Attachment parenting reintroduces us to our natural heritage of child raising. Starting as a newborn, we realize that it is our nature as parents, and our children's inborn nature to expect skin-to-skin welcome, breastfeeding, bed-sharing, being carried, or possibly worn on a parent with some kind of sling. We find this kind of awareness to our children's needs as we look back in history if we consider that it was too dangerous to leave the baby out alone in the forest or plains. We have animal predators that would love to eat a tasty little baby, not to mention the other humans that may want to steal a little one! And so we still have these same instincts. If we leave our children alone in a crib all night, we see our babies react in fear. If we ignore their cries, they give up… it’s not that we’ve succeeded in “training them” except to train them that their needs will not be met.
But long before I got to practice attachment parenting as a mom, I got to practice attachment parenting as a step-mom and although they were no longer carried or breastfed, they were in our bed. What at first started as a nightmare ritual trying to get the kids in bed (when we didn’t share a bed) ended up being a shared time of joy as we all went to bed together, snuggling up to a book or a movie, talking or just passing into the dream state. But attachment parenting is about so much more than sharing a bed!
Attachment parenting is about trust. Trust that when we accept and respond to our child’s needs when they arrive, that it does not “spoil” the child, but that it builds the child’s respect for their own needs, for life and that they as great emulators, will reflect this back into society. This is not a “yes” to every demand, it is weighing what their needs are and seeing how we can best fulfill them, while still living loving, responsible lives. Attachment parenting lays down the often-used authoritative style of parenting and picks up healthy respect that even as babies, children have feelings, needs and worthy ways of being. We recognize that it is not our job as parents to fit all of our children into the same mold, but to help each one blossom into their own beautiful being! Much like continuum parenting, it is based on the assumption that a child wants to be and will be a contributing member of society, even without us parents hands-on directing their every move into that mode of behavior...for we realize modeling the behavior we want is much more important.
As someone who was raised with the authoritative view of parenting, when I started attachment parenting I sometimes felt frustrated and overwhelmed… what am I to do? In authoritative parenting we know if the child doesn’t do what you say, you punish. I was spanked many a times growing up, nowadays more people try time out. And to be honest as I started my journey into parenting these are the skills I had in my back pocket, you make the child do what you want. But the fact is, it doesn’t feel good. I never wanted to be physically punitive to my children. And as for time out, I spent more time chasing the little ones around trying to get them to stay in “time out”! It was so not an effective method, not to mention super-frustrating to me! And maybe you say, maybe it was me that’s not effective!
Well, I’d agree! You know why? Because at the heart of it I don’t want my little ones to “obey” because I say something! I want them to be able to think for themselves and this is why authoritative parenting doesn’t work for me. I want them to see that life is not to be lived out of fear of punishment, but out of desire to be themselves and live their full expressed self! Now, how does that translate on the day to day?
For me this is the ever-evolving question. Just like my children, I too am learning a new way. I am seeing life transform, seeing myself as a parent transform. And seeing in some instances, I’m just not where I quite want to be! But, I’m on the journey! I ground, and I see that as a family we have all different needs, so it is my goal to see how can I help my husband have his needs met? How can I help the little ones in the house have their needs met… and how can I balance all that with having my own needs met? The more we meet the needs, the less we have to struggle.
And as I’ve practiced attachment parenting, I’ve also realized that there are many times when healthy boundaries need to be drawn. It is important that our children know we’re the leader. That they can count on us to be the captain of the ship… that we’re going to keep the boat afloat and make it safely back to land! Balancing many yeses with the fewer important no’s! When we find we’re constantly saying no, we need to look at what is at the heart of it and see how we support them with more yeses, with more empowerment. There is no need for perfection in parenting, just love, respect, joy and empowerment. For me I found this growing in abundance in attachment parenting!
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