Why not the status quo, and instead Attachment Parenting?

By Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

API-Logo-20th-themeIt was 20 years ago when we hatched our idea to “save the world.” We were, and remain, hopelessly optimistic that we can effect change in our society.

Both of us are parents, with six sons between us, and we both were teachers with experience on the front lines, which gave us the perspective, determination and passion to begin a grassroots nonprofit organization called Attachment Parenting International (API).

Why did we do it?

When we were new mothers, we felt so insecure about our abilities. We just didn’t feel knowledgeable or prepared, even though we read just about every book we could get our hands on. We both lived far from other family members.

So, when we became friends, we glommed onto each other for support. We also found support and education from our local La Leche League breastfeeding group. Our experience with La Leche League prepared us in so many ways and provided us with opportunities to learn from other, more experienced mothers. These experiences gave us confidence and skills to be better mothers.

At these monthly meetings, we first learned about Attachment Parenting and read books by Dr. William and Martha Sears. Their books were like a buoy in the ocean — guiding our way, helping us keep our sanity by giving us reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

In time, we learned to trust our own innate wisdom and mothering instincts, which allowed us to connect with our children in ways that we would never have thought possible. Of course, we made a lot of mistakes along the way…just ask our sons. But the fact is that we are better for the experience, and our children are better for our experience.

In the early 1990s, we began to read about kids killing kids and kids killing their parents. What in the world was happening to children that would cause them to commit such heinous crimes?

Then we read a book called High Risk: Children without a Conscience by Ken Magid and Carol McKelvey. This was the first time we learned about Dr. John Bowlby and Attachment Theory, which hypothesized that the lack of emotional connection created all kinds of emotional and social problems, including violence.

The work of Dr. Alice Miller awakened our awareness of the influences of culture on the treatment of children. Until we come to terms with how we were treated as children, we will continue to perpetuate the same attitudes and treatment with our own children.

The culture in which we live has tremendous power over us, and it takes consistent and conscious effort to go upstream against the current of popular opinions. Dr. Miller, who passed away in 2010, made it her mission to abolish corporal punishment in every country because she believes that will be the only way we can begin to move forward in eliminating violence toward children.

Given all this information and from our own experiences, we knew in our heart of hearts that Attachment Parenting was the key to creating emotional connection and making families stronger.

We believed — and still do — that if parents are given good information about why it is so important to nurture children, the tools to do it and parent groups that support them in their choices, then we will have a lot of empowered mothers and fathers.

Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt a small group of committed people can change the world; it indeed is the only thing that ever has.”

We parents might just create a paradigm shift in child rearing.

We began going to the library and spending hours, days, months and years researching and reading articles, books and magazines from as far back as the 1940s. This was before the Internet was widely used. We called anyone we thought would give us advice or information, and many were more than happy to talk to us. They shared their wisdom and encouraged us all along the way.

Attached at the Heart, 2nd editionOur book, Attached at the Heart, is the culmination of more than 15 years of information gathering, investigative research and practice. We believe that it is critical for parents to have this information in order to make informed decisions for their children in our increasingly complex society.

Until recently, we have heavily relied on and trusted others to know what is best for our children. We need to educate ourselves and rely on our own knowledge of our children.

Since the early 1990s, the world seems to have become worse, not better — even more violent and chaotic. People are looking for answers, for something they can do to change this direction, because we can no longer rely on politics and governments. Many realize that it has to begin with each individual and within each family.

API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are a blueprint for change and are discussed in Attached at the Heart. Rooted in sound science and common sense, these principles provide a framework of an overarching philosophy: Listen to your baby, and trust your instincts!

Every family is unique with unique circumstances, and there is no such thing as perfect parents. We always carry with us the legacy of those generations who went before. The way we were parented and the wounds that we carry inevitably work their way into our interactions with our children, which is why it’s so important to consciously work on those issues.

Please know that API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are not intended to be standards of perfection but rather to be used as guidelines to help you feel informed, validated, supported and confident in your child-rearing decisions.

It’s so important to base your daily decisions on what will strengthen your attachment with your child, given the current circumstances. Ask yourself: “Will this strengthen my connection with my child?”

If the situation is not ideal, but necessary, then ask yourself: “What can you do to minimize the impact of the situation for your child?” And, “What can you do to reconnect with your child?”

Enjoy your baby, knowing that the love you give will come back to you in more ways than you can imagine for generations to come.

Attachment Parenting in shared custody

apm logoWe are in the midst of October, which happens to be Attachment Parenting Month,  and I am wondering what this year’s theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — means to me?

As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the many times lately that I have found myself in conversations about how people sometimes assume that to practice Attachment Parenting means to give yourself up fully to your child: to exist only for the benefit, safety, love, health and security of your child, for all legal matters in regards custody check out https://lalawknoxville.com now.

Upon learning about Attachment Parenting, I can see exactly why this is what people believe, since many of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting seem different than what our mainstream culture has associated with parenting.

Now I could go into a long discussion about mainstream parenting, Attachment Parenting and how it all came to be, but what I want to focus on is how it might look like in my household and why cherishing the parent is vital so that children can flourish.

Let me begin by telling you that I am a mom who shares custody of my children with their father on a schedule that is as balanced as we could make it. We have been doing this for the past three years, and the time away from my kids is often extremely difficult but also provides an opportunity for me to heal and explore my interests.

I have friends who envy that I have alone time built into the week and other friends who cannot even imagine having days where they would not see their kids.

I also want to mention that my children are hitting the pre-teen years. Next summer, I will have one daughter who is officially a teen and another daughter who has hit double digits. They are growing fast, and I have to cherish all the time I have with them.

lisa fiertagWith everything that is going on in our lives, I know that I am doing the best I can with my girls.

I have beautiful children who are loving, kind and supportive. They engage in activities that interest them, even if I have to push a bit to get them to try something new. My girls have an awareness of who they are and a willingness to navigate more choices, along with the freedom to explore what they like and don’t like.

All of this is possible because their dad and I have encouraged this, no matter how difficult our lives became.

My children are flourishing.

There was a time when I didn’t believe this would be possible, as my family went through years of one crisis after another. We experienced separation and divorce, major life illnesses and the death of a grandparent. Even with all this stress, the one thing that kept us together was our commitment to parenting.

For me, it was a knowing that my girls might need a little extra time with each parent, so canceling activities that took us away from family was vital. Living in a way that allowed for flexibility was also important, as it is not always known what might emotionally set off any one of us. Having stability in these little ways was important.

My girls know that they can be with me, when needed, at any time day or night even if they are with their dad and vice versa. As my girls have grown older, there are times when I know they need to be closer to me and times when a little freedom is desired, which is all part of the flow.

I have found that parenting does not necessarily get easier as our children grow older, but it is different each and every day.

Cherishing myself, as a parent, does help to make things smoother.

When I am not with my girls, I am engaging in activities that help me grow. I tend to spend my time exploring interests that feed my spirit or allow me to relax. Sometimes I just want to sit on my couch in silence and do absolutely nothing.

This all helps me as a parent. When we cherish ourselves and allow for balance in our daily routines, we are creating security and may thrive from these experiences.

As we cherish our time, our individualism and our interests, we grow. As we grow, we become secure parents who are able to be with our children throughout the worst and the best of times. As we cherish our minds, bodies and souls in whatever way calls to us, we are creating and opening space that allows our children to flourish.

What did you do today to cherishing yourself so that your children may flourish?

Cherishing our API Leaders

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader and editor of the Connections blog for API Leaders

Kathryn Abbott FamilyWhen thinking about this year’s Attachment Parenting (AP) Month theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — I wanted to be sure I really understood the meaning of “cherish” and “flourish.” I love the sound of those words, but what do they really mean?

“Cherish” is a verb that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means: to hold dear; to feel or show affection for; to keep or cultivate with care and affection; to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.

We when are cherished we feel secure. We are able to regulate our emotions and our behavior. Our value is recognized by others, and we are able to give of ourselves more fully — because we are supported.

“Flourish,” also a verb, is defined by Merriam-Webster as: to grow well; to be healthy; to be very successful; to do very well.

We can flourish when our attachment needs are met. When our attachment needs are met, we are able to be joyful and empathic. Our family is strong, and compassion is brought into the world.

These concepts of cherish and flourish are easy to write about, but for many parents knowing what to do and actually being able to do those things are a daily struggle.

All parents everywhere need support, need to be cherished, to realize their full potential as parents and help their children flourish. The difference that API Leaders make within their communities is immeasurable. The support they provide in cherishing parents each month may be the one thing that makes the difference.

apm logoSo in honor of AP Month, API Leaders, please grab yourself a cup of tea (or other relaxing beverage) and receive a little cherishing yourself…

Thank you, API Leaders, for making a difference within your own family and within the circle of your community. Each day, you are making an incredible difference, with passion, within your own family and within the families of your community. This is no small feat.

Your contribution to Attachment Parenting International (API) and to the AP community is so valuable, that we simply would not be here without you. Please know in your heart, API Leaders, that your commitment to the mission of API is what sustains all of us in our endeavors to support parents in raising children who flourish, and that, ultimately will change this world.

You are changing the world, one family at a time. Please keep doing it. You are so brave, so caring, so loved. Thank you.

Mirroring

angry“I see your hand is squeezing his toy. Your face is getting very red. Your feet are stomping the ground.”

There’s something very reassuring about being seen and affirmed like this.

Describing what you observe is happening in a non-dramatic, non-judgmental tone of voice is called mirroring, and can be used as a positive discipline technique as well as an attunement exercise in learning how to respond with sensitivity.

The simple act of mirroring can be very helpful to prompt someone out of their “reptilian” midbrain and into more rational thinking and behavior.

We can also mirror what our child says: “So you’re extremely angry because he got a bigger bowl? I heard you say that you want the same size as he gets. Is that right? You feel he always gets better things.”

Reflecting back to someone what they’ve said is a quick way to help them feel heard and understood. And when we feel that way, we have less reason to do big, disruptive things to get our needs met.

Like any positive discipline technique, mirroring shouldn’t be the only tool in the parenting toolbox and it shouldn’t be used too early during a meltdown, or too often. After all, we want our children to fully feel their feelings and process them. But at a certain point — discerned by a connected parent — mirroring can really de-escalate a blow-up.

Mirroring works so well in my family, that I even appreciate it when my spouse does it for me! I probably wouldn’t appreciate it very much if a stranger or mere acquaintance began giving me their view of my play-by-play, but in an intimate, trusting relationship, one or two observations can generate just enough of a pause for calmness to get a foot in edgewise. Or it might prompt the last explosive outburst and then calmness.

Mirroring also encourages self-reflection. Self-reflection could be described as mirroring for oneself.

I sometimes forget to do it, but I’m training myself to remember: When I’m feeling big, bad feelings, I need to stop. And access the feeling. And name the feeling. And acknowledge the feeling. Then go on. It’s like the feelings are trapped inside, zinging and pinging around, but naming them gives them an escape route. Very cool.

kara cardenAs someone who has practiced meditation for a long time — another excellent parenting tool! — I’ve always benefited from attempting to become a “witness” or “observer” to my life. I think mirroring is helping my kids develop this mentally healthy ability, too.

Emotions and feelings can get very big and amorphous. Getting grounded in our bodies is a “state-regulating” tool that will help me and my children for our lifetimes.

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “Flourishing Parents”

“Are your children flourishing? Are you flourishing?”~ “Children Flourishing” on AP Month 2014

apm logoThese are poignant questions, particularly the second one.

I think we, as parents, often ask ourselves whether we feel our children are doing OK. Especially those of us involved in Attachment Parenting (AP) closely monitor this in our children and make adjustments accordingly so that our children can flourish.

But we are less likely to ask ourselves if we are doing OK.

It may be that we assume we are flourishing if our children are. Parenting is so personal, and by our very biology, much of our own self-worth can be tied into how well we feel our children are doing.

It may be that we feel selfish or guilty if we feel that we are not flourishing alongside our children — if we are feeling burnt out, if we feel that our life balance is off.

We may fear that if we take a bit of “me” time that our children will suffer, since they won’t be getting all of our attention.

Because many of us grew up in families that did not practice Attachment Parenting, we are still getting a feel for what a good balance is. Some of us may wish to give our children more attention than we had growing up, and so we may be timid to give ourselves more “me” time because it feels like we may be taking too much.

And it can take a while for parents to feel confident in their parenting approach, so that they are able to feel better about taking “me” time.

Or perhaps your children are at ages or stages that makes it difficult to take “me” time.

There may be another reason why you’re reluctant to make changes so that you feel that you’re flourishing, but balance a critical part of Attachment Parenting. If you’re dealing with burn-out or trying to figure out how to gain more life balance, reading Attachment Parenting International’s Eighth Principle of Parenting: Strive for Personal and Family Balance can give you some ideas to get started on adding more “me” time to your life and start you back on the path of flourishing.

So, how do you know if you and your children are flourishing? Check out the list on AP Month’s “Children Flourishing” post, but here’s one that I think sums it up nicely: “Living on a trajectory of decreasing fear and increasing love in self and others.”

API post-conference: Who is Kate Frederick?

kate frederickKate Frederick.

She wasn’t a speaker at Attachment Parenting International‘s 2014 conference. She wasn’t even in the audience. But her name is stuck in my head.

As a bonus for early conference attendees, API hosted a showing of “The Milky Way” film on the evening before the weekend “Cherished Parents, Flourishing Children” conference at Notre Dame University at the end of September. As an added bonus, the lactation consultants behind the film, Chantal Molnar and Jennifer Davidson, were available for Q&A.

And during that Q&A, the name “Kate Frederick” became part of the conversation.

In the film, Kate’s part was just a brief glimpse of a 2013 newspaper article about a mother being fired from her job for breastfeeding. Her name wasn’t mentioned in the film, just a reference to the many mothers who have been discriminated against because of their choice to breastfeed.

But after several showings of “The Milky Way” film, Chantal and Jennifer received a letter that was different than other notes of support. This one was from Kate, who identified herself as an API member from New Hampshire, USA, and the woman about whom the article featured in the film for maybe a couple seconds is about.

Kate was a child support officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services at the time of her job termination due to failed negotiations with her employer regarding her right to breastfeed and her desire to leave the workplace to breastfeed during breaks.

She is now an event planner and has since founded The Rustik Baby Project, through which she advocates for breastfeeding mothers’ rights. Among her projects is a New Hampshire legislative bill that would provide greater protections to breastfeeding mothers.

It is exciting to think of what Kate’s hard work — borne of a passion ignited because of a low point in her life when she refused to give up on what was her biological right — has the potential to give all of us.

Of course, Kate — like any of us — is just one person. And each person can only do so much. But think about what amazing things all of us working together can do!

Some names, like William Sears or Ina May Gaskin, are household names in our Attachment Parenting (AP) communities. And these AP “celebrities” have done so much for the Attachment Parenting movement. But there are so many people whose names we don’t so readily know, or names we may never know — people who are all doing their own little part in their communities, even if only in their homes, to make the world a more compassionate place for their children and future generations.

Kate Frederick is one of those names that we might not otherwise know, but a person who is doing great things in her own little corner of the world — things that when added up with all of our efforts are changing culture.

Every one of us could be Kate Frederick.

Teens don’t rebel against parents

“I am now convinced that adolescents do not rebel against parents. They only rebel against certain destructive methods of discipline almost universally employed by parents. Turmoil and dissension in families can be the exception, not the rule, when parents learn to substitute a new method of resolving conflicts.” ~ Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon

stephanie peters familyHow do you feel when you read this quote?

It made me reflect upon my own upbringing, and I agree with the statement. I think if I had had more open, respectful communication with my mother, we would have had a better relationship.

I wanted so much for her to trust me as a person and, at the same time, to feel close to her instead of feeling scared and like she was pushing me away.

I look forward to seeing how the teenage years will play out with my daughter and our family, even though it terrifies me to some extent at the same time based on my own memories of those years.

My daughter and I are very close at this point. At age 10, she keeps saying that she wants to stay close to us, even when she becomes an adult. She wants to live in the neighborhood even. We hope that mentality continues.

PET bookEditor’s note: Join this and other discussions on Goodreads through the API Reads online book club. You can read along in your own copy of Parent Effectiveness Training, or even if don’t yet have the book, you can follow the discussion and take away bits of parenting ideas to try in your home. Learn more about the API Reads program or join for free directly at Goodreads.

 

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “Celebrating Family”

“That’s what Attachment Parenting International is trying to do – to change culture from one that ignores the critical importance of attachment to one that embraces the normality of healthy family relationships, securely attached children and connected communities.” ~2014 Conference: Life Giving, Mindful Beginnings” on APtly Said

API-Logo-20th-themeHaving just arrived home from API and Notre Dame University’s 2014 conference in South Bend, Indiana, USA, my head is spinning with all that was shared by researchers and experts in the Attachment Parenting (AP) field.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate API‘s 20th Anniversary with some really special bonus events, like Friday night’s showing of “The Milky Way” film with live Q&A with the lactation consultants who produced the documentary on the U.S. cultural view of breastfeeding support as well as Saturday night’s anniversary celebration reception with Irish music provided by Kennedy’s Kitchen.

george holden on positive parenting at the 2014 conferenceI am only sorry that I had to duck out early due to health reasons. But, like many of you, I have been keeping up on the final days of the conference via API’s Facebook page. I would have loved to have been there when George Holden, a psychologist and parenting expert at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA, made the comment how “Attachment Parenting International is one of the largest positive parenting organizations in the world.”

For those who were unable to attend the conference — as well as for those who, like me, did attend but were blown away by the amount of really great information — API is planning to release video of the speakers at “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” portion of the conference in a few weeks.

apm logoIn the mean time, I would like to point you to AP Month. Every year, during the month of October, API and this year’s sponsors — Peter Haiman, Kindred, Ergobaby, Tummy Calm/Colic Calm and Lamaze International — challenge parents to re-examine their daily activities, routines, beliefs, habits and traditions and learn new ways to engage with their children to grow with each other and remain close while promoting opportunities for healthy exploration, individuation and development.

This year’s AP Month, which begins today, centers on the same theme as API’s portion of the 2014 conference: “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children.” You can follow along each day of October on 2014 AP Month Calendar.

You can also participate in the 2014 AP Month blogging and photo events, read the research supporting this year’s theme and watch for special activities in other API resources, including here on APtly Said and API’s Facebook page.

Happy Attachment Parenting Month, everyone!

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright