Following the Principles: Respond With Sensitivity

Part 3  of a series of 8. It seemed as if the universe was not willing to allow me to get this post completed on time. With strong opinions firmly in hand, I have sat down a dozen times to write this post…and nothing. Sure I have some drafts…some ramblings about babies, and how this pregnancy has confirmed and reinforced my feelings. But they all lacked a real story. But now, I see the reason behind these delays. It seems as if the universe wanted to show me a deeper and broader truth about treating the most vulnerable members of our society with dignity, respect and sensitivity.

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A memory we hope Grandpa gets to keep...
A memory we hope Grandpa gets to keep...

Very recently, on a beautiful sunny Wednesday afternoon, Sir Hubby receives a call from his brother. Their father has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. After an all night drive across the great state of Pennsylvania– Erie to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia — Sir Hubby and Sir Brother-In-Law arrive just in time to drive their father to his consult with the surgeons. Sir Hubby keeps me updated on his fathers rapidly deteriorating condition via text. “Dad can’t recall how to use his phone,” and, “Dad is calling his dog the wrong name,” and “Dad can’t remember why we are talking to the surgeon.” Continue reading “Following the Principles: Respond With Sensitivity”

Thank you, Pam Leo!

Parent educator Pam Leo’s book, Connection Parenting, was the first Attachment Parenting book I ever picked up and it helped to change the course of my parenting journey – just as this book has influenced the thousands of parents before me, and after me, who flipped through its pages.

Connection Parenting brings together all the knowledge and experience of a woman who not only promoted attachment-promoting interactions between parents and children in her community but who saw success in her own home…not unlike so many attached parents who share their stories on API Speaks, in The Attached Family, and on the API Forum. What makes Connection Parenting stand out is how easy the concepts in the book could be taken off the pages and put to practice in real life, particularly for those parents who grew up in a home where punishments, such as spanking, were used. Many of us know how difficult the transition can be when going from a punishing mindset to one of true discipline, communication, and loving parenting.
Continue reading “Thank you, Pam Leo!”

Weaning in the Context of AP

My son Cavanaugh is a little over two now and we recently embarked on night weaning. Night weaning then researching weaning for our API meeting last month got me thinking about breastfeeding in the Attachment Parenting  community. So many of the AP mamas I know were planning on child-led weaning and many of them are changing their minds as their kids move further into toddlerhood. But a lot of us have mixed feelings about weaning, whether we decide to partially, gradually, or abruptly wean or to nurse as long as our kids feel like they need it.

So here’s how I’ve been thinking about weaning in relation to the Eight Principles of API

Continue reading “Weaning in the Context of AP”

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.

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