Does Attachment Parenting pertain to me?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 15, 2008, and examines how the author has adapted Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting as her children grew out of the infant/toddler years.

1361797_student_1My kids are not babies. They sleep in their own rooms. They don’t breastfeed. If I wore them in a carrier, the sling would rip and my spine would snap. They have homework.

Does Attachment Parenting still pertain to me?

Sometimes it seems as though the API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are geared mainly toward babies and toddlers: have the family bed, use the sling, breastfeed, don’t spank your exploring toddler and it’s all good. But what happens when those babies grow up? Do the principles apply to my family?


Here is how I apply the API Principles into my own life.

1.)  Prepare for Parenting

Since my child-bearing years are behind me, obviously there’s no pregnancy or childbirth to prepare for! But even though my kids are older, l:

  • Continually educate myself about developmental stages. They’re older, but they’re still growing and changing and have specific developmental needs.
  • Set realistic expectations for themselves and for me. I don’t want to set my kids up for failure by expecting tasks that they are not developmentally ready to handle!
  • Research different educational options and find the one that best suits my kids and our family. I closely monitor their schooling experience and advocate for them.
  • Learn about their individual learning style, using that knowledge to help their educational experience.
  • Nurture their natural desire to learn by helping them develop their interests. I follow their lead and explore topics they find interesting. I don’t push my own interests on to them, but help them foster their own.

2.)  Feed with Love and Respect

My kids have been weaned for quite awhile. How do I continue feeding them with respect? I:

  • Provide nutritious food that’s easily accessible, and educate my kids on the importance of eating healthy foods.
  • Am their role model for healthy eating. I don’t have a rule about “grownups can eat this, but kids can’t.” What’s healthy for one is healthy for all. I hold myself to the “5 a day” veggie rule just as the kids are held to it.
  • Make sure my kids have plenty of opportunities for physical activities. They don’t have to be organized sports or formal lessons: just running around the backyard is great for them, too!
  • Make dinnertime a formal event at my house. No TV, no books, no toys. We eat at the table, and we talk.

3.)  Respond with Sensitivity 

All kids — and adults — have emotional needs! How do I respond positively to my children, when they have the words and means to tell me what’s wrong? I:

  • Nurture a close connection and respect my child’s feelings. I can understand that instances that may have happened while I was not there — in school, for example — can impact their life at home, and is no less important.
  • Ask my children about their day using specific questions: What was the hardest question on the quiz? What funny thing happened today?
  • Respect my children when they say they need time alone. I give them time to transition from their school day to home.
  • Show interest in my child’s activities and participate enthusiastically! I attend all recitals, games and meets.

4.)  Use Nurturing Touch

I think this is the one the stays the same all throughout the child’s life! I:

  • Give frequent hugs, snuggles and back rubs. My husband wrestles and tickles but only when our kids want him to. We use playfulness and games to encourage physical closeness.
  • Hold my kids on my lap, since I find them way too heavy to carry for any length of time! We also snuggle side by side!

5.) Ensure Safe Sleep, Emotionally and Physically

The kids have their own rooms. They sleep all night, as do I — which is glorious after those baby years! Is nighttime parenting still on the table? Yes it is! I:

  • Read bedtime stories to my kids and provide extra cuddles.
  • Have a specific routine for bedtime that never wavers, which helps calm them down for bed.
  • Have regular and set bedtimes during the school year. I want my kids to be well-rested, so they can learn the next day!

6.)  Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Obviously since kids are in school, I can’t be in their lives as constantly as I was before. But I can still be there consistently by:

  • Being available, which makes kids feel safe, secure and cared for.
  • Avoid the “latch-key” temptation and find appropriate supervision between the time my children arrive home from school and I am home from the workday.

7.)  Practice Positive Discipline

As children age, discipline also changes. Redirection no longer works! So, I:

  • Stay emotionally connected to my children, which creates trust and love in them for their parents, making them generally easier to discipline. Quite honestly, discipline has never been a problem in our home. Connected children are internally motivated to please their parents most of the time.
  • Use natural and logical consequences to teach children, which are more effective than punishment, and doesn’t instill fear.
  • Use active listening.
  • Do not use mockery, shaming or coercion.
  • Do not bribe or offer rewards, as I want my children to develop inner self-control.

8.)  Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

It can be so tempting to sign my kids up for music lessons, sports teams, and playdates, and to send them to every single birthday party to which they are invited. It’s hard to maintain balance with older kids! We:

  • Don’t overdo extra-curricular activities. I refuse to schedule activities during dinner, and weekend extra-curriculars are very rare. Weekends are family time for us.
  • Eat dinner together, everyday.
  • Participate in our own family traditions and discuss them with the kids.
  • Take the kids out on dates with one parent or the other. A movie or lunch out with just one kid and one parent is a lot of fun and increases bonding.
  • After the kids are in bed, my husband and I watch movies or talk. Admittedly, my husband and I don’t go out much by ourselves very often. This could probably be improved for us.

As my children have grown and changed, my parenting has grown and changed. Attachment Parenting is different for us now than it was when my first was a baby.

How has it changed for you?

Staying attached with more than one

As my husband and I prepare for the arrival of our second child (a boy!) this summer, I find myself thinking about how different it will be compared to when our daughter was born.

With my daughter, we came across Attachment Parenting (AP) as we started exploring different ideas around giving birth and caring for newborns. Many of the AP practices were things we already planned on doing — such as natural birth and extended breastfeeding — and others evolved naturally once we became parents, including cosleeping, babywearing and gentle discipline. This time around, we plan on doing things similarly albeit with much more confidence in our decisions after seeing how well it worked last time.

However, I can’t help but wonder how it will work with more than one.

I think it’s extremely important for the initial bonding that we are physically attached to the baby. This part, I’m not worried about. I practically lived in my wrap with my daughter and don’t expect this time to be any different. I am also a stay-at-home mom, which gives me the freedom to feed on demand and hold off on any set schedule.

The part that I worry about is staying attached with my daughter. I think it’s equally important that our daughter not feel slighted by this new little addition. I want her to continue to feel attached to both mommy and daddy. She will have had almost 2 ½ years of undivided attention and will now be sharing the spotlight, so to speak. We have been prepping her for his arrival for a while now and she seems genuinely excited about being a big sister. She can rattle off a list of things she will be in charge of as the big sister – getting diapers and wipes, singing to him, helping with bath.

What I don’t think she is prepared for is sharing my time. She has always been a pretty independent kid but I wonder if that will change when she is not the only one anymore. How will she react to me breastfeeding the baby all the time? If I’m wearing the baby, will she want to be carried?

I know these concerns are not limited to AP parents, I imagine every parent has similar thoughts before welcoming another child into the family. My hope is that AP gives my husband and I the guidance needed to foster a connected and close family, no matter how large it grows.

The Importance of Volunteering

We have a familiar face guest blogging for us today – former Managing Editor of the blog of Attachment Parenting International, Melissa Hincha-Ownby! She talks about what volunteering has meant for her family and how volunteering can benefit yours. 

The Importance of Volunteering

by Melissa Hincha-Ownby

The parenting journey starts with giving birth, breastfeeding and attending to your infant’s every need.  As your children get older these decisions change – homeschool, public school or private school?  Sports, the arts or both?  One activity that isn’t as common, but should be, is volunteering.  In my opinion, every child should have the opportunity to volunteer their time with an organization they feel passionate about.

According to the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, there are many benefits to children serving as volunteers including:

Volunteering promotes healthy lifestyle and choices – children that volunteer are less likely to use drugs, drink alcohol or participate in other at-risk behaviors

Volunteering enhances development – psychological, social and intellectual development growth is enhanced through volunteerism

Volunteering teaches life skills – children that volunteer learn the importance of task completion, reliability, getting along well with others and more

Volunteering improves the community – when children volunteer, they become active and positive participants in their community

Volunteering encourages a lifelong service ethic – children that volunteer grow up to be adults that volunteer

The best way to encourage volunteerism in our children, especially those of us with older children, is to model the behavior.  So much of parenting is about modeling the behavior we want our children to emulate and this holds true for volunteerism.

I first began volunteering with Attachment Parenting International as a new support group leader in 2004.  Now here it is eight years later and I’m still an active volunteer with the organization even though my role has changed over the years.

As I’ve worked on projects for API, I’ve explain to my children what I’m doing and why.  Now, when I take a phone call from a new mom that is worried that her child isn’t sleeping well, my children know that this is part of my volunteer work.  I’ve been volunteering for the majority of my children’s lives and so, for them, volunteerism is normal.

Now my oldest is nearing the age where he can go out and find an organization that he is passionate about and volunteer on his own.  I’m excited to guide him during this new chapter in his life.
For those of you with older children – do they volunteer their time with an organization they are passionate about?



Melissa is an Arizona-based freelance writer that is passionate about parenting, the environment and of course, volunteerism.  Find her at the Mother Nature Network.


Maintaining Attachment Parenting As They Grow & Become Big Siblings…

My 20-month-old daughter is very easy to parent. Okay, well, that’s not entirely true. She’s aptly-nicknamed “Aurora the Destroyer” for her desire to explore and investigate, and her physical and mental abilities to not only climb to higher places, but figure out how to position things to climb to even higher places. But her needs, those are still simple. In her universe, most problems are still limited to being hungry, tired, dry, or bored, and most solutions are limited to food, a diaper or a breast.

My son Rowan, on the other hand, will be 7 in April, and he’s the one I struggle with. As a toddler, he was less physically draining but much more emotional than his sister, and that’s carried on into childhood. To compound things, he is in first grade with a less-than-emotionally respectful teacher, he’s a big brother, and I work from home as well. And of course, with age comes much more complex problems, and naturally, more complex solutions. With his emotional tendencies also comes some emotional outbursts — from him and me.

Being an Attachment Parent to babies and toddlers is very simple, and logically, you’re setting the groundwork then for childhood and adolescence, but maintaining the same relationship gets tougher and tougher. As we know, you can never be perfect at parenting — as your child always grows and changes, your parenting does as well. With a toddler, a job, and an upcoming move, I often feel like my changes as a parent, my growth alongside his has fallen behind, and we’re butting heads and struggling more with maintaining positive discipline and respect, both towards him and from him.

However, every time I start thinking, “What have I done wrong? Did I break our relationship?” I also stop and think, “What am I DOING wrong?” Then, the basics become clear again. Regardless of age, some things still stand true:

1. You have to stop and listen to their needs. The more distanced you are from them, the more complicated figuring them out will be. Also, the bigger they are, the more aware they are of whether or not you’re really listening and caring. Sometimes you’re going to need to have someone remove the little sibling from the room or wait for a nap so your child can really know all the attention is on them, and only them. But of course, as long as you follow through, nothing is wrong with letting your child know you need to wait until ___ time, and then you’ll sit down and talk.

2. You have to accept that you aren’t always going to be perfect… and neither are they. Sometimes you’re going to suck. Sometimes you will be really distracted, concentrating hard on something, and will say something in a less-than-ideal manner… and chances are, your kid will respond in kind. A very important lesson for you to learn is that there’s no erasing mistakes, but there’s learning from them. In fact, almost as important as what you do the first time is how you handle things when you’re patching them up.

3. Remember the behavior is only a symptom. Just like with infants, you still need to remember that they did whatever they did, or didn’t do, for a reason, and that’s what you need to figure out. Getting down at their level, with a sympathetic face and tone, is very important, but so is respecting when they’re not ready to talk. Nothing irritated me more as a child than trying to walk away so I could calm down and being followed, which leads me to…

4. Respect their autonomy. Allowing children to have a space that’s theirs, and letting them have it as somewhere they can request to be alone is invaluable. If you’ve been respectful and open and available with your child, they’ll start becoming independent all on their own, and with that comes the request for certain autonomy, like being able to have a space of their own that a sibling can’t destroy. If Rowan is annoyed with Aurora, he knows his room is a place he can do things without her interference.

5. Try to make as much time just for them. This one is particularly difficult in my household as childcare isn’t readily available or desirable for us, but even just playing a game with my son while she’s napping or nursing can make all the difference.

Overall, the general mantra is: Be patient, be present and be respectful. Life can really start making things difficult, but the longer you let the distance grow, the worse things will get. Taking the time, even when you feel you don’t have it, so close that gap again is so, so important.

What do you feel is most important when dealing with older children?