Part 3: What Attachment Parenting Is Not…
It’s important to remember that the relationships established and maintained through Attachment Parenting are healthy parent-child relationships; any relationship based on secure attachment is healthy, but it can seem to require more energy than a relationship developed out of unhealthy patterns.
A common misconception of Attachment Parenting is that it is time-consuming and a child-centered approach that neglects the needs of the parent. In fact, Attachment Parenting may be different, sometimes very different, from other approaches to childrearing, but the level of difficulty is a matter of subjectivity.
Providing for a child’s emotional, as well as physical, needs requires time and energy as any healthy relationship does. The difference between a parent-child relationship and an adult-adult relationship, such as marriage, is that the child is at a dissimilar developmental stage and is psychologically unable to provide equal relationship give-and-take.
For this reason, Attachment Parenting can seem more intense than other parenting approaches.
Attachment Parenting May Be Different, but Not Necessarily Difficult
Most parents who incorporate attachment-orientation into their parenting style comment that Attachment Parenting actually makes their lives smoother: Attachment Parenting requires more time and energy than other parenting approaches during the infant stage, or the initial period of time if this approach is introduced to an older child, but the results are actually an easier relationship long-term because the parent and child are cooperating rather than engaging in power struggles.
Even with infants, many families report more sleep and less crying – without sacrificing a parent’s sense of satisfaction – with breastfeeding, baby-wearing, and co-sleeping. When it comes to a parent’s happiness, the role that parenting plays is a matter of subjectivity as well: attachment-minded parents are happy to give their children more attention than not, whereas parents of other parenting approaches may argue that a child seeking attention is being manipulative. Attachment-minded parents simply do not view children, or their choices, in this way.
There is a wide spectrum of what Attachment Parenting looks like within each family. Attachment Parenting International encourages parents to embrace all of the tools, but there is no one way to apply the attachment concept. Parents are advised to “take what works and leave the rest,” meaning that not every attachment-minded family must choose all of the parenting practices.
For example, some families may prefer home births and midwives; others, birthing centers or hospitals and obstetricians. Most families strive to breastfeed, but there are fortunately alternatives when this option cannot happen. Many families enjoy baby-wearing, and others would rather forgo the sling. A lot of families fight for the right to co-sleep, but for others, other sleeping arrangements work best.
Many families prefer to have one parent at home full time, but others rely on Attachment Parenting as beneficial family supports when both parents are employed full time. Some families are more structured than others.
What differentiates Attachment Parenting from other childrearing approaches is the parent’s desire to treat children with equal dignity, love, and respect as he or she would afford an adult. To put this in everyday terms, parents treat their children as they would a new coworker or employee, a new member of their church or community club, or their friends and adult family members – they would come from a place of great compassion, forgiveness, and patience as the child is learning about their place in the world.
There are some parenting choices that Attachment Parenting International does not take a stance on. Vaccinating, cloth diapering, circumcising, educational choices, elimination communication, and others are often quoted by some parents as part and parcel to Attachment Parenting. Attachment Parenting itself is not a checklist of practices, but encompasses parenting that promotes and is most likely to positively influence the parent-child attachment quality.
Ways to Incorporate the Benefits of Attachment Parenting
Attachment Parenting practices can be incorporated by any parent. Here are 10 ideas to incorporate more attachment-minded principles into your home life:
- Research all of the types of prenatal care providers and birthing options in your area, as well as tests and procedures considered standard or voluntary for prenatal checkups, childbirth, and newborn care. Make your choices based on what’s best for your baby, as well as yourself. Take a pregnancy/childbirth education class.
- Learn as much as you can about various parenting styles and approaches, and then discuss them with your parenting partner to work out differences. Read books and articles, visit websites, attend workshops and teleseminars, and support groups, and talk to other parents to learn more about adding attachment-minded principles into your parenting techniques.
- Plan on breastfeeding, and get support early on to head off any problems that arise. If you will need to return back to work, try to pump your breastmilk to be bottled in your absence so you can reconnect with your baby or toddler after the workday. If breastfeeding is not an option, bottle-nurse – meaning that you hold your baby and give him or her eye contact and interaction while bottlefeeding, as a way to simulate breastfeeding behaviors.
- Feed your infant, whether breast- or bottle-feeding, on demand. This means that the baby eats when he or she wants to eat, rather than on a parent-mandated schedule. On-demand breastfeeding actually stimulates a stronger supply.
- Have a sit-down family meal as often as possible. It may be the only time that you’re able to reconnect with a busy teen.
- Co-sleep – if not in the same bed (which is advised only for exclusively breastfeeding mothers taking appropriate safety precautions), then in the same room. If this arrangement doesn’t work for your family, create an atmosphere where the child feels welcome to seek comfort at night.
- If you use spanking, punitive timeouts, logical consequences, or other forms of punishments, try to move toward non-punitive discipline. Because discipline is often emotionally charged, it may help to take a parental “timeout” when you feel stressed, such as closing your eyes and taking deep breaths or counting, or even going to another room until you’re calmed down (only briefly if your child is an infant or toddler), to discuss the situation. Learn effective conflict resolution skills, such as Nonviolent Communication and playful parenting. Learn child development and try not to expect more from a child than he or she is developmentally able to give.
- Learn to see infant crying as his or her communicating of needs, and then learn how to decipher those needs. Learn to see a child’s tantrums as an expression of a need for understanding, rather than manipulation, and then learn how to teach your child how to handle his or her strong emotions through example. Know your child and learn to anticipate and help them express their needs.
- Honor your child’s separation anxiety. You are likely feeling pressure to separate from your child, as a test of independence and healthy development. However, outside of unusual circumstances, you will find that if you wait to leave your child in the care of another person until your child is developmentally ready, you won’t second-guess this decision.
- If you’re working, consider ways to work from home or to work part time. If this isn’t an option, seek out a childcare provider that will provide consistent, loving, and attachment-minded care in your stead.
For More Information
Brhel, R. (2012). Part 3: What Attachment Parenting Is Not…. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/attachment/2012/06/part-2-what-attachment-parenting-is-not/