Tag Archives: secure attachment

Join Us for API Reads

Nurturing the Soul imageWe started reading Nurturing the Soul of Your Family for API’s online book club, API Reads, in July. We already started learning about shifting your perspective, about where disequilibrium comes from, challenging the beliefs of your family, how self-care supports us in being more present with our partner and children, self-care translates into owning your own personal power, that self-care is more than massages and pedicures, and that your family is your opportunity to heal and grow as a person.


What more can we expect from this book? With the remaining chapters we can expect to cover:

– Making time for spiritual renewal: return to the river within
– Loving the ones you’re with: spend time together (like you mean it!)
– Defining, celebrating, and honoring your family culture: what do you stand for?
– Slowing down: do less to experience more
– Exploring a new way of being: make hard choices, break free, and do it different
– Building your tribe: ask for and embrace help as you create your support network

Get your book today! Get your copy here to help API with a commission from the purchase.

Don’t forget! In September we’ll be reading a book for couples. It’s by Harville Hendrix and it’s titled Getting the Love You Want. Happy reading!

You Are a Good Parent

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator, API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

There are many ways of raising children. Of course.

Photo: (c) Helene Souza
Photo: (c) Helene Souza

Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.

That said, there are certain parenting goals—and therefore, strategies—that can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, the wholesome and strong bond between a parent and a child, offers an advantage to a person by helping him handle stress more easily, from everyday garden-variety stress to major adversity. Essentially, secure attachment lends itself to good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also for physical health and overall well-being. Continue reading You Are a Good Parent

My Child Doesn’t Want to Visit her Father

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

Q: I have recently gotten divorced. My daughter is three and initially enjoyed her time with her father, but since staying overnight she refuses to go. Each time he comes to pick her up it is a giant scene. I try to convince her and remind her what a good time she had before, but she won’t budge. What should I do?

Note to readers: This response relates specifically to the questioner, who is a mother and primary caretaker.  Though the terms “mother” and “father” are used here, other terms may be appropriate in individual families that may have different custody and caretaking arrangements.

A: It is the parent’s job to see to it that the child feels at ease during time together. My guess is that staying overnight must have scared your daughter, and/or there may be other issues that she does not feel comfortable with.489190_81593777 upset girl

Any time we try to convince a child to ignore her inner voice and follow our ideas, we teach her to become dependent and insecure. In essence, we tell her, “Ignore how you feel inside, and do what someone else tells you.” Unfortunately she may actually learn this undesirable lesson. She is learning to fall for future peer pressure, media sales, social pressure and to become more dependent on what others say in general. This is the nature of insecurity, a learned habit of undermining one’s own inner guide and following others. Continue reading My Child Doesn’t Want to Visit her Father

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.


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.

The Invisible Bond Not Limited to Parents

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

Ricki was in trouble again with her first-grade substitute teacher, this time for accidentally spilling water on her desk. She missed her regular teacher who was on a four-month leave of absence after giving birth. Ever since the new teacher came, Ricki hated school. She was sure the teacher didn’t like her — for forgetting her homework one day, for not paying attention another day, and now for spilling water on the desk. She returned home each day, filled with foul frustration, which erupted in attacking her younger brother, taunting her older sister, and talking back to her parents.

She counted the days until her real teacher would return to teach the class. She was so excited with anticipation that she prepared a folder from an empty cereal box and decorated it with foil paper and stickers. Then she drew some pictures, wrote her teacher a letter, and put these in the folder. On the morning her teacher was to return, Ricki got up extra early and carefully got dressed and brushed her hair. She wanted to look her best for her teacher. She also wanted to make sure to be at school early.

There she was, the teacher, standing at the head of the stairs. When she turned around and saw Ricki at the end of the hallway, her face lit up into a big smile and she stretched her arms out wide to Ricki. Ricki, too, smiled and ran as fast as she could into the inviting arms of her teacher.

What magic did the teacher possess that drew Ricki to her,that commanded her attention and brought out in Ricki the desire to please her? It’s called attachment energy, and it works like a magnet. The teacher knew intuitively how to collect Ricki and activate the deep attachment instinct that is meant to connect a child to the caring adults who are responsible for her. It is an invisible bond that creates an irresistible attraction that is felt but not seen. It is what we all long for, children and adults alike.

But children need it even more because they are not yet mature enough to exist without it. They cannot learn without this invisible connection. Children of elementary school age, and even many high school students, have not yet developed enough independent thinking, personal goals, or maturity to sustain the effort needed to achieve these goals. They are still of the age when they do the bidding of adults in order to fulfill their attachment needs. It is so important that these needs be met if children are to develop the mature independence and social responsibility we long to see in them. Ricki loves and wants to please her teacher, because her teacher smiles at her and takes delight in seeing her. Her teacher gives her the generous invitation to come into her arms and exist in her presence. Her teacher knows how to collect her with her eyes, smile, warmth, and making Ricki feel special. Ricki can feel that her teacher loves her. Continue reading The Invisible Bond Not Limited to Parents

Attachment as Important at School as at Home

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

If your children or grandchildren are anything like mine, they were looking forward to starting school after the long, hot summer, equipped with their new books and school supplies. No doubt, you too are hoping that their enthusiasm about learning will last. All too often, not far into the school year, children complain about too much homework, teachers not being fair, boring classes, bullying on the playground, and the list goes on. What, if anything, can we do to help our children look forward to school and keep their natural bias to learn and grow?

In a nutshell, the answer is to cultivate secure teacher-student attachment. Let me illustrate with a true story. A girl in the third grade, who was getting ready for school one morning, remarked to her mother, “I don’t want to get slapped again by my teacher.” Her mother, startled by this statement, asked her what she meant by being slapped. “I didn’t actually get slapped,” she replied, “but the nasty face my teacher makes is worse, because she uses it all morning.” This student did only the minimum that was required of her. She did not seek to be close to her teacher or to take counsel with her. Nor did she see her teacher as a role model that she would like to emulate. To put it simply, the girl was not attached to her teacher. As a result, she also lost her enthusiasm for learning.

On the other hand, when a student is attached to her teacher, she wants to be close. She loves her teacher and wants to be like her. She is motivated to do her best to learn and succeed.

If you can picture the well-known image of the mother goose followed by a neat, orderly row of  goslings, you get a glimpse of the attachment dynamic in nature. Mother goose is the compass point for her goslings, and she need not worry that they will go astray. This unseen force is what needs to be harnessed between parents and children as well as teachers and students, so that children will maintain their orientation toward the adults responsible for them. The child might not know where you are leading him, but he will follow with trust. This is the true source of a teacher’s authority and ability to teach and influence. This can make the difference in whether or not a child will look forward to coming to school. To the child, school must feel like a safe, secure place where he is cared for. He knows he will find comfort and consolation from his teacher or from other caring members of the school staff. Of course, every child needs to feel this at home, too. Until this need is met, the child’s brain is not free to learn. This is the number-one priority on the brain’s agenda! Learning is a luxury!

A five-year-old complained to his parents that he doesn’t want to go to kindergarten anymore, because “no one is in charge.” Upon investigation, the parents learned that there was a bully among the children and their son took the side of the bully in order to avoid being pushed around by him because the teacher was not solving the problem. “No one is in charge” was the child’s way of saying, “No one is protecting me from getting hurt. Being in school is too alarming for me!” As a result, this child became aggressive and uncooperative.

Although research shows that while children who are in daycare or preschool before the age of five show improvements in cognitive performance, the results are the opposite for emotional health and intelligence.  Researchers have found that levels of stress hormones are high in young children whose emotional needs are not taken care of, and this can lead to aggressive behavior, noncompliance, anxiety, and depression, even years later in life. In this environment, there is no room for creative thought and interest.

Whether a child is in daycare, elementary, or high school, his attachment needs should be taken care of as a first priority. What does an attachment-based environment look like? The teacher greets and welcomes her students with warmth and a smile. Throughout the day, she finds ways to let each student know she cares about him or her. She focuses on her students’ good intentions and personal development, instead of on behavior and performance. She knows how to support a child’s interests, curiosity, and natural desire to learn, instead of motivating through competition and prizes. She helps her students feel safe and protects them from being shamed, hurt, or bullied. She believes in her students and sees the goodness in them. She welcomes the parents of her students into the learning process.

Our goal should be to create learning environments that are attachment-based, in which teachers give their students the sense of home, safety, and security they need to be able to focus on learning and thinking creatively.

A Parent’s Look at: BabyBabyOhBaby

By Beth Hendrickson, blogger at http://bellesqueaks.wordpress.com

“They grow up so fast” I hear from everyone. My parents, my friends, other moms at the pool, the sweat-drenched mailman, the harried grocery store clerk, the homeless woman. It’s been a unanimous vote through all of those precious (sleepless?) early months. Mired as I was in the molasses of my days, I felt confident disregarding the dire predictions. Sure, Little Friend would grow up…someday…in the vague and distant future. I forgot about the future’s annoying propensity to turn into today. Yesterday, as I watched Little Friend select her shoes, put on bracelets, and feed her baby (doll) at 19 years, I mean, months old, I had to join the wistful chorus in decrying, “They grow up so fast!” I’m now ever more so grateful for the moments I invested in Little Friend’s infancy to baby massage, thanks to the incomparable BabyBabyOhBaby DVD.

I’m not sure I would have sought out a baby massage DVD if it hadn’t been for having a premature baby and reading all of the accompanying literature singing the healthful, healing benefits of infant massage. I’m not exactly the incense-burning, new age music type of gal, although I do love me a good massage. But I found myself sitting at home in the dead of a snow-engulfed winter, staring at a four-pound baby wondering what in the world I was going to do for the next couple of months until Little Friend was allowed out and about. So began our daily sessions of infant massage. I couldn’t treasure more the memories, both mental and physical, of spending quiet, concentrated moments pressing my love and affection stroke by stroke through the skin, sinews, muscles, and ligaments of my little one’s body. Continue reading A Parent’s Look at: BabyBabyOhBaby

The Use — and Abuse — of Attachment Research in Family Courts

By Peter Ernest Haiman, PhD, reprinted with permission, www.peterhaiman.com

An enormous amount of exceedingly important, valid, and reliable research on child development has been published in the last half century. Unfortunately, very little of this information has been presented in an appropriate and useful manner to the pediatricians, family therapists, parents, judges, and attorneys who could benefit from it. As a result, many children do not receive the protection they deserve.

This article serves three purposes:

  1. To summarize available research-based information about the relationship an infant or toddler develops with that child’s primary caregiver (usually the mother). The kind of maternal attachment relationship formed in early childhood can play a determining role throughout the individual’s life.
  2. To highlight areas of social and academic development affected by this early attachment relationship. Recently, some misleading and deceptive articles have been published in family court journals. These authors make recommendations about custody and visitation that contradict valid and reliable research-based evidence.
  3. To address the abuse of early childhood attachment research published in family court journals. Continue reading The Use — and Abuse — of Attachment Research in Family Courts

Embracing Positive Discipline’s Challenges

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader of API of East Portland, Oregon USA

Positive discipline doesn’t come instinctively for many people. In fact, that’s why most parents endeavor in positive discipline in the first place; they want to change their current instincts about raising children. They want to break the cycle of using traditional discipline methods that compromise the parent-child relationship, and they are forging their way in a new direction. As opposed to parenting with strict control and scare tactics, when children are raised with kindness and respect, parents are instilling a new instinct for discipline. Children learn how to solve problems, manage difficult emotions, and make intrinsic decisions about what’s right and wrong. Positive discipline is a parenting approach that is based on connection and trust, rather than on longing and fear.

However, while the theory has remarkable appeal, many parents are skeptical to begin the journey into positive discipline. It seems doubtful that any deviation from what has, up until now, seemed like the “normal” way to parent children is going to work. Or more likely, that a different approach will work more effectively. This reluctance is natural. After all, it goes back to instincts; parents naturally turn to the same methods with which they were raised. The thought of doing anything differently can bring on resistance:

“It’s too much work.”

Going from a reactive discipline approach to one that’s primarily proactive can feel very intimidating. Positive discipline takes the cultural belief about discipline and turns it on its head. When parents are accustomed to responding to children’s behavior with yelling, threats, and punishments, it is difficult to stop and re-think how to respond using the language of positive discipline. Indeed, much like learning a new language, learning positive discipline skills also takes time and practice.

Parents can take baby steps in the direction they want to go by substituting one positive discipline tool in place of a corresponding traditional one. For example, to raise kids who are problem solvers, focus on solutions instead of issuing punishments. To raise kids who are effective communicators, ask questions and listen instead of lecturing. To raise kids who are internally motivated, say “thank you” instead of “good job.” For every attribute parents aspire to teach their children, there are baby steps they can take to get there. Start with one; step by step, you will soon see great strides.

“It takes too long to see results.”

While it’s true that traditional discipline aims to stop unwanted behavior now, positive discipline works toward a bigger goal than the immediate present. Most of the positive discipline tools are proactive, rather than reactive. This means they won’t elicit the same results as traditional discipline methods. For many parents, this can be frustrating when trying to manage difficult behavior.

Glenda Montgomery, a certified postive discipline educator with the Positive Discipline Association, likens positive discipline to a dance. She tells parents, “Imagine that throughout these years, you’ve been in a dance with your child. You know all of each other’s moves. You know each other’s actions and consequent reactions. Now suddenly, [by using positive discipline] you’re changing the dance routine. You are moving in a new direction while your child is continuing with the same moves as before. Their moves might even be more pronounced than usual as your child tries to lead you back into a familiar dance routine. It’s going to take some time for everyone to get in sync with the new moves.”

Yes, it does take time to see significant results with positive discipline. Consider the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” If your first attempt at using a positive discipline tool doesn’t succeed in changing behavior, try it again. And again. Perhaps try a different tool. And try that one again. What all of these tries add up to over the course of the growth of the child is a new “dance”; a new relationship between the two of you and a new perspective for seeing disciplinary results.

“Life is not ‘positive’.”

In the “real world,” there are consequences for poor behavior and rewards for good behavior. If you break a law, you are punished with jail time. If you excel at your job, you are given a bonus. If you drive too fast, you get a ticket. If you travel enough, you get status perks. The world is full of conditions. This makes many parents want to adopt a punishment-and-reward system at home with prizes, timeouts, sticker charts, and losses of privileges, so children can grow up experiencing what the “real world” is like.

Jane Nelsen, PhD, author of Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, argues that there are much more effective ways to teach children about developing sound judgment skills to succeed in the real world, without mimicking the punishments and rewards that are intended for adults in an adult system. She says that moral and ethical development requires not the enforcement of external provisions, but “a mentorship between children and adults.” The best way to help children develop sound judgment is to give them the opportunity to practice.

This means parents must refrain from making all of their children’s decisions for them and must provide them with opportunities to think through their own choices; to make mistakes. When parents do this, and allow their children to fully experience the consequences of their mistakes without being rescued, children learn much more efficiently the effects of their actions. Dr. Nelsen says, “When young people discover that their choices affect their outcomes, they feel potent and significant and become increasingly confident that they hold the reins in their lives. With practice, they become more adept in holding these reins — and better human beings.”

Because children are not on the same developmental level as adults, emotionally or cognitively, they do not need “practice” in experiencing punishments intended on an adult level in an adult world. What they need from parents are discipline strategies that focus instead on problem solving and communication. They need to cultivate problem solving skills and internal motivation for doing what’s right. In short, they need to develop sound judgment now (through experiencing mistakes and solving problems), so they will inherently avoid the legal system later when they’re in the “real world.”

“It rewards poor behavior.”

Because positive discipline involves no punishments and lots of connection, it is often first seen as permissive. It makes more sense to parents to threaten a consequence to stop a tantrum than to scoop a screaming child up for a hug. Isn’t doling out hugs instead of consequences just rewarding bad behavior? It’s easy to see how positive discipline challenges mainstream thought about behavior. It moves from a behaviorist approach — offering superficial solutions to control innate human behavior — to a connected, communicative one. It aims to first understand — to get at the root of human needs — then to guide. Positive discipline is connection before correction.

It is possible to reconsider the idea that human behavior must be manipulated and controlled by a set of external stimuli (punishments and rewards). Parents can remember that, unlike animals, children’s behavior is a direct reaction to their feelings, and those feelings stem from genuine needs. Because difficult behavior in a child is a result of an unmet need, parents can first pause to assess what that child might be feeling, and therefore needing, before being too hasty to chastise the behavior. As human brains are more complex than those of any other animal, positive discipline methods, as opposed to behaviorist strategies, are aimed at changing behavior by specifically addressing those complexities. So although for many parents it may seem like positive discipline methods reward undesirable behavior, they in fact do not. It’s not a “carrot and stick” approach to manipulating behavior; rather it regards behavior at its source on a uniquely emotional level. Positive discipline addresses behavior at its core, without merely treating its symptoms.

“I’m alone in this.”

More often than not, parents meet other parents who are unfamiliar with the concept of positive discipline, than those who use it regularly in their families. Sometimes, it’s even within the same family that parents disagree on how to discipline. Spousal differences or grandparent disparities may convey many of the resistances described above, and make it seem difficult for a family to succeed in their positive discipline efforts.

There is support available for helping parents succeed with positive discipline! No matter where you are on your journey, there are various forms of education, inspiration, and encouragement. In-person positive discipline classes are available in states across the country, and they offer inspiring evenings of learning, activities, and connection with like-minded families. It is immensely helpful for parents to be able to connect with other moms and dads who are also on a positive discipline journey. Online or in person, parents come together to create a network of support for each other. They’re there to encourage, commiserate with, and bounce ideas off of each other. Parents should surround themselves with positive discipline enthusiasts; create networks of support to help themselves succeed.

Find more information on local positive discipline workshops, as well as online support, at www.positivediscipline.com.  Also available is a downloadable iPhone app in which parents can conveniently have the 52 Positive Discipline Tool Cards always at their fingertips.

Learning positive discipline takes a lot of thought, effort, and most importantly, a huge shift in paradigm. Discipline approaches change from reactive to proactive. Discipline tools change from “what can I do to my child” to “what can I do for my child.” And discipline strategies change from quick-fix to long-term. Despite the initial effort involved, the payoff is life-long for family unity, parent-child relationships, children’s well-being, and even children’s future families. It is absolutely possible and undoubtedly worth the investment to work on creating new instincts for raising secure, confident children.

Teens and Sex from an Attachment Perspective

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

You cannot understand sexuality without first understanding the attachment dynamic, psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld explains. The pursuit of proximity is one of the primary emotions that drive our behavior. The main way that the immature seek proximity and closeness is through the senses — being physically close: the most primitive way of attaching. On the heels of closeness through the senses is being the same as; by being the same as the person they are seeking contact with, they are holding that person close. This is also an immature way of attaching, for it does not allow room for individual expression. Following sameness, closeness is pursued through belonging and loyalty, still a rather shallow way to hold a person close as it does not leave enough room for your own personhood.

When a person matures and develops the capacity for deeper relationships, they can hold a person close without physical proximity or having to be the same as. They can feel altruistic love and psychological intimacy; they can share the essence of their being. There is mutual respect, caring, and being careful when someone entrusts his heart to you. This kind of relationship becomes eternal.

Adolescence is a time of becoming a sexual being. Teens have a new awareness of themselves, and touch itself becomes sexualized. Sometimes, the only way teenagers can experience contact and closeness is through sexual interaction — when they have not developed the capacity for deep relationship. A large part of teenage sexuality today is about sameness: being alike. If the norm seems to be sexually active at the age of 15, there’s huge pressure on the teen to imitate, emulate, be the same as his friends, and therefore to become sexually active. Adolescents and children of elementary school age are being exposed to sexual images and pornography through advertising, television, and the internet, and attaching to images and superstars who are highly sexual. This contributes to promiscuity and increased sexual activity, as the immature seek to be like the images they attach to on the screen.

Attaching through belonging and loyalty in the sexual arena creates a huge problem with girls obeying and showing loyalty to please boys, creating intense feelings of possessiveness and jealousy. Kids have no idea of how attached they become; how crucial it is for them to be significant to another. Boys might need to be significant in the eyes of other boys and therefore, in order to get status and recognition, must become sexually active. Instead of sex being part of the context of a deep, caring, long-term relationship, it is being divorced from love and turned into a cheap, shallow, and selfish way to serve the adolescent’s need for attachment.

One’s sexuality is only as developed as one’s capacity for relationship. The greatest expression of sexuality is in the context of marriage, when the potential for all the elements of attachment can be fulfilled. (However, not everyone grows up as they grow older, and even in marriage, one’s capacity for relationship might be superficial, and so the expression of sexuality will also be superficial. )

Dr. Neufeld, who has helped rehabilitate many teens from their addictions, explains that when you understand the nature of relationships, you see that sexual liberation is a myth, as there is no such thing as sexual freedom. The desire for sexual interaction automatically brings the desire for fusion and union. It’s meant to create an exclusive relationship because this connection involves incredible vulnerability. Teenagers are shocked to discover that some kind of union has taken place that there is no way to get out of without getting hurt. The greatest wounding comes from separation, being rejected, being ignored, losing your specialness. These painful feelings trigger defenses in the brain that lead to numbing out of feelings, tuning out perceptions, and a hardening or toughness, which actually fuel the need to pursue closeness through the senses. We are fooling ourselves if we think that the answer is teaching teens to use birth control or condoms, for we are ignoring the emotional pain and psychological problems that are involved.

A teenager’s safest bet is strong relationships with his parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. These relationships are hierarchical, and are not sexualized. The teen, as well as younger children, should have his attachment needs met in the context of his relationships with the important adults in his life. This is what prevents the sexualization of relationships with peers, and buys time for the teen to truly mature and develop the capacity for a deep, meaningful relationship.

As Dr. Neufeld puts it, “Sex is ‘super glue’ and is meant to bind two people together.” With greater understanding of the reactions of the brain, science is coming to a very conservative approach towards sex, concurring with the ancient wisdom about creating the right context for sexual relationships.