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Attachment Parenting: The Key to Thriving Kids? (page 3)

Attachment Parenting: The Key to Thriving Kids?

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Updated on Sep 26, 2011

At the heart of it all is the fact that we are social beings and that our brains are hard-wired to connect with others. The caregiving children receive, Siegel says, activates the brain in specific ways and that activation leads to the growth of explicit connections in the brain itself. In other words, the way you parent has a direct affect on the way in which your child's brain develops.

Love itself is not enough, Siegel says. Neither is proximity. And while we are a culture who loves to devour prescriptive parenting books, “no amount of reading will help” if you don’t internalize one key point: parents need to develop their own “mind-sight” (the ability to examine thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, memories, beliefs, attitudes and intentions of others as well as ourselves) and that of their children.

“Parents often respond to their child’s behavior by focusing on the surface level of the experience and not the deeper level of the mind,” Siegel says, which is “the root of motivation and action. Talking with children about their thoughts, memories, and feelings provides them with the essential interpersonal experiences necessary for self-understanding and building their social skills.”

Is all this talk about attachment giving you a headache? The best news about the research, Siegel says, is that although there are lots of details, it all boils down to one simple goal for parents: take the time to examine and understand your own mind, and the mind of your child, and “you don’t have to worry about the details.” Be curious, open, accepting, and loving, and nothing else really matters. Here are a few tips on how to get started parenting in a more mindful way:

Be in the moment: “When we’re preoccupied with the past or worried about the future, we are physically present with our children, but mentally absent.  Children don’t need us to be fully available all the time, but they do need our presence during connecting interactions.” Translation: when you interact with your kids, give it your full attention. Don’t nod at your child’s latest art masterpiece as you talk on the cell phone, or listen to his concerns with half an ear.

Be consistent: When you respond to your child, do so “mindfully” and try to be just as sensitive and enthusiastic each time. For example, don’t jump up right away to soothe your crying child one time, and other times finish reading your newspaper first. Children who have inconsistent parenting grow up uncertain that they can depend upon the adult in their life, because sometimes they are dealt with compassionately and sometimes the adult is not there in the moment of need. They grow up anxious and insecure.

Be kind to yourself: Have compassion not just for others, but for yourself, too. “A loving stance toward yourself lets you know that whatever you’re going through is part of being human and you’re doing the best you can. When parents bring that to the table, that has an 85% rate of predicting whether a child will be securely attached or not,” Siegel says.

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