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By Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

API-Logo-20th-themeIt was 20 years ago when we hatched our idea to “save the world.” We were, and remain, hopelessly optimistic that we can effect change in our society.

Both of us are parents, with six sons between us, and we both were teachers with experience on the front lines, which gave us the perspective, determination and passion to begin a grassroots nonprofit organization called Attachment Parenting International (API).

Why did we do it?

When we were new mothers, we felt so insecure about our abilities. We just didn’t feel knowledgeable or prepared, even though we read just about every book we could get our hands on. We both lived far from other family members.

So, when we became friends, we glommed onto each other for support. We also found support and education from our local La Leche League breastfeeding group. Our experience with La Leche League prepared us in so many ways and provided us with opportunities to learn from other, more experienced mothers. These experiences gave us confidence and skills to be better mothers.

At these monthly meetings, we first learned about Attachment Parenting and read books by Dr. William and Martha Sears. Their books were like a buoy in the ocean — guiding our way, helping us keep our sanity by giving us reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

In time, we learned to trust our own innate wisdom and mothering instincts, which allowed us to connect with our children in ways that we would never have thought possible. Of course, we made a lot of mistakes along the way…just ask our sons. But the fact is that we are better for the experience, and our children are better for our experience.

In the early 1990s, we began to read about kids killing kids and kids killing their parents. What in the world was happening to children that would cause them to commit such heinous crimes?

Then we read a book called High Risk: Children without a Conscience by Ken Magid and Carol McKelvey. This was the first time we learned about Dr. John Bowlby and Attachment Theory, which hypothesized that the lack of emotional connection created all kinds of emotional and social problems, including violence.

The work of Dr. Alice Miller awakened our awareness of the influences of culture on the treatment of children. Until we come to terms with how we were treated as children, we will continue to perpetuate the same attitudes and treatment with our own children.

The culture in which we live has tremendous power over us, and it takes consistent and conscious effort to go upstream against the current of popular opinions. Dr. Miller, who passed away in 2010, made it her mission to abolish corporal punishment in every country because she believes that will be the only way we can begin to move forward in eliminating violence toward children.

Given all this information and from our own experiences, we knew in our heart of hearts that Attachment Parenting was the key to creating emotional connection and making families stronger.

We believed — and still do — that if parents are given good information about why it is so important to nurture children, the tools to do it and parent groups that support them in their choices, then we will have a lot of empowered mothers and fathers.

Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt a small group of committed people can change the world; it indeed is the only thing that ever has.”

We parents might just create a paradigm shift in child rearing.

We began going to the library and spending hours, days, months and years researching and reading articles, books and magazines from as far back as the 1940s. This was before the Internet was widely used. We called anyone we thought would give us advice or information, and many were more than happy to talk to us. They shared their wisdom and encouraged us all along the way.

Attached at the Heart, 2nd editionOur book, Attached at the Heart, is the culmination of more than 15 years of information gathering, investigative research and practice. We believe that it is critical for parents to have this information in order to make informed decisions for their children in our increasingly complex society.

Until recently, we have heavily relied on and trusted others to know what is best for our children. We need to educate ourselves and rely on our own knowledge of our children.

Since the early 1990s, the world seems to have become worse, not better — even more violent and chaotic. People are looking for answers, for something they can do to change this direction, because we can no longer rely on politics and governments. Many realize that it has to begin with each individual and within each family.

API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are a blueprint for change and are discussed in Attached at the Heart. Rooted in sound science and common sense, these principles provide a framework of an overarching philosophy: Listen to your baby, and trust your instincts!

Every family is unique with unique circumstances, and there is no such thing as perfect parents. We always carry with us the legacy of those generations who went before. The way we were parented and the wounds that we carry inevitably work their way into our interactions with our children, which is why it’s so important to consciously work on those issues.

Please know that API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are not intended to be standards of perfection but rather to be used as guidelines to help you feel informed, validated, supported and confident in your child-rearing decisions.

It’s so important to base your daily decisions on what will strengthen your attachment with your child, given the current circumstances. Ask yourself: “Will this strengthen my connection with my child?”

If the situation is not ideal, but necessary, then ask yourself: “What can you do to minimize the impact of the situation for your child?” And, “What can you do to reconnect with your child?”

Enjoy your baby, knowing that the love you give will come back to you in more ways than you can imagine for generations to come.

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The happiness of pursuit

by Sandy Gordon Frankfort on October 20, 2014

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cloudsAs an Attachment Parenting parent, I’ve always listened to my children. I always will.  I treat them with respect, and I truly care what they have to say.  I do my best and hope they always know that someone hears them. I don’t want them to go through their lives wondering and feeling like they are alone, as so many of us do.

I’m not a movie critic, although sometimes, when I’m deeply moved by a film, I wish I was. My husband and I took our boys the other day to see the delightful “Hector and the Search for Happiness.”

The sweet woman giving us our tickets was a bit taken back when she saw how young our boys were and wondered why they were about to see this film and not a kid’s movie. She kindly and gently said, “They may not get the subtleties.”

She obviously doesn’t know our boys.

I must say how proud I am to witness their attentiveness, comprehension and interest in such mature, thought-provoking and enlightening films. When they saw the preview of a man traveling around the globe in search of happiness, they both exclaimed their desire to see it.

You wouldn’t believe the questions they asked during and after. They are such curious individuals and so in touch with themselves and this wonderful gift of being.

We enjoyed the film very much, and I’m always affected by any verbal, written or otherwise expressed work of inspiration and insight into one’s journey through this life.

I don’t usually read or care for reviews, because like anything, I believe we need to experience things for ourselves and form our own opinions. Someone’s opinion regarding this film, however, did capture my attention and inspired me to share on this subject.

To briefly sum up his thoughts, he described this film as a depiction of a middle-aged man who prefers to live in fantasy and who chases an unattainable ideal across the globe, only to realize this figment of happiness is a creation of his own feelings of cowardice and insecurity.

The critic also went on about ego and narcissism, and why would anyone be interested in a man, with means, who traveled to other continents in search of happiness?

He wasn’t only searching for his happiness. He wanted to figure out how to make others happy as well.

This, along with one of the featured messages in the movie, got me thinking about the quote, which is so simple, yet so important…

“Listening is loving.”

I really sat with that thought all day, along with this critic’s interpretation of ego as it pertains to expressing interest or a need to search deeper and why that makes someone vainglorious and self-important.

I couldn’t disagree more.

In fact, it’s this very opinion of what makes something self-important that sometimes holds me back from expressing myself. I sometimes wonder if and why anyone would care what I have to say. I wonder why my opinion matters.

I believe we all have something to say and we all want someone to hear us. Using our voice and expressing what we are searching for, what we stand for or otherwise, does not make us narcissistic.

From birth, perhaps before, I believe the first thing we all wished for was to be heard.

When we cried as babies, we weren’t crying to manipulate; we were crying because we needed something. When those cries and calls for attention went unnoticed and unanswered, we possibly retreated and found the answers within ourselves and have spent our lives wondering if anyone ever truly listens or hears us.

Listening is loving. When I want or need to speak, sometimes I don’t need a solution, I don’t need you to judge and I don’t need an answer.

If you can listen and just hear what I am saying, you may help me find the answer within myself. You may discover something about yourself within my truth.

We are all searching for something. If we aren’t searching, we aren’t growing. We will never know everything about ourselves or this life. We will never have all the answers.

The preview of this film inspired me from the moment actor Christopher Plummer narrated these words:

“How many of us can recall that childhood moment when we experienced happiness as a state of being when everything in our world was all right?”

Happiness.

As a state of being.

Not just something to present to the world via social media so it appears that you are happy. I’m speaking of true happiness. Where capturing the moment didn’t matter because that feeling was so pure and that moment was ours. No one needed to understand it, and no one needed to witness it.

I could go on and on about the ways in which I’m inspired by people in real life, books and films. The people who go far beyond what is comfortable. The people who bravely walk through fear, even though they have rational and irrational reasons to be afraid. People who choose their own paths and don’t follow the masses. People who jump. People who truly love. People who unselfishly and unconditionally help others. People who truly live.

Lastly, at the end of this film, Christopher Plummer was experimenting with a brain-scanning technology on two subjects and placed them in a room with a wired device on their heads.

Before they walked in, he told them to go to the places where they recalled feeling happy, sad and scared — in any order.

I won’t reveal too much about the film, but I will tell you this: We experience all of these emotions, simultaneously. It is the complex, yet beautiful, combination of these feelings that pushes us beyond our limitations.

As I get older, I embrace my happiness, my sadness and my fear.  I let them guide me to places I never thought possible. I let them sit within and circulate around as I evolve a little more in each moment.

I am in search of happiness and peace also. For my children. For my Family. For you. For humankind.

As Hector was about to depart on his soul-searching expedition, his girlfriend wholeheartedly proclaimed, “If you’re going to do this, do it totally.”

Yes, this is how I believe we should do everything. Totally. This is how we will continue to feel alive, despite the forces constantly telling us we’re dying.

The author, Mark Twain, once said something that I’ve always appreciated:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

You have already been born, so if you haven’t figured out why yet, this will be my wish for you.

Thank you for listening. I feel loved and heard when you do,

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There is no night and day

October 18, 2014
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Attachment Parenting International is 20 years old. Twenty years of promoting connection and spreading reassuring support to parents across the globe! When I first became a mother, I followed every instinct to connect with and nurture my baby. I held her, I nursed her, I gazed into her eyes…regardless of the time of day. Strangely […]

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Attachment Parenting in shared custody

October 17, 2014
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We are in the midst of October, which happens to be Attachment Parenting Month,  and I am wondering what this year’s theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — means to me? As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the many times lately that I have found myself in conversations about how people […]

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Babywearing: The next generation

October 16, 2014
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 26, 2008, but it contains a sweet reminder for parents expecting a new baby and may be wondering how that will affect their older child. There is something so sweet about watching our older children mimic our parenting approach with their younger siblings. When our second […]

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Cherishing our API Leaders

October 15, 2014
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By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader and editor of the Connections blog for API Leaders When thinking about this year’s Attachment Parenting (AP) Month theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — I wanted to be sure I really understood the meaning of “cherish” and “flourish.” I love the sound of those words, but what do they […]

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Reflecting on 20 years of API

October 15, 2014
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By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker On June 6, Lysa and I celebrated the official 20th anniversary of Attachment Parenting International’s founding, but as we like to say: It took us 20 years of teaching and parenting experience to lead us to […]

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Impact of praise, an inside view

October 13, 2014
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I’ve been on board with limiting praise for my kids ever since reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I understood the negative impacts of praise in theory, I learned how to limit praise in parenting and I was happy with my decision. But I didn’t understand the internal impact of praise until recently. The Back […]

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