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Attachment Parenting and Discipline
One of Dr. Sears eight ideals of Attachment Parenting is Positive Discipline. Whether or not you agree with all the aspects of Attachment Parenting, you may be interested in learning more about positive discipline.
The idea is to create boundaries and limits for the child without placing unrealistic expectations. Parents need to take into account the developmental stage of the child before holding him to standards he is physically, emotionally, or mentally incapable of achieving. When you set the bar too high, you are just setting yourself and your child up for failure.
Attachment Parenting theory advises parents to trust children. The child must both feel free to communicate his needs and believe those needs will be met. It starts in infancy. Parents must respond to the baby's cries and other demands promptly because infants are not capable of outright manipulation. All their wants are needs. This may seem obvious, but extend that idea out into older childhood. Is your child really trying to drive you insane with that incessant tapping of the spoon on the table? Or is she lacking in sound stimulation?
Parents need to view children as human beings just as deserving of respect as adults. This doesn't mean you need to cater to a child, but don't treat them condescendingly either. Parents need to realize that a child is doing his best in a given circumstance at a given point in time. He is only as smart as his experience has taught him so far.
Children should be looked upon as innocent and loving, not wild animals that must be tamed. (Although they may act like this at times.) Proponents of positive discipline hold that it's not a parent's job to give life lessons because life will provide plenty without our help. We are here to support the child in his journey of learning - often that will include learning about what happens when he sticks his finger in a light socket.
Our children are here to teach us just as much as we are here to support and nurture them.
When Children Misbehave
Parents should look upon misbehavior in the context of what's going on in the situation, in the child's life. Attachment Parenting is big on the idea that a parent's main job is to respond to a child. That means we are supposed to respond to the child's behavior in a way that is helpful to her growth and development rather than expecting her to respond to our wish for a perfectly behaved child.
Instead of punishing, Attachment Parenting would have you rationally discuss behavior with children. Proponents take the stand that punishment sends the message to the child that we expect perfect behavior, which is of course impossible - even for parents (which is something you may want to remind yourself of if you're trying to positively discipline your child and you accidentally thwack her on the hiney with a wooden spoon instead.)
Try putting yourself in your child's shoes. Take a breath and think before you speak.
Beware the Spoiled Brat
All this positive discipline is supposed to give the child a happy-go-lucky childhood and the wisdom to grow into a nicely adjusted adult who doesn't have the need to resolve childhood hurts. But beware. This is not always the way the world works. As parents part of our job in being not only to shelter and support our children, but to prepare them in a very real way for the real world. In life people get upset, short-tempered, and they fire you if you don't follow the rules. Will children who are never punished be ready to face the disappointments of a low SAT score or no date for the prom? There are consequences in life and we need to teach our kids about them one way or another.
Choose your parenting theories wisely, then administer with a grain of salt. Above all, trust your instincts - you have them for a reason!