Attachment Parenting is practiced by parents who feel strongly that through a strong parent-child bond-- physical and emotional-- children will grow up with greater abilities to be trusting and trusted, empathetic, and respectful of themselves and others.
Sometimes attachment parenting is referred to as "intuitive parenting". Dr. William Sears with his wife, Martha, is mostly credited with developing and promoting attachment parenting. Dr. Sears believes that parents who have a close committed bond with their child will intuitively know how to handle issues such as discipline in a gentle and effective way.
Parents who practice attachment parenting can be picked out of a crowd because they frequently "wear the baby" (in a sling or backpack), breastfeed in preference to bottle-feed, and may choose to wear cotton diapers (vs. disposables) and sleep with their child in a co-sleeping or family bed arrangement.
Sometimes attachment parenting families will opt for bonding before birth. For example, Dr. Sears talks about laying his hands upon his pregnant wife's uterus each day during the pregnancy, and thereafter the birth, feeling such a strong bond with the child that he continued to have a sort of formalized "laying on of hands" with each of his children each day.
Sometimes parents practicing this style will opt for a doula (pregnancy and birth coach) and/or a midwife over the usual medical personnel. They might also be more apt to choose to home-school their children and be more committed, in general, to what might be described as more 'environmentally- and 'eco-friendly' lifestyles.
Like all parenting styles, attachment parenting has a broad range of 'aspect-groupings'. Some parents might opt for a hospital birth and breast-feed their child, and definitely not co-sleep. Others might use disposable diapers on their children but wear them in slings and follow a vegan way of eating.
Where do Grandparents Fit with Attachment Parenting?
In my opinion, Attachment, or Intuitive Parenting, is the most natural of all the different possible styles. Dr. Sears and his wife talk about an early commitment that parents make to their child, before his/her birth. In an ideal situation, the parents would love and respect each other, opting to carry the 'fruit' of their love with the utmost respect and love. It is difficult to see where anything but 'gentle discipline' would be part of this parenting style.
Grandparents who have a healthy attachment to their own offspring generally feel a strong need to support whatever gentle and caring methods their adult children plan to use in parenting their child.
As grandparents we may have been brought up believing that our babies might be a severe risk of death if we rolled over on them at night, and that there were a number of sexual taboos that commanded that young children sleep outside the parents' bedroom.
I know that I slept with my babies when I was just too exhausted to take them back to the crib, and I never once rolled over on any of them.
Our granddaughters are growing up with quite a high level of 'attachment parenting'. They co-sleep and are worn in slings. Their mommy grew up in the Philippines where she and her siblings were born at home with the assistance of a midwife, and where all the children were breastfed and slept with their parents while they were small.
I don't think it is advisable for the grandparents to attempt to attach with grandchildren in the same way that parents do, unless, of course, they are sharing in the full-time raising of the children. It is important for children to attach to their primary caregivers, preferably their birth parents, first.
Grandparents can have an enormous role in supporting the healthy aspects of attachment parenting... whatever your adult children choose as meaningful in their child-rearing style, be sure to ask what you can do to help out.
For us, in this day where many young families may NEVER own a home of their own, material support has been the most obvious means of showing our willingness to accept their way of bringing up the little ones. I was able to find two dozen "gently used" good quality cloth diapers through our local Freecycle, and both little girls have used them. Most grandparents are happy to help out with all the items needed to bring up their grandbabies. But don't assume you know WHAT is necessarily needed... ask. Shop with your children, or give them money towards whatever it is they are planning to buy. Let go of using money as a "control"-- it doesn't work in the long run to promote good relationships.
I must be honest and say that I sometimes fall into the aim of trying to be a better parent than the parents-- and most definitely, a better grandparent than I was a parent. I had all the Attachment parenting dreams ready to go and loaded the kids down with books and other items. I was a little disappointed when they rejected some of my aspirations with their own 'take' on attachment. I've learned to back off with the criticism and resentment, and really notice what a close-knit and harmonious little family they have become-- the evidence of their doing the parenting 'right for them.' My role as a grandmother is just to support the maintenance of this healthy family-making. Sometimes that means biting my tongue. Sometimes it means urging them to have a night out without the little ones. When the baby was born in October, my husband and I spent a month with the family, helping with the transition to 'big sister' for our two-year old granddaughter(we hope).
And like with all other facets of supporting something you're not terribly familiar with, get the knowledge you need.
Parenting From The Inside Out -- A 2 hr. audio download by Daniel Siegel of the MindSight Institute. Get a great, concise introduction to Parenting from the Inside Out principles and approach in this brief presentation.
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