Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More on Attachment Parenting

Since Denise asked for more details about our views on AP, I thought I'd turn my email to her into a blog post and thus kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Ie; I do actually get the info to her (those of you who've had the misfortune to attempt email communication with me in the past know of what I speak) and I get a blog post written at the same time. Ah, the perks of a blog...

So. Anyway. Attachment Parenting. We actually were first introduced to the idea in an article by Michael Pearl, although not labeled as such, when Sofi was a baby. We went on to read other books on the topic (including Dr Sears' books--although I confess, I didn't study them extremely thoroughly), but many of our ideas on this topic have been formed by his writings. However, since the Pearls are such a hot-button topic these days, let's just stick with some quotes from good ole Wikipedia.
Attachment parenting, a phrase coined by pediatricianWilliam Sears,[1] is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, a strong emotional bond with parents during childhood, also known as a secure attachment, is a precursor of secure, empathic relationships in adulthood.

According to Wiki, attachment theory states that;
the infant has a tendency to seek closeness to another person and feel secure when that person is present.

Okay, that's a no-brainer, right? So basically, the "theory" of attachment parenting (lower-case letters) is pretty common sense. You pretty much work with the idea that closeness with the parents provides an infant with security and contentment. Wouldn't you agree?

Well, now let's take a look at Attachment Parenting (capitalized). Again, Wiki, describing the Eight Rules of Attachment Parenting, coined by Dr Sears:
  1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  2. Feed with Love and Respect
  3. Respond with Sensitivity
  4. Use Nurturing Touch
  5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting
  6. Provide Consistent Loving Care
  7. Practice Positive Discipline
  8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
These values are interpreted in a variety of ways. Many attachment parents also choose to live a natural family living (NFL) lifestyle, such as natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, homeschooling, unschooling, the anti-circumcision movement, the anti-vaccination movement, natural health, cooperative movements, and support of organic food .

Again, hard to argue with, all things that we have embraced wholeheartedly. I doubt you could find much wrong with most of these basic tenets-- on the face of things. (Although I suppose vaccinations and circumcision are a little controversial.) It's when you start to examine some of the "putting it all into practice" stuff that Jeremiah and I start to part ways with many people who practice Attachment Parenting (capitalized).

There are a few hot-buttons topics to illustrate this parting of ways. For starters, Nighttime Parenting. With both kids, they slept in our bed, or in a basket beside the bed for at least the first three months. I bf-ed on demand all night for the first year. But for both of our children there came a point at which good Nighttime Parenting involved teaching that child to sleep through the night. This inevitably involved some crying. For Sofi, loooooots of crying for a few nights. For Judah, a little crying for many, many nights (weirdly enough, not all at once-- he'd sleep great for a while and then start waking up at odd hours again...) I have never heard an advocate of AP also advocate for (what is known as) CIO (the Cry It Out method). We do!

Another wolf in sheep's clothing is the idea of Positive Discipline. It sounds good, and I would say that the training and discipline we provide for our children is indeed positive, but what is meant here is;
........... to teach the child by gentle guidance, such as re-direction, natural consequences, listening and modelling, and not by punitive means such as spanking, time-out, grounding and punitive consequences.
That is not going to get you very far in training your child in obedience. We believe in a firm but gentle insistance on the authority of the parent in every situation. You can read more about that in these other blogs posts by Jeremiah and myself.

Attachment parenting holds that it is of vital importance to the survival of the child that he be capable of communicating his needs to the adults and having those needs promptly met. Dr. Sears advises that, while still an infant, the child is mentally incapable of outright manipulation.

I agree with the first part of this quote, but definitely not the second. I know for a fact that a child learns at a very early age how to manipulate his parents. Any parent whose child cries the instant the parent leaves the room, ceases instantaneously on the parent's reappearance and consistently engages in this behavior, ought to realize that s/he is being manipulated. So therefore, part of our version of AP is to be aware of the difference between what our child
needs and what he merely wants and determine the appropriate response.

Even the idea of Presence ('giving you child your presence'-- not listed above, but included in other works on AP) although a good one on the surface, can lead to obsessive and counter-productive results. We keep our children close to us (beginning at infancy with the practice of babywearing), include them in most of what we do, teach them to participate in all the daily household activities and generally treat them as an integral part of the family unit, as opposed to a dependent needer-of-entertainment-- a sort of "Other" category. But many people who practice/advocate AP take this waaay too far. Their children from birth are on 15 minute rotations from playmat to bouncy chair to swing, reading time, blocks, etc, as mommy creates an artificial and completely child-centered environment that eventually exhausts her and (usually) over-stimulates the child. I believe it is far better to raise a child to understand his importance to the family's function and have the security of knowing his place and his role. Sofi, at six, is quite capable of tidying and dusting her entire room, baking a loaf of bread, watching Judah while I take a shower, making sandwiches for lunch and a whole host of other duties that give her a sense of pride and belonging. She is working and playing and creating alongside me, but without the "self" focus that can lead to all sorts of attitude issues.

So there are some major examples. I could go on and on (always... as I'm sure you know...), but this gives you an idea of how we apply the basic common-sense aspects of the principles behind AP and try to avoid the excesses that Katie Allison Granju spoke about in her article.

Some other articles that you might enjoy:

The Over-Parenting Crisis

12 Parenting Essentials
(especially #3, which discusses "acceptance", and #7 "boundaries")

The War On "No"

Child Training

Boys Will Be Boys

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