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My thanks to Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting can get a pretty bad rap.  

This is hardly surprising in a society that places little to no value on the natural, biological development of our infants and toddlers in favour of behaviourist interventions that force babies to conform to an ideal that allows adults to get back on with the more ‘important’ business of life with as little disruption to their productivity as possible.

Interestingly though, it also gets a negative review from many a mother who while initially drawn to the basic attachment parenting tenants, then found/ decided they were unable to follow them in their setting.

Plenty of mothers explain that while all of it sounded great in theory, they simply could not or would not be able to make it work for them or they felt they ‘outgrew’ this style of parenting or felt stifled and restricted by it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading another account of how a mother felt ‘let down’ by Attachment Parenting as her children grew older and when a subsequent child didn’t respond well to the techniques recommended.

This got me thinking about my own experience with Attachment Parenting and how it has shaped me as the mother I am and the mother I continue to strive to be.

I can say that I am eternally grateful to the Attachment Parenting movement for all of the ideas, guidance, confidence boosts and belief it has provided me with in the early phase of this mothering gig. I am grateful for all of this being done without ever feeling like I had been told what I HAD to do to mother my unique children.

I am grateful because they spoke of a norm I would otherwise not have known existed.

They offered me an explanation and coping strategies and mothering techniques that no one else told me were okay let alone what might be exactly what my baby and I needed.

They helped me see why my baby only slept calmly in my arms or on my chest and offered up babywearing and co-napping as normal and natural ways for me to meet my baby at his point of need.

They encouraged me to feel confident that my baby who breastfed SO frequently did so because this was not only his source of nutrition but also his preferred method for comfort, soothing and reconnection. They also didn’t place arbitrary limits on when my baby should stop needing me so and instead encouraged me to trust that I could follow his lead with no notion of it being ‘bad’ or that I may be stifling his development.

The work done by Attachment Parenting advocates to normalise and educate about safe bedsharing is perhaps their greatest gift to me and my family. It is, to date the single best thing I have done as a parent. It saved me, my husband and my baby. It is no exaggeration to say, my life did a complete 360 turn when I finally felt like I could make this arrangement work. I finally had a way to survive my High Need baby’s non stop extreme frequent waking. I had tried EVERYTHING to ‘fix’ him. Nothing worked. But, Attachment Parenting didn’t disown me the way mainstream advocates did. They threw me a lifeline. I could still be a ‘good’ mother even if my baby woke 59 billion times a night and on top of this, my husband and I could get the best quality sleep we could get while still meeting our baby’s needs at night.

Our night time parenting schedule remained gruelling. There was no miracle that occurred or peaceful, perfect family bed image to paint here but we could live again. We could survive and most important of all, we finally felt we could accept our baby for who he was and that included being extremely wakeful.

For me, I didn’t ever feel like I HAD to do XYZ to ‘be’ an Attachment Parent. But then again, I wasn’t striving to ‘be’ anything in particular other than the best mum I could be to my babies.

I didn’t feel constrained or judged if I needed to do things in another way as I followed my baby’s lead and my own heart.

With my second baby, my parenting repertoire was a source of great comfort to me. I had no idea who this little person would be, but I felt comfortable knowing the norms of human infant behaviour and I felt confident knowing that I had the range of skills and techniques to help me meet him at his point of need wherever that may be.

I didn’t feel bound to bedshare but I knew I would keep him close to make night time parenting manageable for me. If he needed my closeness, then into our bed he’d come. If he relished his space, I happily prepared a safe sleep space next to me in case.

I experimented continually as he grew to work out how he felt most comfortable finding and maintaining sleep by and day and night and I rolled with it. Sometimes we babywore, sometimes he slept in the pram. Other times we co-napped with a boob in his mouth or he snoozed alone on our floor bed.

I didn’t HAVE to do anything other than respond to my baby in the way that worked best for us.

As my babies grow, I thank Attachment Parenting for ensuring I continue to actively question commonly accepted mainstream practices. I have found gentle parenting, respectful parenting and peaceful parenting as well and I continue to read, grow and learn with my babies.

The single best thing Attachment Parenting has gifted me is to ensure that while I pick and choose and grow and evolve, at the heart of my parenting decisions is my heart. Decisions are made with ALL of the humans in our family considered as valuable people worthy of respect. My children’s childish nature is not held against them, just as their babyish behaviour wasn’t while they were infants.

As a family, we work as a team, to meet each other right where we are at and see value in each other for who we are.

I will be forever grateful for the healthy questioning that Attachment Parenting stirred in me. To feel confident in questioning accepted parenting practices, to look more deeply at why they are popular, what outcomes they may have and what their impact may be, intentionally or unintentionally, is so important to me.

So thank you Attachment Parenting for opening my eyes to possibilities.  
Thank you for having my back when I couldn’t fit with the mainstream.  
Thanks for having my baby’s back when my faith in him was at its lowest.  
Your work in this world is so needed.  

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‘Kids these days’ are the product of mainstream parenting and yet mainstream society can’t see that

With the regular rounds of memes and articles that get around harping on about ‘kids these days’ and how they lack discipline and are basically entitled, disrespectful little blighters, really come as no surprise whatsoever. Throughout time, older generations have bemoaned ‘kids these days’ and waxed lyrical about ‘back in my day…’. It’s nothing new.  

What is interesting today, is that with social media sending these things viral, it isn’t just the older generation having a dig. Nope, now everyone, sometimes even those who would still be categorised as a ’kid’ these days, or even those currently raising the kids of today are buying in and jumping in on the bandwagon of blame.

Nearly every single one of these posts will recommend a stronger, more authoritarian approach to child rearing. From Cry It Out for babies, to smacking toddlers and children, to shaming and humiliating children and teens, all for their own good. So they know their place. As they apparently did, ‘back in my day’. All of the problems we face as a society with the youth of the day stems from parents being too soft, too easily pushed over, lack of boundaries and lack of physical punishment for consequences.

I am a parent of young children and also a primary school teacher so I have a pretty good exposure to mainstream, commonplace, socially accepted parenting practices that are happening right now and I have to say I am deeply confused.

Mainstream parenting is mainstream because it practiced by the MAJORITY of parents in society, right?

Well mainstream parenting IS pretty much all of these authoritarian components! I know, because I choose to parent differently and I am completely at odds with the vast majority of parents around me.

Mainstream Parenting Toolkits are full of- 
Sleep training  
Rewards, Bribes 
Threats, yelling and standover tactics 
Control and obedience  
Non logical consequences 
Isolation through time outs 
Humiliation 
Shaming 
Ignoring 
Withdrawal of affection and approval 
Smacks, taps and clips around the ears 

I honestly cannot see very much room for many families to take a ‘tougher’ approach than they already take without it becoming downright cruel.

But this brings us to the main point- if most people are already parenting in this harsh authoritarian way that people so wholeheartedly believe will raise the children we want and need for the society of the future then WHY is this current generation still bemoaning ‘kids these days’?

If after all is said and done, the majority of children are still not growing to be the adults we wish to see in this society, then maybe the way the majority of people raise their children may not indeed be the best way to achieve the goal.

Very few families raise their children using gentle, peaceful or attachment parenting principles. Very few people are indeed ‘soft’ with their children. But as someone who is living and breathing a gentler style of parenting, I do not fear that my own children will grow to be simply ‘the kids these days’. I do not fear it because I do not rely on my children needing me or their dad to put the fear of god into them to make good, fair, respectful choices. I do not fear it because my children will be raised as fully connected, fully understood, fully appreciated people in their own right who are comfortable in their own skin so they feel comfortable with those around them. I do not fear it because they are being raised as empathetic, thinking, feeling humans. I do not fear it because they have had boundaries set and held with compassion as their age and needs have dictated.

That’s right, boundaries. They are healthy and necessary. The difference is, they can be fair and they can be held with compassion, not just because, ‘I said so!’

You cannot blame the woes of society and youth on practices that are rarely employed and rarely the issue.

Permissive parenting is an issue but I have very occasionally seen parents of the gentler ilk who genuinely struggled to guide their child and establish the boundaries that were needed but more often the permissive parents I’ve come across have been mainstream but more ambivalent to their children in general. I can vividly recall many occasions of parents yelling, threatening and telling their child, ‘no’ before giving in as though they’d been defeated. This isn’t them being in any way aligned with a gentle approach. Their decision to change their mind does not mask their very mainstream approach to behaviour and it does not mask how it fails frequently when it comes down to power plays and power struggles.

Mainstream society- it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time to reflect on what is really going on. It’s time to see that maybe ‘tough love’ isn’t the way we are going to see any real change in society that is already a harsh enough place as it is.

If you want more responsible, empathetic, independent thinking people, let’s start treating our children with respect from their very first days so that they know that they belong, that they matter, that those around them matter. Let’s stop teaching them to only do things because there is a reward or punishment attached. Let’s stop expecting them to blindly obey us and then wonder why they are so easily lead as teens.

When you are at your lowest and most challenging, you always learn more from those who bother to listen, connect and support you. Our children are no different.

The time for change is now. If you have recently clicked ‘like’ on any of these ‘kids these days’ posts, it’s time to do a solid review of what is really at the heart of the issue.

If tough love isn’t working, is tougher love the answer? Or perhaps, is simply love the answer?

It’s worth contemplating and discussing further. .

Our kids these days are worth it!

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Labels that just might stick …

Labels that just might stick …

The hyperactive, careless troublemaker versus the energetic, experimental, hands on enthusiast?

Which of these two people described, sound like they will go on to live a happy, valuable, secure and successful life?

Both may, but the path is bound to be easier for the second person who has all of these strong, positive personal traits in their armour to help go out and enjoy this world while the first person would need to battle against their negative labels and push past these expectations placed on them by others.

Now you are probably wondering where I’m headed with this.

Last week, I attended Pinky McKay’s wonderful Toddler Tactics seminar and during her presentation, she made the point that children will see themselves the way we tell them to see themselves. A self fulfilling prophecy. If you tell your child they are naughty or bad often enough then they will internalise this and see themselves as ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’. This wasn’t news to me as a primary school teacher. I’ve heard it all before but while I was sitting there listening to Pinky skilfully point out the flip side to common traits that may be considered ‘bad’ I realised that I had honed my own skills through years of writing report cards but never really considered the full impact of my words.

I must admit, as a teacher, before having my own babies, it did actually grate on me that I wasn’t able to simply ‘tell it like it is’ when writing reports and begrudgingly ‘sugarcoated’ what I thought parents really needed to hear. In short, I was a bit of an arsehole.


You see, if I couldn’t come up with at least three positive words to describe a child I worked with 5 days a week, then really that was my problem. I obviously hadn’t been able to connect with that unique little human and they weren’t able to connect to me. I’m the educated adult in the pairing and so the onus really is on me to sort this out.

Being a teacher is incredibly hard work. The workload is massive. The behaviours that enter with some of the children in your room can make it an extremely draining, deflating and thankless job. With the curriculum as pumped up and intense as it is, along with huge pressures on teachers to jump through hoops to prove that their class can do XYZ in some stupid standardised test that will be used to pummel said teacher when she fails to get her children over the arbitrary line, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees.

No teacher worth their salt will see value in all this testing and yet they will work their ring out to try and buffer their kids the best they can from the pressure. Unfortunately, the skills that are really needing to be worked on and would truly benefit the kids in our classrooms are sadly rushed or absent in the curriculum altogether. Finding time in an overstuffed day to simply ‘connect’ with the unique people in front of her, is a luxury that many teachers simply cannot do justice to.

And so, the behaviours are ‘managed’ the best that teacher can as she soldiers on, trying to ensure her charges get the most they can from what is put in front of them. Just ‘managing’ is exhausting. It wears you down. It’s hard when you’ve worked your butt off to try and make your classroom and lessons as accessible and engaging as you physically can to have children still so disengaged and often times disruptive. You look at the faces of your hard working little ones and the resentment starts to seep in. The ‘ungrateful little shit’ thoughts come to mind. The ‘why won’t her parents sort this out’ thoughts rear their ugly head. The reward charts, the bribes, the communication books, the buddy classrooms, the warnings, the threats, the calls to admin … All add to an ugly cycle in that child’s life. 

I knew it but not as I know it now. 

Now I’m a mum. 

Those troubled kids are someone’s baby. Now I’m a mum, I can fully grasp the sheer magnitude of this. Their uniqueness. Their struggle. Their need for love, understanding, connection and security. I get that all ‘negative’ behaviour is communication of an unmet need.

I can finally see why we were expected to write our report comments in this positive way and it has bugger all to do with political correctness and politeness and EVERYTHING to do with giving that child something of worth. A recognition of THEIR worth. Of their unique and perfectly imperfect traits that whilst troublesome in the flawed educational setting, are not necessarily troublesome for the real world and real life.

I now see it as a huge responsibility and honour to raise my boys to see that every weakness has a corresponding strength and that their light will always shine brightest when they are able to be truest to themselves.

One day when I re enter the teaching world, no longer will connection be pushed to the backseat. It will be at the forefront of every interaction with my children. I WILL as the adult with my knowledge, skills and powerful role work to help each child see their true colours, no matter how challenging they may be right at that time. When I feel the disconnect arise, I will pause, reflect and try to remedy this. 

I know at times I will fail as I am mere human after all, but I will do my best to find my focus and regroup as many times as it takes.

The hyperactive child will be the someone who works best when physically engaged.

The quiet, serious child will be the deep thinker.

The daydreamer will be the imaginative soul.

The class clown will be the one who works best when connected to others. Vivacious and friendly . A born entertainer.

The talkative child will be a gifted sharer of ideas.

The one who disagrees with everything will be the one who isn’t afraid to challenge authority in the quest for understanding. A true seeker of justice

The easily upset child will be the sensitive soul and the peacemaker.

The child who is afraid to take risks will be the cautious thinker.

The child who struggles academically but excels with social interactions will be the people person who makes others feel special and valued.

I could go on and on. I cannot imagine all that I will see as each unique person who will present in front of me will challenge me to find them, their true self. 

I will never again allow myself to do another child the disservice of not ‘seeing’ them. Seeing through the behaviour. Seeing the soul beneath. And doing my level best to make sure it’s not only at report card time that they hear what I can see in them. Connection. Value. Affirmation. We owe it to our children.

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