OK I’m doing it. I didn’t write about the damn Time magazine cover because I didn’t feel like giving something so blatantly sensationalist any attention. But in the past month I can’t seem to get away from attachment parenting and its fallout, and I just can’t keep quiet any more.
In all fairness, some of the principles of attachment parenting are lovely and well-intentioned. I used them during the early months of my sons’ lives (and was a frequent visitor to Dr. Sears’ website). But ultimately I think they are misleading a lot of parents, and taking the power and control out of their hands.
In short, attachment teaches parents to be very kind and nurturing to children. Nothing wrong with that. But it also teaches people to understand their child’s angry feelings and negotiate for better behavior instead of giving a consequence. Two-year-olds don’t understand conversation. Instead of clearly teaching children that bad behavior is not acceptable, this tactic only creates very good negotiators.
We humans are tricky creatures. We’re stubborn and naturally a little bit arrogant. We don’t like to be told how to do anything. We only truly learn by doing, on our own, with real consequences, and sometimes failure. Actually, we learn the most by failing. (There are like, a ton of quotes about that online but I didn’t feel like copying one here.)
Attachment parenting doesn’t allow failure. As soon as a child fusses, mommy is there. How is a child going to grow if its parent is meeting every need? They have to find out how to meet their own needs. No one can ever be self-sufficient if they’re relying on someone else to fix every problem.
One teacher friend of mine was recently reprimanded for telling his students it was irresponsible to miss an event they’d planned. The parents complained that he made their children feel bad. I wonder if these parents plan on following their children around through life preventing anything upsetting from happening to them.
Mostly I can’t forget something another teacher friend of mine said. We were talking about the challenging behavior she faces in class and she pointed out that “since attachment parenting is only about twenty years old, I don’t think that we have seen the true effect of it on society and kids as they become adults.”
Proponents of the philosophy would say it’s wonderful, the effect will be a more peaceful world. But those of us who work with kids worry about just the opposite. What we see is children who expect adults to jump for them and have no concern for anyone but themselves.
This is not how to raise healthy people. I show love to my kids – all of them, my own and day care alike – by expecting them to do better. By challenging them to problem solve and learn that you can’t always get what you want (a refrain I often sing in a lovely lilting voice). And believe it or not, they respond to me with gratitude. I respect them enough to challenge them, which means I also trust them to succeed. That is the best thing a child could ask of an adult.