Am I practicing Attachment Parenting?

This is a question that I have struggled with a lot in the four-and-a-half years, since I had my first son, Ryan, and discovered there was a parenting approach that lined up with my parenting views.  I questioned that if I didn’t practice all elements of Attachment Parenting (AP), could I really call myself an “attached parent?”

The long range vision in place for Attachment Parenting is:

To raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection.  It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.

Some of my fellow AP parents used to joke that AP stands for “always perfect.” It seemed like I was not the only one who struggled with incorporating all Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting all the time.

But as I have continued down this journey of Attachment Parenting, I have realized that AP certainly does not mean always perfect.  It does mean trying the best you can, with the circumstances you have, at any given moment.

No one is a perfect parent, and if that is the standard that we inadvertently hold ourselves and others to, we will feel like we have failed, sooner or later. I believe API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are wonderful guides, but in no way are a set of rules and regulations that parents must incorporate at all times, less they be considered non-AP parents.

One example is discipline and whether or not time-out is a “proper” discipline technique for AP parents.

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) advocates the use of “time-in” versus punitive “time-out.” A time-in modifies the traditional time-out in that it gives tantrumming children a break to calm down and self-regulate before other positive discipline techniques are used, rather than using isolation as a form of punishment as in the traditional time-out.

Every parent is entitled to their thoughts on the matter, and no two parents will agree on every topic. I respect that parents have a right to not use time-outs for their family. But I find it troubling and worrisome as an AP parent that some of the thoughts seem to suggest that parents who do use time-out, are being judged.

According to API:

Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather that reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.

I object to that time-out is like spanking. Time-out is a nonviolent method, unlike spanking. I also disagree with the idea that a parent who uses time-out is teaching their children to fear them. Most AP parents use time-out as a loving and respectful discipline method, in line with API’s discipline principle. How can another parent know for sure what is happening in a household, and how certain children respond to different methods of discipline?

Ultimately, though, who are we to judge another parent?

Not every technique works for every child, and even what works today, may not work tomorrow. As parents, especially AP parents, we are always trying to fine-tune our discipline and striving to do what works best for our child while incorporating respect and gentleness in our parenting.

Our goal of practicing AP is to raise children in a nonviolent atmosphere and to ensure they will have capacity for empathy and connection. If a parent feels a nonviolent discipline method, like time-out, is the best way to achieve that goal for their child, who are we to question and judge that decision? Surely we can and should trust that parents know their children and what they may or may not respond to the best.

I feel we are treading in dangerous water when we make general statements and hold dogmatic ideas that AP parents always do, or don’t do X. When this happens, it can unintentionally cause parents to question and doubt their methods, and wonder if they really are practicing AP. If they question and doubt this enough, they can be come discouraged and give up altogether, feeling like they just can’t measure up to the “ideal.”

I think a much more productive approach would be to find out why the parent has chosen to impart a certain method, and instead of judging, listen. Perhaps the child responds best to that method, or is a high-needs, or special needs child. Perhaps we can share what we have found to work in a similar situation. That could open up ideas for the parent that maybe they had not thought of before.

By doing this, we are supporting our fellow AP parents, and really, as AP parents we all face discouragement from others in our circles who are not AP parents. The reason we joined AP was for support, not for judgment. By supporting each other, even if we don’t always agree with another parent’s decision, we strengthen our foundation, and help each other in our goals of raising empathetic and connected children- even if we take different paths to get there.

Heather blogs about life with her two boys, pregnancy and birth issues, natural living, current events, and of course attachment parenting at A Mama’s Blog.

Stepping outside of the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear


During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. 😉

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.

Amy Gates blogs about green living, attachment parenting, activism and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

AP and Grandparents

We moved to another country when I was 6 months pregnant. Leaving all our extended families back home, they weren’t quite aware of our parenting choices.

We had decided to co-sleep with our daughter so we didn’t buy a crib/cot for her. During the early weeks, my mom was quite anxious that we might roll over her. As weeks passed she would ask me, again and again, when we would buy a bed for her. I explained her that we loved her being with us in the bed and they shouldn’t worry. Above the safety measures, they were also worried that she wouldn’t leave our bed once she got used to sleeping there.

We had the chance to go back home when our daughter was 4 months old. During this holiday, mom saw first-hand that co-sleeping was perfectly safe and it was lovely having your newborn beside you. It also made night time feeding easy for us.

Once our baby was 6 months old, she began to ask when we would start her offering solids. My daughter was not interested yet. But mom and grandma were very concerned. They’d ask me every time, as if I was depriving her of food. I’d tell them that, during the first year, solids are only for fun and tasting. As long as the baby is breastfeeding and gaining weight, there’s no need to worry.
During our visits to home, they had the chance to observe our child and our practices.

My mom loved wearing her first and only granddaughter and taking her on walks. We talked a lot about attachment parenting, about why we have to fulfill our little one’s needs during their childhood and how such children turn into well adjusted adults. We talked about extended breastfeeding and why we had the intention of co-sleeping until our daughter feels ready to move to her own bed. I’m very happy that she understands it all and has become very supportive.

Recently mom told me that my cousin and her wife decided to let their baby cry-it-out. Hearing this broke my heart, but after all, everyone has their own parenting choices and unfortunately there wasn’t much to do.

Last week, as I was speaking with my sister (she’s expecting her 1st baby, due in November), she told me that mom had told her to make a decision about the baby’s sleep arrangements. She added that deciding where the baby would be sleeping was very important, as any change to that affected the baby badly. I was glad to hear that she mentioned the family bed, and that she has normalised this in her head.

Now, if only she doesn’t ask me repeatedly when we would wean Defne now that she’s 18 months old!

Parenting Courage

Becoming a parent makes us part of one of the world’s largest fraternities. Suddenly, we have something in common with most of the adults we ever meet, which can be a wonderful way to establish bonds with a wide range of people.

The potential down side is that since so many people have experience as parents, they often also have advice and opinions for us. Of course, many times more experienced parents may have valuable insights, reassurance, and support to offer. But we are often also faced with suggestions that aren’t in line with our values and beliefs.

It is especially difficult to maintain the courage of our convictions when something we are doing as parents doesn’t appear to be working. Perhaps the early days of nursing have been painful and frustrating, or we are exhausted because our baby is waking up every hour during the night. When someone suggests giving the baby a bottle, or letting him cry for a while to see if he’ll settle down, it can be harder to stick with our personal ideal of exclusive nursing or being responsive to our baby’s cries because the course we’ve laid out for ourselves isn’t going as smoothly as we’d like.

In cases like this, we need to remember that parenting is really about long-term goals. It’s about who our children turn out to be when they’re 30, not about how easy they make our lives today. As attachment parents, we believe that the relationship we have with our children is critical to this objective, and we choose not to use parenting techniques that might damage that relationship — even when it might be more convenient, easier, or more in line with the views of others.

One of the big challenges I’ve been facing in my own parenting is dealing with my 18-month-old son’s hair pulling, biting, shoving, and hitting. He’s been a hair puller for about a year. I’ve intervened every single time. I’ve told him at least a thousand times that hair pulling hurts, and that it’s not OK to hurt people. I’ve tried everything I could think of to change the behavior.

I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law thinks I should spank him, though she has too strong a sense of boundaries about what it’s appropriate to say to her daughter-in-law to actually say so. This idea, and other parenting techniques I wouldn’t normally engage in, are a lot more tempting precisely because what I’m doing now doesn’t appear to be working.

In the end, I have realized that this is a behavior I cannot change. My son can change it — when he acquires enough impulse control. But right now, I know he doesn’t have it. If there’s something he wants to do badly enough, he’ll do it even though he got hurt the last time he tried it, and the time before, and the time before that…

And so, I know that my job right now is to respond to this situation in a way that minimizes his ability to hurt other people, makes clear that the behavior is not acceptable, and teaches him skills he will some day (soon, I hope!) be able to use instead of hurting people. In the mean time, I need to maintain my commitment to positive discipline, irrespective of conflicting advice I may receive from the vast fraternity of parents.

Positive Discipline-Need Ideas

By Heather (A Mama’s Blog)

I thought having a second child would not be as hard as having one. After all, I had already been through it once, how much harder could a second child be?

I found out within hours of Cole’s birth (my second child) that having a second child does not mean he or she will be like your first child. In fact, in some ways it is harder. Instinctively, you seem to do what worked for your first child, with your second child. Sometimes you are lucky and it works- but in my case, it seems more often than not, what methods worked for my first child, Ryan, do not even come close to working for Cole.

So many times I have not felt like an experienced mother with Cole. I feel like I am a first-time mother again, figuring it all out. At times it does feel harder, because I try to use something on Cole that worked with Ryan, and it backfires- and then I am back at square one, and wondering why my techniques that worked so great with Ryan do not have the same outcomes with Cole.

Of course I know Cole is not Ryan and is a totally different person. It makes sense that the same techniques do not and should not work the same on two different children. But, that doesn’t make me wish they would at times.

A big issue we are facing right now with Cole is positive discipline. The methods we used with Ryan worked instantly and effectively. However, Cole laughs at us when we try to correct him and ends up hitting or biting us.

I think some of this is just his general frustrations in not being able to speak fully yet. Like most two-year olds, he has some vocabulary, but can’t fully communicate his feelings or thoughts yet. I know when he is mad, instead of communicating his feelings (because he can’t,) his first impulse is to hit, or bite, or yell.

We have tried almost everything we can think of from talking to him, holding him, diverting his attention elsewhere, to removing him from the situation, in hopes of trying to have him to stop biting and hitting, but he always ends up laughing, and at the very next episode, he does the undesirable behavior again. He really only does this when we tell him he can’t be doing something- like pinching his brother or running dangerously close to the street. Naturally, nothing that worked with Ryan in these situations is working on Cole.

So, I am hoping that some of you may have some suggestions for us to try. Ryan was never a hitter or a bitter, so we really are at square one with this. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, so we can guide Cole and help him to understand that he can’t bite or hit, while still using gentle and respectful discipline with him.

The little scientist

Long before our daughter was born, I decided to be a stay-at-home-mom and I love it. I can’t say it’s always easy. Looking after a toddler requires lots and lots of energy. But then it also provides lots and lots of hugs and kisses!

As a first time mom, when my daughter was a newborn I wasn’t able to imagine her as 2 year or 3 year old little girl. She is almost 18 months old now and she’s turning into a little girl before our eyes.
It sounds like a cliché when people tell you that they grow so fast. I have now understood that it is so true!
Gone are the days when she’d sleep happily for hours in the sling. My daughter is a busy toddler now.

She enjoys climbing, giving mommy and daddy anxious moments. She loves looking into the drawers and cupboards and see if there is anything of interest.

She likes helping mommy when I’m cleaning the house.

She is interested to see and observe everything that happens in her environment. After some observation, she tries to mimic us.

I always try to respect her behaviors, but there can be times when I am not-so-patient. For example, last weekend we had a nice day out and about. It was time to go home. We were all very tired and hungry. As I was putting her in the Ergo,she was trying to take her flat feet footwear off which made me a bit angry. I didn’t show my feelings to her,but you know, I was grunting a bit.

Then I came across this article by Jan Hunt and I liked her analogy:

A two-year-old is a very curious person, always experimenting, always exploring. He is in fact, a scientist! And if you look at his activities in that way, it can change your perspective and allow creative ideas to emerge, making life easier for you and for him.
I’d like to suggest an exercise to try. For one day, picture him not as a small child, but rather as a visiting scientist. Pretend this scientist is staying at your home for a day. This person needs materials to use, needs time to do his research, and will need your assistance from time to time. If we had a visiting scientist at our house, wouldn’t we feel curious ourselves as to what he is doing, and wouldn’t we feel honored to be helping when we can? That’s exactly the right attitude to take with a busy toddler.

This shifted my perspective: My daughter had just discovered that it was very fun to take off the velcro straps of her shoes. She had no idea that I was hungry and tired. Being upset would only make me feel worse.
Instead of being frustrated with our children when we have very little time or patience, we should make time for honoring their activities.

This is a very special stage in their lives and we should join their “research” and feel as excited as them.