Attachment Parenting: The Key to Thriving Kids? (page 2)

Attachment Parenting: The Key to Thriving Kids?

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Updated on Sep 26, 2011

On the other hand, if a child has a parent that consistently understands and responds to her needs, it leads to what attachment theory pioneer John Bowlby called “a secure base.” This experience of being understood and cared for is imprinted on the brain like grooves in a record, and the child uses that experience as a model for future relationships. It functions almost like a mental security blanket, which he can carry and refer to throughout his life.

Sounds pretty important, right? But according to Siegel, while the concept is well known to most psychologists, it hasn’t really made its way into the hands of regular parents. When parents hear the word “attachment”, many think of “attachment parenting”, a term coined by Dr. Bill Sears, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and author of more than 30 books on childcare.  

There is a movement based on Sears’ work, in which parents attempt to extend the womb experience in order to ease their babies into the world. While the tenets of attachment parenting are interpreted in different ways, the bulk of parents who follow the attachment parenting path choose to co-sleep, “wear” their babies in a soft carrier, breastfeed on cue, and practice stay at home parenting.

It’s hard work, but proponents say it’s worth it. According to Sears, attachment kids whine less, listen more, are more sensitive to their friends and their parents, are much more able and willing to share, show compassion, and develop confidence. That’s because they spend the first few months of their lives as “Velcro babies”, kept emotionally and physically close at all times.  

Lysa Parker, one of the founders of Attachment Parenting International, which is based on Sears’ work, says that infancy presents a small window of opportunity in which to reap huge developmental rewards. “We know that the human infant is the least developed of all mammals and only 25% of their brain is developed at birth, so they’re dependent on their parents for their very survival,” Parker says. “What’s exciting to us is that neuroscience over the past years has enlightened us that it’s not nature versus nurture, it’s nature and nurture. The way the infant’s brain develops is directly correlated to attachment”. Parker says that “when a child is allowed to do what he’s born to do … clinging, sucking, crying, and other attachment forming behaviors, then his brain develops in a natural way. That’s what over sixty years of research keeps proving over and over again.”

Siegel says the neuroscience points to something else: the most robust predictor of a child’s “security of attachment” is actually the parents’ own self-understanding.  “Amazingly, the most important thing a parent can do, if you look at the research,” Siegel says, “is understand themselves. The research clearly shows that self- understanding and being open to your own feelings and the feelings of your child, is the best predictor of child attachment.”

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