I’ve recently been working with some moms who are going through some difficult behaviors with their children. I enjoy doing this; as a parenting educator, I like helping moms and dads understand their kids’ behaviors and help them find new tools–respectful, empathic, emotionally connective parenting tools–for approaching them. Although I don’t always have Answers for them, I like knowing that I’m helping people create stronger relationships with each other; we need more emotionally secure people in the world, and it starts at home.
It is hard, though, when I work with a family who has older children and they’ve never parented with attachment parenting or positive discipline…never even heard of attachment parenting, and don’t understand what makes positive discipline “positive”. These families are not very receptive to new parenting ideas because they think, “that’s not what’s going on,” or, “that will never work.” They want to continue with their same ways, just find different same ways of doing things.
It makes me wonder what is it about attachment parenting that allows our family to avoid common behavioral issues, or at least respond and recover fairly quickly from them. Why don’t we have serious behavior problems with our kids that permeate our lives and overall happiness the way some families do? It’s because from the very beginning of our parenting journey, understanding attachment theory has shaped the way we view our relationships with our kids. An AP philosophy is the foundation for how we relate to our kids, and therefore how they relate to the world.
So, what exactly is it about AP? Attachment parenting is about…
Listening. Active, engaged, responsive listening. Repeating back back what you are hearing. Verbalizing the emotions you’re hearing in their thoughts.
Connection. Physical connection; lots of touching, hugs, and cuddles. But probably the most important form of connection: emotional.Genuine empathy, understanding, and acceptance.
Availability. Being physically and emotionally available as often as possible. Personally, I don’t take off evenings to do girls’ nights. I don’t go away for weekend getaways. I am not looking for my next “mommy break.” And I also don’t feel like I’m making huge sacrifices to do this. I enjoy being with my kids, and I make it a point to be there for them; with them.
Common attachment parenting practices for parents of very young babies (such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping) are great for creating a strong early attachment, but what’s most helpful about AP in the early years is that it establishes a strong foundation for a lifetime of positive relationships between parents and children; attachment parenting sets up a positive-parenting-frame-of-mind. The actual AP methods themselves are certainly healthy for a baby’s development, but they’re not necessarily essential, as it’s the effort and intent behind them that’s crucial. They establish a philosophy and approach to parenting that parents will use throughout the rest of their experience raising kids.
Attachment parenting is not a checklist of dos and don’ts, it’s about the understanding that with a strong relationship, overcoming any parenting hurdle is possible. AP is different. It’s not common, mainstream, or “normal.” But it’s more about thinking differently thandoing things differently.