I often struggle to explain to people how Attachment Parenting differs from other parenting styles. For me, one of the touchstones is trying to meet my children’s needs, but I realize that all conscientious parents are trying to meet their children’s needs, even though we may differ in our understanding of what those needs are. Then I think of explaining that I try to listen to the needs my children express themselves, but this becomes complicated since I don’t actually believe that my daughter needs ice cream nearly as often as she thinks she does.
It is often easier to give examples, or to talk about the kinds of techniques attachment parents typically use. To talk about what I don’t do, like letting babies cry it out or using physical punishment and threats to elicit compliant behavior.
Recently, I’ve been talking with some friends about what attachment parenting means to us, and we keep coming back to the idea of respecting our children as people. While that rings true to me, it’s still hard to express what that really means on a day-to-day basis.
The other day, I had a moment of clarity when I realized that for me, part of what respecting my children means is not telling them how they are supposed to feel. It seems to me that my kids are entitled to experience whatever feelings they happen to have, but I often hear parents critiquing their kids’ feelings.
One example I see with some regularity is a child expressing a strong negative feeling about a family member. “I hate my brother!” often seems to elicit parental responses along the lines of, “oh, come now, you don’t really hate your brother. You love your brother!”
Of course none of us like to hear our children say that kind of thing, but it seems more worthwhile to try to help my kids understand and cope with their feelings, rather than denying their existence and making it clear those feelings are not acceptable.
I’m looking forward to finding other examples of what respecting my children as people means in my life!