Tag Archives: attachment parenting

Parenting With Sensitivity

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I have a two year old who’s a little bit different. She hasn’t received any diagnosis and passed a hearing and speech evaluation, but she’s just not quite like other two year olds. She displays several markers for Autism as well as a variety of ‘unusual’ — but cute! –behavior. 

We are attempting to potty train this nutty little girl. So far we’ve come across a complete lack of success. She pees down her legs and doesn’t seem to notice. She will be interested in panties ad interested in sitting on the potty, but pee just never happens. Today, Grandma decided to help while I was mopping the kitchen floor. From the other room, I could hear her yelling at her and my little ladybug crying and saying “all done”. Grandma didn’t want to let Little Miss off the potty insisting that at 31 months she “has” to potty train. 

Long story short, I flipped out. 

I believe in gentle parenting. In treating children with kindness and firm guidance, but never with cruelty or force. Unless, of course, they are in harm’s way– that is another story entirely. Forcing a little girl to sit on the potty will, in my opinion, do more harm than good. She will go when she is ready. And this brought me to a thought- how many of us actually parent with sensitivity to our children’s needs? Are we doing what is convenient for us, or what is best for them? I recall a quote that goes something like, “What’s best for the child is not always what’s most convenient for the parent”. 

What do children need? Food, shelter, clothing. But also love, guidance, a superior role model. A strong pair of arms, a loving touch, a gentle voice. 

Forcing your child to do things they are not yet ready to do may harm the special bond you have with your child. Forcefulness breeds mistrust, anger, and general unhappiness. Raising your voice breeds fear and hurt. Take the time to not only tell your children that you love them, but also to show them that you love them. I truly do not believe that a well-loved, gently disciplined child can be spoiled. There is no such thing as too many kisses! 

On that note, the other day Grandma said to me, “your children are far too attached to you!”. This idea appalls me. Why, I ask, would you have a child and expect them NOT to be attached to you? You bear them, you birth them, you raise them. You are, in every sense of the word, their world. And certainly the intense attachment of a two year old can be overwhelming at times. The passionate love of a baby or toddler can be frustrating when your hair is undone and your house is in shambles. But that love is a blessing, the most beautiful gift a parent could wish to possess. So parents, parent gently. Be sensitive to the needs of your children. Parenting is not an easy task. Your days may be long and your nights may be sleepless, but childhood is short. This too shall pass! 

Growing Up Alongside Playtime

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Toddlers and young children play effortlessly and easily, with no stress or inhibitions to limit their explorations. Their imagination is their only limit. Every attachment parent knows how important hands-on imaginative play is. Through play, children develop their personalities, their creativity, and their relationships. Through play, children express their emotions, their needs, and their desires. Playtime is a way for a child to express himself in ways he may not be able to verbally or psychologically. A parent who plays with their child is able to connect on a deeper, more intimate level with their child. 

As children grow, playtime grows as well. It is important for parents to remain hands on and guide their children through the stages of their play. For parents, relating to a school aged child can be much more difficult than it was to communicate with a toddler. When your child grows too old for wrestling, tickle fights, and general silliness, then it is time for the playtime to grow and mature as well.

The following are several ways in which a parent can support and encourage healthy parent-child relationships through the maturation of playtime. 

Physical Play

As children age, their style of physical play changes, but their enjoyment of it does not. Physical play becomes more about organization and tests of skill and strength, and less about wrestling and running aimlessly. The logical, more developed brains of older children enjoy organized activities such as sports, physical games, or activities. By participating in these activities with your children, you can connect to them on a “feel good” level, sharing your experiences and strengthening your bond. Interactive play provides strong emotional connections between parents and children. 

Verbal Play

As a child grows, his brain and language skills become more developed and mature. Verbal play is a great way for families to stay connected. Word games are great, but consider telling jokes as well. A funny joke can activate many areas of the brain, as well as releasing endorphins in the body. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, laughter is the best medicine! Share jokes or funny stories around the dinner table or after school. 

Individual Play

Besides finding activities, games, and sports that the whole family can participate in, it’s also important for parents to spend individual time with each child. Individual play allows children to become more emotionally invested in the lives of their parents. Child development specialists recommend finding an activity that is pleasurable to the child, first and foremost. Joining your child in an activity they already love, whether it be playing with Legos or making music, can strengthen the feelings of closeness between parents and children. 

Playtime Is A Listening Tool

Playtime is some of the most important time of day for a child. It not only allows them to express their own individuality and creativity, but it brings them together with their parents and siblings. Besides this, playtime is an ideal time for parents to listen to their kids. As children get comfortable in their playtime activities with their parents, their conversations may become deeper, giving parents and opportunity to listen to their child’s unexpressed needs, desires, fears, or troubles. 

Regardless of whether or not a parent shares a child’s particular interest, getting involved in that interest or activity will inevitably bring the parent and the child closer. 

 

Your children are growing and changing. Is your playtime growing with them? Stay involved in your children’s lives– remember, parenting lasts a lifetime, but childhood is short. 

 

Parenting Style Affects Genetic Makeup

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 The nature vs. nurture debate has never been more heated than it currently is among psychologists and child development experts. One definitive piece of information has resulted from these years of study. That is, that the way children are raised directly affects the physical shape of their brain. Every interaction a child has, whether good or bad, will result in the formation of pathways within the brain. These pathways connect to shape the individual person that your child will become. Obviously, a pattern of abusive or neglectful behavior will shape a child’s brain differently than a pattern of nurturing and love. 

A study posted in the February 2009 edition of Nature Neuroscience states that in addition to changing and shaping the brain, interaction patterns also affect the way a person’s genes are expressed. For more than ten years, researchers have known that affectionate mothering alters gene expression in animals, but it was not until recently that we were able to see proof of this in humans as well. Research has shown that children who are exposed to patterns of trauma and abuse are biologically altered to make them more sensitive to stress. 

While scientists are still speculating as to why some people are more easily able to regulate stress than others, it is now commonly accepted that experiences do play a significant role in the development of genes. Previous generations would have looked at an angry child with the attitude of ‘they were born that way’, but scientific research does not allow for this excuse to be made anymore. Scientifically, we have proven that raising our children in loving, nurturing environments will produce loving, nurturing adults, who will in turn raise loved, nurtured children of their own. 

The cycle starts with you. Are you doing the best you can for your child? 

Extended Parenting

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With today’s techno-gadgets and smart phone apps for literally everything, it feels like even parenting is becoming more disconnected than ever. But there is a strong following of attachment style parents who fights to change this, one child at a time. It is my personal opinion that the time limits and measures ought to be stopping. Admit it. How many times, as a parent, have you asked yourself, “How long should I….?” 

It’s not necessary! Let’s stop worrying about short term or long term breastfeeding, short term co-sleeping, occasional babywearing, weekend cloth diapering, and focus on the bigger picture. I don’t just support extended breastfeeding. I don’t just support extended co-sleeping. I support extended parenting. 

What I mean by that is that parents need to be taking a deeper, more emotionally connected role in their children’s lives. Detaching yourself from your children at a certain age (usually by 1 or 2) so that they can learn ‘independence’ is not beneficial to you or your children. It is, in fact, quite harmful to your relationship. Instead of asking yourself when you should quit parenting the way you parent, ask yourself if you are comfortable with your parenting style. After all, the comfort of mom, dad, and baby are what matters- not what a magazine or child rearing book can tell you! If you want to co-sleep until your kids are ten, go for it! If you want to breastfeed until they’re 7, that’s up to you!

As a society, we need to stop putting limits on every aspect of parenting, and instead stand together to support all styles of loving parents. Parenting lasts a lifetime- isn’t it time we extended it, instead of limiting it?  

Sleep Training Is Bad News For Babies

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I doubt that any of my readers question my negative feelings towards sleep training and Crying It Out (CIO) for babies and toddlers. As a new year dawns and new parenting books hit the shelves, the question of whether or not to CIO is on the minds of every new parent. The question goes far beyond whether or not you have the heart to let your baby cry. It must also be pointed out that CIO can cause serious developmental and social problems not only during babyhood, but also during adult life.

As Heather Turgeon said on her webpage,

Ignoring baby cries during sleep training is linked to all kinds of problems later in life — ADHD, antisocial behavior, lower IQ. At the root of these claims is the idea that the stress of crying and the absence of a responsive parent release intense levels of chemicals that alter a child’s brain development. But is there scientific evidence to back this up?

She also went on to say,

…stress hormones like cortisol, released during intense crying, damage nerve cells in the brain, leading to unhealthy attachments and psychological disorders. …a repeated pattern of unmet needs disrupts a child’s stress-regulating systems and can alter the way her limbic structures process emotion.

There is more than enough evidence in recent studies to show that, yes, extensive crying is bad for babies. And while the Cry It Out method may suggest that mothers pop into the baby’s room regularly to let the infant know that their provider is still nearby, this presence is not constant enough to reduce stress and provide the relaxation that is necessary for inducing a gentle sleep. Heather Turgeon went on to say,

infants who cry excessively have a higher incidence of ADHD, antisocial behavior, and poor school performance.

The full article can be read here.

Many of the cases cited in anti-CIO articles are extreme and do not fit the norm of most parenting methods. It is important to note that most parents who choose to practice a Cry It Out method of sleep training are responsive to their baby’s needs, within limits, and do not allow the child to cry to the point of physical harm. However, there are some books which encourage allowing an infant or toddler to vomit and continue to cry, as a way to ‘show the child who’s boss’.

It is my opinion- and it is only that, opinion! -that sleep training is dangerous for babies and toddlers. As a mother of two, I have faced many a sleepless night. But as I began to understand that my expectations for a full night’s sleep were unreal, I began to find what works for Baby, not just what works for me. Like many mothers in this country and even more international mothers, I cosleep. We are a bedsharing family who provide warmth, love, and nurturing to our children at all hours of the day and night. As a result, we have been sleeping better than ever! I strongly believe that practicing CIO can lead to lifelong physical, psychological, and psychosocial problems for your child, and that a more natural, attached method to ‘sleep training’ is preferred.

Parents, instead of trying to conform Baby to your schedule, why not see what ways you can adjust YOUR schedule to Baby’s? The rule of thumb is compromise. We as parents must meet our children in the middle to encourage happy, healthy development and a peaceful home for all.

 

 

Thoughts On Attachment Parenting

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Way back before I had babies, I thought I would be the “typical” mother. You know the one. Setting up a nursery, putting baby in its own crib right out of the hospital, circumcising, vaccinating, Gerber-baby food feeding… the works. What surprised me was how rapidly my ideals changed as I gave birth to my daughter.

Moose was not in a bassinet in the hospital. She was born 5 weeks premature with a Congenital Heart Defect, and was perfect in every way. But she needed that closeness to me to regulate the uneven beating of her heart, just as I needed it to erase the pain of her delivery. When we came home, she shared our bed and our hearts.

As my second child was born, I witnessed my parenting style change and develop even more. I became a co-sleeping, anti-circumcising, delayed vaccinating, homemade food making, ‘crunchy’ mom. Something I never thought I’d be. Which brings me to my point.

Attachment parents seem to raise the best children. From my experience, babies who are raised in a loving, nurturing, warm environment turn out the best. They have that innate understanding that mom or dad will answer every one of their cries, and that someone’s arms will always be available to hold them close. They grow up warm, secure, and confident in their support systems- something that every child should have the right to experience. And according to Dr. Sears, attachment babies cry less and develop quicker. The act of a baby and mother being close together, ‘attached’ or most of the day is beneficial to the health of both mom and baby.

I remember when my son was born, I asked my husband (while crying, watching Little Bear fuss in his crib) how I was supposed to embrace the separation between mother and baby. I said to him, “We were attached, literally, for 10 months. He was connected to me, inside of me, but at birth I’m expected to be so separate from him?” I remember how my heart hurt as I watched him turn towards me, the bars of his crib imprisoning him and banning him from my arms. Soon after, co-sleeping began (or rather, resumed). I honestly cannot fathom how we, as mothers, are expected to go from a state of complete connection with our children to a state of complete separation. It seems that attachment parenting allows for children to be independent while confident in the closeness of their mothers. It’s a wonderful thing, knowing that your baby will always find you when he looks for you, that he will always know where to turn when he is afraid, or lonely, or in need of comfort. That he will turn to you, knowing where he can share his joy, his delight, his excitement.

Is there any better way to watch your baby grow than from a position of complete closeness and warmth? I think not.

Dr. Sears has this to say about attachment parenting:

“The single most important influence on a child’s intellectual development was the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby. In caring for your baby, keep in mind that relationships, not things, make brighter babies.

BENEFITS OF ATTACHMENT PARENTING – A SUMMARY
BABY
  • is more trusting
  • feels more competent
  • grows better
  • feels right, acts right
  • is better organized
  • learns language more easily
  • establishes healthy independence
  • learns intimacy
  • learns to give and receive love
PARENTS
  • become more confident
  • are more sensitive
  • can read baby’s cues
  • respond intuitively
  • flow with baby’s temperament
  • find discipline easier
  • become keen observers
  • know baby’s competencies and preferences
  • know which advice to take and which to disregard
RELATIONSHIP

Parents and baby experience:

  • mutual sensitivity
  • mutual giving
  • mutual shaping of behavior
  • mutual trust
  • feelings of connectedness
  • more flexibility
  • more lively interactions
  • brings out the best in each other”

Really. Need I say more?