Editor’s pick: How your childhood shaped your adult personality

Parenting is largely undervalued in our society. So much discussion among politicians and policymakers centers on public education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation. These are all important areas, but parent support is glaringly missing from the list…

When I refer to parent support, I mean research-backed parenting education for all parents, regardless of income class or at-risk group.

Relatively few parents seek out parenting classes when they’re not court-ordered. Many parents do pick up a parenting book from time to time, or seek out support from Facebook groups, or search for specific parenting questions on the Internet. But there is much to be considered whenever any parent solicits advice in how to raise their child. Most parents don’t feel they have the time do the homework necessary to make sure their references are up-to-date, accurate, and aligned with their family values and personal parenting goals.

Media Analysis Guidelines for Parents

It’s important that we all learn how to read between the lines on any media report about parenting, so we can make informed decisions on how to raise our children. Attachment Parenting International (API) created these guidelines to help parents to be able to better discern appropriate resources amid the clutter of information that bombards us everyday:

What’s fact or fiction in parenting news?

Get the most out of a scientific study

Trusted resources

API supports parents in raising their children in a way that meets all of their needs for healthy development, not only physically but also socioemotionally. Growing up without a close, warm, trusting, and sensitively responsive attachment to the parent can have serious, lifelong consequences for a child. These children grow into adults who then struggle with raising their own children in a way that is warm and loving. In many ways, we could view this as a mental health crisis.

Not only that, but research also demonstrates that certain childhood events can alter our biological stress responses, translating into physical health problems not only in the affected individual but in his or her DNA with the possibility of being passed down the family tree through epigenetics. From this perspective, the lack of consistent parenting education available and promoted to all parents is a public health crisis on many levels.

Attachment Matters

API explores the effects of insecure childhood attachment on adults in-depth in our latest ebook, Attachment Matters. Receive your copy of this ebook with a donation of $25 or more to API.

To get a better feel for the specific effects of parenting that is not in line with research, this API Editor’s Pick highlights the Psych Central post, “Unloved in Childhood: 10 Common Effects on Your Adult Self” by Peg Streep, a parenting book author from New York City, USA. It’s important to note that while this post refers specifically to mothers and daughters, the effects of a son feeling unloved is much the same. These 10 effects include:

  • Insecure attachment
  • Undeveloped emotional intelligence
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Lack of trust
  • Difficulties with boundaries
  • Tendency toward toxic friends and partners
  • Fear of failure
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Inner conflict.

What I particularly like about this post is how it draws attention to the fact that the problem is not so much how well the parent perceives he or she loves the child, but rather, what’s important to that child’s development is the sense of love from the child’s perspective. It’s all about how the child perceives he or she is loved her by the parent. That’s an important distinction.

The author has so much to impart on this subject, so be sure to read the entire post, but here’s a quote I found especially enlightening:

“Because the culture stubbornly believes that all mothers are loving and that mothering is instinctual, the unloved daughter mistakenly believes she’s the only child on the planet to find herself in this predicament. As a result, she feels isolated and afraid, and is likely to continue to self-isolate because of her deep shame. She’s not likely to tell anyone. More than anything, she wants to belong to the tribe — those girls who hug their moms and laugh with them.” ~ Peg Streep, Psych Central

Parents, I urge you to be the parent whose children — no matter their age — finds it easy to laugh with you and who feels completely comfortable in seeking out a hug with you anytime. Don’t be afraid to be warm toward your child, don’t be afraid to offer comfort to your child night and day, don’t be afraid to use positive discipline rather than spanking or timeout, and don’t be afraid to be different from your friends and family. Seek out your free parenting support from a local API Support Group or the API Warmline.

Attachment matters

Ideally, all children would be able to experience a secure attachment with every meaningful adult in his life.

Attachment Matters, the latest ebook from Attachment Parenting International (API), was written specifically to help you — the parent — share the importance of Attachment Parenting to other meaningful adults in your child’s life.

At Common Wealth Psychology, they are dedicated to providing the highest quality and the best child therapists. If you would like to meet with a professional therapist at Common Wealth Psychology.

Attachment Matters is now available with your donation of $25 or more to API.

Learn more about secure and insecure attachment, read touching personal stories of how Attachment Parenting helped families, and share your copy with a grandparent, mother’s helper, childcare provider, teacher, or another of your child’s caregivers.

Attachment Matters is also appropriate for health care providers, school administrators, mental health therapists, child custody attorneys, adoption agents, and other professionals who work regularly with children and parents.

attachment-matters-coverInside:

  • Foreword: An Attachment Crisis
  • Why Attachment Matters
  • Can Insecure Attachment Be Healed?
  • How Secure Attachment Happens
  • Attachment-Promoting Behaviors
  • Attachment Parenting Stories, Real Life
    Why Attachment Matters to Me
    -Attachment Parenting Can Heal Intergenerational Hurts
    -Saved by Attachment Parenting, and Now 8 Kids Later (3 with Autism)
    -A Father Reflects on His Introduction to Attachment Parenting
    -Helping My Young Child Adjust to a Change in Caregivers
    -Protecting Attachment During Divorce
    -The Challenges of Becoming an Attached Father
    -Attachment Parenting Restores Security in Adopted Children
    -The Heart of Attachment Parenting
    -Was Attachment Parenting Worth It?
    -Generation AP

Is it possible to parent without shame?

pixabay-shame-child“Parenting without shame” is a hot topic on search engines. Google pulled up more than 5 pages for me of links with this search term. It seems that many parents are looking for ways to raise their children without shame.

But is this possible?

Shame is among the myriad normal emotions felt by humans in certain social situations. It is borne of a feeling that one has violated the standards of their social group. With this in mind, it would be nearly impossible to eliminate shame from a child’s emotional repertoire.

No, I don’t think it’s shame in and of itself that we parents fear. We understand that, as an emotion, shame is an uncomfortable feeling. But denying the feeling of shame completely is like denying anger as an emotion. It’s neither practical nor healthy.

Actually, what we parents fear is inadvertently raising our children with an identity shaped by shame. And this is a valid concern. Past generations used shame pervasively as a discipline technique, and many of us can identify parts of ourselves still tied to a shame-based self-image years and decades later. We do not want our children to grow up in a family environment where shame is promoted.

But we must still value discipline. Our children thrive with warmth, sensitive responsiveness, empathy, trust, nurturing, and boundaries. Boundaries on behavior guide children toward the family values we hope to pass down. Boundaries are healthy. They keep the child’s developing mind knowing the parameters of what is safe in the world and what is not, what is expected by his social group or not, how she can gain a feeling of contentment or not. Children need the structure provided by boundaries.

So, therein lies the question: How do we teach our children boundaries in their behavior without instilling a shame-based self-image? The seventh of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of ParentingProvide Positive Discipline — is how. Being consistent and firm, yet not harsh or punishment-based, positive discipline creates an environment that specifies the boundaries of behaviors for a developing child without relying on physically hurtful or emotionally manipulative tactics to control and coerce children. The goal of positive discipline is instead to teach and guide. And it works.

shame-cover-v2This latest issue of Attached Family, “Parenting Without Shame,” explores and examines shame at its core — what is it, how does it differ from guilt, when does it cross the line from a normal to unhealthy emotion, the effects of toxic stress, and the great difficulty it is to heal a shame-based self-image. It’s an in-depth look at a rather scary emotion, but it gets to the heart of an often-misunderstood topic, and it affirms how positive discipline and Attachment Parenting is protective of our children’s self-worth in a shame-based world.

Click here to access the online magazine and be inspired in your parenting,

Rita Brhel, Executive Editor of Attachment Parenting International

Attached Family: Parenting without shame

shame-cover-v2Attachment Parenting International (API) is pleased to announce the release of the latest issue of Attached Family: “Parenting Without Shame.”

In this issue of Attached Family, API examines shame versus guilt and how shame contributes to emotional trauma. API looks at the intersection of parenting and shame, keeping in mind that shame is a normal emotional response to certain social situations, but like anger or disappointment, when unresolved, shame can lead to lifelong difficulties.

Inside this issue, you’ll find mind-bending, inspiring, and empowering features to stretch your parenting wings:

  • “What is Shame?” by API Executive Editor Rita Brhel — defines shame, how it differs from guilt, when it crosses the line to become toxic shame, and what parents need to know
  • “Core Beliefs Color Your Parenting,” also by Rita Brhel — explains how shame-based core beliefs affect our everyday decisions, including our parenting behaviors
  • “What Makes Emotional Trauma? Fear, Disconnect and Shame,” an interview with Daniela Sieff, PhD — explores the ingredients to developing a shame-based view of oneself and what is all involved in healing, which certainly underlines the importance of prevention through parenting
  • “Parenting as a Protest Against Hate” by Lauren Gottschalk-Scher, motherhood fashion designer — looks at how parenting can be activism
  • “What is Normal, Healthy Infant Sleep?” by API KnowledgeBase Coordinator Art Yuen — discusses what biologically normal sleep in infants, and adults, looks like and the effects that artificial light and work productivity expectations have
  • “6 Tips to Lessen Separation Anxiety,” also by Art Yuen — looks at goodbye routines and other ideas for children and their parents when separation is necessary, such as for working parents
  • “Self-Validation Before Self-Control” by Denise Durkin, MA, child mental health consultant — explains how development of a positive self-worth must be in place first before trying to teach a child self-control
  • “Engagement vs Redirection to Create Emotional Safety,” also by Denise Durkin — describes the differences between these two discipline techniques and why engagement may be the better choice
  • “11 Ways to Parent Outside the Box” by Brooke Campbell, MA, creative therapist — gives ideas on how to incorporate more attunement in parenting
  • “How to Heal Attachment with Your Teen” by Shoshana Hayman, Neufeld Institute Faculty — outlines how the teenage years can reveal attachment weaknesses and how to restore a close attachment when necessary.

Shame can be a difficult topic for parents. This issue of Attached Family helps you be able to explore this topic safely. API hopes you take away the idea that parents don’t need to fear shame as a normal emotion, but rather that when shame enters our children’s lives, that Attachment Parenting is exactly how to address it in a healthy way.

10 tips on gratitude

sense-of-gratitudeEvery year, the Thanksgiving holiday gives us an opportunity to remember to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. API encourages you to make thanksgiving a daily practice. Learning to be grateful for even the most simple things in our lives can change us profoundly, creating overflowing capacity for joy and peace in both our individual lives and our parenting.

Gratitude is one of the most-written-about features of Attachment Parenting. Here are 10 tips on gratitude from APtly Said posts through the years:

  1. “Having a deep sense of gratitude benefits us in developing the ability to savor the pleasant moments in life and preserve through the painful ones.” ~ Effie Morchi, mother of 2 and API Assistant Editor, “Thankful kids
  2. “I am grateful for many things big and small, grand and mundane. Today, it is the joyful shriek of my girls running in the twilight.” ~ Leyani Redditti, API Leader and mother of 2, “Gratitude
  3. “There is an appreciation for all of us when we take the time to offer our thanks for something that happened during the day.” ~ Lisa Feiertag, API Leader and mother of 2, “Sharing gratitude on a nightly basis
  4. “Learning to live a life of gratitude is like a ‘walking meditation,’ being present in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future but really living in the now, feeling intensely grateful for the many blessings we have in our lives.” ~ Lysa Parker, API Cofounder, mother, and grandmother, “Learning to live a life of gratitude
  5. “Let’s start right here and right now by mindfully experiencing and expressing gratitude, even in the midst of what might sometimes look like a complete disaster.” ~ Inga Bohnekamp, mother of 1, “5 tips for mindfully coping with chronic illness, for your child and for you
  6. “I know that I am so lucky to be a parent, and my days are peppered with gratitude as I watch my son laugh, play, or sleep — ordinary magic moments that make me so thankful.” ~ Yvette Lamb, mother of 1, “For Today, a poem for parents
  7. “I feel the magic, love, gratitude, and magnitude in each moment. This love overwhelms me in the most powerful ways. I am truly thankful for being given the greatest role of my lifetime.” ~ Sandy Gordon Frankfort, mother of 2, “Are you afraid to admit the challenges you face as a parent?
  8. “I honor each stage of your early development. How blessed we are to spend these days together. My heart fills with gratitude to your daddy who works long hours in the week to make this possible.” ~ Amy Wright Glenn, mother, “A day to live again
  9. “Thank you, API, for giving me these wonderful gifts: joy in my parenting and peace in my life.” ~ Rita Brhel, API Leader, mother of 3, and API Executive Editor, “Thanksgiving for joy and peace in my parenting
  10. “In awe, my son exclaimed, ‘Mama, the sky! It’s so colorful!’ I turned to him, and seeing his exuberant joy, my heart flooded with deep gratitude. To this day, years later, I still carry those words with me — my son’s gentle reminder to move a little slower, appreciate a little more, and pause long enough to enjoy the moments of delight our days have to offer us.” ~ Kendrah Nilsestuen, mother, API Leader, and API Education & Support Coordinator, “The sunrise of balance

Raising compassionate kids in a violent world

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorEditor’s Note:  This post was originally published on 6/24/2016. Through this year’s AP Month theme, “Nurturing Peace: Parenting for World Harmony,” we have been focusing on promoting peace and harmony in the home as well as around the world. This article is a great reminder that despite the many challenges violence can pose, we can still cultivate compassion and peace in our children.

API promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. For life.

So they can take those bonds with them into their adult lives and share them with their children. And their children can do the same.

A life cycle of compassion and connection.

Today, we are featuring resources from the National Association of School Psychologists that offer guidelines for dealing with the difficult subject of children and violence — in particular, war and terrorism.

In recent years, increasingly, there have been numerous heartbreaking mass shootings and terror activities in the United States and around the globe.

In the aftermath of such distressing incidents, many parents are wondering how to react: How much information? What and how should we communicate to our kids? And as we reflect on such painful incidents and move towards healing, another imperative question we need to ask ourselves is, What role do we play, as parents to children who will become the adults of tomorrow?

With ongoing wars, mass shootings and terrorist threats, it can be challenging to escape the display of violence from the extensive media and internet coverage — it’s a heavy dose for children to bear. While we should do our best to limit our kids’ exposure to violence, we should also acknowledge that this is the reality of the world we live in, and we need to navigate around helping children find comfort and provide them with the support they need. It is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to address our children’s emotional needs — to that end, they need us to help them understand and cope with the phenomenon of violence.

heart-pain-shadowIt’s unrealistic to think that we can completely shield our kids from being exposed to incidents, such as the recent one in Orlando. Albeit, as parents, we can foster a secure environment in our homes for our children to be resilient in the face of tragedies. API promotes a secure emotional bond in the parent-child relationship — cultivating trust, a sense of security, social competence, confidence, and empathetic qualities in a child…all of which are beneficial when experiencing adversities.

Open communication, honesty, and trust between a parent and a child are essential ingredients for developing a strong relationship — one that is valuable when dealing with sensitive, emotional-trigger situations. This guide explores tips for parents and educators to help children cope with terrorism.

Naturally, children may feel angry and frightened in their reaction to acts of violence. To help them work through emotionally charged issues in a positive way, is it helpful to teach them compassion, empathy, and kindness in our homes and our schools.

The following are some helpful tips to consider in promoting compassion and acceptance in crisis:

  1. Model compassion and acceptance of differences — Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives.
  2. Provide useful information — Accurate information about people, events, reactions, and feelings is empowering. Use language that is developmentally appropriate for children.
  3. Stop any type of harassment or bullying immediately — Make it clear that such behavior, in any form (in person, online, social media) is unacceptable. Talk to the children involved about the reasons for their behavior.
  4. Explore children’s fears — Even children who can describe what happened may not be able to express fears, questions, or describe assumptions or conclusions they may have made. Use activities, role-playing, and discussions to explore their fears about the events and their feelings about various groups from diverse cultures or lifestyles.
  5. Identify “heroes” of varying backgrounds involved in response to traumatic events — These include firefighters, police officers, rescue workers, military personnel, public officials, medical workers, teachers, faith leaders, public figures, and regular citizens who work to help keep students, families, schools, and communities safe.
  6. Read books with your children or students that address prejudice and hate — There are many, many stories appropriate for varying age groups that can help children think about and define their feelings regarding these issues.

Parents are their children’s first and most empowering role models. Meeting our children’s needs by nurturing them with sensitivity, kindness, and compassion serves as a model for children to observe and learn how to conduct themselves in this world. We are making the most precious investment there could be: As today’s children will become tomorrow’s adults, a life cycle of compassion and connection will pave the way for a more peaceful, compassionate world for future generations.

A Post We Love! I breastfed my preschooler for (somewhat) selfish reasons

Blog post we love badge jpgEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) is so grateful to the parents who share their experiences on this blog. Many of our writers have their own personal blogs where they share more about their unique brand of Attachment Parenting. We want to take the opportunity to highlight blog posts beyond API that capture the essence of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:

Today, we want to recognize a post written by Krystal Newton, a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys, on her blog, Mommy Laughs:

“I have been parenting the only way that feels right, and it just so happens to fall into the Attachment Parenting message. When I wrote this blog post, I wanted to reach out to women struggling with making the decision to breastfeed long-term. I want them to see that it’s a beautiful relationship and an opportunity to just take a step back, to settle down, and to have a few peaceful moments with your child.” ~ Krystal

krystal newton, mommy laughs, preschool post highlightI Breastfed My Preschooler For Selfish Reasons

… I don’t breastfeed my 3 year old for the nutritional benefits (though those are a plus) or to make a statement. I don’t breastfeed him, because it’s the only way I know to comfort him or because I refuse to let him grow up. I breastfeed my 3 year old, because in those short quiet moments, I have the ability to pause my hectic life and love him, snuggle him, and reminisce on our journey. It forces me to slow down and notice the little things: How his hair sweeps over his eyebrows, how the dimples in his hands are disappearing, how he smirks in his sleep, and how beautiful he is. These quiet snuggles are less frequent as he grows so incredibly independent. While the benefits of extended breastfeeding are endless, my reasoning for choosing to let Colton decide to wean are somewhat selfish in that I love nursing him just as much as he does…

Read the entire post here, and enjoy!

Editor’s pick: Was this Olympic swimmer raised with Attachment Parenting?

pixabay - rio olympcsAn American competitive swimmer, 31-year-old Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, having won 28 medals, most of them golds. I believe he was raised with Attachment Parenting — and this parenting approach helped get him to the podium.

As we know, Attachment Parenting (AP) is a continuum of parenting behaviors centered on strong, healthy emotional bonds. The result is not only a compassionate, insightful child with a natural inclination for healthy relationships, but also — and this is sometimes the best-kept secret of AP — self-confidence and a defined sense of self and talents.

Healthy self-esteem naturally flows out of a healthy parent-child relationship where the child feels free and safe, emotionally and physically, to learn and grow and develop his talents and strengthen his more challenging areas of temperament.

Attachment Parenting is not, in itself, breastfeeding or babywearing or cosleeping. These are choices of some parents to provide a more attachment-based family environment, but these parenting behaviors are not what define Attachment Parenting. Rather, AP is about the attitude that a parent comes with into the parent-child relationship.

Michael Phelps was diagnosed at age 9 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), we had to get him ADHD Help from a very young age. Through my own and others’ parenting experiences with ADHD, raising children in an authoritarian (“do as I say, or else”) or a permissive (“do whatever you want”) do not work with ADHD. The authoritative parenting style — which includes parenting approaches, like AP, that take parent-child attachment into account — is a must for any spirited child.

In this Editor’s Pick, I want to highlight an article from ADDitude magazine, which spotlights Michael’s mother and her attitude toward parenting a child with ADHD.

Spiritedness — temperamental traits that we find challenging in our children — can test even the most patient, creative parents. ADHD is like a collection of certain temperamental traits that many parents, teachers, and others find very challenging — and a diagnosis often carries an assumption of low potential in that child. The hallmarks of ADHD — inability to regulate focus, impulsivity, hyperactivity whether physically or mentally, low frustration tolerance — as a set can, under certain circumstances, lead to a higher risk of problems in school, on the job, in relationships, and in life in general. But the key word here is “certain” circumstances: ADHD doesn’t guarantee a child a life of low potential.

Michael’s mother, middle school principal and single parent Debbie Phelps, certainly didn’t let ADHD hold back her parenting potential, either — as her son’s success not only in the pool, but in life as well, can attest.

“It just hit my heart,” Debbie told ADDitude. “It made me want to prove everyone wrong. I knew that, if I collaborated with Michael, he could achieve anything he set his mind to.”

The article goes on to explain some of the ways Debbie problem-solved to help Michael develop his natural-born talent of swimming while tempering some of the sharper edges of his ADHD tendencies. One of my favorite examples she provided was her response when Michael moaned about hating to read: She cued into his interests, handing him books about sports and the sports section of the newspaper. And then when her son had problems focusing on his math homework, she had him practice with word problems focused on swimming, like “How long would it take to swim 500 meters if you swim 3 meters per second?”

I know — we all know, whether we’re raising a child with ADHD or not — that working positively on a child’s more challenging temperamental tendencies is not always a quick or easy process…especially for the parent…especially if he or she was raised with yelling, threats, and punishments or an otherwise authoritarian (“do as I say, or else”) parenting style. But it works.

What I don’t like is that, in ADHD circles, positive discipline is referred to “behavior therapy.” That makes it sound like positive discipline — and Attachment Parenting as a whole, as positive discipline is a part of AP — is a treatment or something for special circumstances, rather than a parenting approach that is appropriate for all children, whether they have an ADHD diagnosis or not.

But Debbie Phelps refers appropriately to her child-rearing choices with Michael as “good parenting,” rather than behavior therapy. That’s a start to normalizing positive discipline — and Attachment Parenting — because it is, after all, the way to raise kids that research shows leads to best child outcomes, biologically…in other words, normal.

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