I’ve been reading lots of parenting books in the past year.
Hey, I’m a book geek; it’s what I do.
And I’ve just been rubbed the wrong way by people who are strong proponents of Attachment Parenting. Not that the basic idea of physical closeness and contact is so far off. But that they seem to take it beyond, to the nth degree.
This post on the bearing blog sums up nicely for me where I start to depart from the whole philosophy.
Neufeld’s research, according to the book and the video course, indicates there’s six kinds of attachment. And that attachment is the most important factor in their maturation and character development. As children mature, they need to pass through the stages in sequence:
1. Through nearness and the senses (easiest but also the most superficial kind of attachment);
2. Through imitation and identification (deeper);
3. Through belonging and loyalty (“I’m on your side; I want to obey you”)
4. Through a feeling of being significant, important;
5. Through a feeling of love and affection;
6. Through being secure in the knowledge that they are known and understood (the deepest and most persistent and mature level of attachment).
AP is great for the earliest two stages, what with all the cuddling and bonding and closeness and modeling (“You can clean up just like me!”), but stops partway through. The stories we hear of successful mainstream parenting, and we all know some, are the stories of people who grew up in a family that fostered, especially, the latter four kinds of attachment as the children grew through older childhood and their teen years. The stories of people whose parents were confident in their work as parents.
Then bearing adds:
The kinds of attachment can, to some extent, be formed independently of each other. It’s not hard to imagine that in a family with very strict rules and harsh punishments for rule-breaking—- the kind of stuff that “gentle parenting advocates” and AP experts decry—- there might still be a strong sense of belonging and having a place in the family; a strong sense that Dad and Mom are on the same side as the kids; great love; the sure knowledge that the ties among them can never be ruptured.
I just finished re-reading Little House in the Big Woods and I think Laura’s family is a prime example. Very harsh rules and strict punishments, and yet I am so struck by the sense of love and belonging, the certainty of belonging and the closeness of family.
In fact, that’s perhaps why attachment parenting strikes me as so unbalanced. It puts so much weight onto the first two stages and then says nothing about the other kinds of attachment which strike me as so much more important. Certainly, babies primarily experience affection through physical touch. But will they be harmed by being put down, swung in cradles, strapped into strollers, sleeping in a crib? Evidence of my own experience says otherwise. Of course, you can cite extreme examples of failure to thrive, babies in institutions who are never held, never shown affection, never spoken to. But AP advocates seem to place all children into that category who are not treated by AP methods. And maybe it’s just the zeal of the stuff I’ve read, but it all seems aimed at making me feel guilty for not wearing my baby in a sling or for putting her in a crib.