A growing number of children are experiencing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and aggression. Many experts this increase in is due to lack of “deep connectedness” to parents and the larger community.
Attachment parenting offers a solution, and the founders of Attachment Parenting International Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker have recently published a fantastic book on the subject backed by research.
Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children teaches parents:
· Important facts you need to know before and after having your baby
· Strategies to strengthen the emotional bonds with your child
· How to be a more conscious parent with your children
· New information to help you make informed decisions
· How raising our children with empathy and respect can positively affect society
No other parenting book is as comprehensive in its scope, from an overview of attachment theory and current child development research to practical strategies for everyday situations. Attached at the Heart is a vital blueprint for change that begins at home.
I have to be honest it was easier for me to practice attachment parenting when my children were infants and toddlers. As my children get older, it is important for me to read books like Attached at the Heart to remind me of the foundational principles that got us started on this journey of parenting. Coauthor Lysa Parker explains:
The essence of attachment parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment parenting challenges parents to treat children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.
There are eight principles of attachment parenting:
- Prepare yourself for pregnancy, birth, and parenting
- Feed with love and respect
- Responding with sensitivity
- Use nurturing touch
- Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
- Provide consistent, loving care
- Practice positive discipline
- Strive for balance in your personal and family life
Although much of the book is devoted to the tender young years, the above principles apply to any age group (even teenagers). For example, when discussing the practice of positive discipline, specifically using incentives creatively, the authors write:
The incentive should be something small and fun but not something that would be seen as punishment if it were not received. This is an opportunity for the child to talk with the parent as to whether this is a strategy that she would like to try and to reevaluate if it doesn’t seem to be working. In other words, this technique is not something the parent would arbitrarily use without the child’s input and consent…If, over time, the child consistently chooses not to change the behavior, then the parent should explore whether the child has an underlying unmet need and discuss the situation with the child.
My almost eight-year-old daughter and I have been using this technique for her behavior. She can be rude and has a little attitude that is not pleasant. Together we have devised a system of rewards when she has gone through a whole day without talking back rudely or demonstrated some other inappropriate behavior. Her suggestion for an incentive is to spend special one-on-one time with me each day. It was very sweet for her to make this choice as an incentive, but it also perhaps hints at an “underlying unmet need”. Reviewing attachment parenting principles more in depth through Attached at the Heart has helped me remember that:
Attachment parenting is not just for babies!
One of the hardest things for me as a parent that practices attachment parenting is to send my child to school where the principles are not supported to the same degree as I expect. I think this is one reason why my daughter’s behavior has become challenging, because she spends a large part of her time around adults and children who do not operate based upon the attachment parenting principles. It would be wonderful if a program was developed for schools and teachers. We need attachment teaching and attachment schools!
We have practiced attachment parenting since my children were born and feel that it has made a tremendous difference in their emotional development. Our children are secure in their relationships with us, they’re very satisfied and happy kids, and we have a really close bond with them. We never went through phases of insecurity or separation anxiety which was a pleasant surprise.
We certainly don’t have the perfect family or perfect children – whatever that is – but we have happy, thoughtful and secure kids which means a lot to us. It would certainly be easier to give in, let them have their way, sign them up for classes & such to keep them busy but we think it’s worth all the effort and time. They’re worth it.