S04|15 - Attachment ParentingJun 06, 2022
On the podcast today I have 2 special guests, my aunt, and my mom, who have decades of parenting experience and a huge amount of knowledge around Attachment Parenting. If you’re interested in learning more about how to increase attachment with your children, tune in!
Pam Thompson, MSW/RSW is a counsellor and mom of 8, who helps families work on attachment with themselves, with others and with the Divine.
Mary-Rose McMullin is a mom of 9 and wife to 1. She has a BS in Child Development and Family Relations and worked as a family and parent coach for 20 years. She also served as a La Leche League leader for 20 years.
In this episode we cover:
- What Attachment parenting is
- The 6 roots of attachment and how to nurture them
- What peer-oriented attachment looks like and what it can lead to
- How to work on your attachments with your family
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Crystal The Parenting Coach: Hey, I'm Crystal, the Parenting Coach. I'm a certified life coach and mom of four. In this podcast, we combine radical connection and positive parenting theories with the How-To Life Coaching Tools and Mindset Work to completely transform our relationship with our children.
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Hello and welcome to today's podcast episode. Before we get into this episode, I just want to remind you that this is the last episode of Season 4, and we are going to be taking a break until Season 5; and Season 5 is going to launch on July 18th. So, we'll be back then with a new season full of fun, new interviews and parenting support for you.
Today, I am excited to welcome two guests on the podcast. We're going to be talking about Attachment Parenting.
Meet Pam Thompson & Mary-Rose McMullin; get to know what they do, and how they got started
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Pam Thompson – who's also my mom - MSW/RSW is a counselor and mom of eight, who helps families work on attachment with themselves, with others and with the Divine.
Mary-Rose McMullin, who is my aunt, is a mom of nine and wife to one. She has a BS in Child Development and Family Relations; and she worked as a Family and Parent Coach for 20 years. She also served as a La Leche League leader for 20 years.
Do you guys want to just introduce yourselves a little bit more before we dig into our conversation today?
Pam Thompson: Mary-Rose is my sister. I have been counseling for a couple of years now. After I raised my eight kids and they started to get a little older, I decided that I wanted to kind of move in a different direction.
And something that had always really spoke to me was speaking to parents about the way that they could attach; and I saw a great need for that. And it was a very interesting thing because I found Dr. Gordon Neufeld in 2010.
I went to a conference of his and just loved his work and have followed him since then. And I was very, very excited about, you know, reading his things. And so, of course, what did I do? I called up my sister, Mary-Rose, and told her that I'd heard about this amazing guy and his stuff; and I was so excited.
And she goes, 'Oh, well, I also have heard of someone, and I've also been doing this.' I said, 'Oh, who is it?' And it turned out it was the same.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: I love that story. And also, if you've been following my podcast for a while, you might have already heard me tell this story, but my mom was the one who introduced me to him and his book – and to this whole new way of parenting and was like, 'Hey, we didn't do it right, here's the book, you should do it a different way.'
And took me to courses and taught me all about it, and definitely changed the course of my parenting also. Mary-Rose, why don't you introduce yourself too?
Mary-Rose McMullin: I'm a mom of nine, and what we didn't say in the bio is that one of them is an angel now. And that was what really changed the tragic story of my parenting is when our son was killed in a car accident in 1991.
It made me think, 'Wait a minute, I love these little ones so much, and I've been so angry and so cross with them so much.' And so, in dealing with my grief, I also found a gentler part of myself where I could be kinder and more loving because I was raised in a bit--
We were raised in a very much… when dad said you jumped, you jumped, and you just-- It was just how-- It was all they knew, you know? And we've got some good people who've come out of it.
We were raised as-- I'm the oldest, and Pam is number 7 out of 8 children. So, that's been probably the thing that has informed my parenting the most.
But one other thing that has really been a strong influence on me is being a La Leche League leader because I love nursing my babies; and it gave me such a wonderful connection with my kids with an attachment, that feeling like you really are a duo.
And so, that's also helped me to be softer and kinder and has, I think, more loving, which are the basis of attachment parenting, really. It's ways of helping us be more connected, more attached, more loving.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And when you were telling your story about changing and growth and stuff, I was thinking; our goal in parenting differently than how we were parented isn't to demonize our parents or our grandparents, or our great grandparents… but I heard somebody say it's an evolution.
If we didn't have them coming before us, we wouldn't be where we are; and our kids will be even farther ahead because it's constantly evolving. And so, I'm grateful for that because if I hadn't had that past, I wouldn't be where I was and I wouldn't be helping people in the way that I'm able to help them now.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I always say to my kids, I hope you parent better than we did.
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. And I hope that-- I hope that for my kids already, and they're just little; and I'm like, 'Oh, I hope they--’ And I think they will. They already-- You know, they're getting these skills from a much younger age. And so, I think it'll just keep, it'll just keep breaking that cycle.
What Attachment parenting is
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, my first question for both of you is for those people that are-- I'm sure there's lots of people here who have never heard of attachment parenting.
I typically call my parenting approach connection-based parenting, because it's a focus on connection; and there's lots of different, you know, lingo going around – conscious parenting, positive parenting.
But today, our focus is to specifically be talking on attachment. So, if you were to kind of summarize what attachment parenting is for you, how would you explain that? We'll go to Mary-Rose and then Pam.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I think it includes all the words that you said. You know, it's feeling like-- I think attachment has been used by Dr. Neufeld because he'd felt it was a deeper word than a connection, a more permanent thing.
But really we're all talking about that same concept of becoming closer to our children but still being in charge – being the ones who are in charge. And Dr. Neufeld's work is so all-encompassing. He has taken all the research that's out there, and put it together into the big picture.
So, he's got a broader scope than many of the other people. But he's also been such a wonderful mentor and influence on so many people. I just love to see how, because I've been studying parenting for 40 years, I've been, 'Ah, I've been a parent for 47 years.'
And so, it's always been something that's been fascinated me, and I've seen it evolve so much. And I think this whole concept of learning to be the parent who can be so loving and kind – and yet still be the adult, still be the one in charge… is something that I feel is the basis of attachment parenting. Pam, what do you think?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: Yeah. I like that you said that because I think that what I used to see this attachment and connection-based as developing this relationship of love and being kinder, but what I was missing was that place of being the nurturer.
Neufeld says, "Children can't be input in the lead of their own happiness," and that for me was the piece that I was missing as I was raising the first of my children… was that piece that I am the expert, I am the one in charge, I am the one who can help them instead of looking at them filling their own needs.
Pam Thompson's experience with Attachment Parenting
Pam Thompson: So, one of the pieces of attachment parenting to me is being the expert for my child. I'm going to tell you a really quick story. When I went in to see one of my doctors and I brought my baby in there with a cold, and the doctor said, "Well, what do you think is wrong?"
And I'm like, 'No, I brought her here so you could tell me what's wrong.' And he stopped and he said, "You are the expert, you are the mom." He said, "I'm just the doctor." And I stopped, and he waited for me to, you know, feel that answer.
And so, in that regards, I started to gain that; that I am the one with the answers, and that I can be the answer for my children. And so, for me, that was part of my journey into Attachment Parenting, was to have that confidence in myself that I could come up with those answers because where I was lacking was that self-confidence and self-love.
And so, you know, I got sucked up into a tornado of depression and rage that I had to work through to be able to come to that place of loving myself and being confident in being the answer for my children. And so, for me, that's the extra part that I put in about Attachment Parenting.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. When Dr. Deborah MacNamara was on the podcast in the fall, if you guys haven't-- If you're listening to this and you haven't listened to that one, make sure you go listen to it; it's two episodes.
She talked a lot about that intuition; like that we have kind of given away that authority to experts, "experts". We look elsewhere for that opinion instead of like tapping into what we feel we need to do with our kids.
And so, typically, how I describe this kind of parenting Connection-Based Attachment Parenting is; on the one end of the spectrum, you have the authoritarian, more fear-based tactics – rewards and punishments and, you know, all of that stuff that we know so well.
And on the other end of the spectrum, you have permissive where your kids kind of just do what they want and you're not really in charge – and there's no real leader.
And on both ends, the problem with it is that there's low safety and low security in both; there's not a great relationship in either. Whereas in the center space of kind of holding it in balance is this connection; this focus on connection, relationship attachment.
Well, I think of it as love, but like loosely held; like firm but also loose at the same time. So, I have boundaries.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Supportive.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Supportive, yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Supportive love.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: But the boundaries aren't like, you know, the one-and-only, like these high expectations that we have. I heard a quote about it the other day that was something about firm and loose and love altogether; and I can't remember what it was, but it was a good one.
The 6 roots of attachment and how to nurture them
Crystal The Parenting Coach: But let's dive into the more of the specifics of Attachment Parenting, specifically. I know that there are roots of attachment. So, let's dig into those. Do you want to-- Do you want to share those with us, Mary-Rose?
Mary-Rose McMullin: The reason-- The reason Dr. Neufeld talks, and this is all basically Neufeld's stuff. He talks about the roots of attachment because he talks about the child as a plant; and a plant has to be nurtured. Any of you--
It's gardening season here; and so, I watch my husband tend his little baby plants – and they have to have the right amount of water, and he moves them from one window to another to get enough sun. And he is very aware of their needs, which I really think is cool.
And that seed is planted and it sits there for a long time sometimes. There's one of his kind of melons that grew a week later than anything else, he'd almost given up.
So, our children are not always going to respond to the same kind of nurturing – but as the roots grow down and we nurture those roots… then they can have a strong, strong plant.
They can grow the roots of vulnerability and kindness and all those things that we want our children to have because they will have had that strongly rooted attachment in us.
So, when we talk about the roots of attachment; the first about the first year of a child's life is they're laying the basis the physical is the most important. That root has to be strong. And these first roots are more shallow roots, they're easier to develop. So, think of how you nurture a baby.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: Through the census, right?
Mary-Rose McMullin: Through the census. So, all of these, all of these physical things help. And that's one is on my plug for breastfeeding is that it does all of the attachment stuff. You know, we're meant to nurture our babies that way… co-Sleeping, nighttime nursing… those kinds of things that sometimes are put down, extended nursing.
I was quite impressed that Alberta Healthcare that used to think, oh, used to say, 'Oh yeah, breastfeeding… if you breastfeed, that's no different than bottle feeding and you should only breastfeed for six weeks, anyhow.' Now recommends that children be nurse until two, until at least two.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I think I heard-- I think I read the American Pediatric Association say that also, which is a lot longer than what I--
Mary-Rose McMullin: That's the difference.
Pam Thompson: And you know, another one that I've-- Of course, we've been parenting long enough that lots of these guidelines have changed in our journey of parenting. But one of the other ones that I was really impressed with is now the American Pediatric Association recommends that children sleep in the same room as their parents for the first year of life.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Awesome.
Pam Thompson: That's a huge thing.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Huge change.
Pam Thompson: -because, you know, they talk about this need for proximity, you know, that Dr. Neufeld talks about.
Pam Thompson: The first root's name is actually proximity, but it's those physical connections – even just being in the same room as the parents at night is important. So, it doesn't have to be big, huge things – just small things that encourage those physical senses.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: I should also plug--
Mary-Rose McMullin: It’s-- go ahead.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: -for baby-wearing too, because that was a lifesaver for me in having colicky babies anyways. I mean, it helped them also – but it helped, it was a lot more convenient for me just to have them on me; and that's a great way for that proximity and that closeness.
Mary-Rose McMullin: And especially for the moms who have struggles with breastfeeding; there are still many other ways to fill those needs for…fill in the proximity, the senses.
And so, also, when your child is feeling – when you're feeling like that attachment with them is unraveling, it's important to go back to those previous roots of attachment.
So, when you think of, what do you do with the baby if they're crying? You rock them, or you feed them, or you come to them or you-- Any of those things-- Knowing what your older child needs – how do you, you know… if you can feed them like a baby bird, even make what's their favorite food.
And you'll notice when there are-- When our oldest teenager was struggling a whole lot, our old son as a teenager was struggling a lot. He wouldn't even come to the dinner table with the family, and I didn't know enough to try to provide for him.
Now, with the younger ones when we had struggles, then I would do some provision; you know, make him a treat, do something. But it was… looking back, I think, Yeah, he was rejecting even that food – proximity, the food, the proximity of the dinner table.
And I think, wow, that's, and that is a struggle with a lot of parents that I've seen with teenagers that that's a hard thing to have them involved in because they're pushing against that closeness.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I like that idea of giving them, going back to that like main basic root for them. Like how can we provide for them those basic, basic needs like providing their food or trying to be more close to them physically? Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Had another struggle with another child. I'm sorry, kids, if you're listening to this.
Pam Thompson: No more names, no more naming their position in that family, right?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Her family order.
Mary-Rose McMullin: One of my daughters who was struggling, would come to church with us – but she'd sit there and, you know, and she didn't-- But I had kept lotion in my purse and I could reach over and take her hand and give her a hand drop during church, give her lotion – or maybe if I sat down behind her when she was sitting on the floor, or I could offer to rub her shoulders when we were at home.
And so, we would have that close physical touch that she wasn't-- You know, there was no way it was like hugging a board if I tried to give her a hug. But we needed to go back in our relationship, we needed to go back. She was-- I was--
She and I were struggling when I first read Hold on to Your Kids, oh, this is going to make me cry. And I read the book and realized how much I had been contributing to the struggles she was having.
I threw the book across the room and I couldn't get up for another while because it was so painful to realize, you know, it's so tempting as a parent to blame all of the kid's problems on the child because it hurts to take the responsibility yourself.
But gradually, gradually I kind of started working more on it; and we were able to rebuild a relationship, and I'm so grateful for – even though I came to this late and there were things that I messed up all along the way, but that it's helped me to build a stronger relationship with my adult kids and with my wonderful in-laws and with my extra wonderful grandchildren.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I feel that way also when I learned about this kind of parenting and then I'm like, 'Aha, and I'm just not-- I'm just not doing it. I'm not figuring it out.'
And it was the switching the focus to me versus the focus on them; like them and their behavior and wanting them to change… switching that focus to me and my behavior, and how was I kind of contributing to this whole thing because I was so triggered that was then, you know, triggering them and back and forth and back and forth.
And it wasn't until I really focused on this connection and attachment-- And in fact, when I hired a Neufeld Institute certified person, she was a Psycho Educator when I was living across the country. I kept telling her like, 'No, you need to like come see my kid.'
And she was like, 'No, no, no, I only work with the-- I just work with the parents.' And I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, this is not going to work – like, you need to work with him, like he's the pro-- how are you going to fix him if you come help me?'
I was just-- I was really-- I kept emailing back and forth and being like, 'Nope, I need you to come, like, with him.' And she just said, "Well, let's just have one, you know, session together and see." And it was clear to me after the first session, 'Oh, okay, wait, she's here to help me, she's not here to change him.'
It really was-- It really was a different point of view than what I initially had thought.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Do you remember that saying, "Be the change that you want to see in the world"? I've never thought of it really as how much it applies to parenting.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: It does. It's my email signature, and it has been for a long time. And now that I do parenting, I'm like, it's literally everything I teach is; whatever you want to see in your kids, you become first – and then they will.
Pam Thompson: Right. And you know, and we're talking about parenting, but I do marriage as well; and I talk to couples about this too, that if there's a change that you want in your marriage, then it starts by you and how you feel – and that your self-concept is reflected in your relationships.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Excuse, may I say something, Pam?
Pam Thompson: Yep.
Mary-Rose McMullin: It starts with you and how you feel. I think so often we let our feelings be in charge; and Crystal has talked about this sometimes, and I'm sure you do, Pam, about… how we can look at our thoughts, look at our feelings – and we can be the one who's in charge. We're the parents, and we're there for-- You know, that's a really powerful concept.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah, and that really is-- That's the work that I do now, is helping people to parent in this way, but I help them parent in that way through mindfulness and mindset.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, we figure out that; why are we not, why can we not connect? Why are we not, do we not feel attached? Like, what's really going on? What's that root? So, that we can change it naturally.
Pam Thompson: And isn't it a way to parent ourselves as well, right? That we are in charge – that we can be that loving, nurturing person who, like you said, supportive love, loosely held for ourselves in that as well. Because if we don't hold that love for ourselves, then we can't offer it to our kids or to our spouse or to other people.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: So, it just all boils down to this, you know, really being able to focus on what's really important in this connection.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Let's move on to number two. So, number one you said was proximity; we talked about the physical, different components there.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: What's the second root of attachment?
Mary-Rose McMullin: Sameness is the one – is there another name for it, Pam?
Pam Thompson: No, sameness.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Sameness.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Sameness.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Okay. So, when you look at a little kid who's about 18 months, from about one to two years old – and they want to be like you; they want to do what you do, they want to follow you. The little kid who puts, tries to put your bra on or, you know, all these ones that they want to try to do like you.
Our grandpa actually got his nickname because he followed his grandfather around walking like a little stooped-over man. So, he got named Dad Hudson when he was-- Got named 'Dad' when he was two years old because he walked like his granddad.
Pam Thompson: That's so true.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah. It really is true.
Pam Thompson: And if you think about this root that comes between ages 1 & 2, it's what actually motivates kids to talk, to walk; their development in that stage is based on this root of attachment because they're trying to be like the people they see around them. And so, it affects everything that they do, the way they talk.
Mary-Rose McMullin: It's one of the scary things for me is seeing kids on phones and I'm thinking little kids like my 10-month-old grandson, he’s smart enough that if he picks up a phone, he'll use his thumbs. You know?
They are watching this all the time, but sometimes we, as adults, are missing those chances for connection because we're on our electronics too much. So, electronics can mess up all of this attachment all the way along.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. It can really seep into those little moments of attachment that we would normally be having. So, I like the idea of like, going back to this situation, noticing, 'Okay, maybe my attachment isn't great with this kid, so this physical proximity and sameness--'
And in sameness, we can be mentioning things to them about how similar we are; 'Oh look, you have the same color hair as me – Oh, you like that? I like this too.'
Mary-Rose McMullin: Even, 'Oh look, we've got blue, we both wearing blue today.' You know, sometimes it's very, very simple – sameness. That's one of the reasons gangs are so successful – is because they base it on sameness and on loyalty, which is the next root.
Pam Thompson: And on proximity too.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Proximity too.
Pam Thompson: You know, we spend time together; you know, we eat together, we do everything together. And these first three roots are so imperative.
3. Belonging and loyalty
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, let's talk about the third one; you said it was loyalty.
Pam Thompson: Belonging and loyalty.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Belonging and loyalty.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Belonging and loyalty. Okay. So, what does that look like?
Pam Thompson: During the third year of life, so that's between ages 2 to 3, children start to see that they're a part of something. So, whatever your family looks like, whatever they see that they're part of that, they start to become loyal to the people around them.
I was just working with a young family and the little girl, just in this perfect example of this age, "My daddy", and she said, yeah-- When I say that he's my husband, she's like, 'No, no, my daddy.' This little girl gets very upset, right, because that's the stage of belonging and loyalty, 'This is mine'.
And sometimes we do our kids a disfavor when they say, "Oh, you should be sharing those things", but this is actually a stage we want them to develop that they understand that these things are theirs.
They're starting to understand that these are their things and they'll say, "This is mine." And they will have a primary attachment usually to-- Like, if they have two parents, there will be a primary attachment that they attach to – and that's okay. Anything else you want to add to that, Mary-Rose?
Mary-Rose McMullin: Something that I think is important when you were talking about sharing, how it's hard for them to share; we need to leave time, leave space for them to share as we can't force sharing.
As adults, if I came up to you, Crystal, and said, oh, your sister needs a new car, you've got an extra car, you better give it to her right now. You know?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah, we would never do that with adults.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah. No, adults don't do that. What if somebody came up to you in the grocery store and said, "You've got lots of things in your little cart, you need to give some of them to the person beside you."
When we force sharing, we are actually working against ourselves; we're causing more problems than we're solving. The other thing that I think as parents and grandparents and adults around children is that we need to be very careful to be that we are loyal to them; that they don't hear us whining about them to somebody else, and they don't hear us saying that they're too much.
They've got to have confidence in our ability to care for them. And so, we cannot appear weak or incompetent to them.
Pam Thompson: You know, an interesting part of that is Dr. MacNamara, who works for Neufeld’s faculty and does counseling, if you go on their website, they specifically will talk that they are there to help parents.
But they also say, "We do not recommend that you talk to your kids about seeing us for counseling," because the idea is that you are the expert and you want your kids to also get that confidence in you where if you're giving them that message, like Mary-Rose said, I can't handle you, I'm going to go talk to someone, maybe they'll have some ideas for me.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: You're too much.
Pam Thompson: Yeah. Then it does again, goes to that low safety, low security, right, that spot. And so, being able to--
Mary-Rose McMullin: Who are they going to trust? Who's going to take care of them if you are overwhelmed by them, and you're supposed to be the person that knows them and loves them the best?
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: But that's something I don't-- I mean, if you heard your husband whining about you to somebody else, it might be a real destructive thing in your relationship.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. It's not going to lead to a great relationship there.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. What about number four?
Pam Thompson: Number four is significance.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay.
Pam Thompson: And significance, now, remember how Mary-Rose was talking about how gangs are really powerful? They are not able to develop the deeper roots of attachment. They stop at belonging and loyalty. And you know how we talk about; you'll see a gang, they won't rat out another member of the gang?
You know, that is that root of belonging and loyalty. They'll be loyal, you know, to each other. But once we get into the deeper root, it's more vulnerable. And so, that's why that's a harder root to develop.
And so, four; significance is being significant to somebody else. They understand that they're their own person, but they also understand that they're important in somebody else's world. And so, even when they're physically close, they can keep this attachment.
And so, they understand that those physical roots that, you know, the number one of proximity is strong enough that when they're apart, they're still able to hold onto that. And kids don't even learn that, you know, for a while.
You know how they do the experiments where, you know, they'll be a toy and a mountain and the toys on this side, and then they put it on the other side of the little play mountain and the kids don't actually realize it's there, object permanence?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: And so, in this fourth year of life, from 3 to 4, they're learning that there's permanence in their significance to this person that they're attaching to – to their parent or caregiver, whoever it is – some cases, it's a grandparent – whoever that is, as they learn that they start to develop that object permanence.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I think it's something that we can do as parents and grandparents; it's the little things, it's remembering their favorite things. One of the things I think the best thing we can do, and again, electronics are a real interference – is when they walk into the room, the first time you see your child after a little separation is… let your face light up.
They know that you love them, they matter to you, and you're excited to see them. Not… that's another one. When I started to work, and I was-- And I had still had two school-aged kids at home, high school kids.
And they'd come home before I would, I'd walk in and I'd go, 'Why are you on the computer? What about your homework? what are you, nada nada--' Then I found out, started learning about this, and so I'd come home and say, "Oh, how was your day? How are you doing?" You know?
Instead of jumping first to the, all the stuff that has to be done, you focus on the relationship; let them know that they matter to you, that how they feel matters. Like, what they-- You know, was it a good day? Was it a bad day? How are you? How are you feeling? And this is important that they're significant to you.
Pam Thompson: And to me, that significance is some of that is being seen and heard, which we hear those buzzwords kind of around, I want to feel seen, I want to feel heard. All of these roots develop that to a deeper sense. But that significance is, they know that you know them and that you see them.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Have you ever had one of your grandkids tell you a story, Pam? And if you could sit there and go, 'Mm-hmm, Mm-Hmm,' that story just goes on and on and on and on and on. I think we take more time as grammies.
Pam Thompson: We do.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Than we did as-- than we could as moms of younger ones. But those three-year-olds will just spin you the best tales if you're listening.
Pam Thompson: Yeah, that's true.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: All right. So, what are five and six?
Pam Thompson: I'll do five. You do six. How does that sound?
Mary-Rose McMullin: Sure.
Pam Thompson: Okay. Five is love; and love is, you know, between this four and fifth year of life. So, four years old to five years old – they start to develop these deep, warm, affectionate feelings for the people around. They fall in love and they give their heart away.
And unfortunately, you can't all see this, but I have pictures that my grandkids have drawn me; and these pictures are hearts, 'I love you Grammy', 'I love you', 'You're so wonderful’. And it's just this, 'I'm giving away my heart,' right? 'I love you so much.'
And so, you know, being able to have that, you'll notice that they draw hearts on everything and give hearts to everybody.
And they give the hearts to you. I love-- I love this phase because you see them do it all the time. Like, oh, like Oscar does this all the time right now, where he'll just like draw, like the hearts will be like our faces. Anytime he draws, like me and his dad and him, altogether – all of us have like heart heads and he'll just draw little, you know, cartoons all over the house.
Mary-Rose McMullin: How old is Oscar now?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: He's eight. He's been doing this for a while. But yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: See, but that's what I was going to say is see how these stages build on each other; and it's not like it's a linear thing. It's not a one-and-done that you keep coming back, you revisit. He's obviously enjoying that stage; and that's maybe a real focus for him.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: So, really cool.
Pam Thompson: And Navy, your younger one, she's in that stage as well, right?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: She is, yeah.
Pam Thompson: She's a little bit younger; and she draws hearts every time she comes. She'll give me one, and what was really cute was she drew me this beautiful picture with all these hearts and she gave it to me… and it was just like, you could just feel the love just brimming over.
And then her mom walks in the door and she goes, can I have that picture? She's like, I, I drew that for my mom. She hadn't, but you know, she'd kind of forgotten, 'Oh, right, my mom's here and I love her so much – and I just want to give her this picture.'
Crystal The Parenting Coach: She draw hearts all day, all day long. She's definitely in that phase too.
Pam Thompson: Yeah. So, that's that fifth. And it's just such a fun stage to watch.
Mary-Rose McMullin: It's when a child will say, "I want to marry you daddy", or "I want to marry you, mommy".
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: That can sometimes cause some alarm in a parent, especially the other parent, always supposed to be jealous of. You try to explain no little girls don't marry their daddies. Yes, you love your daddy so much – he is so kind to you and he's-- I hope you find somebody just like him when you get old enough to get married.
You know? So, not negating that need to feel that deep, you know, that deep love that she feels for her daddy; and that's wonderful. If she understands that her mom and her dad love each other, that's a wonderful thing.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: I love that response. I love that way of dealing with it, because usually it is like, 'Oh no, you can't marry him – like, that's not how it happens'. But I love that idea of like, 'Yeah, of course, you want to, because you love them and this is how wonderful they are, and you'll find somebody just like this.'
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: It's back to accepting their feelings, which we want to do; everyone's feelings are acceptable, we need to accept them. And then if they're high intense feelings, then they can dissipate as those feelings are accepted, reflected back to them and accepted.
Pam Thompson: Because if they're not accepted, then there's that, remember; low safety, low security – and those feelings build and they have nowhere to drain.
But as we accept them, don't expect anything – you know, we're not going in there expecting behavior to change, but just accepting them that it allows them to drain… and it allows them to come to a place of safety and a place of rest.
Mary-Rose McMullin: That's another great topic for you sometime, Crystal, is communication. That's accepting communication.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: And I don't know if they--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: We’ll have to do that one next season together. All three of us.
Pam Thompson: Oh, that would be fun.
Mary-Rose McMullin: That would be fun.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: That would be fun.
6. Being Known
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. So, what's number six, Mary-Rose?
Mary-Rose McMullin: Number six; the deepest root of attachment – which you would think would be love, like Pam said, it's easy to mix the two of them up – it's being known.
And sometimes even if when we're in a secure loving relationship, sometimes it's really scary to let someone else see who we really are; are they really going to be able to love us if they know all those nasty things that we do or that we think, or, you know? 'If he knew I picked my nose, would he still love me,' you know? Or lots deeper than that.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: But that's the kind of thing is having that deep confidence in somebody's love that you know they're there for you no matter what, that there's nothing you can do that will ever destroy that love.
I think as parents and as partners in a relationship, in a marriage, we want to have that kind of love for our partners and our children and our parents; and I don't know if it's ever possible in this life, but hopefully if we have a relationship with our divine – with our God, with someone, that we have experiences of feeling that, feeling deeply known and so deeply accepted that we don't ever have to censor ourselves.
We don't have to edit what we say. We know that it will be taken and accepted, and what we didn't mean or the mistakes we made will just be discarded. You know, our true intents will be felt.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I love that that one is number six because that's how I think of connection. Like that's pretty much the definition I would give is being able to be known and be seen and be accepted.
And that's when we feel that true connection; and that everybody's longing for this belonging and this connection, every human on earth wants this. I love what you said also about having that relationship with somebody else because we need to have that relationship with somebody else to kind of mirror how we can do that with our kids.
Mary-Rose McMullin: We need to be filled in order to give.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. And so, nurturing that relationship, whether or not your belief is in God or divine universe, you can even think of somebody that's passed on that you have a deep connection with anybody that you feel unconditionally loved and accepted by.
And thinking of them and leaning into that feeling and really feeling like you can be your authentic self around them… that really can help build your attachment with them, and then help you to know how to build attachment with your kids as well.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: One of the other things that Neufeld says in regards to that is when he's talking about being filled and, you know, we really are filled through having that relationship with someone else, we're also filled with giving that relationship to someone. So, as we give this to our children, it also heals us.
And so, for me that was very interesting because like Mary-Rose said, we came from a very authoritarian family; things were very black and white, right or wrong. There wasn't any wiggle room.
And so, for me, in my journey, there was a lot of self-hatred that I had to work through – but being able to then offer that love, that unfailing love to my children allowed me to then also reflect that to myself and start to be healed in a way that I could feel that to myself.
And I feel like, for me, a lot of that came with my younger children, sorry, Crystal. Not with the older ones, but then also continued on with my grandchildren… that as I was able to then give them these things that I was able to also feel healed in some of that journey of my own in learning to love and accept and be authentically me.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I love the interconnectedness of it all, and that's what the whole world is, right? We're all just-- We're all just interconnected being… so I think having that for our kids and for our grandkids and-- Yeah.
I see the difference between how you parented the-- I mean, there was lots of children, so I was in the upper half versus the second half – and what a difference it made in their relationship with you, but then also in their own lives in them and their emotional development because of it.
So, it's really cool to see both ends of it because it's a little bit hard when you're in the trenches and your kids are little… and you're like, 'Is this really doing anything?'
Mary-Rose McMullin: However, I will say I think I did the attachment piece a lot better with my younger kids, but then I made other mistakes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: So, I don't think there's any-- I don't think there's ever any perfect parenting and I don't think there's very many parents that don't have some regrets – but hopefully, we'll choose those thoughts and look at the positive, you know, give ourselves--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: I always tell people that imperfect parenting is actually the goal. We want to-- We don't want to be perfect; we want to be imperfect because we show our kids how to deal with their imperfections, and we wouldn't be able to show them that if we didn't make the mistakes also, right?
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
What peer-oriented attachment looks like, and what it can lead to
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, one thing I want to hit on before we go is peer-oriented attachment, because that's something that I see prevalent a lot; a lot of people don't really know what that means.
So, Pam, do you want to just describe kind of what that means and then maybe Mary-Rose get into what we can do to kind of nurture our attachment with them versus the peer-oriented attachment?
Pam Thompson: It used to be that there would be vertical attachment, like kids would attach to their parents; that would be the main attachment. If you think in some cultures, it was very interesting to me, I really learned this when we had some friends who were Filipino – and they had a birthday party for their child, and they invited us.
And so, I assumed just like the Canadian way that my child would go drop off. And so, then I asked them a little bit about it and they said, "Oh, we're hoping that you'll all come."
And so, for them, a birthday party was; we are here with our children, you come with your children – and we will celebrate. It wasn't so-- It was a very different relationship. What happened has happened in our Western culture is that we've come to this horizontal thing instead of the vertical; and so that the peers are taking their cues from each other… how do they dress? They dress like their peers.
What music do they listen to? They listen to the music of their peers. What food do they eat? The food of their peers. They're following those cues of their peers instead of from their parents.
And so, that was really interesting for me to go to this party to watch how their kids were following the cues of their parents--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Because of how their culture was, yeah. I went to a parenting conference one time and they mentioned that peer-oriented attachment started sometime after like World War I-ish era. I'm not quite sure why; in this conference, they didn't really say why, they just said that was around the time.
And that now it's much more common, at least in our culture, for our kids to be peer-attached – and not attached vertically, but you know, attached horizontally peer to peer.
Mary-Rose McMullin: And it's a very unsafe place for our children; they can't put down those deeper roots of attachment with their friends, and who’s in charge? They don't have that opportunity of having someone in charge.
Dr. Neufeld uses the term 'Alpha', and that the parent needs to be the alpha. And when you think of that, it's; the one who's the kinder, loving – the one who is in charge in a kind and loving manner.
And we all want someone who's going to care for you. We all want somebody to be that alpha for us at times, but as we get, so many of us have had that insecure attachment that we grab for control and become what Dr. Neufeld calls 'alpha complex'. So, you'll have someone who seems to be in control who wouldn't have been me for many years
Pam Thompson: Or me. Yeah. We are both this so we know.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I think I'm a recovering Alpha Complex.
Pam Thompson: I think Dr. Deborah MacNamara calls it the nurturer, doesn't she? I can't remember what she calls it, but being
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah. Sounds a little kinder than 'alpha'.
How to work on your attachments with your family
Pam Thompson: Yeah. Well, and I was thinking about this because sometimes you'll go into a family where you'll notice that the parent is not always in charge.
Have you ever been in a home where they ask the kids to choose who says the blessing – instead of the parents are the ones who say, "Here, we're going to do this because that gives the child a safe place to rest in", because the parent is the one in charge as opposed to the child is in charge?
Well, in this peer orientation, there isn't a safe person to be in charge to nurture. And so, then the child has to decide, 'Okay, am I going to be the one in control? Who's going to be the nurturer in this situation? Or am I going to follow their lead?' And so, the child has to make that decision in these relationships, which one am I going to be?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Well, and that lack of safety also comes in and if we're giving our heart in this unsafe relationship with this kind of also emotionally immature person and then they crush it, they take it away. They say, "We don't like you anymore, we're not friends with you anymore." Cyber bullying, all the things we see.
But we also see a huge rise in teen suicide, teen anxiety, teen depression, hugely over the last 5 to 10 years. And I think that probably comes from this because it's such an unsafe attachment that when that's taken away, that they feel like everything's gone because they don't feel that attachment with their parents all the time.
Pam Thompson: Yeah. And one really last thing before we go, is that there has to be room in all this for sadness. In the pursuit of happiness, we've left behind the fact that sadness is what moves us to happiness.
And so, in allowing our children to go through some experiences of sadness, knowing that we're there to care for them through it, it gives them the strength to be able to move through sad experiences. Go ahead, Mary-Rose.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I just had the sweetest experience last week. I looked out our window – there's a sidewalk going down main street, out our kitchen window – and I saw a little four-year-old going by on his bike.
I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to go out and say hi to him.' I know him from church. And when I got out there, there was his aunt with his twin, the bike beside the road, and he was sitting on the sidewalk just bawling and bawling and splattered blood running down his nose, blood splattered on the sidewalk.
And he had tripped on his, you know, his bike had flipped; and he'd hit the sidewalk, and he was so sad. Very, very, very shy little boy. But I had seen him the week previously, had made a little connection with him. And so, I sat down; I had a tissue in my pocket, put it on his nose, but he couldn't hold it tight enough, so I said, "Come here and let me hold you."
And so, I sat down, cross light on the grass, put this little four-year-old in my arms and held the tissue on his nose until it stopped-- you know, held it long enough and tight enough until it stopped bleeding. And then I offered him a ride to his other aunt's house, where they were going.
But it was just so sweet… his aunt, both of his aunts were going, 'He doesn't hold people like that.' And I thought, you know, he felt that confidence in my being able to care for him, 'Here, I've got the tissue, come sit with me, come cuddle me, I'll take care of you.' And so, he was able to do that. So, I haven't seen him since; I wonder if it'll carry over.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Pam Thompson: Then hold him in his sadness too.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah, and let him cry. And you could say-- There's so many times I'll be with grandchildren or other people and say, "It's okay, you can cry," and the mom will be worried about it, you know, 'No, no, shush, it's okay, you don't have to cry, here's a tissue'. I've even heard that we shouldn't offer tissues because that's maybe an unspoken suggestion that you shouldn't be crying.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Right, that you shouldn't stop. I think in that moment too, you were also the answer for him.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And I think that's one of the things I love about this kind of parenting approach is that we are our child's answer. We don't have to look for somebody else or read some other book or take some other course. We're like, 'Oh, we are the answer.' And that we have those answers inside of us when we can tune into them.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Yeah. Yeah.
Pam Thompson: Yeah.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. This has been such a great conversation. Thank you. Thank you both for coming and talking all about this. I wanted to have this conversation because this ideology was the basis years ago.
Well, when my mom said she heard about it in 2010 is when she shared it with me; and I started on this long and arduous journey that was very difficult until I found the combination of like, you know, inner healing and mindset work to be able to be like, 'Oh, okay, wait, this is how I can not be so reactive'. I love the combination of the two.
So, if you are feeling-- If you're listening to this episode and you're feeling like maybe your kids need a little bit more of an attachment… and you're, kind of, resonating with some of these things and you're like, 'Oh, okay, our attachment might be a little bit weak right now, or maybe they're a little bit more peer-oriented,' just go back through these roots of attachment – just go back-to-back to number one, and work through them.
And I also have to put a plug in for mindset, because I always do; if you are feeling disconnected from your kids, connection is a feeling that is created through our thoughts. So, look into your thoughts and see what thoughts are leading to connection and which ones maybe aren't, which are some thoughts that are maybe leading to a lot of disconnection – like, 'This is hard', or 'My kids never listen to me', or 'I don't want to do this', or whatever. All the thoughts that we have.
Just take a few minutes and write down all of your thoughts, and kind of dig through, what's leading to connection here? What's leading to disconnection here? And nurturing thoughts that lead to connection will make it so much more easy for you to nurture that attachment in a really natural way without having to work at it so much.
Any last-minute thoughts before we leave?
Pam Thompson: No, because any last-minute thoughts would just send us on another 15-minute discussion.
Mary-Rose McMullin: Do you ever put resources on, Crystal? I don't--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. Yeah. If you have some resources to give, I can link them in the show notes.
Mary-Rose McMullin: I think Dr. Deborah MacNamara's webpage is excellent.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay.
Mary-Rose McMullin: She's got a lot of different things and it's all attachment-based.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: She does, and I love-- She has some infographics in where it's really easy to see what it is she's talking about. And I love all of her stuff on play and all the different things we learn about play. So, I'll definitely link to her page in the show notes.
How to connect with Pam Thompson and Mary-Rose McMullin
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And if anybody wants to connect with either of you, do you want to share about what you do now or if you have social media or anything? I don't know if you do--
Pam Thompson: If anyone wants to connect-- Yeah, if anyone wants to connect with me, I have a website, wolfcreekcounselling.ca, Wolf-Creek-Counselling; Counselling with two Ls – .ca. So, you can go to that. I'm also on Facebook and Instagram, which I'm not as there as often because I'm old and so I haven't quite got into that.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: I will get the link to your website in the show notes also.
Pam Thompson: Okay.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Mary-Rose, what about you? Are you doing anything professionally?
Mary-Rose McMullin: I'm not doing anything professionally, I'm retired. I just enjoy making attachments with lots of people, so that's my fun right now.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing your wealth of all decades of, and knowledge of parenting and coaching and counseling and all of the things; I know it'll be really helpful for our listeners.
And for everyone who's listening, we made this extra-long podcast episode just for you because we're going to have a six-week break, so we will see you back again July 18th. And if there's anything you want to hear from the podcast, any specific conversations or topics you want us to cover… reach out on Instagram or you can email me at [email protected]. Thanks for being here.
I hope you enjoyed today's podcast episode. Don't forget to send me a little note, review it, rate it, share about it on social media, share it with a friend who's struggling – and reach out… if you want more support in coaching, scroll down to the show notes to find out about my current program.