What is Attachment Parenting?Mar 13, 2021
What is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment parenting. It’s been a buzz word that you may have heard lately… and you’re probably curious what exactly it means. Keeping your kids attached to your hip 24/7? Never leaving their side?
I’m going to talk all about attachment parenting—what it actually is, what it means to you, and how you can go about implementing its philosophies right away.
...Imagine feeling a real connection with your child.
...Imagine feeling better about yourself as a mom.
...Imagine having a relationship with your child that’s built on trust and deep love.
...Imagine a relationship that grows with your child.
THIS is what attachment parenting is all about.
I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s get started.
What is attachment parenting?
There are so many resources out there when it comes to attachment parenting, and everyone has something a little different to say. The term “attachment parenting” was coined by Dr. Bill Sears in the 1950s. According to Sears, attachment parenting is a style of caring for your baby that focuses on understanding his or her specific needs.
In 1958, Bowlby and Ainsworth developed the Attachment Theory, within which there are several kinds of attachment that a parent can have with a child. Children are born with a need to attach to a caregiver and that this attachment developed in early stages of life, has an impact on the rest of that child’s life.
In 2004 Gordon Neufeld developed an “attachment-based” method of parenting based on the attachment theory of Bowly and Ainsworths work. The approach to parenting excels past the physical connection given to babies and toddlers within ‘traditional’ attachment parenting, and focuses on having emotionally attached children at all ages. This is where I come in, and his book “Hold on to your kids: why parents need to matter more than peers” is a great place to start.
Attachment parenting is about forming a strong connection with your child at a young age— an attachment that can grow and flourish as your little one grows from baby, to toddler, to child, to adolescent, and even to adult. In short, attachment parenting is focused on building a healthy lifetime bond between parent and child that lasts from childhood all the way through adulthood.
You may see some other common ideas, as you start to research attachment parenting, like:
What are the 7 B’s of attachment parenting?
- Bedding close to the baby
- Baby wearing
- Belief in the value of baby’s cries
- Beware of baby trainers
- Balance in parenting
The 7 B’s of attachment parenting can be helpful and provide some good basic principles when your child is between newborn and toddler, but if you are past that age, you need something more. What I specialize in is general parenting principles that are attachment based, principles that a mom with older children, even teens can apply.
I like to think of attachment parenting not as a rigid set of rules, but rather as a philosophy. As a way of living. And it’s quite intuitive and natural at its core. It’s as simple as loving, listening to, nurturing, and connecting with your child in natural ways. It’s about being kind and compassionate and not impatient or manipulative. It’s about loving yourself so you can love your child. It’s about forming a trusting relationship and a safe place for them to grow.
That relationship will be there to sustain them later on in life when things get tough. A relationship between you and your child is the most important thing you can focus on because it’s the foundation for everything else. You can go around treating symptoms all you want, but if your child doesn’t feel like their basic human needs of love and belonging are being met, ultimately nothing you do will be lastingly effective. In fact, we can make it worse by how we parent.
What do I mean by all this? Take a look at this example.
What does attachment parenting NOT look like?
Let’s say you have a 9-year-old son named James. You’re at the park with James. It’s getting late and you need to get home so you can start the bedtime routine. James is starting to get cranky and resistant and your patience is running out.
Feeling frustrated, maybe you’d be tempted to say, “James, I’m going to count to 10 and if you’re not here by that time then I’m leaving without you.” Or perhaps you’d even start the car and begin driving away to show him you’re serious. So you start pulling away and eventually he comes running. When he gets to the car you reprimand him and tell him how he needs to obey or he won’t be able to come to the park again. His feelings are hurt and he doesn't understand why you are being so mean and he starts to cry. Eventually he’s so tired that he falls asleep before you even make it home.
What happened here?
If you’ve parented in this way before, don’t blame yourself. You’re not alone. It’s not uncommon. In fact it’s a simple solution that “works” a lot of the time, at least on the surface. And you’re only human after all. It can be easy to use techniques like this one. That said, it’s not the healthiest way to handle things, and it could even cause harm to your relationship with your child over time.
This technique did in fact solve the immediate problem. Out of fear of being left behind, James came running to the car. And it may work over and over again. While you’ve treated the symptom, deep down you may actually be damaging the relationship. How? Let me explain.
Let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Attachment parenting focuses on the bottom few levels—what we call basic and psychological needs. Food, shelter, safety, security, belonging, and esteem. This particular example comes in at the safety level and can also affect how a child feels in terms of their psychological safety. Communicating this way and using fear tactics actually damages your child’s feelings of safety. As a young child, feeling like you’ll get left behind can be traumatic and frightening. Focus on building a deep, loving connection with your child, and trust that this connection will naturally lead them to love you and listen to what you ask them to do.
Here’s how attachment parenting could look in action in this same situation.
What does attachment parenting look like?
“James, I know it's hard to leave the park when we're having so much fun now, but it's time to head home." We can say this in a clear and loving tone. Taking time to get down on his level and look into his eyes.
Communicating in a clear and unwavering way like this will help James feel secure and taken care of. When we give our children boundaries that help them stay healthy physically, we help them feel they are being cared for. Instead of asking “what time do you want to leave the park?” you should simply tell James it’s time to go. You can keep restating it, remembering to remain calm while you talk with him. It’s normal for him to be upset, and it may take longer than you want it to, as you spend time connecting with him, but sticking to what you say. This helps him feel safe knowing that you are looking out for his physical health and well-being.
It sounds too simple, right? The beauty of attachment parenting is that it’s about a relationship that’s built before a tough situation arises. If a relationship of love and trust has been built, your child will know what to do and they’ll be naturally drawn to obey.
Ultimately attachment parenting isn’t about techniques as much as it is about a mindset. I’m a firm believer in getting to the root. Once you understand and love yourself as a mother, and uncover and rebuild your beliefs about yourself, you’ll naturally become a better parent. You’ll begin to parent out of love. What you should say will come naturally. You’ll be a parent who your child deeply respects and loves. You’ll become a person they want to be like.
The key to this modality of parenting is different than what you may think. You don’t need to be an expert in attachment or read a ton of books. As you work on your own emotional and mental health, attachment parenting will come naturally to you. Once you start to work on yourself, you’ll become a better mom. And when you’re a mom full of love and kindness, your child will feel more at ease. Feeling more settled and safe, they’ll naturally be more inclined to obey. Parenting will become less of a chore and more of a lifestyle. Just take it from The Beatles and remember that “all you need is love.” Sounds really simple, right? Ultimately, it is.
Does attachment parenting mean I don’t need to have any rules?
No, it’s not a lack of rules, It’s more about the way you parent. Obviously, healthy boundaries can be beneficial to a child. The way you enforce those boundaries is key though. Your children should not feel manipulated, forced, or coerced into obeying. Rather, they should be given the opportunity to choose, and they should feel your love. You can guide them and teach them, but ultimately you should let them make the choice. If you focus less on disciplining and more on building what I like to call a radical connection with them, the more they will feel a desire to obey.
What are some good resources for learning about attachment parenting?
There are so many places out there where you can learn about attachment parenting. Here are some of my favorites:
- Dr. Deborah MacNamara’s site
- Hold on to Your Kids, a book by Dr. Gordon Neufeld
- Attachment Parenting International’s principles page
- Dr. Dan Siegel on Optimal Attachment
- Dr. Laura Markham’s site
- Dr. Tina Payne Bryson’s site
What should I do next?
Attachment parenting can come really naturally to you when you focus more on your relationship with YOU first. When we do the inner work to heal us, we'll be surprised how naturally this kind of parenting can flow.
That's where I come in. The work I do is combining this type of parenting with the how-to, life coaching and mindset tools.
First, I recommend checking out my Freedom Moms Podcast. There you’ll find short, helpful episodes with actionable advice.
You might also want to sign up for my short Radical Connection Parenting Course.
If you’re looking for a community of moms, with help and guidance from me, check out my By Design program.
Crystal The Parenting Coach