Monday, November 10, 2008

Why "Attached"

I had never heard of Attachment Theory until I was pregnant with my first child. In fact, I had heard of only Attachment Parenting until that first child was 4 years old. Posts in the future will reflect my support of Attachment Parenting in particular, but I want to briefly discuss the Theory behind the Parenting. I am no expert, but I am learning, and certainly encourage comments to help us all understand Attachment Theory better.

Last December I invited a local psychotherapist who studies Attachment Theory to Birth Circle. She gave an overview of Attachment Theory and answered parenting questions. One of the questions that I still simmer on from that night was "What does Attachment look like with older children?" With infants there are concrete to-dos like breastfeeding and going to your baby when he cries. But once your baby (or rather, toddler?) has weaned and has learned to sleep peacefully through the night...how do you know you are still promoting the "strong emotional bond" your child needs to grow into an emotionally secure adult? When a child is small, his wants and his needs are the same. At some point, some of his wants become wants and not needs but how do you know the difference?

What I learned that night is that Attachment Theory (AT) applies to all relationships, not just those with your children. It is about meeting the needs of those we love with a mentality of understanding, cooperation and a focus on the bigger picture. We may argue with a spouse about something trivial, but there may be an underlying need for understanding or respect that has been left out of the discussion. Your 5 year old may start coming into your bed during the night after months of sleeping soundly in his own bed, but for no obvious reason: no nightmare, he isn't cold, he isn't sick..... The AT approach for this child may mean providing reassurance with kindness and flexibility, not contempt or disciplinary action.

In all relationships, you may not always know what the underlying need is, but AT teaches us to give the person the benefit of the doubt that there is a need. A need that requires the same gentle touch figuratively that you gave quite literally to the newborn.
We all have wants and we all have needs. I feel the lesson I get from Attachment Theory is to back up from challenging situations, take a deep breath and try to figure out which is which.

4 comments:

travelingwithbaby said...

Hi Cynrgia. Thanks for finding me and blogrolling me. I look forward to reading your blog and maybe even running into you in Cville!

--Dolly

travelingwithbaby said...

Sorry I misspelled your name on that last comment. It's tough to type one-handed while breastfeeding!

Vijay Owens said...

Well said! One of the huge rewards of practicing AP (though I didn't really get into it with a "what's the payoff" attitude) is that there is such a strong bond of trust between you and your child because you don't manipulate through shame and abandonment. So when you do mess up -- and believe me, we all do! -- you can rest assured that your *day* may have taken a hit, but your relationship at the end of that day is still as strong as ever.

Naticia said...

I have found that a lot of parents misunderstand "attachment" and it looks like co-dependance. Mom's don't want kids away from their sides, don't want to ever stop nursing (I am exaggerating!), and that nothing in this world is acceptable for their kid except themselves.

So What III think is to do your attachment parenting in public, and give it a name so that others have language to associate to the picture, because you are (at least for me) redefining attachment parenting.

One aspect of attachment parenting, or maybe this is not an aspect and something else, is Child Centeredness. That the environment is prepared to support the child's developmental needs, rather than them having to do 100% of the adjusting to the adult centered environment. Are we supporting kids to know themselves, to explore the world without hyper-fears, to be individuals that work well with anyone else?

So many goals in parenting, and yet so much of it is us being the right parents, and being able to model learning from our mistakes, and celebrating those things that matter to the heart...it isn't about our kids being the right kids...I wish I could get this through my head.

I like parent development, family development and child development....attachment theory, if I understand your post, is making sure that that development happens in such a way as to leave our souls flourishing and our creativity mushrooming, rather than stagnating and suffocating.....

G, isn't family transformation something to behold!