We often hear the importance of treating children fairly, but at Attachment Parenting International (API), we advocate rather to love each of our children uniquely. Because every child—just like every adult—is one of a kind, each individual parent-child relationship forms to the distinctive shape of each other’s differences in temperament, interests, opinions, aversions, conversions and other subtle nuances of what makes each person and their interactions unique.
API celebrates every person’s unique traits, but some children’s differences set them apart from societal expectations enough that daily interactions—whether at home, childcare or school—can be challenging. Rather than viewing our children through the lens of understanding, however, our society’s response is often to see these differences as “symptoms” of a disorder and to follow up with treatments that may not resolve the problem.
I am excited to share a discussion with Barbara Probst, PhD, LCSW, author of When the Labels Don’t Fit, on her approach to facilitate understanding among parents and teachers in order to discover a new relationship with sometimes-challenging children based on appreciation and respect instead of illness.
RITA: What inspired your alternative approach to “treating” children whose differences often lead them to being diagnosed with disorder?
DR. PROBST: I feel quite strongly about the way our culture seems to be viewing every difference, difficulty, struggle and quirk—every extreme or unusual behavior—as a disorder, especially when it comes to kids!
Part of the core of Attachment Parenting is teaching our children about emotions—what they’re feeling and what to do about it, as well as how to empathize with others—a skill referred to as “emotional literacy” by parenting consultants like Ann Corwin, PhD, MEd, of Laguna Niguel, California, USA.
We know more than ever that emotional literacy is critical for healthy human development. Unfortunately it’s a skill that was not regularly nurtured in past generations, and many parents are learning about difficult emotions like jealousy and disappointment alongside their children. It was evident as I talked with Ann, mother to two grown children, that her life’s passion is in empowering parents in strengthening their relationships with their children and that emotional literacy is very much central to her work.
RITA: Thank you, Ann, for your time. Let’s start by learning how you came into your line of work?
By Jennifer Scoby, AttachmentParenting.org. Reprinted with permission by Attachment Parenting International, www.attachmentparenting.org. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
Attachment Parenting International is often contacted by confused parents like a mother who recently asked, “I no longer breastfeed my baby, but I try to babywear and I like the idea of having a securely attached relationship and using positive discipline. Is it OK to do some of Attachment Parenting but not all of it?”
Many parents could be disillusioned about what it fundamentally means to practice Attachment Parenting and where they fall into the parenting philosophy spectrum. How many parents out there wonder where they fit in?
As far as we’re concerned, you can babywear, breastfeed, cosleep, be a stay-at-home parent and more but still not be practicing Attachment Parenting if you don’t let yourself get emotionally attached to your baby or child. Or you can choose to do almost none of the above parenting techniques and still practicing Attachment Parenting as long as you form a genuine emotional connection with your child.
It’s time to acknowledge that children are people.
That may sound silly, but there are parents who swear by discipline methods that don’t reflect their child’s value as a person.
This reminds me, there’s new study led by George Holden of Southern Methodist University has found—based on real-time audio recordings of parents who volunteered to wear a wire during their daily interactions—that of parents who use corporal discipline, spanking and slapping is a very frequent child-rearing practice. Read about the study here. While in other studies, which were based on parent self-reports, it was found that the average parent spanked only as a last resort for severe misbehavior, Holden’s audio recordings revealed that spanking was used as a first-line discipline method for even trivial misbehavior and that children tended to misbehave again within 10 minutes of being punished.
In response to the growing interest in responsive parenting within the scientific and professional communities, Attachment Parenting International (API) with prominent health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett announce the advent of the Journal of Attachment Parenting. Access to the online publication is free of charge.
“Numerous recent studies have documented the importance of responsive parenting to both physical and mental health,” says Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA, guest editor of the Journal of Attachment Parenting, an annual review of the most eye-opening research in sensitive responsiveness. “We are finally recognizing that early parenting does make a difference. In fact, it is critically important to adult health. This volume summarizes recent studies that show this connection. I hope that it will provide an evidence base to both parents and professionals. This volume represents a critical gathering of recent science around responsive parenting.”
For this debut issue, the Journal of Attachment Parenting highlights 41 studies selected through a review process that evaluated articles published in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals from around the world. An additional 324 studies have been recognized for their contributions to the Attachment Parenting community.
Our hearts hurt today, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. As you draw your children closer, Attachment Parenting International shares these resources on being a safe haven for our children if they are aware of this recent tragedy:
Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting
American Psychological Association
Talking to Children About the School Shooting
Susan Stiffelman, Parenting without Power Struggles
Talking with Children about Upsetting News Events
Massachusetts General Hospital
Helping Children with Scary News
Little Listeners in an Uncertain World
Zero to Three
How to Talk with Kids about Tragedies like School Shooting
Dr. Laura Markham, Aha! Parenting.com
Helping Children Heal
Attachment Parenting International
Children and Grief
The Attached Family.com
Children and Death
The Attached Family.com
If you are passionate about parent-child attachment or adult attachment — perhaps you’re an author, a fellow blogger, a parent educator or child psychologist, a parent, or anyone interested in sharing an experience, suggesting a resource, offering a webinar or teleseminar, and so on — I welcome your contributions.
I am seeking guest blog posts from experts as well as parents. Word count should be no more than 500 words per post; high-quality articles that are longer can be broken up into a series. Posts should be informational, not promoting a certain program or book. Post submissions should be accompanied by a bio and photo of the author, with any link backs included in a “for more information” blurb.
Books, DVDs, websites, online or home-study courses, and so forth can be submitted for review and consideration to be featured.
Authors, experts, and others who have something interesting to share in the discussion of attachment can request a question-and-answer interview form via e-mail.
Events — both online such as webinars and teleseminars, as well as community-based such as conferences and parent support group meetings — can be submitted for inclusion. It is appreciated if you contact me at least one month in advance of the pre-registration date (event date if no pre-registrations are necessary). This gives me enough time to promote your event.