Psych Central

Attachment Parenting vs. Permissive or Helicopter Parenting, and Why My Daughter Wouldn’t Feed the Cats

By Rita Brhel

1167253_love_u_mammaAttachment parenting is often perceived, at first glance, as permissive parenting or helicopter parenting. This is interesting, since the two latter styles of parenting are nearly opposites: permissive parenting is characterized by a high degree of warmth with few, if any, boundaries set by the parent; helicopter parenting, on the other hand, is illustrated by a parent who “hovers,” or becomes too involved, in the child’s decision-making.

Permissive parenting is seen with parent-child pairs in which the child’s behavior is always seen as OK by the parent, rarely warranting discipline. What limits are set are set inconsistently and may be harsh.

Helicopter parenting is seen when the parent continue to be overly involved in a child’s activities and peer relationships far after the child naturally seeks autonomy. The teen doesn’t feel able to make his or her own decisions and relies on the parent to do so.

Attachment parenting, rather, has two key components well-represented in more than 60 years of research: sensitive response by a consistent caregiver. So we’re looking at parents who are responding with age-appropriate sensitivity and striving to be as available and consistent as possible.

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The Laundry Impasse: On Child Behavior, Autonomy & Relationship-based Conflict Resolution

By Rita Brhel

cloth-clips-1396376-mYesterday was my son’s second birthday.

With my two girls, I don’t remember any terrible two’s or three’s. Actually, the hardest year of their early childhood was between their first and second birthdays, when they were walking and getting into everything but still not quite grasping the meaning of “no.” They either ignored my request altogether or smiled while they were doing whatever I told them not to do.

I can tell this is going to be very different with my son. This past year was a breeze. But as we neared his birthday, he has begun to furiously assert his independence. Completely normal, but two-year-olds can run a lot faster and throw a lot farther than one-year-olds and they can reach the door knob and maneuver kitchen chairs easier to climb up onto counters and can unscrew peanut butter jar lids. Plus, the default tricks for one-year-olds, substitution and redirection, don’t work nearly as well on two-year-olds whose memory and focus are more fine-tuned. And then, of course, we have to remember that he’s a little boy, with energy and large motor skills galore.

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Why Breastfeed? It’s More than Milk–It’s About Teaching Relationship Skills

By Rita Brhel

World Breastfeeding Week 2013The core of healthy parenting is responding to our children with sensitivity. On this last day of World Breastfeeding Week, which runs annually from August 1-7, I wanted to spotlight this choice in infant feeding that is often taken for granted in how critical the act can be in getting motherhood–and babyhood–off to the best start. And I’m not talking about the nutritional aspects, but rather the basis of the mother-child relationship and the relationship skills that child will carry into adulthood.

Breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices. It is hard to navigate new motherhood relatively alone, compared to other cultures where family rallies together to give the mother a baby moon, a time when mom and baby can bond uninterrupted while housework and caring for other children are taken up by others in her life. It is hard to make the choice to return to work and then try to integrate a child care provider into our alternative way of parenting. It is hard to pump while away from baby. And it is hard to continue to push through difficulties, whether it be a poor latch or milk supply issues or teething or night-waking, when so many others in our lives are trying to convince us to just give a bottle of formula.

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How Do You Make a Difference to Children?

By Rita Brhel

1034106_ripplesI make a difference every day, and so do you.

July is recognized as “Make a Difference Month to Children,” and many organizations and businesses took this opportunity to raise awareness of their causes or to ask for donations to a favorite child-centered charity. And that is wonderful.

But every individual is making a difference to children in the world every single day. We may not be teachers, childcare providers, parent educators or other professionals who work with children. You may not even be a parent, but yet, we all are still making a huge difference to our communities and society—through our relationships with the children we interact with, whether in our homes, in our professions, or in passing.

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Why Bedsharing and Breastfeeding Go Together, and What Could Happen When You Ignore Biology

By Rita Brhel

safe bedsharing photo (2)And I quote: “To achieve maximal security for the baby and optimal availability of breastfeeding, mothers are advised to take the baby of less than four months of age into their bed for feeding during the night, but afterwards to place the baby on its back into his own crib…”

This is the recommendation of the latest anti-bedsharing study to make headlines, by Carpenter et al. Clearly the primary investigator is a man, because as anyone who has ever breastfed a newborn in their bed knows, it is nearly impossible to get through the feeding and put the baby back to his own bed before passing out.

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Attachment Parenting Saved Me From Postpartum Depression

By Rita Brhel

933297_beautiful_depression_2Attachment parenting saved me when I had postpartum depression.

That’s not often what you hear. Professionals especially can be quite vocal about attachment parenting exacerbating a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), or even being an instigator. And there are cases where it seems that attachment parenting is connected with a PMAD. But it’s not that simple that anyone should be claiming causation or that someone at risk of developing a PMAD should not choose an attachment-based parenting approach.

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What Childhood Wounds are You Carrying Around?

By Rita Brhel

624188_take_my_handThere’s a lot at stake with how we raise our children, with how our communities view and treat children. We, as a society, are slow to put into practice what research solidly shows as the most effective, and healthiest, way to parent. We, as a society, still struggle to see how the parent-child relationship and the home environment it creates translates not only to that child’s happiness as a child but also as an adult, as well as the lives that person will touch, especially his or her own children.

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For the Health of Our Society: “Normal” Child Abuse Prevention

By Rita Brhel

child abuse preventionMany of the mothers and mothers-to-be that I talk to are young—teens and early 20s—a challenging group to promote healthy parenting practices to, as they are still growing and developing themselves. We know this anecdotally. We also know this scientifically. This 2010 UK study is among many that show that the brain doesn’t reach maturity as once theorized until people are at least age 30. Executive functioning, such as planning and decision-making, social awareness and behavior, empathy and other personality traits, are the last bits of cognitive functions to fully develop.

This is also why it’s most important to educate these young mothers’ personal support networks. Unlike older mothers and mothers-to-be who look more to professionals and evidence-based resources for guidance in their choices, overwhelmingly young mothers seek and follow advice from their peers, significant others, and family members regardless of whether they are “with the times.” These young mothers’ own mothers are especially influential. This is also a challenge in that the older generation raised children differently than what is now recommended.

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When Your Baby Is Clingy…

By Rita Brhel

529295_wife_and_babyWe really have to be careful with what terms we use, when we refer to our children. Even if not spoken aloud, the labels that we put on our children in our own minds can influence the way we interact with them and consequently how they grow up thinking of themselves.

Recently, a woman told me that she’s glad that she held her babies when they were younger and coslept with them and breastfed them on demand, even though they were clingy, because it was only for short time that they are that small and want to be that close to Mom around the clock. Another woman in my position might have smiled and nodded, knowingly, or if she disagreed, might have rolled her eyes. Instead, I smiled and told her that her babies weren’t clingy: They were normal!

Biologically normal babies—babies who are developmentally right on track—want to be held all the time, they want to be breastfed on demand, they want to sleep in Mom’s room at night, they want to learn from the world from Mom’s physical and emotional safety. Clingy is a term that is only used for babies when their normal child development isn’t taken into consideration.

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The Sex Talk

By Rita Brhel

1368747_ladybugs_mating_2Last weekend, I picked up the fourth edition of A Child Is Born by Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger, an absolutely brilliant, breath-taking photographic journey of a baby’s development from conception to birth. I am using it as a way of introducing sex to my children, the oldest of whom is six years old.

Some parents, especially of the generations before me, might gasp at the idea of teaching pre-pubic children about sex, but children are learning about sex younger and younger with every generation. I’m not just talking about images of sex on TV or what kids gossip about on the playground, but even more so, what their parents are modeling to them about their view of sex.

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