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Attachment Parenting Answers!

last updated on April 5, 2005

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What is Empathic Parenting?
taken from the Journal of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

 Being willing and able to put yourself in your child's shoes in order to correctly identify his/her feelings

 Being willing and able to behave toward your child in ways which take those feelings into account

Empathic Parenting takes an enormous amount of time and energy and fully involves both parents in a co-operative, sharing way.

The following description of Attachment Parenting (AP) is by no means "all inclusive", but is a general overview of Attachment Parenting concepts and techniques. Please keep in mind there is great variability in how families attachment parent, and this results in a continuum of use which can range from encompassing all or most of this parenting style's methods, to adopting only a few AP practices.   This parenting style has also been called "empathic parenting" and "nurturing parenting".

Attachment Parenting is empathic, respectful parenting which fosters a healthy foundation of trust and communication between parent and child. Some of the common practices of AP are "wearing" your baby, breast feeding on demand, child-led weaning, and night time parenting. These practices help meet the critical, universal, and natural need that all babies have for close physical contact and nurturing.

Early and almost constant physical contact lays the groundwork for a strong parent/child bond, and this deep attachment forms the basis of a parent's confidence in his or her own parenting style. This contact allows parents to become very finely tuned to their baby and his or her cues, or "language", and helps the parents to adapt and change their techniques as the baby grows and changes.

Mothers and fathers who practice AP consciously strive to create mutually trusting and respectful relationships with their children. They work hard to help their children feel "right" with themselves and their world.  AP meets the needs of both child and parent;  a balance of give and take exists, with adult desires and wants occasionally being sacrificed in the early years.  This balance changes and evolves as the child becomes more mature.

Parents who practice AP believe that babies cry not to manipulate, but to communicate an intense physical and or emotional need. For this reason, most do not let their babies "cry it out," but work instead to make them comfortable and happy by meeting those needs. A favourite AP saying is "a need that is met is truly outgrown" .  AP parents trust that their children will grow out of developmental stages naturally on their unique timetable. Because children are allowed to mature at their own pace, they have a secure base from which to learn about their world.

As the child develops, emotional stability and independence of both thought and action are possible because childhood needs have been met, and not merely "pushed to the side" to deal with at a later time when they manifest themselves, sometimes even in adulthood. The Empathic Parenting site has some truly excellent information on the importance of creating attached, healthy bonds between children and parents; a free online "parenting course" is also available.

To read what best-selling authors Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt have to say about these parenting ideas click here. "Giving the Love that Heals: A Guide for Parents" is a great partner to their other books "Getting the Love You Want", and "Keeping the Love You Find".

 The following practices are those which many families strive to employ, and are considered to be the essence of Attachment Parenting:

heart Helping a child to fall asleep, and to go back to sleep after night waking is natural, and desirable. To meet nighttime needs as well as daytime needs is critical . A baby-led schedule is an important aspect of both the days and nights.  Sharing sleep with babies, for naps or at nighttime, can involve some or all members of the family. Often people have some sort of "family bed" and in some instances a side-car crib is used (this is where a crib is butted up to one side of the bed with one side removed to expand sleeping space). Co-sleeping, or the family bed, will change and evolve over time, and eventually culminates in the child sleeping on their own.  Many families with an AP philosophy have their child in a separate room, but attend to the child's night time needs in the way they would if it were day time.

Anthropologist Kathy Dettwyler,PhD has some very thought provoking writings on the importance of night time parenting.

"Nighttime Parenting" by Dr.William Sears is an invaluable resource.
heart Nursing on demand and exclusive breast feeding -- which may include a delayed introduction of solids till after 6 months -- is frequently practiced. Extended breast feeding, defined as lasting a minimum of 1 year, and sometimes lasting for as long as 3-4 years is common. Child-led weaning, or gentle weaning if parent-led, is respectful of the child's needs and temperament. To learn about 101 reasons to breastfeed click here .

Dr. Jack Newman , respected and renowned worldwide as a breast feeding expert and advocate, has some fantastic articles on a huge variety of breast feeding issues at the Bright Futures Lactation Resource Center. One particularly relevant to extended breast feeding is entitled "Breastfeed a Toddler: Why on Earth?". The entire site has good, easily accessible information, so have a look around while you're there.

Dr. Dettwyler has extensive breast feeding information on her site as well.

Occasionally the attempt to breastfeed is not successful for varying reasons; for an inspiring article on bottle-feeding and attachment parenting click here.
heart Reading their babies cues, and responding intuitively is much easier for parents in an environment where babies are worn in baby carriers, or carried in arms frequently. Spending as much time as possible with their children is seen by AP parents as an important way to achieve attached relationships. Maximizing the parents' time available to the child, whether through being a stay-at-home, or work-at-home parent, or through pursuing arrangements that minimize alternative care enables quality attention. Single parents, or families in which both parents work can and do practice AP. It may in fact be even more important for these families to do so in order to make up for time spent apart. Taking children anywhere and everywhere with you, and avoiding any lengthy separations is also helpful.

Attachment Parenting does not end after babyhood! Rather, as children grow, the bond between themselves and their parents also grows...

heartDiscipline within an AP family is in the context of a trusting and respectful relationship. The parents treat their children as they themselves would wish to be treated, and this reciprocity of respect, as well as modeling (teaching by example) ideally causes children to want to behave as their parents desire.

Discipline in an AP family consists of loving guidance, setting clear and sensible limits, and teaching appropriate behavior, rather than focusing on the "correction" of negative behaviors only. Positive discipline involves positive reinforcement. Spanking and other punitive punishments are avoided. A child friendly environment which allows for exploration, and parents who have developmentally appropriate expectations of a child allow full development of a child's potential.  Check out the Empathic Parenting site and the Natural Child site for more detailed information.

Dr.Bill and Martha Sears' have an extensive and valuable site. It is full of advice and information regarding health, discipline, fussy babies, attachment parenting, breast feeding and a great deal more.

It is most important that the parents' instincts and the child's cues are followed. No two families practice attachment parenting in the same manner, or to the same degree.

To review literature regarding Ezzo/"Babywise"/"Raising Children God's Way" click here . For another view on raising children in a Christian home, read what Dr. William Sears, MD has to say.

The following practices are sometimes confused with attachment parenting:

home schooling, unschooling, or child-led learning; non-vaccination; religious convictions; vegetarianism; use of "alternative" health care; and "simple" living.

While some people who attachment parent do find these ideas/philosophies an integral part of their lives, they are not associated with the general "definition" of attachment parenting.

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