More on Attachment Parenting

NOTE: Wow, this post has become so popular by people who hate it, I thought I’d post a quick comment here =)

WARNING: let’s not confuse “understanding” attachment parenting with “disagreeing” with it.  I do understand, and I do disagree.  For fairness’ sake, I am posting the (corrected) link that my critic below, “AK”, suggested so that people can read what attachment parenting is, straight from an advocate’s source.  I still totally disagree.  See my other posts on the subject for more on why I disagree philosophically, psychologically, and experientially.  My respect goes to those who have gotten it to work for them. My understanding goes to those who haven’t.

Also, I am trying to address the things which make attachment parenting distinct.  “Loving your child,” “being there for them,” “acknowledging or helping them to put words to their feelings” etc., are things ANY good mother would do!  It’s not fair to say that it is province of AP.

http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/melvin_konner.html

* * * this is a follow-up post * * *

A lot of people exploring attachment parenting want to know if there are disadvantages to this parenting style.  I think so.  In another post, I discussed what I liked about attachment parenting.  And I warned against authoritarian parenting.  Here I will discuss what I am concerned about, in attachment parenting.

I believe real AP ultimately causes problems for a child.  At least, in America.  Maybe the child doesn’t experience problems until they are older—maybe not until they are spouses trying to bond with each other, or parents trying to set boundaries with their own children.  But I believe that most AP children will eventually face at least some difficulties because AP overemphasizes dependency and physical contact for security.  It also underemphasizes the importance of independence, boundaries, and disappointment.  For a non-industrial society with little choice in matters, this upbringing might be fine.  But for modern Western society, it is inappropriate or unnecessary at best.

Of course it is our modern sensibilities that many AP advocates think are problematic.  They might say otherwise, but a casual observer of a real AP finds practices in eating, sleeping, and being held to be over the top.  Who is going to have skin to skin contact with their newborn 90% of the time?  And 25% of the time, for a one year old?  Who makes it through six years of co-sleeping? Or three years of breastfeeding?  Or all the in’s and out’s of AP (of which there are many depending on how radical you are)?  Not very many.

The truth is that AP crosses many boundaries.  Forgetting about how you definitely can’t be a working mom and practice AP—are you going to wear your baby to the office?  Even if you are a stay-at-home Mom, the limits are stretching.  It is hard to take a shower, clean your kitchen, or do anything that requires you to put the baby down if you have a fussy baby who cries a lot and you think crying is bad.  It is hard to help your other toddler toilet train, play some stimulating games with your preschooler, or have some one on one time with your kindergartner if you don’t create some regular nap times for the baby (in a crib!).  It is hard to have some peace time with your husband at night if you can’t space a feeding or lay Junior down.  Thankfully there are all kinds of cool props to help you wear your baby around the house, co-bed, etc.  And any mom with more than one little child at home has several of these props that she uses and loves!  But the AP mentality of trying to prevent an infant from crying, to precipitate all their needs before they need it, and to generally prevent all distress and insecurity is enough to make any mom neurotic!

Moreover, AP advocates insist their infants will grow up more empathic and well-adjusted.  I am not sure this is the case… if it is, it is probably because of the extra care and attention Mom gives her baby, not AP specifically.  (Teaching and love will always yield good results.)  A key difficulty I believe AP little children may face is independence problems. Independence is very important in our society, and preschoolers are expected to be able to navigate a classroom with some amount of confidence and initiative.  I actually found with my second son, who was held the most, cried the least, and seemed the most “bonded” to me as a baby, that he was the most fearful of my four children. Even though he was totally attached and secure with me, he wasn’t with other people.  Even today, at kindergarten age, he has a very tough time in a classroom.  The security just did not transfer over, as AP purports it will.

There are so many factors that go into making a child secure that even IF security was the number one issue for infants, it is too simplistic to rely on AP to give it to you.  In fact, my oldest born, who had the most structure and discipline of my babies, is the most confident of my children.  Probably because he had the most teaching!  He is also extremely bonded with his dad, not just me.  He isn’t cowed to try new things and meet new people.  His temperment was not related to how much he was held (which was not very much considering I was pregnant again when he was only six months old).  I can’t imagine the burden I would be feeling if I thought my having another child would cripple him for life because I couldn’t wear him, co-bed, etc.  We totally didn’t AP—we didn’t even breastfeed.  Maybe he is not the norm either, but there’s no reason to feel like your kid can’t grow up secure because you didn’t AP.  Which is how the experts make it seem.  Or that your AP babies will necessarily be more secure.

I know several families and relatives who have tried to adopt AP, with varying amounts of success.  All of them are stay-at-home moms who have two children or more now.  Here are some detractors I have observed:

1.  The “Limit” Problem.
While AP advocates usually say they have no problems with setting limits, they must have some secret that isn’t in the books.  With only one exception, the AP families I know really struggle with limits and discipline.  At least, with their one, two, and three year olds.  Starting with the eating, sleeping, and carrying protocol for infants, AP has encouraged families to override their own boundaries in these areas.  It logically leads to parents to override  them in others.  AP (or AP-wannabes) become welfare states for their children, trying to make the world at peace with their children.  They don’t want their children to experience disappointment, stress, or incompetence because that would make them cry and crying is the root of insecurity.  Same goes for being/playing alone.  And who wants to start making a secure infant only to wreck it with discipline at some magical age as a toddler?  They started out with no limits or times for eating, places or times for sleeping, limits or times for carrying, and then they didn’t know if/when to change that.  It didn’t seem natural to begin structure and discipline in other areas, so they became permissive and afraid of exerting their authority.  I love my friends but I really believe because their overall outlook was child-oriented, their toddlers are a lot like the kids on “Supernanny”!!

2.  The Physical Proximity Problem.
Most of the moms I know who practice AP generally have their kids all over them.  Not just during the first six months when it is pretty normal, but into the toddler and preschooler years.  If they aren’t still breastfeeding, they are still very dependent on physical closeness.  Preschool-age children still want to be with Mom in the shower, climb on her, and have her around at all times.  They don’t always learn to venture away from Mommy or play independently.  They don’t always learn to get down off Mom’s lap.  One AP friend of mine kind of jokes that she never wants her husband to have sex with her because she has been touched all day.  Another AP family I know has two boys who seem very secure but totally break down if Mom goes out.  Another AP family I know has two boys who actually do better when Mom goes out; when Dad is around (who does not AP), they seem pretty well-adjusted and normal but when Mom comes back, they are whiny and clingy.  This friend of mine marvels at this and generally feels resentful that Dad has an easier time with the kids when she puts in all the extra AP effort.

3.  The Dad Problem.
Associated with this is the triangle between Mom, Dad, and child.  Some dads are totally on board with AP (along the lines of Dr. Sears) and this can make a really good family system.  Some dads are really laid-back and generally are happy with whatever Mom is doing.  This usually makes an ok family system too.  But many Dads get frustrated with AP way before Mom does.  They generally want the bed back, Mom back, (Mom’s breasts back!), the evening time back, etc.  If Mom is overly involved with the infant care to the extent that Dad is third-party forever, this makes a bad marriage scenario.  And this doesn’t mean Dad is petty and whiny about it.  It is just that a newborn consumes Mom’s time appropriately and Dad is entitled to “get Mom back” over time.  If the one-year old is still pretty much getting the same attention as the newborn was, and the entire house and system has been oriented around the child, Dad has a right to feel left out or annoyed.  Especially if they have another baby after that.  He is an adult agent in the house who has his own ideas about how his children should be raised.  He has also chosen his spouse for adult needs that should be factored in as the baby ages.

Also, if Dad isn’t totally on board, he can overcompensate for what Mom isn’t doing… he can become more authoritarian or discipline-oriented because he feels Mom isn’t giving enough.  This is bad for the child and for the marriage.  Mom usually allies with the child in these situations because, after all, she’s the Main Parent.  She may be ok with the behavior, or not willing to compromise the attachment principles, to get more obedient children.  She may pressure Dad to change a lot.  But Dad needs to be a Main Parent too.  And he needs to be on Mom’s team, not against her.

4. The Aggressive or “Overly Secure” child.
Radical AP can be very child-centered to the extent that the infant grows up secure but no-one else does.  Meaning, if the high physical touch needs and limited crying system continues from infancy through toddlerhood, you can get a toddler who expects eating, sleeping, and everything else to be oriented around him.  And he might be upset when he finds out it’s not!  He can easily become  aggressive because he expects things on demand and/or Mom’s discipline is wishy-washy.  Or because she doesn’t discipline him at all (i.e. for hitting her) because she believes it is just a phase he’ll grow out of.  Peers, siblings, schools, and other caretakers aren’t going to find this ethic acceptable.  The artificial environment that Mom has so carefully constructed is going to be exposed when the toddler ventures into the unprotected playground a more regimented nursery.  It’s so important for toddlers to be exposed to structure, limits, and boundaries early—even through eating, sleeping, and body space, since those are the first things they learn about.  If Mom chooses not to make those things an issue, then eventually they will learn it some other way. So why not make it an issue when it’s age appropriate?  It’s been my experience that teaching my 9-month old that it’s naptime is not much different than teaching my 3-year old that it’s time to leave the store.

5.  The Passive Child
Radical AP can also produce the other extreme, a passive toddler, if care is not taken to graduate the physical proximity and emotional gratification as the infant grows.  This happened to one of my friends who AP’d their adopted daughter from Guatemala.  They did this with the best of intentions because they knew that where she was originally from, the very poor mothers slinged their infants almost all day.  Unfortunately, this caused a hip problem for their daughter because her legs didn’t develop right… she had to have several operations and even a body cast when she was first brought to America.  Anyway, once she came here (at six months old), her parents tried to fix the wrongs of the excessive carrying but still instituted AP to help her bond and adjust through that traumatic start in life.  However, they essentially got a “coddled” toddler who was fearful, withdrawn, and a little phobic. She never learned that she was an active agent because Mommy was always there, slinging her, giving her food whenever, moving her whenever she thought her baby needed it.  She just had to wait and Mommy would eventually get around to it.  Her cries were indistinct, her wanderings were sort of aimless and whiny, and her personality was generally “checked out” unless she was put in a new situation where people didn’t know her very well.  At those times she would be clingy and fearful. Now it’s likely that this child’s atypical beginning caused some portion of her problems, but the AP did not help.  In fact, this child is now 13 and her mother swears that what really turned her around was a lot of structure and discipline.  And a Montessori education.  She did AP as a baby because she thought it was most consistent with her daughter’s indigenous culture, and because she was afraid that the child’s needs would otherwise be unmet as an infant, and that that would be insecuring.  But it turned out that the child couldn’t own her own needs, or interpret what her body and emotions wanted, until she was responsible for them herself.

6.  The Religious Effect.
Whereas authoritarian parenting can produce unpleasant results, one of the results of AP is that advocates tend to get more radical over time.  The laundry list of things you are supposed to do to be “a good parent” grows and grows. First it’s natural childbirth.  Then it’s breastfeeding.  Then it’s extended breastfeeding.  Then it’s organic food, cloth diapers, and making your own baby wipes.  Then it’s no pacifiers and a sling.  Then it’s co-bedding.  Then it’s infant massage.  Then it’s environmentally friendly clothing and positive correction.  It’s always something!  They are the new preachers of our age.  I suppose it has to be that way because anyone who has raised a baby normally knows that just doing ONE thing, like nursing for a year or slinging little Joey, doesn’t by itself guarantee a secure preschooler.  Or a baby who doesn’t cry.  Normal parents also know that all the trims and trappings of the first year usually give way to doing things the way everyone else does things around the second or third year.  Then all your crazy behavior goes out the window because your daughter is watching Dora and eating a Fruit-Roll-Up at Grandma’s house just like all her other friends.  Did the year of slinging and organic peas really pay off?  Maybe, although the main difference between your daughter and the non-AP neighbor is that your daughter still doesn’t like sleeping in her own bed.  So in order to see “real” differences doing AP, you can’t just pick and choose a couple things, or do it for a year.  You have to really make it into a religion. (Then proselytize everyone else.)

* The bottom line is that AP as a comprehensive system for childraising creates neurotic parents and children who can have a hard time with independence or boundaries.  AP advocates will insist that attachment parenting does not lead necessarily to permissive parenting.  But the worldview is one where parental authority is reduced to facilitation, the child’s needs are assumed to be good, and behavior naturally matures over time.  This does not jive with my experience of trying to raise  four little ethical preschoolers every day!   What happens if the dependency doesn’t graduate to independency?  Or the demands don’t mature into self-monitoring?  Or security doesn’t stave off resentment of limits?
My opinion is that while there’s nothing wrong with babying a baby, there is something wrong with parents who believe their main job is to keep their infant happy, need-free, stress-free, and secure all the time.  It simply can’t be done!  Babies are so hard to control in this way since God makes them in all different ways, with all different digestive systems, temperments, and responses.  There is also something wrong with closing one’s eyes to the demands of modernity, and importing techniques from indigenous cultures.  Americans, for better or for worse, aren’t geared to excessive physical closeness and long-term breastfeeding on demand.  And American children, for better or for worse, are not being raised as citizens of an pre-modern, collective farming culture like the Kung San tribal children.  Our goals for our children are completely different, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that our baby-care techniques reflect that.

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28 thoughts on “More on Attachment Parenting

  1. I think you are mistaken in your perception of attachment parenting. I practice attachment parenting with my daughter. She has plenty of limits, she does not get everything she wants, we have mealtimes and set nap and bedtimes. She gets “punished” when she breaks the rules.

    The major difference is that I wore her in a sling rather than using a stroller, I sleep with her rather than using a crib and she never had to find food and comfort from a latex nipple. I use a naughty chair rather than corporal punishment and I taught her sign language from birth so she could communicate early.

    Attachment parenting has nothing to do with a lack of boundaries or discipline. My daughter is 2.5 and an extremely polite, empathetic and well adjusted child. She is also, incidentally, extremely confident and independent for a 2 year old.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I very much respect the success you have been having. I am not trying criticize attachment parents as much as the worldview of attachment parenting. I see much flawed psychology when I read books written by those experts. I believe it may encourage some unhealthy attitudes which in turn may affect childraising. In particular, I think it encourages insecurity in first-time parents, who then get bent out of shape trying to keep their children from becoming insecure.

    However, I fully realize that attachment parenting can work for some families, and that a lot depends on how the philosophy is implemented in the home. If you institute limits, discipline, and routines, then I applaud you and your daughter. However, it is my experience that most attachment parents do not do this out of fear of making the child unhappy. They have trouble disappointing their child (even when it is due), and they don’t know how to transition from baby to toddler strategies. Some parents end up resenting their babies because they start off believing in attachment parenting only to find out they don’t have the grace to continue. Then they feel guilty because there is a lot of psychological pressure to do so. It is these aspects of the worldview that I am trying to address.

    I have another post that talks about the specific methods of feeding, carrying, sleeping with your baby where I say that it is not the method that hurts a child, but the heart behind it. I believe there is much value in nursing, slinging, and generally being around your baby as much as possible. However, I believe that attachment parenting may act as a Trojan horse for fears, insecurities, and permissiveness that is generally harmful for children long-term. To the extent that it does not, I am all for it. You are a good case in point.

    Again, thank you for your openness, and I appreciate your feedback and position.

  3. I think a lot of your experiences with attachment parenting (AP) are NOT really AP at all but instead are parents implementing the methods without understanding the heart. Attached parents respond appropriately to their children, they don’t just respond by applying the methods meaninglessly. I think it’s unfortunate that you’ve lumped all these Attachment Parents together when I don’t really think you know any truly attached families.

  4. I can understand why you feel that way. However, it is the “implementing the methods,” as you say, that I am most concerned with in these posts. Not slandering individuals. One of my best friends and several close relatives are AP.

  5. Bang on. I am an attachment parent and it has caused serious stress in both myself and my child (whom you would describe as passive). I always banked on the confident, self-reliant kid promised from attachment parenting books, but instead, I have a lazy, emotional wreck of a four year old and I am completely exhausted trying to cope. Eventually, children have to leave their home and enter a practical world, which sadly, attachment parenting has ill-equipped them for.
    How does a parent recover?

  6. Reading the comments, I would have said the very same thing of my son at that age (extremely polite, empathetic and well adjusted child) and my parenting (has plenty of limits, she does not get everything she wants, we have mealtimes and set nap and bedtimes. She gets “punished” when she breaks the rules), but the AP methods don’t equip them for the future and in particular, school.

    Independence and the ability to separate ones feelings from an outside event are very important.

    For example;
    My son feels abandoned and unloved when he is left alone downstairs, or has to part with his friends because, by using a sling and co-sleeping, I have reinforced that love means being with someone all the time.
    My son feels overwhelmed when asked to rush because I have reinforced that even small amounts of stress are not okay (and should be ended as soon as possible) by responding to him immediately instead of allowing him the time to self-sooth and work it out on his own.

    When the bubble is broken and AP children have to interact with the world outside the home or deal with its demands, confidence is replaced with anxiety, and there is a hard road ahead.

  7. I have two children and raised them using common sense and instincts. Other philosophies felt wrong ie Dr. Spock. Both my kids are independent, emotionally sound and adjusted to school with great ease. They know mama will always come back and they are secure in the relationship. They self soothe even though they are AP kids. I parented on what the child needed within the boundaries of our family. It’s not for everyone. Parent by instinct not what some guru tells you. Take what works leave what doesn’t. There is no magic parenting style, no one size fits all. My daughter needed AP, my son just loved it. It worked, and I have 2 very well behaved, outgoing, and confident children. Just my 2 cents.

  8. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. You have a very skewed understanding of what attachment parenting is.

    I am not afraid of my child’s negative emotions. But instead of ignoring them (and encouraging him to do the same), I acknowledge them, help him put words to them, and meet any genuine needs that he has (those can be physical or emotional).

    Attachment parenting is about being there for your children. It is not about shielding them from the world. In fact, I know a lot more attachment parents that also subscribe to the philosophies of free range parenting than non-attachment-parents, who I find tend to over-protect and helicopter parent.

  9. According to you, any child raised AP will be maladjusted in some way, so anyone who has a well-adjusted child must not AP.

    To ignore a child’s personality in favor of ‘what a book promised me’ or ‘what this guru said my child should be like’ is really really odd. Some children are fearful, some are outgoing, some are passive, some are active. Sometimes a parenting style impacts that, sometimes it doesn’t. Insisting that a fearful child would have been better parented without AP is a little odd (the most fearful child of my acquaintance was assuredly not AP – instead she got fed a lot of gender tropes and helicopter parenting and TV minding).

  10. I read your post several times, and it does not describe any AP families I know, and I know several. It describes families I know, but they are not practicing AP principles. Some of them practice permissive parenting. Others practice authoritarian parenting.

    I wanted to reply and let you know that although you are reading these things into what AP experts are saying, that is not what AP is. For example, you say that AP parents shield their children from negative emotions. That is not an AP principle. The principle would be that a parent would be there with a child and give them words to explain how they are feeling. Also, AP parents often do “time ins” which allows a child to express negative feelings and still be a part of the family unit. Other families who do time outs remove a child who is expressing negative emotions.

    You also say that attachment parenting encourages first time parents to be insecure. I believe it does the opposite. It says that a parent knows their child the best. It says that a parent should listen/observe the child and respond to the child’s cues and words. It does not say that a parent follows a particular list of philosophies and does it “my way or the highway.”

  11. Thank you for writing this! I was so glad to find such an articulate and reasoned critique of attachment parenting. I’ve long agreed with what you’ve written, but have never been able to express it so clearly.

  12. Just wow. I’m not sure where you came up with all this, but the problems you’re describing have nothing to do with attachment parenting. I think you should look up attachment parenting.

    Where in the world are you getting the data to make such generalized assumptions as to how attachment-parented children will behave as toddlers? My AP 7-year-old did not resemble either of these stereotypes. Perhaps your friends who call themselves “AP” actually have some other problems … Being overly anxious and permissive are not qualifiers to be an AP parent.

    My jaw dropped reading this post, in awe of how off-base it is!

  13. I agree with the majority of commenters: this post is just not based in any kind of reality. I suspect the OP has a few friends who are anxious parents who are permissive with their children – they nurse on demand because their child’s cries make their anxious, they sleep with their children because they are unable or unwilling to set boundaries around sleep, they carry their babies because it’s a trope of a kind of parenting they aspire to. It was only after parenting by AP principles for a few years that I discovered that it was what I was doing – though I’m no card-carrier.

    Our family bed did not lead to sleep difficulties – my now 6 year old son goes to bed at his usual, reasonable bedtime (8:30) by himself after many kisses and hugs. On weekends, he often declares he’s going to bed when he gets tired, around the same, usual time. Most of my friends, who parent with a range of styles, have a lot of difficulty around bedtime. I credit this going to bed on his own to his learning to go to sleep when he was tired and not when I decided he had to go to sleep. I supported this by giving him a safe, secure and loving environment to sleep in. Right between his father and I.

    He was also very independent from an early age and far less fearful than most of his peers. This was due in part to a two fold approach: when he was very young he was carried, nursed on demand, cuddled, co-slept – basically in my arms much of the time – and was able to range farther away from me (via indpendant play when he was mobile) because he knew I would be there if he needed me and found that he didn’t need me to provide a constant stream of entertainment, good feeling and validation. So, anxious parents who aren’t confident in nurturing their children cause the effects the OP complains about. None of it has anything to do with AP parenting principles and practices.

  14. Wow, I have no clue what you are talking about. You call it AP, but I think you need to find a different term for it. There’s already a parenting style called AP and it’s nothing like what you described.

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  16. I’ve read this a few times and it was a thought-provoking post. Most of what you describe really doesn’t sound like what I view as attachment parenting, so I’ll try not to be overly insulted by your extrapolations as to what a son raised with attachment parenting principles will become. We’ve parented in the way that feels most natural to us and best met the needs of our child, which I like to think every parent does (sadly, that may not be true). It turns out that what worked well for us seems to fit us squarely into the attachment parenting camp, at least so far. Kudos to you for managing four children under five; we’d probably all agree that’s no easy feat.

  17. OK, I have one more thought. It might be interesting to consider whether it is possible (or, assuming it is, HOW) to raise a large family — like four children under five — in line with attachment parenting principles. I live in a part of the world with very large families. I once remarked to someone: I can’t imagine how in the world someone can raise XX number of children, when just the one wears me out? Her response was something along the lines of: “Clearly, they parent differently, out of necessity.”

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  19. It was a thought-provoking post. I would like to thank the author for posting it despite of some of the comments.

    I believe in common sense, parental instinct, and adjustment. No matter what you call it, AP or NAP, all depends on how and to whom we apply the strategies. I found it beneficial to choose the right fit for each individual child. This is achievable by learning everything I can from the child, the environment, and other parents who have successfully gone through these stages.

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  21. I am not nearly as enthralled with AP as I was when my oldest was born. I have four kids five and under, too, so maybe that plays into my negative view.

    Kids in this house have to sleep regular hours in their own beds just so I can keep the household running… spending all my waking hours physically attached to them isn’t really an option.

    Ditto with “gentle discipline.” I don’t have eight hours a day to endlessly negotiate. They must learn to obey me, quickly and the FIRST time they are told.

    Anyway, it’s sort of like feminism. If you express disenchantment with some element of the program, all the supporters will either rush in to assure you, “But that’s not REAL Attachment Parenting! You just don’t understand the system!”

    Or else, “it’s not working because you aren’t working hard enough at it!”

  22. I think your comment about the “religious” aspects of AP are hilarious and bang on. People get really gung ho about everything, and fearful and neurotic. You gotta do what you gotta do, and having four very small boys seems like- well, like a scene from the bourne identity in terms of action and drama (in a good way). I like closeness with my child, but I didn’t do organic cloth diapers and while, because of allergies, I spent an insane and soul killing month of making gluten, sugar wheat free everything from scratch, we never again went that overboard. I think, with anything, in life, you have to have the common sense to work out what works best for you. Many aspects of attachment parenting felt natural for me. We were chronically undermployed, living off of free lance salary and my residuals and my husband was AT HOME. Which makes an enormously big difference in the success of AP. When he got a full time job, I began to have mini nervous breakdowns. Fortunately, it was around when my son had to start school (we also moved from the warm beach of Santa Monica to cold, industrial city in Canada.) However, I wouldn’t trade my two years of breastfeeding and the co-sleeping for anything. I wouldn’t trade playing on the floor with my son and going on all our field trips and creating things together for anything. He has his shy moments in taking classes, but he has learned to move through them and it. He’s actually a pretty confident kid and is better socially in many ways than I am. I credit my lovely husband for the amazing support he has given me and us and the intense participation in parenting, from making meals to their Saturday trips to Micky D’s and Toys’r Us. Materialistic and bad food, but that’s how they choose to bond and I can’t micromanage. (I have in the past, it doesn’t work anyway). I’ve had upsetting times at very points with teachers or friends of his, but ya know, we’ve worked through them. I try to teach my kid that life is, at times, a series of problems to be solved. I am a horridly imperfect parent and have done things that I know he’ll need therapy for (many incidents of rated r for language road rage- not proud, but, it happened,and I’m moving on) And the various mini breakdowns. But perfection isn’t the purpose of life. I have new parent friends who annoy the hell out of me with the inherent judgment which they are always confronting my parental challenges. Yuck. But I know the love and attachment we have poured into this child, mingled with some real world limits and human error has made him resilient, if not, ya know, perfect.

  23. PS
    I think Geekanachronism has it right
    “The principle would be that a parent would be there with a child and give them words to explain how they are feeling. Also, AP parents often do “time ins” which allows a child to express negative feelings and still be a part of the family unit. Other families who do time outs remove a child who is expressing negative emotions.”

    I did all that with my son, and my husband is naturally highly empathic and just a very sweet man. My son did not have terrible twos and was able to say at that time, “I feel really angry” or “you hurt my feelings.” I lost some of that empathy when I moved and was a lone adult. I am coming back towards it and working very hard to reflect back his feelings, even as I maintain my “no.” Attached parents are allowed to say no. They are allowed to be human, and I think if you mask human behavior you will raise an overly sheltered nut. I don’t think attachment is about saying yes to everything or coddling a child. I know that my son moves through his own drama more quickly when I show empathy with my no. My form of AP is when I do react and get authoritarian, which happens often, I try at least to take two steps back and apologize for the behavior, but not the structures I implement.
    I also think that when you have multiple children, you already have lots of room for attachment- they attach to each other. I wanna write a book about called L.P.- Laughter Parenting. Laugh at yourself, your kids, your parenting advice and you’ll be okay.

  24. VERY WELL SAID!!! All of this AP talk is driving me insane….especially sleeping with your kids! im a nurse and this is DANGEROUS!
    Your kids take up 90% of your life…really we are going to promote giving them the last 10% too! good luck with the marriage and your other relationships outside of kids!
    AP is a way moms can get together and try and compete at who is better at parenting then the other…. Its not rocket science….they cry when they need something, eat when their hungry, play independently to learn….our job is to keep them safe during this growth and give them love and support along the way. No manual needed!

  25. Attachment Parenting is more about being baby/child led and working together – it’s not about smothering your child with 24/7 attention. My baby has days where she seems to need one-on-one contact the majority of her waking hours. Other days she insists on being put down and I can leave her in her crib for an hour or more while she looks around and explores her world with contentment and plays quietly. She has also never liked sleeping in our room since birth as we seem to somehow distract her from sleeping. Yet during the day she prefers napping in whatever room we’re in.

    Point being attachment parenting is about supporting what your child needs and building trust and respect. It’s not really what you’re describing at all.

  26. I love, love most of your articles but not this one.

    As others say above attachment parenting isn’t permissive parenting. It sounds like AP is all the rage in the US, but maybe your friends (and you) have the wrong end of the stick.

    My 3 yo AP child potty trained herself shortly before she was two, peels and chops an apple on to her porridge every morning. She’s not socially fearless, rather she weighs up a new situation before joining in. She’s very astute and disciplined, very montessori.

    But my reasons for AP -ing were selfish. Having the baby in the bed, I got more sleep. Wearing her in the sling let me get on with housework while she got the burps up. Bfing a toddler was a very easy way to comfort her. Baby led weaning was easy, if messy and she’s now an adventurous healthy eater “more cabbage please mummy”.

    Admittedly she’s still young, but right now she’s lovely; confident, able and biddable.

    My oldest child was not much AP -ed, partly because he spent a long time in hospital. When he came home I was desperate to recreate his lost infancy and anticipate his every need, which with hindsight was not helpful. He is now immature and disorganized. In fact your descriptions of your three sons sound a lot like mine.

  27. I loved this article. It was 100 percent bang on from what I’ve witnessed, I have several friends who practice “Attached Parenting” without knowing they are practicing it.

    Both their kids are whiny, inconsolable unless the breast is in their mouth, and demanding. My one friends son will literally cry until he gets his way with his mother. Its appauling.

    I feel sorry for these mothers when their children are older.

    I don’t have children yet but I for sure wont be practicing AP.

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