How Attachment Parenting Found Me

 

I had always planned to parent similarly to the way I was raised but with more structure, like the southern baptist families that populated most of my schools growing up. I would have strict curfews, rules, dinner at the table, yes sir and no sir and my children would do as they were told. I saw plenty of children around me raised this way…then I saw them grow up. I wasn’t so sold by the time we were late teens and college age, many of them had rebelled and were left to face difficult consequences.

Over my first few years in the north I began utilizing another system in my role as a nanny, it was very popular in the area, I call it the rewards and reinforcements method. This style focuses on sticker charts, marble jars, chore sheets and other behavior incentives to train children to respond appropriately to expected tasks so you don’t have to punish them and when you do you typically do so by withholding a reward. I would soon see both in childcare and soon in my classrooms that this can breed a dependency on external motivators and in the worst cases students/children who know where the line is and will tiptoe until touching it as many times as possible, knowing they are invinceable if they stay just this side of the carefully outlined rule.

By the time I stepped into my first developmental pyschology class I was pretty sure neither of these two very common systems worked and I wanted something more for my future students and children but wasn’t sure what. When we reached attachment theory a lightbulb clicked and while I wouldn’t really think to label it such for years, my journey with attachment parenting began.

Attachment parenting is an oft abused and misused term. It is frequently misapplied to what is, in reality, permissive parenting. In some circles it is synonomous with hippie/granola/crunchy parenting and in others with certain choices like breastfeeding, babywearing or cosleeping. All of these things miss the mark of attachment parenting though. Attachment parenting is parenting with the goal of creating a secure attachment for your child and it can be achieved in many different ways but one thing is consistent throughout: Responsiveness. Attachment parenting might better be termed responsive parenting.

The eight principles of AP are:

  • Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
  • Feed with love and respect.
  • Respond with sensitivity.
  • Use nurturing touch.
  • Engage in nighttime parenting.
  • Provide constant, loving care.
  • Practice positive discipline.
  • Strive for balance in personal and family life.

NOWHERE does it say that you must breastfeed, extended cosleep, cloth diaper, etc, etc, in fact that wouldn’t be AP if it was wrong for your child because AP is about RESPONDING to YOUR child.  Don’t get me wrong these things can be part of the journey for some families, I have nursed each of our children to 2+ years old and we had a family bed until our preschooler was old enough to feel comfortable in his own but that was what was right for us and it might not be for you.

The first few years of my oldest’s life I could feel the hesitancy from those around us about our choices, were we babying him or spoiling him? Wouldn’t nursing him that long hurt his growth or something? When was he going to sleep in his own bed? Why won’t you make him interact with people he doesn’t know, that’s what is normal. Then my child passed the attaching phase (typically from 6 months – 2 years) and the seeds we had been toiling diligently to plant in his life began to sprout. Those same people began to see that indeed he was more independent and capable than his peers in many areas and the questions changed in tone from judgment to advice, how can I get my daughter in law to try X, would my child benefit from Y. I responded to where he was and waited patiently for him to be ready for each skill and as such prevented the typical cycles of regression so many struggle with.

I’m not saying there is only one right way to parent but I do think that responsive parenting would be beneficial to every child. What it looks like varies widely based on the child’s needs though, even in the same family, because it is responsive! For example I would have never put my oldest child in a “time out” it was not necessary and would not have been effective, instead he and I cuddled and talked over the situation and it worked everytime. If I tried that with my daughter it would only escalate the situation as she does not like touch or affection when upset, so with her I simply remove her to comfy place, usually her room and tell her I will see her when she’s done crying and ready to talk.

Our journey is still in progress and I assume there will be many bumps in the road to come but I have no doubt that responding to my children’s needs and meeting them where they are will always be a positive choice.  As a Christian I have a Father who is always available, always willing to listen and guides my life through prayer, scripture and the Holy Spirit and I think that being a constant, loving, stable place for my child is one of the many ways I can model that relationship.

If you want to learn more about attachment theory there is a helpful summary here on Attach from Scratch and if you would like to know more about Attachment Parenting you can check out the AP International site.

Love Doesn’t Change.

While the lights of the stadium still blazed at the Super Bowl last night and families in homes across the nation debated the merits of puppymonkeybaby or doritos dogs I had another thought.

A sadder one. A darker one. One that kept me awake for hours as I lay listening to my children’s peaceful breathing.

There are many people near that stadium tonight who would not have been celebrating no matter the outcome. When you are trapped in the sex trafficking industry there is little to celebrate.

This may seem like a strange introduction to the phrase Love Doesn’t Change but that’s exactly what my son reminded me as I hugged him while we chatted this morning.

I tell my children frequently that love doesn’t change. It’s a simple statement that reminds them of a powerful truth we discuss often. My love for them will never change into anything different than love. It can grow of course but it will never change into something else and nothing they do or anyone else does could ever cause it too. Even more importantly God’s love for them will never change either, someday I will explain the types of love to them but for now, the word Love is enough on it’s own.

This simple step; an open, ongoing dialog that reminds them there is absolutely nothing in the world that could make me or their dad stop loving them is the first step in preventing them from ever being one of those people trapped in the trafficking industry.

When children know they will be loved in any circumstance, even unspeakable ones, they become a very difficult target for predators. Predators don’t want to be noticed by the herd, they pick off those they can take most quietly and easily. When a child is too afraid to tell you something because they don’t know it wouldn’t change your feelings they become the quiet prey. Let them know. Tell them. You love them and nothing could ever change that because love doesn’t change, not real love, not the kind a parent has for a child or Christ has for us.

 

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I Admire You, Fellow Mom

I see you handling that tantrum compassionately.

I see you encouraging your child to be polite and well mannered.

I see you unpacking that healthy lunch that took alot of prep.

I see you letting your kid be a kid; a loud, noisy, wild kid, in an appropriate place for it.

I see sometimes when your child doesn’t respond the way you want but that’s ok because I see you trying.

I want to say good job or you seem like a great mom, I want to compliment you but…you know…kids. Usually by the time i’ve had a quiet enough moment to process you have already left, moved on, gone. And sometimes I get in my way, I wonder if you’d think i’m weird for complimenting you and I decide its safer not to.

I know you want the same things I do, you need to hear you are doing a good job sometimes, and I want to tell you, I really do but most of the time I don’t. I’m working on that, maybe you are too.

There are probably lots of days another mom is admiring your parenting handiwork and just to rushed, shy, jealous or distracted to say so but you still need to hear it. You are doing a good job. If you have kids that are loved and safe and happy (mostlyish) then you are doing a good job.

 

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Teaching my Kids Truth AND Tolerance

Our society loves to throw around the word tolerance. It’s become synonomous with “accepting everything as right or true”. Sorry folks, you need to break out the dictionary because tolerance only deals with how much you can put up with an opposing view point, it does not in anyway mean you accept it as valid. [Actual Definition: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”]

I want my kids to be tolerant but also not to accept false things in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a tricky path but for the Christian a 100% necessary one. Jesus preached against adultery but still loved the sinners caught in it. I love alot of people I disagree with but that does not change that they are wrong (just like people who love me when i’m wrong). Being tolerant of their views can NOT look the same as agreeing with their views, I can not knowingly support something that is wrong but I CAN knowingly love someone who is wrong. I am called to love my fellow sinners. I am raising my children in a society that hates truth (because truth is offensive to those who live in contradiction to it) and it would be poor parenting on my part to let everyone else’s desire for political correctness overshadow truth.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Mulan when the emperor says, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Truth is unchanging, it is not a societal construct that can be changed to suit our moods.

I am raising my children not to speak about things they do not understand (the opposite of our culture which encourages children, and adults for that matter, to speak loudly and frequently regardless of whether they have any actual understanding of a topic). We forget that freedom of speech is not a compulsion to speak! They will not be jumping into the bandwagon with the Argumentum ad Populum crowd and proclaiming they know best because “a whole bunch of other people agree so it must be true!”. I see this far too often but popular does not equal correct.

My children are being taught to think for themselves but to make sure those thoughts are backed by facts before they share them. I was taught to think for myself but also to have deferrence for facts and life experience and wisdom and I am thankful for that, in fact without an open mind AND closed mouth I may have never become a Christian. People can only hear what they understand but they can only understand what they stop to actually hear. I want my children to grow up listening, knowing they can speak up anytime they need, but having the maturity not to always exercise that right.

Our society has created so many false dicotohmies that sometimes it seems like there are only two choices: religion or science, republican or democrat, christian or atheist, pro this, anti that, the list could go a while but there is no actual duel between truth and tolerance, in fact I think they coexist perfectly, you can know and speak truth AND be tolerant of others views. Telling someone you think they are wrong is not actually an act of aggression, in fact, if done for the right reasons, in the right way, it is an act of love!

Disagree, people, stand up for what you believe in but don’t hate those who disagree with you. The hatred in our society is an overwhelming force. Don’t participate simply because it’s popular.

 

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 3

This week I felt surrounded by ugliness. Mainly in the form of media, I just felt overwhelmed by the death, anger, hate and stupidity plastered all over the screen. I have realized that i’m usually pretty good at finding the beauty in my own personal little mess but I often have difficulty finding it in the mess of our society. It took some perspective but I found beauty in two places, one very unexpected and the other so expected I forget to count it at times.

The expected, but overlooked, beauty hit me as I sat in the middle of a pile of boxes, bags and products at church Wednesday night. I was surrounded by food & hygiene items my church family had generously donated to help me create crisis kits to be handed out to local woman in need. In a society full of “what can you do for me” I had asked a bunch of people to donate hundreds of dollars worth of supplies to bless a dozen local women we will never know and that is an amazing and beautiful thing. I sometimes forget how beautiful my fellow servants of Christ are because they are so humble but they are part of society and with them come the love and service modeled by Christ.

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The unexpected place I found beauty was in a strong disagreement with my younger cousin. A disagreement seems like a weird place to find beauty but it was a good reminder that you can have completely different thoughts on anything, or everything, and still respect and care about a person. You can each think the other is wrong and still recognize that you are both intelligent, thoughtful people who just happen to have completely different starting perspectives because you are different people. In a world where the first hint of disagreement is typically met with name calling and vitrol it’s beautiful to have a discussion of an issue rather than just stone throwing.

It’s true when you begin really looking for beauty in life you will find it hidden in less than obvious places.

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 2

This week my moment of beauty came as I tried to clean blood out of washclothes and off my bathroom counter. I found myself reflecting on my gratitude for my children’s health and safety. Shortly before I had been holding a wet washcloth on my toddler’s mouth trying to slow the flow of blood gushing from her teeth. She had slipped on the bench at our table during dinner and her two top teeth connected with the edge pretty hard. I was upset and worried for a moment but once it was clear there more blood than anything I settled in to grateful. The minor injuries of my children’s lives are just that minor, small, momentary discomforts and for that I am tremendously thankful. It’s beautiful to have a healthy child, even one covered in blood.

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 1

At my Momtourage group (a group for moms of preschoolers) this past week we were challenged to try and find the beauty each day in the mess of life and parenting (because it’s always a little messy but with the right perspective it’s always beautiful too!). I’m better with accountability so for the next 4 weeks I am going to try and reflect on the week to see some beauty that might have otherwise been hidden. Hopefully, this can encourage you to do the same.

My son has become increasingly independent since he turned four, trying to do things on his own he’s never tried. Sometimes it’s great…sometimes it means my husband finds two ziploc baggies containing: playdough, water, pompoms and miscellaneous items in his bedroom…one slightly leaking. He’d helped me make gel writing bags for preschool a few weeks ago and thought he and his sister would like some at home… he would have asked me for help if he hadn’t been so confident he could figure it out himself! He explained his ingredients (playdough, water to make it squishier, pom poms he thought would change the color if they soaked in water and some pretty things since he didn’t have any glitter).

I could have gotten mad at him for the mess and the waste and the sneaking them in his room but I instead looked at his intentions. He truly thought he could surpise me when he made these cool pouches for him and his sister, his heart was in a beautiful place. I laughed at his attempt before throwing them away and promising we would buy more hair gel to make our own next week.  I love this sweet, creative and independent side of him, in fact just writing this made me smile then give him a big hug again.

There is always beauty in the mess. Today of all days I remember that, what happened 14 years ago was ugly and horrible but from the ashes rose so many beautiful acts of love and compassion, they don’t change the damage but they give us hope.

Look for the beauty in the mess this week.  

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