Part Two: Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

The first part of this series can be found here, including some really interesting comments regarding attachment parenting and enmeshment, attachment parenting and children learning to have self-reliance:

So, on with my list of the ways I feel attachment parenting as sometimes been misconstrued and misunderstood, coming from my experience of being in the attachment community for the last 11 years:

Number Two:  The only way to guide a child is to talk to them, and talk some more, no matter what the child’s age.  I think if we look at the child as moving through the stages of imitation, short explanations, needing a loving authority figure,  going into cause and effect reasoning around the age of twelve and then moving into mentorship, apprenticeship, and such during the teenaged years, a completely verbal approach cannot and should not be the answer for children of all ages.  I have written about the idea of combining thinking, feeling and willing for the guiding of a child many times and in many ways on this blog.

Sometimes I think attached parents use excessive talking to a child to not only communicate and explain, but, (in all honesty!) in hopes that the child will agree with them. This way we can still all be friends!  This can be a very passive way to set a boundary.

Just because you are attached and connected to your children doesn’t mean they are always going to agree with you!

So, I wish the attachment parenting community would write more about communication and guiding the small child versus the grades aged child versus the teenager in other ways besides just talking and focusing on how the child feels. One thing that brought me to Waldorf education is that all of the gentle discipline books I was reading seemed to feel the same techniques (talking and more talking) would work no matter if the child was age 3 or age 13. Since that time, I am pleased to recommend Judy Arnall’s works, which do break things down by age. I don’t always agree with everything she writes for each age, but I think this is at least a beginning!

Number Three: I am a more attached parent because I (fill in the blank):  breastfed longer than you, co-slept longer than you, never said no, always kept my children with me and never let them go anywhere without me…and the list goes on.  I think if we are not careful, we can as attached parents divide our ranks in another case of the Mommy Wars.

For this one, I don’t know as this needs to be written and discussed more in the attachment parenting literature, because it seems to me that time and  sometimes having more than one child or hanging around with lots of children the same age as your child can be the great equalizer.   Children may go through similar developmental stages, but they really all are individuals!    It would be nice if  attached mothers were not so judgmental toward each other, especially in a society where mothering is not well-supported anyway, but I guess that is just going to take time.   And, I think again, we must be careful not to confuse healthy longer-term physical and psychological interdependence with a more insidious controlling enmeshment that entails a blurring of psychological boundaries.

A few more mistaken ideas about attachment parenting to come…

Many blessings,

4 thoughts on “Part Two: Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

  1. I love attachment parenting for the most part, but I do feel that I struggled in my oldest son’s early years, because I was afraid to take the lead. I was so afraid that anything I did might leave psychological damage that I often was too lenient or too wishy-washy when dealing with his behavior. I have really loved the ideas presented in the Waldorf homeschooling world about, for example, holding the space. Even though I am now much firmer as a parent and do definitely see myself, while loving, as the authority, I am still dealing with some of the residual effects of my parenting style when my son was young.

    Regarding your point #3, my inability to breastfeed, while having been a devastating disappointment, over the long run has in some ways been good for me. My children we adopted at birth, and I went to great lengths to induce lactation and nurse each one of them, but after three prolonged attempts it has been clear that it is just not to be. Anyway, I spent many years grieving this–and trying again and grieving some more, but have finally come to resolution the past year or two. My third child, who was nursed the least amount of time, is no more or less attached than the older ones. I have wonderful relationships with each one of them. It has really opened my eyes and made me question some of my own assumptions about being a good mother. Not being able to breastfeed (which is the “biggie” in attachment parenting) has forced me to learn some things, mainly that attachment is so much bigger than any one thing. I look around me at other moms who are nursing toddlers or older, and while I feel a pang of sadness about not getting to have that experience, I see clearly that their children are not happier or healthier or more attached to them than mine are to me. Even my siblings who do not practice attachment parenting have happy, secure, and beautiful relationships with their kids.

    • Lisa
      I think this is why Attachment Parenting International changed one of their core principles to “feeding with love” to focus on how you feed your baby is not the ultimate determinant of attachment…I tell my breastfeeding mothers that even if you nurse for four years, that is a small amount of time overall and how the rest of what you do in your family life matters!
      Lots of love to you, enjoyed hearing from you this morning!

  2. I’ve felt the same way about the gentle discipline books I have read…I loved the book “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” it really changed how I viewed conflcit in all my relationships but sometimes it feels like too much talking for a small child. At the same time I am not really certain how to “hold the space” despite that notion being very appealing. I get what it means to hold the space, but I don’t quite know what that looks like in practice, same with setting firm boundaries without talking my children crazy explaining why something is or isn’t a good idea. A simple example is when I have set a boundary with my three year old and she doesn’t like it and will repeatedly ask me the same question to hopefully get a different answer – do I repeat ad naseum, do I say it once and ignore her pleads (which I don’t like to do, I don’t like the idea of ignoring her feelings/thoughts)?

    Also, any book in particular of Judy Arnall’s you would recommend?

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