I feel like everywhere I turn lately I am having discussions about Attachment Parenting. Sometimes this is because people know we are an AP family, sometimes it’s due to AP in the media, and sometimes discussions arise out of another child’s behavior in a so-called Attachment Parenting household.
At our house, we believe in natural childbirth, exclusive/extended breastfeeding, babywearing and lots of skin-to-skin contact, we co-sleep (Adele is still with us and the other three children co-sleep with each other), we use gentle discipline, we do not cry it out (choosing instead to respond to our children’s cries), we are homeschooling (as of this year), eat as organically as possible and strive for balance in all areas of life. (Some of these attributes are more Natural Family Living, but go hand-in-hand with AP.)
Now, make no mistake, we are not perfect. We fail, and we fail often. Sometimes my kids cry when we are in the car on 18-hour road trips and will not be soothed by my silly antics, or when I am busy with one and completely unable to get to the other. However, this is absolutely what we strive for and what we believe. For us, this is what works, what we believe will help us achieve the goals we’ve set for our children and our family.
I frequently hear people criticize Attachment Parenting. Generally it’s because of preconceived ideas, or because of a negative experience with an AP child. However, a clingy, needy, child who has attachment issues is certainly NOT an AP child! Attachment Parenting is meant to create children who form secure attachments and feel independent because of said secure attachments. An AP child should be as happy being worn as playing independently (for an age-appropriate amount of time). I feel that my children are all fiercely independent, and are secure in their attachments not only to us as their parents, but also to each other, aunts and uncles, and their grandparents. They love to meet new people, and are comfortable in new social settings.
So now that I’ve outlined a little bit of what AP is, I thought it would be a good idea to outline what Attachment Parenting is not.
5 Things Attachment Parenting is NOT:
1.) Helicopter Parenting.
Helicopter parenting is hovering over your child, jumping at their every peep, and making sure they never leave your sight. A helicopter parent goes before their baby or child and clears the way so that they rarely, if ever, have to encounter difficulties. A helicopter parent feels that their child must be happy at all times, and that it is their sole responsibility to see to said happiness. Attachment parents have no problem being apart from their children for an amount of time that is developmentally appropriate. Adele has played alone in another room since she was about 6 months old. Before that, she played on the floor across the room from me or around a corner while I worked on projects. When she was feeling a bit insecure or clingy, I wore her more, so that when she was feeling independent she had the confidence to practice independent play. Now, she plays for long periods of time throughout the day on her own, exploring her environment.
2.) Permissive Parenting
Because a lot of AP families practice gentle discipline, it is assumed that they allow complete free reign of their children. There is a huge difference in gentle parenting and permissive parenting. Gentle discipline simply means that you place an emphasis on empathy and respect, acknowledging that children’s misbehavior is often the result of age appropriate growth and development. One thing to keep in mind is that spanking does not equal discipline, although in many people’s minds it does. Just because I do not spank my children does not mean that there are no boundaries or consequences for poor behavior. It just means we do things a little differently.
3.) Child-led Households
I find that many people believe that those who practice AP allow their children to run their lives, directing their every step, thus leaving no free/alone time for their parents. In our house, this could not be further from the truth. Because my children were nurtured through babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, etc. early on, they have formed secure attachments to us as their parents. This means that they play freely for most of their days, coming back to me for hugs, snuggles and to chat, but otherwise happily playing outdoors or in their bedroom. They don’t feel separation anxiety, because they have a firm understanding of the fact that I am always there to meet their needs. I believe they are less needy now that they are older, because their neediness as infants and toddlers was met.. This leaves me free to work on household chores, to cook nutritious meals, and to sit and chat with my husband at the end of the day.
4.) AP Kids Breastfeed Through Middle School
This one never fails to amuse me. Despite your feelings on extended breastfeeding, I don’t believe there is anyone who could honestly tell me they believe my toddler will never stop nursing. Regardless of your comfort level with how long I nurse my children, be assured, even extended breastfed AP kids will wean eventually. And no, it’s not weird to have a toddler breastfeeding — it’s actually quite special.
5.) Mom and Dad will never get their bed back!
Our experience with co-sleeping has been that our children eventually want their own space. Granted, their own space is really a room with their other siblings, but to them it is special. We co-sleep until our children feel ready to be in a different room, away from us. Sienna slept with us until she was 15 months old and then wanted to sleep with the twins one night. So, we let her. And other than the occasional night of co-sleeping here and there, she has stayed in a bed with the twins. Adele is still sleeping with us at 16 months, and we will let her stay that way until she feels a need to venture away from the comfort of our bed. Contrary to popular belief, co-sleeping really does produce secure nighttime sleepers — it just takes a bit more time than sleep training, allowing children to develop good sleep habits when they are developmentally ready rather than on their parents’ timeline.
I’m sure I could go on and on, and maybe I will add to this list someday, because the misconceptions about Attachment Parenting are MANY. Whether you choose to practice AP in your own home or not, know that many of the opinions you may have formed over the years may be false. Us crazy AP people really aren’t as different as everyone else, and we are trying out best to raise thoughtful, compassionate, independent thinkers, just like you.
If you have any questions about Attachment Parenting, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Do you practice AP to some degree?