So, what does Attachment Parenting look like in older children? Here are some ideas of differences between babies/toddlers and older children, using the Eight Principles of parenting with attachment:

    1. Preparing for Parenting, Pregnancy, and Birth – Obviously, this has to do much more with babies, but one part of the principles, “preparing for parenting” has to do with all ages. This is the principle that charges parents to learn how to overcome challenges in parenting any age child. I use this principle often when I am learning how to adjust my expectations to match child development. Included in this principle is continuing education for parents, in books, DVD courses, local classes, parent support groups, visiting with friends who are also parents, etc. in an effort to learn to be a better parent to our children.

  1. Feeding with Love and Respect – When babies, we feed our children from the breast or the bottle by cuddling. Then, we teach them how to eat solids in a safe way. With older children, we’re continuing to teach nutrition. We also get into topics such as emotional eating, body image and the family table.
  2. Responding with Sensitivity – With babies, we’re responding to pre-cry signals quickly and appropriately. We don’t allow babies to cry it out in sleep training, and we feed on demand rather than on a schedule. This principle is considered the cornerstone to all the other principles. It continues to be vitally important with older children. Children will disagree with their parents; their temperaments may be considerably different than ours. Parents are responding with sensitivity when they are taking their toddler’s tantrums in stride or when they teach sportsmanship to their fifth-grader who is disappointed after losing the soccer match or when they provide a shoulder to cry on when their eighth-grader is jealous of a friend who gets asked to the school dance.
  3. Using Nurturing Touch – Babies love to be cuddled; older children, not so much. But they still enjoy hugs, sitting next to you on the couch during a movie, and younger children will gladly hold hands when walking somewhere. Even with teenagers, a quick touch on the shoulder can go a long way. Some children enjoy a back rub here or there.
  4. Ensure Safe Sleep – Babies, toddlers, and some preschoolers like to co-sleep, whether in their parents’ bed or on a separate mattress in the same room. Even in their own room, children should feel open to coming to you if they have a scary dream, wet the bed, or have another need such as an asthma attack or nighttime fears. Some early elementary kids enjoy having a periodic sleepover in Mom and Dad’s room. Also included in this principle is making sure that children get enough sleep each night as well as naps as needed.
  5. Providing Consistent and Loving Care – It’s vital that babies and toddlers have the same consistent and loving caregiver, whether with a stay-at-home parent or in a daycare situation, for at least the first two years of life. But while the development of attachment style and quality is most impacted by having a consistent caregiver during these years, attachment is a lifelong phenomenon and providing consistent, loving, attachment-minded care – both at home and away at daycare, preschool, school, and other activities continues to be important in attachment development.
  6. Practicing Positive Discipline – Discipline for babies largely consists of baby-proofing the house, distracting the baby from undesirable situations, or substituting a safe object for an unsafe object, such as a cord. A child is able to understand what “no” means at about 18 months old, and then discipline changes from more of a preventive strategy to guiding and teaching, emotional coaching, and non-punitive discipline such as natural consequences.
  7. Striving for Personal and Family Balance – Life balance between family, work, and hobby, as well as stress management and healthy living, is important no matter what stage your child is in. This principle is the only principle that is directed only toward the parent, although how you live your life teaches a great deal to your children about your values.

There is no wrong or right way to parent within these principles. Every family looks different. Attachment Parenting is especially nice as it can be applied to nearly every parenting style and every family lifestyle. Attachment Parenting is a way to stay connected, but it’s more than that – it’s promoting optimal child development from an attachment foundation.