My oldest is four years old now & is becoming his own person. He goes to the bathroom by himself. Can get himself a snack & get himself dressed. He doesn’t want to be worn anymore. He is no longer my little tiny boy. When Jax was a baby, I wore him often & he room-shared with us until he was one. I worked full time but he was with us every hour possible. More & more I feel like the attachment we had when he was small is in danger. However, as he has gotten older, I am learning that attachment parenting doesn’t have to stop just because he is growing up. Just like attachment parenting is thought to be only for those who breastfeed, babywear, & co-sleep, attachment parenting goes far beyond infancy.
The core of attachment parenting (or more commonly known as AP) is two basic things: love & respect for your child. AP encourages the parent to respond sensitively to their child’s needs & promotes ways to build a mutually trusting parent-child relationship.
As a child grows older, his demands become more complex. He becomes defiant & difficult to please. Something that breastfeeding would solve earlier no longer works. In order to appease him, you might give in to cries & tantrums. The parenting techniques for my four year old & one year old are totally different, but still reflect AP.
There are seven ways attachment parenting can be applied to older children:
Gentle Discipline- Most AP parents avoid yelling or being physical with their children & instead use positive discipline, such as natural consequence to teach lessons. This teaches self-control & consequences rather than following the rules as to avoid getting in trouble.
Lots Of Hands-On Time- Babywearing & breastfeeding offer a lot of hands-on time with your baby, & AP allows lots of that same hands-on time with older children as well. Lots of hugs, cuddling, pats on the back, & kisses throughout the day show the child that he is loved & that you are there for him. Even hugs after being reprimanded show him that he is a good child & that you are there. I still to this day cannot keep my hands off of my four year old. I love showing him how much I love him through kisses & hugs.
Be Available Whenever Possible- Children need their parents to be there. At all ages. I do work outside of the home, so my time is not always with my children, but the time I do have available is focused on them. Being available means being INVOLVED. It means being supportive & giving 100% of your attention to your child. I might not be home during the day, but our weekends & evenings are spent together doing quality things, like drawing, going to the zoo, baking together, playing games on the floor, & reading together.
Good Sleep Routines- I do co-sleep with our youngest & we room-shared with our oldest until he turned one. Now he is in his own room, but we still keep bedtime as a time for us to be together. Before bed we read a story & snuggle & talk about the next day. We use that quiet time as a time to connect. Remember that when it is time to transition your child to his own bed, that the transition is gentle. Do not force it.
Maintain Balance In The House – Balance in the home is important because children first feel security in the home. Maintaining a peaceful marriage is very important, as well. A calm household, with order, will make for (for the most part) calm children. Children benefit greatly from seeing a strong marriage in progress. Make sure there is a lot of family time together. Children enjoy time with their parents & feel secure in seeing their parents work as a team.
Being Emotionally Responsive- This is one thing that I myself have had to learn. As my son has gotten older, he has gotten more difficult & more assertive. The easy way to handle this would be to scream & punish him, but that only solves the problem for a second & does not help anything. Showing your child compassion & love shows your child how they should treat others. Respond to your childs needs in a loving way. It might be the long way to handle things, but it means so much more in the long run. Showing love to others & animals & even insects teaches them to love & appreciate every living thing. Make them aware of their surroundings & that we must respect everyone & everything.
Being Well Educated About Child Development – I am pretty sure I have read all of the best-selling to non-mainstream child rearing books out there. But I am not just talking about books. I am talking about absorbing as much education on child development whenever you can. Ask friends who have children questions. Join a mommy-group & ask questions. Learn as much information as you can about normal child behavior. It will help with your expectations about how your little one should behave. Learning about stages of child development will help you further understand what you should expect out of your child & what is a reasonable expectation & what is unreasonable.
We chose AP because it promotes exactly what we believe in: love & respect. I want my children to feel secure & happy & loved. I am a AP parent by instinct. Up until a couple of years ago I no idea my style of parenting even had a name. I do not expect my children to be dependent on me, rather know that I am there for them. AP makes me fill fulfilled as a mother. I feel very connected to both of my children. AP enhances development & esteem in children of all ages. You can pratice attachment parenting with your children from birth on up. AP doesn’t have to end when they are no longer babies.