Getting Attached: What It Means - Part Three
This article is about attachment parenting and covers such topics as: Question covering, attachment parenting high standards. What if I mess up? Does it mean I'm not a good mother if I don't breastfeed or sleep with my baby?, What about the mother who chooses to or has to return to work?, Are there special family situations in which attachment parenting is most needed?, How do attachment-parented children turn out? What type of people do they become?, Are attachment-parented children easier to discipline?, The Long-Term Effects Of Attachment Parenting.
Attachment parenting sets high standards. What if I mess up? Am I setting myself up for a real guilt trip?
Yes, you will feel guilty at times. Parenting is a guild-ridden profession. Love for your baby makes you vulnerable to feeling you are not doing enough. But take note. The feeling of guild can be healthy; guild is an inner warning system, a sort o alarm that goes off when we behave in ways we are not supposed to. Part of maturing as a person and as a parent is recognizing healthy guilt and using it to make good decisions. Attachment parenting develops your sensitivity, an inner signal that helps you make important baby-care decisions.
Does it mean I'm not a good mother if I don't breastfeed or sleep with my baby?
Does attachment parenting require a full-time at-home mother? What about the mother who chooses to or has to return to work?
I believe that attachment parenting will be right for our family, but my confidence gets shaky when I read books or talk to people who feel differently.
Are there special family situations in which attachment parenting is most needed?
The real payoff occurs with the high-need baby, the one who, as it were, at birth says: "Hi, mom and dad! You've been blessed with an above-average baby and I need above-average parenting. If you give it to me, we're going to get along; if not, we're going to have a bit of trouble down the road." This style of parenting helps you match the giving level of the parent with the need level of the baby. The result is that you bring out the best in each other. Matching a high-need child with unconnected parents often brings out the worst.
How do attachment-parented children turn out? What type of people do they become?
A pediatrician did a simple study on the long-term effects of parenting styles. Parents who were into restraint parenting (scheduling, letting their baby cry it out, fear of spoiling, and so on) got a red dot on their baby's chart. Parents who practiced attachment parenting got a blue dot. Blue dot parents who practiced all seven of the Baby B's (as mentioned earlier) plus father involvement got an extra dot. This simple system was not meant to judge parenting styles or the degree of "goodness" of the parents. It was simply to gather information from which conclusions could be drawn. It was not very scientific, nor was there a perfect correlation between what parents did and how their children turn out, but the doctor was able to draw some general conclusions.
Not only did attachment-parented children show long-term benefits, good things were happening to the parents too. First, the attachment parents developed confidence sooner. They used the basic tools of attachment parenting, but felt confident and free enough to branch out into their own style until they found what worked for them, their baby, and their life-style. During well-baby checkups they were asked, "Is it working?" Parents were advised periodically to take inventory of what worked and discard what didn't. What works at one stage of development may not work at another. For example, some babies initially sleep better in bed with their parents but become restless late on, necessitating a change of sleeping arrangements. Other babies initially sleep better alone but need to share sleep with their parents in later months. These parents used themselves and their baby as the barometer of their parenting style, not the norms of the neighborhood.
Attachment parents also seemed to enjoy parenting more; they got closer to their babies sooner. As a result they orchestrated their life-styles and working schedules to incorporate their baby. Parenting, work, travel, recreation, and social life all revolved around and included baby -- because they wanted it that way.
As the years went on one quality was noticed that distinguished attachment parents and their children -- sensitivity. This sensitivity carried over into other aspects of life: marriage, job, social relationships, and play. Experience shows, sensitivity (in parent and child) is the most outstanding effect of attachment parenting.
As they got older, these connected children were deeply bothered by situations that weren't right. They were compassionate when other children cried and were quickly there to comfort. As teenagers they were bothered by social injustices and did something to correct them. These kids cared! Because they were so firmly rooted in their inner sensitivity, they were willing to swim upstream against the current. These children will become the movers and shakers and leaders and shapers of a better world to come.
A capacity for intimacy is another quality noticed in attachment-parented children. These children learn to bond to people, not things, they become high-touch persons even in a high-tech world. The infant who grows up "in arms" is accustomed to relating to and being fulfilled from interpersonal relationships. This infant is more likely to become a child who forms meaningful attachments with peers, and in adulthood is more likely to develop deep intimacy with a mate. The attached child had learned to give and receive love.
Attachment parenting is contemporary. Today's children are being bombarded with more and more electronic influences, especially from video and computer games. Because this high-tech trend is likely to continue, the best parents can hope for is to provide speed bumps along the way. Attachment parenting give children a high-touch start to help them be better prepared to survive the high-tech world. These kids are more likely to grow up to prefer bonding to people rather than to things.
Are attachment-parented children easier to discipline?
Discipline is not something you do to a child. It is something you do with a child. In a nutshell, discipline begins with knowing your child and helping your child feel right. A child who feels right is more likely to act right and eventually operates from a set of inner controls rather than from an external force. Parents who can read their child are able to pick up on the real meaning of a child's actions and channel these into desirable behavior. The connected child desires to please. Discipline is a relationship between parent and child than can be summed up in one word -- trust. The child who trusts his authority figure is easier to discipline. The authority person who can read the child gives better discipline. Attachment parents are better able to convey what behavior they expect of their children, and attached children are better able to perceive what behavior is expected of them. Connected kids are easier to discipline.
Difficult discipline situations occur when a distance develops between parent and child. The distant parent becomes frustrated by the "nothing's working" feeling and approaches discipline as a trial-and-error list of somebody else's methods -- many of which promote an even greater distance between them. Disconnected children are more difficult to discipline because they operate from a basis of anger rather than trust.
The real payoff of this high-touch style of parenting is the ability to read your child. getting attached is how discipline begins.
One of the most important long-term effects of attachment parenting comes from the concept of modeling. Keep in mind that you are bringing up someone's future husband or wife, father or mother. The parenting style that the child learns from you is the one he or she is more likely to follow when becoming a parent. Children pick up nurturing attitudes at a young age, and those early impressions stay with them. One day a mother brought her newborn, John, into her pediatrician for a checkup accompanied by her three-year-old daughter, Angela, the product of attachment parenting. As soon as John started to fuss, Angela pulled at her mother's skirt, saying with much emotion, "Mommy, John's crying. Pick up, rock rock, nurse!" What do you imagine Angela will do when she becomes a parent and her own baby cries? She won't call her doctor, and she won't look it up in a book. She will intuitively pick up, rock, rock, and nurse.
Even teenagers pick up on parenting styles. One day a mother and father heard their daughter, then nine months old, begin to cry in their bedroom, where she was napping. As they approached the door, the cry stopped. Curious, they looked in to see why the baby had stopped crying, and what they saw left a warm feeling in their hearts. Their sixteen-year-old son, was lying next to her, stroking her and gentling her. Why did he do this? Because he was following their model that when babies cry, adults listen.
The Long-Term Effects Of Attachment Parenting.
In the experience of caring for families over the past thirty years in pediatric practice and a review of scientific studies, it was found that attachment-parented children are likely to be:
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