The term “Attachment Parenting” is relatively new … but the practice of gentle and nurturing parenting to promote development of Human Attachment according to Bowlby’s Attachment Theory has been around for a long time. The great news is that I would “Attachment Parent” all over again! The greater news is that I know my regrets as an Attachment Parent … I see where the concept was not yet fully formed. I see where a deeper understanding of the process of Attachment Formation in children is more complex than I even imagined. Now I can reflect on my regrets, to develop them into deeper interpretations of Attachment Parenting … to move beyond regret and into deeper levels of parenting success and achievement.
I embraced what is now known as Attachment Parenting during the 1980s. It was not the fad, and sometimes we felt like foreigners in a strange land as we affirmed a nurturing child rearing philosophy. We spoke in positive terms to our children. We never said “no” … we never had to. We always communicated in the positive with our children. “Hold an adult’s hand when you cross the street” and “Keep away from the hot stove.” It was all so simply then. We breezed through infancy, the toddler months, and early childhood.
We knew enough about the importance of children becoming autonomous, self-reflective, and compassionate that we did a fine job in supporting our children to grow in those ways. They each knew their role in society, they could balance personal needs with the needs of society, and knew to think things through before making decisions. They were each wonderfully made, bright, and loving.
Here is where I made a mistake. As parents, we knew the sting of having too many demands put on us as children. We knew even more about the child’s experience with harsh parenting and unkind discipline. Now with children of our own, my husband and I were committed to doing things differently. And here is where we fell off the track of really good Attachment Parenting …
I was so focused on being gentle, peaceful, and nurturing that I missed the opportunities to pull back from all that nurture … and allow my children to feel the sting of the consequences of their own choices. Life can provide some wonderful teaching experiences … and good parents participate in that natural learning and growing experience for the benefit of their children.
Unfortunately, the memory of my harsh childhood was looming in my mind … so I did not insist on simple little things. Things that would have made a difference in my children’s personal growth and development. Things like insisting that the dishwasher was loaded, the dog walked, and the trash taken out before going out to play. These may not be big things in the course of humanity, but such responsibilities have incredible significance in the learning and development of a child.
Many opportunities presented themselves to just allow my children to feel the sting of their own choices. I could have said “I am glad to take you to the movies with your friends … once the dishes are done.” But I falsely remembered the harsh consequences that were not realistic for a child … from my own early years. The problem was, my children were not living in that harsh reality; they lived in a loving home with two parents who adored them. And my children needed to learn to do the chores and contribute meaningfully to the family process.
The good news is that each child will have more than one opportunity to learn critical life lessons. Each of my children were able to eventually pick up some deeper understanding about the importance of being a team player and pitching in to run a household. Yet all those years of letting them off the hook deprived us all of something wonderful. We missed out on joyful experiences that would have felt even better because each of us … children included … had pitched in. My adult children are simply amazing … but I see where I could have done even more for them … by doing less at the right time.
So my first regret as an Attachment Parent was not realizing that the Attachment Parenting process must grow with the child over time. As a parent, I needed to learn to continue to pull back … and allow my children to do more. I needed to allow my children to slowly grow into an adult role that allowed them to have good feelings about their contributions to the family and society. I also needed to trust that the consequences of poor choices are the best teachers … and that my children would not have suffered if I had only agreed to provide them the riches of a great life once they had made a meaningful contribution to the household.
I would have taken them roller skating … after the living room was picked up. We would have gone to the mall to hang out … after the yard was mowed and trimmed. They could have slept over at a friend’s house … after their laundry and schoolwork was done.
Attachment Parenting does involve being loving, gentle, and nurturing. But the way we love and nurture children must evolve over time as our children mature. We can still hug a 16 year old. Just as we can hold that 16 year old accountable for positive behavior, good choices, and chores.
Attachment Parenting Lesson #1 learned!!!
Darleen Claire Wodzenski, MA ESE, MA CMHC, QPPE is the Founder and Program Developer for Orchard Human Services, Inc. She specializes in counseling and intervention for children with Attachment Disorder, Developmental Challenges, and other Special Needs … including working with children and their families who suffer from RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and DSED (Disinhibited Social Engagemeng Disorder). RAD counseling is a specialized form of support that incorporates child development, attachment theory, and mental health concepts into a streamlined treatment paradigm. Darleen Claire provides direct services around the metro Atlanta area, and performs phone and Internet intervention and support for parents outside the Atlanta area. You can contact Darleen Claire through OrchardHumanServices.org or by phone (770) 686 0894.