In my experience attachment parenting is the easiest and simplest parenting style ever!
As parents, we only really need to do one thing:
'Hmmm' ... you might say; 'Surely there must be more to this parenting style than just parental bonding!'
Yes, there is ... but bonding or 'attachment' comes first!
Bonding is not only a means to feel love and deep connection; it is also the most direct route to knowledge of your child's needs (I view my child's 'needs' as 'deposits' that regularly need to be 'refilled' with my touch, presence, understanding, acceptance, food etc.).
According to Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Sears attachment parenting is about 'attaching', bonding and 'tuning' in to your child to really know your child.
To know when your child needs something and what it is he or she needs.
The parenting styles of positive parenting and attachment parenting both share the goal of:
If we dig into the difference between attachment and positive parenting, positive parenting may be considered somewhat more 'mental' in attitude than attachment parenting.
Positive parenting may be seen as more future orientated:
This parenting style may be viewed as more 'practical', intuitive and instinctual.
Attachment parenting is focused on developing and strengthening the natural and intuitive bond between close caregivers and their child in order for the them to subsequently act on the gained knowledge of needs ...
... which is not always easy!
Because what you sense is the right thing for your child, may be 'counter to' what you're being told by well-meaning friends or respected child care professionals.
For instance, during the peak of my son's particularly intense, but completely normal baby separation anxiety phase, a typical piece of parenting advice I encountered time and time again was: 'Your child is too dependent on you. He needs to learn to face the world, roughen up and become more independent!'
Because of my son being what Dr. Sears would call a high need baby (a baby who is particularly sensitive, strong willed and intense in character), my son practically lived on me most of the first year.
Everything he did was on me, I was his mobile home.
This was tough, not only because my son seemed particularly demanding but because people kept questioning my choice of parenting as being too indulgent.
And for some time, I was mentally torn between 'follow the 'book' / parenting advice or follow my child and his needs?'
I ended up 'following' my child!
1. It just felt right!
2. Also simply because his need for intense, close physical and emotional contact was so overwhelming that I didn't really have the energy to NOT follow them, if you follow me :-)
I emphasize respect because when a child 'misbehaves', is 'needy' or irritatingly 'childish', it may be tempting just to ignore your child and hope it will all go away or to become angry to make your child instantly compliant.
But is this respectful?
Would we do this to an adult person?
To me, the word person is the key: Thinking of my baby, toddler, child as a person makes the answer really easy.
Respecting and fulfilling my son's needs as quickly and consistently as possible is my strategy.
And as a toddler, my son still very much loves to cuddle, he actually respects my word when I deliver it with my full presence, he very seldom 'misbehaves' with me, when he is unhappy it is never for very long and he steadily becomes more and more independent of me, enjoying his own company.
At first glance it may seem that 'obeying' all needs is spoiling my child - but this parenting style has nothing to do with spoiling children or permissive parenting.
By close attachment and the consistent fulfilling of 'needs' (as distinct from 'wants') you give your child a chance to know the world from a secure base: for instance the safe haven of your hip or the calming presence of you sitting right next to him or her while he or she plays.
You provide your child with a basic trust in life, which Attachment Research has proven will to truly benefit him or her later in life:
"Pick them up quickly and they'll get down quickly. A child must go through a stage of healthy dependence in order to later become securely independent."
~ Dr. Sears ~ "
As a parent, bonding with and tuning in to my son has become my absolutely most important tool in finding out why for instance he may be occasionally unhappy or misbehaving! (3 Simple Steps to Lovingly End Tantrums or Misbehavior.
Typical books about babies and children, cultural norms of 'good parenting' and friends' parenting advice can help you brainstorm and view possible explanations of why your child behaves in a certain way and what you may do to 'help' your child, BUT they cannot know your child - only you can!
And ... trust yourself and your gut feeling!
Consistently trusting your gut and acting accordingly is not always easy, I know!
But it really does make parenting easy!
I know, this seems paradoxical, but please, bear with me a little longer :-)
At first glance, it doesn't really make sense, does it?
But in my experience my child is / was never the problem, never! My head was!
Think about it ... When exactly is it that parenting seems so challenging (besides when we're falling apart from physical exhaustion)?
It is when in our heads we parents have fixed ideas that we take for granted about proper child discipline and child behaviour:
Our ideas, our expectations, our presumptions make life really hard for us parents ... and for our kids, too.
Trying to make our child conform to our expectations instead of vice versa may feel like trying to put clothes on our child that don't fit because the pants have three legs and not two like our child.
Yes, this 'picture' is absurd but so are some of the ideas and expectations in our heads.
If we start paying attention to our expectations and look at them from a totally objective standpoint, we'll often find that they make no sense. It's just what we've been told is right. Right?
When my son was just a baby, I decided to pay attention to general parenting advice but NOT necessarily accept it.
However, I made a decision to accept whatever my child needed and not have too many expectations of how he ought to be.
Thinking that as a baby:
and so on and so forth - only made me think:
But when I let go of these ideas of how things 'should' be - being a mom became a lot easier.
To me, practicing attachment parenting meant having a 'clean mental slate' and no expectations for as long as a certain challenging phase would last.
Luckily everything challenging with children is periodic, always.
With the expectations of what I dreamed I could do on maternity leave gone, I could start to enjoy just being there.
What a relief!
And what a blessed silence in my head!
Interestingly, a friend of mine said recently:
'When I accepted that I couldn't leave my baby on the floor alone for 2 seconds and had to sit with her for hours on end, life in my head became so much more satisfying because I didn't need to be anywhere else!'
When she not only listened to her child but fully accepted her child's needs and acted accordingly, life was so much better; both for mom and for baby.
Even if the dishes ruthlessly just continued to pile up in the kitchen!
When we bond and actually accept the knowledge we gain - even when it challenges our preconceived ideas about e.g. proper and correct bedtime manners and hours, cosleeping, extended breastfeeding, age for potty training, 'crying it out' etc.) - life as a parent becomes so much easier, and your child so much happier.
Without a doubt, it did that for me!
When I accepted for instance:
... parenting in itself was, and still is, a piece of cake - no expectations, no rigid child discipline ... only my child!
(I know fitting all your child's needs into a hectic everyday life is a real challenge, but there are ways to get through that also.
In my parenting article: The Simple Two Step Recipe We All Want: How to Respect Your Child without Compromising Yourself! I explain, among other things, how you may still meet your adult responsibilities (e.g. getting to work on time) while at the same time still fully respecting and meeting your child's needs.)
One may say that attachment parenting is forgetting about the pre-learned child discipline rules so you can actually feel what it is your child really needs.
Or in other words:
Attachment parenting is what we naturally and instinctively do when we don't spend time in our heads debating what we 'should' be doing.
So, to sum up, it is really, really simple:
- connect, feel, know and respond.
That's It! Really! :-)
Your Positive Parenting Ally,
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Back to the top of this page about Attachment Parenting and Intuitive Parenting: Read Your Child Rather Than Some Book!
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