If you aren’t familiar with attachment parenting, it is a style of parenting often characterized by things such as co-sleeping, feeding on demand, quick response to baby’s cries, and gentle discipline. If attachment parenting isn’t for you, then this post probably isn’t either. And that’s fine. This post is not meant to be an indictment against conventional forms of parenting. I’m sure these have their advantages for both parents and children that I know nothing about. I’m not claiming that attachment parenting is superior to other forms of parenting. I can only speak about what I know. And I speak assure other parents who look at that little one asleep in their bed and wonder if they are spoiling him. I’m speaking to the mother who feels like she is a human pacifier or who wonders if she should let her daughter cry it out and let her learn to self-soothe. If you are that parent this post is for you.
We didn’t plan to attachment parent our kids. Attachment parenting just sort of happened to us. With our first Charming Baby we bought a crib, some bottles, and a can of emergency formula. We assumed he would sleep blissfully through the night by six weeks and that he would stay happily with my parents while we had a “real life.” But some time in his first month or so, out of desperation I laid down with him to nurse for his 2:00 a.m. feeding, and we both slept like… well, like babies for the rest of the night. We never looked back. We were officially a co-sleeping family. Not one to keep strict schedules anyway, it was just easier and more natural for me to nurse on demand. So I did – day and night – 24/7. This made leaving our Charming Baby for any length of time impossible, so consequently we never did. And those bulky baby carriers? They killed my back. Soon I found it was just easier to carry my Charming Baby in my arms. Within a matter of weeks of our Charming Baby’s arrival we had become attachment parents. And while this parenting style was natural and enjoyable for us, I continued off and on to have lingering doubts about our unconventional ways (despite the support of my parents, my grandparents, and Dr. Sears).
When Charming Jack was four, he developed an intense case of separation anxiety. Had we made him too dependent? When she was five, Charming Mary was still crawling into our our bed in the middle of the night. Was this normal? Charming Kitty wanted to be carried almost constantly here first year and a half? Was this okay? And Charming Johnny C? He didn’t talk as soon as the others. Had we spoiled him, giving him everything he wanted before he even asked?
I only wish I had known then what I know now. And that is that my kids would turn out just fine. Great in fact. Okay, the youngest is only 10 and the oldest just 18, but so far so good. I like who they are turning out to be. And while I don’t attribute their delightfulness entirely to attachment parenting, I do think that being raised with such extravagant love as had a profoundly positive effect on my kids. In my experience, here are some of the possible long-term benefits of attachment parenting.
Attachment kids are kind. My kids aren’t perfect, but they genuinely try to be kind to others – to me, to each other, and to kids at school who seem to be struggling. I think that attachment kids grow up expecting kindness. If they cry, someone kindly responds. Discipline is gentle. As a result, it is the natural inclination of many AP kids to respond in kindness – not perfectly, not always – but I have noticed that the basic instinct to be kind is there.
Attachment kids are independent. One of the criticisms of attachment parenting is that it fosters overly dependent children. Nothing could be further from the truth. My kids and other AP kids I know are not only confident and comfortable trying things on their own, they seem to be more independent minded than some of their friends. Because they are so secure they don’t relying too heavily on peer approval, and they feel comfortable not always following the crowd.
Attachment kids are affectionate. It has been a long time since we heard the pitter patter of little feet making their way to our bedroom in the middle of the night, but our kids are still big time snugglers. When my 18 year old son is home from college, you can often find him snuggled up on the couch with his baby (10 year old) brother watching a movie or talking about hunting or sports. My teenage daughters cuddle together to and giggle through their favorite shows or over the latest Instagram post. My children rarely leave or enter a room with out expecting a hug. AP kids are comfortable showing affection even when they are supposed to be too cool to do so.
Attachment kids are attached – on a healthy level. Despite all the dire warning about not being friends with your kids, we are. That’s not to way we aren’t in charge or that we treat them like adults. We don’t. But we genuinely enjoy hanging out with our kids, and they feel the same way. I’ve noticed the same thing with other AP families. There is an ease about the parent/child relationship in AP families that is not always characteristic of the teen years.
Attachment kids have strong sibling bonds. My kids fight. My AP friends’ kids fight. But beyond the bickering there is an abiding love between AP siblings that likely comes from such a strong family bond.
Attachment kids are happy. All the attachment kids I know, mine included, are happy kids. They experienced an infancy and early childhood quite literally in the arms of the people who matter most to them, their parents. They have been showered with love and affection. Dr. Sears compares attachment parenting to feeding a hungry child. A child’s need for attention, affection, and the security of his parents’ presence is like a physical hunger. If you feed a hungry child, he will be satisfied and grow healthy and strong. Withholding food does not make the hunger go away. It only makes it worse. Attachment children have been emotionally well-fed. The result is healthy, happy kids.
I hesitated to write this. I don’t want to be that parent – the one who attributes her perfect children to superior parenting. My children are far (oh so far) from perfect. And I have made more than my fair share of mistakes as a mother. Like any kids, mine can be whiny, defiant, selfish, and quite frankly sometimes annoying. But beyond all the typical kid behavior that is a regular part of our day to day lives, I like who my kids are turning out to be. I like who they are at their core. Some of the good things I see are likely in spite of the way they were raised and not because of it. Still, I am convinced that a childhood characterized by extravagant, self-giving love has had a profoundly shaped who they are turning out to be.
I’m not a parenting expert. I don’t claim to be. But when I was a young mother, just trying to figure it all out, it wasn’t the experts that eased my fears and answered my concerns, it was other mothers – mothers who could tell me what worked for them Attachment parenting worked for us and for my kids. So, if it’s your thing, relax. Enjoy. Attachment parenting might be demanding at times and seem a little weird, but the time is short. And you are making wonderful memories and awesome kids.