As part of the Mommy Connections post natal program for new moms, I’ve been doing talks all about Attachment Parenting on behalf of bebo mia. Busting the myths, sharing the science that Attachment Parenting is based in, and going into the eight principals that guide this philosophy of child-rearing.
I thought I’d share with you what the most frequent comments and questions have been during my talks so far:
Isn’t AP a bit of an extreme way to parent?
Pre-mastication of food, bed-sharing, non-diapering, not vaccinating your kids, breastfeeding til late into toddler-hood, home-schooling… the list goes on. Many are surprised to find out that these are NOT actually part of the 8 Principals of Attachment Parenting. I have even been asked by a mom if she could join my Meetup group (Attachment Parenting Toronto), if she didn’t sleep with her kids. While some parents who call themselves “attachment parents” do tend to make some of these choices, these are not pre-requisites into some exclusive club of dogmatic parents. I love the phrase, “there are as many parenting styles as there are parents in the world”. What many people do not realize, due to unfortunate media hype in recent years, is what Attachment Parenting IS. A responsive approach to raising children, based on psychological evidence. The goal of Attachment Parenting is not to raise needy, dependent children, but to foster young hearts and minds with a developmentally appropriate approach, which does look different than the behaviourist methods of yesteryear. The goal is a more compassionate world, as our children mature into adulthood feeling secure and confident.
I didn’t realize I was AP!
Can you believe that my liaison at API told me that people have criticized her group for not being AP enough? There are some people out there, unfortunately, who judge others for not parenting the way that they do, and prefer not to allow those to be in their “club”. This could not be further from the intention of Attachment Parenting. There are others who respond to their children with sensitivity, do not resort to corporal punishment when disciplining, and who ensure safety for their kids (both physically and emotionally), who are surprised when I tell them they are “attachment parenting”. As Dr. Sears says, all it is is the natural way you’d be if you were on a desert island with no books or unsolicited advice. Yes, there are many of us who don’t need or want a label per-se.
If you don’t “Sleep Train” your baby, won’t they be dependent on you for YEARS to soothe them?
As I help parents with a non-cry-it-out approach to getting a good night’s rest, I spend much of my time educating them on having realistic expectations of their baby, and reminding them to make decisions out of love and not fear. “It’s not a problem, unless it’s a problem” is an often quoted statement I borrow from Dr. Sears. I used to get told all the time that if I kept dancing or rocking my son to sleep, he would become too dependent on motion for sleep. But I LOVED rocking and swaying and dancing him. It was a zen time for me, where I gazed into his eyes and got lost in the moment watching him get sleepier and his lids get heavy. Oh ya, I was also warned not to make eye contact during the bedtime ritual, as it would be too “stimulating”. Both of these were nonsense fears, and I am happy to report at 15 months, Julien just cozies on up to one of his parents and falls to sleep without any props. Unless you count my loving arms and shoulder as a “prop”, which I certainly do not, as his budding independence strengthens with each passing day, I drink in these tender moments.
Isn’t Attachment Parenting a permissive way to parent?
Absolutely not. ”Practicing positive discipline” has a ring to it that makes you envision kids out of control, with zero manners and running over their parents. What positive discipline REALLY means, is–
* to learn and understand your child’s developmental capacity, and to not impose adult expectations and intentions on to them
* to respect their basic needs so as to avoid bad behaviour. For example, the need for nutritious food, for enough rest, and for attention and interaction from primary caregivers.
* to model good behaviour yourself, for example practicing non-violent communication. Children learn through observation and are taking in all their cues from those they are attached to.
Being “alpha” is the most effective and natural role of parents, giving children the sense that you are in control, keeping them safe, and are their best bet. Practicing positive discipline requires being flexible and open to learning, and it requires self-forgiveness, as this tends to be an area where the wounds and old patterns of our past tend to come up. This is one reason why attending support meetings is so helpful throughout the learning curve of parenthood.
Isn’t it just too hard to practice Attachment Parenting? I’m going back to work soon, so I need my baby to be independent.
That really is a matter of perspective and values. Some have criticized Dr Sears as being “classist”, saying that only the rich can be AP, those whose husbands make enough money to allow the wife to stay home. Having met the Sears’ myself, I know this is simply not true, as his wife Martha and the other women in the Sears family are incredibly hard workers and phenomenal leaders. Dr Sears says that on the contrary, working mothers often find Attachment Parenting to fit in naturally with a busy life, allowing the space for re-connecting after time away from each other.
API promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. For life. So they can take those bonds with them into their adult lives and share them with their children. And their children can do the same. A life cycle of compassion and connection.
Through education, support, advocacy and research, our principal goal is to heighten global awareness of the profound significance of secure attachment – not only to invest in our children’s bright futures, but to reduce and ultimately prevent emotional and physical mistreatment of children, addiction, crime, behavioral disorders, mental illness, and other outcomes of early unhealthy attachment.
If you would like to learn more about what is and what is not Attachment Parenting, be sure to register for the next Mommy Connections series, as well as check out the API websitewhich is filled with incredible info and resources.