|Attachment parenting, to put it most simply, is believing what
we know in our heart to be true. And if we do that, we find that
we trust the child. We trust him in these ways:
- We trust that he is doing the very best he can at every
given moment, given all of his experiences up to that time.
- We trust that though he may be small in size, he is as fully
human as we are, and as deserving as we are to have his needs
- We trust that he has been born innocent, loving, and
trusting. We do not need to "turn him around", to
teach him that life is difficult, or train him to be a loving
human being - he is that at birth and all we need to do is
celebrate that, and support and sustain it.
- We don't have to give him lessons about life - life brings
its own lessons and its own frustrations.
- We recognize that in a very beautiful way, our child teaches
us - if we listen - what love is.1
- We understand that if a child "misbehaves",
instead of reacting to the behavior, we should always examine
what has been taking place in his life: what stresses,
frustrations or frightening, confusing, or difficult
situations he has just experienced. We also need to examine
whether we have brought about any of these experiences,
intentionally or not. It is our job to be responsive parents,
meeting the needs of our child; it is not the child's job to
meet our needs for a quiet and perfectly well-behaved child.
- We understand that it is unfair and unrealistic to expect a
child to behave perfectly at all times; after all, no adult
can do this either. Yet behind all punishment is the unstated
expectation that a child can and should behave perfectly at
all times; there is no leeway.
- We see that so-called "bad behavior" is in reality
nothing more than the child's attempt to communicate an
important need in the best way he can, given the present
circumstances and all of his prior experience.
"Misbehavior" is a signal to us that important needs
are not being met. - by us or by others in the child's life.
We should not ignore that behavior any more than we should
ignore the sound of a smoke detector. We should instead see
"bad behavior" as an opportunity - an opportunity to
reevaluate our own behavior, to learn about our child's needs,
and to meet those needs in the best way possible.
As Albert Einstein wrote, "Behind every difficulty lies an
opportunity." This is true in general, but it is profoundly
true in parenting. For example, if a child chases a ball into the
road, that is an opportunity to teach him safety measures by
practicing for similar situations in the future. The parent could
ask the child to purposely throw the ball into the road, then come
to the parent and report the situation. In this way, the real
lesson can be learned: it is the parent who needs to spend more
time teaching safety, not the child who should somehow have known
this information, and obviously does not yet know. Punishment is
the most damaging response: it is unfair, upsetting, and
confusing, and distracts the child from the learning that needs to
take place. Instead we should give gentle, respectful instruction
at the time the behavior occurs - this is exactly when the child
can relate it to his life. In this way the best learning can take
Through attachment parenting, children learn to trust
themselves, understand themselves, and eventually will be able to
use their time as adults in a meaningful and creative way, rather
than spending it in an attempt to deal with past childhood hurts,
in a way that hurts themselves or others. If an adult has no need
to deal with the past, he can live fully in the present.
As the Golden Rule suggests, attachment parenting is parenting
the child the way we wish we had been treated in childhood, the
way we wish we were treated by everyone now, and the way we want
our grandchildren to be treated. With attachment parenting, we are
giving an example of love and trust.
Our children deserve to learn what compassion is, and they
learn that most of all by our example. If our children do not
learn compassion from us, when will they learn it? The bottom line
is that all children behave as well as they are treated - by their
parents and by everyone else in their life.
Dr. Elliott Barker is a Canadian psychiatrist and the Director
of the Canadian
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children. He
describes attachment parenting as having these two facets:
- Being willing and able to put yourself in your child's shoes
in order to correctly identify his/her feelings.
- Being willing and able to behave toward your child in ways
which take those feelings into account.
In short, attachment parenting is loving and trusting our
children. If we can do that, they will be able to trust us and in
turn, trust others and be trustworthy persons themselves. The
educator John Holt once said that everything he wrote could be
summed up in two words: "trust children". This is the
most precious gift we can give as parents.