Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Attachment Parenting: A Critical View
Attachment Parenting, according to a few experts it is the best way of parenting and results in happy children and devoted parents. I haven't seen it. Having known too many children raised with "Attachment Parenting" and seeing their resentful parents who are dealing with hostile, insecure children, it is easy to see where the errors in attachment parenting lie.
It is a difficult topic to discuss because if you are against AP, you are a "detached", uncaring, selfish parent. If your child is expected to sleep alone in their own bed and God forbid in their own room, they are said to be in a state of "learned helplessness". The propaganda is powerful and appeal to the emotions. AP is all about "feelings". Feeling good about yourself as a parent and making your baby or child feel good. Anything difficult or hard is to be avoided. You could call it the novus ordization of parenting.
But what is Attachment Parenting?:
1. "Baby wearing" or carrying your child in a sling for most of their waking moments.
2. Extended breastfeeding until the child self weans. This can means years. Some children are breastfed until the age of 6 or 7. If a new baby comes along both children are breastfed called tandem nursing.
3. Co-sleeping, the family bed. The children who want to (and who wouldn't?) sleep in bed with Mom and Dad for as long as they want to - oops I mean need to.
4. No spanking, for any reason and at any time.
The biggest promoters of this method of parenting are Dr. William Sears, and Catholic author and social worker, Gregory Popcak. Mr. Popcak on his blog, Heart, Mind, Strength asked for comments about AP. He has declared that empirically AP is the best method of parenting. As we corresponded, Mr. Popcak expressed astonishment that anyone could oppose or argue with AP and questioned if deep down I was not as happy as I said I was and was protesting too much. He attempted that old trick, if you disagree with me you must be crazy. Maybe a child raised through AP would have fallen for that but unlike most people Mr. Popcak deals with I have a little more confidence than that.
What happens with Attachment Parenting?:
Physically, Mom and Dad are exhausted and soon become resentful and frustrated. They never get enough sleep because the children are sleeping with them. The children never get enough sleep because everyone is tossing and turning all night. The day begins with everyone cranky and overtired, and goes downhill from there. The parents never spend any time alone because the "needs" of the children come first. Mom is breastfeeding one or more children for years. The constant exposure to breast milk can cause dental caries in children. Two of my friends who practiced extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping had to have their toddler's front teeth pulled because they had rotted. Wearing a child (what a dehumanizing concept as if a child were an accessory!) causes physical delays. One mother became concerned when her 22 month old did not walk or speak. He required occupational therapy and speech therapy. Being carried in a sling, in a zombie like state, reduced his opportunities for tactile experiences and physical exertion. Though he never cried (why would he?) he was being neglected, though quite unintentionally.
The parents resort to NFP to delay or forgo any further parenting. How can they possibly be open to life when they are completely overwhelmed? And besides if it is all about "feeling good", having another baby just doesn't meet that criteria. The result is smaller families, fewer children and selfishness is reinforced.
Emotionally, the child learns that the whole world revolves around him. He never learns self control, self denial, coping mechanisms or independence. Implicitly he is being told that he is incapable. Naturally he feels his parents' resentment. Emotionally the marriage suffers because Mom is totally wrapped up in her children. They occupy the master bedroom while Dad is left to fend for himself. Sometimes even resulting in the Dad in the basement syndrome that this author discusses.
What you have is the appeasement and indulgence of children as a parenting method. Though it sounds so compassionate, much like liberalism, its results are extremely hostile, selfish and insecure children. I don't know about you but I have never met an hostile, selfish and insecure person who managed to be happy. The "experts" mistake contentment or physical satisfaction for joy. AP parents teach their children to avoid all pain, inconvenience and discontent. Christianity is the antidote for this though that would require thinking rather than just feeling.
If we are raising saints, missionaries and martyrs, children must learn sacrifice, austerity, self control, self denial and responsibility. Are we raising saints or consumers? Catholics or pagans? A child has needs but those needs must be distinguished from wants. AP tells us that any "want" a child expresses is really a need and the parents have to respond accordingly. Does this sound like a role reversal? The wisdom of the innocents must be listened to by the adults? So we repudiate what parents know is correct in favor of what a 2 year old thinks he needs. And we repudiate generations of parenting.
To be a good parent- listen to your parents, your grandparents and learn what works. Learn what actually produces happy, well adjusted, confident and unselfish children. You can see the results. You know the children as adults. That is success. When we adopt AP we think back on all the "mistakes" our parents made. We become self pitying, ungrateful little wretches. The world doesn't need any more of those. There are enough liberal democrats.
"Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying too zealously, to make it too easy for them." Goethe