Attachment parenting is a phrase that was coined by Dr. Sears. His description of this style of parenting was based on the principles of attachment theory. According to this theory there is a strong emotional bond between children and parent in early childhood. This is a secure attachment and a precursor to empathetic relationships in adulthood. Dr. Sears believed that a lack of this secure attachment in early childhood would result in a reactive attachment disorder as the child matured.
Although there are several goals or rules that have sprung up since the initial description and encouragement of this type of parenting style, Dr. Sears didn’t require parents to follow strict rules. Instead Dr. Sears encouraged parents who were working with him to focus on being creative in their responses to their child’s needs.
There are eight goals or basic principles of attachment parenting that have grown around the initial development. These principles include:
- Preparation for pregnancy, birth and parenting
- Feed with love and respect
- Use nurturing touch
- Respond with sensitivity
- Engage in nighttime parenting
- Provide consistency
- Positive discipline
- Balance in personal and family life
These values are interpreted by parents in a variety of different ways. Some parents include natural childbirth, home births, co-sleeping, natural health, homeschooling, or organic foods as falling within the parameters of these principles. But they weren’t designed to justify behaviors. Rather they were guidelines to help parents understand how becoming emotionally attached to their child could help to improve the child’s ability to relate to people as they grew.
In fact, the theory is based on the needs of people to be in relationship with other people. And because children are people, albeit little people, they also benefit from being in secure and stable relationships with their parents.
Some of the more functional principles, such as nighttime parenting, are there because many parents find that parenting at night goes against the grain of their life. Today, most two parent families have two parents working. Nighttime parenting interferes with sleep. A lack of sleep impairs the parent’s ability to work during the daytime and may decrease their work performance.
But parenting at all times of the day and night are essential parts of helping the infant learn to feel secure and loved.
The last principle, having a balanced life, is more about keeping the family unit intact by energizing the parents outside of the constant giving that must happen with the care of a completely dependent infant. Nurturing and caring for an infant is a time consuming and taxing job. When mom and dad neglect the care of themselves or each other they risk the loss of their relationship or being unavailable for their children.
Attachment parenting is really nothing more than common sense when taking care of children who are dependent and unable to care for themselves. However, many people use these principles as a means of justifying other behaviors, when in fact, those behaviors have other research or information that does all the justifying necessary.
Attachment Parenting International: APIs Eight Principles
Ask DrSears: Attachment Parenting
Aha! Parenting: Attachment Parenting