Attachment Parenting is the method of raising, disciplining, and caring for children that I have become quite passionate about. Being a mommy that believes in these methods can sometimes feel lonely for mothers, but rest assured that there are many, many moms in the world that naturally follow this same method. Even if they are unaware it has a name.
What is Attachment Parenting?
Defining attachment parenting could be a quite lengthy post. I think it can suffice to say that often times attachment parenting is mothering and fathering children in the way that anyone would if there were no books, no peer pressure, and no elders telling you how to do "this and that."
Most parents would probably agree that a few key elements go into this method of parenting. Here is a list of some common no-no's in attachment parenting:
-crying-it-out for infants
-believing in spoiling a baby
-spanking, popping, hitting, etc
-yelling or screaming
Some common things you will see from people that practice some form of attachment parenting might include:
-breastfeeding, and often child-led-weaning
-baby wearing (slings and baby carriers to sooth a baby that needs to be held when parents are busy)
-responding to each infant cry
-redirection in toddler discipline or other gentle methods like time-out or taking away an object
-modeling the desired behavior for the child
-co-sleeping (this isn't always necessary for each baby, but rather than letting a baby cry-it-out, most AP parents rely on the family bed as a means of getting a good night's sleep.)
-taking cues from the child on when he or she is ready for certain developmental milestones (such as weaning from breast or pacifier or bottle, being ready to transition to own bed, eating solids, potty training, etc)
This is a very short and loose guide for how many parents practice attachment parenting.
I, personally, fell into attachment parenting by complete accident. I was raised in a typical southern spanking family. This was the only way I knew to discipline when I had my first child. (and probably the only method my own parents were ever taught growing up.) I quickly realized that spanking just led to frustration, anger, resentment, and hurt feelings - for both my daughter and myself. I remember her going through a pretty serious hitting phase at age 2 and smacking her back each time she'd smack me. This was advice I had been given to stop the behavior. She'd hit me, I'd hit her back. After a couple of rounds of this I realized that her anger was just growing stronger, as was mine. I thought we looked like a pair of two year olds scuffling and not a mother and a daughter in a disciplinary situation. I knew there had to be a better way.
I researched online and found a few wonderful attachment parenting message boards. What a wealth of information! I shared my struggles, my anger issues, and poured my heart out to these strangers. In return I got a ton of been there - done that advice, shoulders to cry on, and information that totally changed my parenting direction!
By the time my second child was born I was armed and ready. I WOULD succeed in breastfeeding him, I WOULD be a good mom to my three year old and my newborn, I WOULD stop hitting. I chanted these things to myself constantly.
Now that I'm a mom of three, I'm working from home (and sometimes away from home), and life has gotten a bit busier, I find myself becoming frustrated more easily with the toddler antics and other struggles that can come from having kids. Just a few days ago I found myself popping my two year old's hand after he had hit me several times during a tantrum over the cake I wouldn't let him eat. (at 8am.. what a great start to the day!)
Instead of feeling super guilty like I would in the past, I simply took a breath, picked him up, and sat him in time-out for hitting. When his time-out was over we hugged, kissed, and we both said we were sorry for hitting. I always end it with, "WE don't hit."
So, even though I've been on this attachment parenting journey for several years, I definitely still can struggle. Some days I lose my temper and yell at the big kids, I get upset over things I shouldn't, and sometimes I have days that I wonder if I did a single thing right in the parenting department. The good news is, most parents DO. No matter what most blog posts say, no matter how commited to attachment parenting someone seems to be, EVERYONE has bad days. The good news is, the more you practise self-control, the more natural it becomes to not hit, to not yell, to not berate.
My number one piece of advice to anyone looking into attachment parenting for themselves is to follow your instincts. If it makes you sick to your stomach to hear your infant cry, then for goodness sakes pick that baby up! Imagine how he must feel. There's a reason nature designed mothers to immediately respond to their baby's helpless pleas.. don't fight it. It is natural.
If cosleeping just seems natural to you - don't fight it. Research it, do it safely, and sleep peacefully.
If gentle discipline sounds like something you would like to learn more about, then do! I will likely follow this post up with my own methods of discipline for those that are interested. I know how hard it is, like I said, I still struggle!
Number two piece of advice - don't mistake attachment parenting for permissive parenting. Know when to make your toddler wait verses jumping up for their every whim, know when to say no and mean it, know when to make something a battle and when to let it go. Know that you respecting your child teaches them a lot about respecting others. They learn best from example.
FYI: though I do enjoy a good debate, this post is strictly for those in search of information on attachment parenting. If this method is not for you, please do not feel the need to tell me or others. Thank you.