Attachment Parenting 101
What is Attachment Parenting?
The term Attachment Parenting originated with pediatrician, Dr. William Sears to describe a philosophy of parenting based on creating a strong emotional bond between parents and children. This is thought to be the foundation for healthy adult relationships. This type of parenting was inspired by Attachment Theory, which basically states that a baby wants to be close to another person. The baby feels secure with this other person. So far so good. Sounds pretty simple. In essence, it is about opening up to your baby's expression and needs so that you grow a wisdom about how to react in a given situation in a way that is most positive for you and your child.
It has been said that Attachment Parenting is just a name for what a lot of us do instinctively. We pay attention to our kids. We get to know them. We do what we need to do for them as individuals. So maybe if you don't think you're practicing any kind of "parenting philosophy" you're doing Attachment Parenting. It's all about trusting your Inner Mama or Papa.
Dr. Sears put forth 8 ideals for parents to practice in order to have a close relationship with their child.
1. Childbirth preparation
2. Emotional responsiveness
6. Separation avoidance
7. Positive discipline
8. Balanced family life
Attachment Parenting Ideals
There are as many ways to interpret these ideals as there are parents who subscribe to the Attachment Parenting model. Some may interpret the first ideal, childbirth preparation, to mean attending Lamaze classes, while others may think it means natural childbirth or homebirth. Some will understand the sixth ideal, separation avoidance, to mean they must homeschool their children, while others may take it to mean that one parent stays home with small children. Ideals are practiced on a vast spectrum.
The Anti-Circumcision, Anti-Vaccination, and Natural Health movements have all been linked to the Attachment Parenting style, but none of these are specifically stated in the eight ideals. Dr. Sears was not interested in creating a set of rules for parents to strictly adhere to. He encourages us to be creative in responding to our children's needs. The idea is that you respond to your child in a way that brings him closer to you instead of pushing him away. Johnny, we walk in the house instead of How many times do I have to tell you not to run in this house!
Criticism of Attachment Parenting
Some believe Attachment Parenting is too strenuous and demanding, especially on mothers. Critics complain it fosters the unachievable ideal of motherhood and imposes unrealistic obligations on mothers and fathers alike. Some feel it discriminates against working mothers. Others feel it's just a wishy-washy theory with no basis that it does any good. It is practiced in so many different ways that it is difficult to say what ‘true' Attachment Parenting looks like.
Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sharing a bed with a small baby, which is the fifth ideal.
While it's true that early parenting can be an investment in your future relationship with a child, possibly making everything else easier, you need to use common sense and trust your gut. Maybe you like to follow a list and call it a parenting philosophy and that's fine. But beware of anyone who tells you she has all the answers. Just do what makes sense to you for your own child and situation. I'm pretty sure that's the spirit of the philosophy.
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