the claim that there is no research to back up Attachment Parenting, when in fact it is very well researched and one of the branches of research where there are very certain results, with studies all pointing in the same direction rather than some studies contradicting one another.

One of the myths that is particularly virulent – but then again, always has been – is that Attachment Parenting equals mommy martyrdom, that it asks too much of parents. I find this a little comical, because what does that say about you if you think that there is a parenting style that asks too much of you? As if your child isn’t worth it. Are there parents who think that way? I hope not.

What the argument is really, is revealing an overall lack of a sense of individual balance in our Western society. Asking us to do a little more for the betterment of our children, whom we love, wouldn’t be such a big deal if the majority of parents didn’t already feel tired and overworked and severely lacking some “me” time. If our emotional cups were already full most of the time. But they’re not. As a society, we seem to be constantly seeking contentment, chasing happiness.

There are plenty of theories abound of why this is, but I see it as our society asking too much of us. Mothers are supposed to work and raise children, and really, there are not many mothers who have a choice between working and staying at home. It isn’t a matter of selfishness but often out of necessity; rising food and fuel costs, access to affordable health insurance, debt, divorce – all these contribute to mothers’ lack of options. And at the end of the day, many mothers feel responsible for the housework as well.

What scares parents about Attachment Parenting is that it’s another thing to do, that it’s something else that they really need to do but just cannot get to, that not doing it could have real and lasting consequences and they already feel guilty of what they perceive to not be giving right now. Attachment Parenting isn’t asking too much of parents but too much of people who already have too much going on in their lives. To give our children as much time and energy that parents are imagining that we “attachment parents” give, well, it would require that they give up on something in their life – and that would probably be the only thing in their life that gives them any sense of personal balance. It would require them to completely overhaul their lifestyles and re-learn how to be content with a slower, simpler life – one where personal happiness wasn’t dependent on more, more, more.

This change in thinking would be daunting in the least – for some, impossible, unless they were willing to face and address their own unmet needs for emotional balance, and change the very way that they strive to meet that unquenchable void: by switching their priority away from materialism and instant gratification to quality relationships that require patience, commitment, sometimes hard work without meaningful results, and character strength.

That’s not the core of Western society, and that’s why Attachment Parenting isn’t yet mainstream. To “attachment parents,” it can be frustrating that attachment-promoting parenting techniques aren’t more widely accepted –shouldn’t love, that emotion that everyone desires to feel authentically, be an obvious way to raise our children? But for Attachment Parenting to become more mainstream, it couldn’t come by force or policy – that isn’t our way as “attachment parents,” anyway. It would have to come by a shift in our societal attitude.

Forget Child- or Parent-Centered…Think Family-Centered

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

Various parenting approaches are usually categorized as either child-centered or parent-centered, and there is great contention about which is better for both children and parents. Child-centered, critics say, compromises a parent’s sense of balance and may lead to children feeling entitlement. Parent-centered, critics counter, compromises a child’s need for parental attention and attunement.

But is this polarization, this black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking, reality? Should we be debating for which is the better of the two “evils”?

The fear centered on Attachment Parenting is that, because it involves a parent to be attuned to her child around the clock, that it must be synonymous with or at least bordering on permissive parenting. Scary music please… Permissive parenting is that style of parenting that conjures thoughts of dread in as many parents as abusive parenting does. Permissive parenting indicates a seriously imbalanced, child-centered parenting style where parents bend to the will of the child in everything, perhaps out of fear of rejection or out of pure indifference, without setting behavioral limits. It can lead to where the parent has no rights to her own sense of self, because the parent will forgo her own needs to satisfy her child’s wants.

The reaction by critics of Attachment Parenting is – instead of understanding the ins and outs of what it indeed means to have a secure parent-child attachment bond – is often to recommend a complete overhaul on the parenting principles: shut the child in the bedroom and let him cry himself to sleep alone, schedule feedings, punish and shame and ignore requests. As if doing the very opposite of their perceived fears is anymore healthy? Continue reading

Attachment Parenting Beyond Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Cosleeping

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

It’s not so much that pediatrician and author William Sears, MD, has remade motherhood, as TIME magazine suggested, but rather that he has revived within mothers their own ageless intuition. He has helped women restore their own confidence in themselves as mothers, which has allowed them to live their motherhood out loud. But putting the focus on breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing have unfortunately reduced Attachment Parenting to these three practices alone. These are not the heart and soul of Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting is a concept much greater than physical closeness. A mature parent-child attachment means that the parent and child are connected at the heart: The child can share what is within his heart with his parent; the child seeks his parent’s advice and guidance and shares values. The relationship exists securely even without physical proximity. It takes years for a relationship to mature to this stage. It unfolds slowly as the parent takes the lead in providing what is needed for the relationship to develop and deepen.

In the beginning, the relationship is characterized by a drive to seek and maintain physical closeness. But physical proximity through the senses is only the first stage of this attachment relationship, and during the first year of life, it is the only way that babies can attach. Breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing certainly stimulate the senses and keep babies physically close to their primary caregiver – Mama – but they are not the only ways that a parent can provide for the child’s attachment needs. If attachment through the senses and physical closeness remain the only way of attaching, the relationship will be shallow, insecure, and prevent the child from becoming his own person. Continue reading