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Attachment Parenting

AP ~ 'philosophy' and/or 'method'?
From Our AP Forum Archives
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From hedra ~ So, I had a long discussion/debate of AP on another site (not-parenting-specific), and came to the (personal) conclusion that a lot of the bad press that AP gets overall is because some people approach it as a method (you must do X, Y, and Z or you are not AP), rather than, as the API site states, treating it as a philosophy based on the fact that children are creatures with valid emotions, and they should be treated with peace, respect, and concern for those emotions (paraphrasing the site). That philosophy does exclude certain things (like CIO, which is clearly not respecting the emotion), and encourages general behaviors that support attachment bonds (responsive feeding, preferably breastfeeding but other methods should also be responsive). But it is not about the method. Rather, it is about the thoughtful application of a variety of tools using the perspective of the philosophy.

Anyway, I decided in the course of that discussion that I feel very much that I am an AP parent by philosophy. And I feel that my choices are based on the philosophy - and what works for each child, each person, and each situation will vary as an expression of their situation and the philosophy combined. The 'method' side provides a lot of tools (many of which I only learned about from the tools lists, and many of which I use in some form or other), but I've also noticed that some people who profess to be AP are very much about the tools above all else, and some are even using some other philosophy as an underlying approach (such as 'mothers must be martyrs to their children' in the negative sense, or 'natural family living' as a positive underpinning). And some people make their own philosophy using AP as one aspect of it, and borrow the tools to match the needs of the situation.

I'm not sure that it is necessarily wrong to just use the method, and not the philosophy, but I think (and I've not examined this, just thinking out loud) that people who lean heavily on the method with or without the underlying philosophy, are more prone to judging others for not using the same methods, rather than analyzing someone else's method to see if they are applying it using the same philosophy. More judgmental, more holier-than-thou risk (not guaranteed, but risk).

Anyway, I was feeling that one of the reasons I like this (StorkNet's) AP forum more than most is that there are a range of options explored or offered for any situation. Yes, there are parental responses that we consider 'outside the options acceptable to the philosophy of AP', and we say so. But we also recognize that there is no single cookie-cutter response that must work for everyone, or you don't qualify. There's no 'you must breastfeed and use child-led weaning absolutely or you just aren't a REAL AP parent, no matter how much you tried or how you handled your alternatives' ... We are willing to bend a lot of situations and responses in pretzels to work within the philosophy, and apply a lot of thought to how we use tools and respond to situations that are outside the typical 'method' lists for AP.

Thoughts? Opinions? Is this 'method' and/or 'philosophy' thing full of it?

From SusanH ~ I definitely feel that my approach, and the approach of most members of the board, places the emphasis on the "philosophy" of AP rather than the "method." I've noticed that members are always very supportive of people who aren't practicing the most noticeable aspects of AP, such as child-led weaning, using a sling or co-sleeping, but who are definitely parenting their child in a respectful, emotionally attached way.

For me, the tools of AP are just a natural outgrowth of the AP philosophy, not an end in and of themselves. Because of the way we approach our children, most of us will end up co-sleeping (because most, but not all, children want to sleep with their parents.) We'll use a sling not as a badge of AP-dom, but because it makes it easier to carry a baby or toddler whenever they want to be held. And we'll nurse for longer than normal because we see nursing as a real, emotional need for toddlers, not just a feeding method.

From Terrilein ~ I've always thought of AP as being a philosophy and there being several tools that we can pick and choose from to help us achieve our parenting goals with the AP framework. You know, if it works for your family, great, if not, then no problem. What irks me isn't other AP'ers who think you're not AP if you don't breastfeed or if you use a stroller, it's non-AP parents who don't understand what AP is and think that AP parents have zero disciplinary skills, who assume AP=pack of brats, and let their children walk all over you. I sooo disagree!

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From AmyMarch ~ I think that ideally AP *should* be about the philosophy, not methods, for all the reasons stated above. I seems obvious to me that a parent can be attached without employing the "methods", strictly defined. ...

That said, for me personally it was very much about both. For me, I really *needed* the methods, because the philosophy was just so non-intuitive. I was raised as mainstream as it gets, and had zero experience with babies or parenting before I had my son. I relied on AP methods to guide me for how to do it "right." If I hadn't learned about the "Five B's" from Dr. Sears (birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, and I forget the other two) I would have almost certainly bowed to societal and familial pressures to CIO, crib sleep, bottle-feed, etc.. I just never would have known to look for a sling or insist on my son staying with me at the hospital or sleep with him at my side -- these things were just such foreign, strange concepts to me at the start.

So for me, the AP methods were very important and key to me becoming the kind of parent I am. Now that my son is nearly two, I no longer feel the need to follow the methods to the letter, I can rely more generally on the philosophy and adapt it to situations as needed. But I definitely needed the methods to fill that gap before the philosophy started feeling instinctive.

Hope that made sense!

From hunter ~ I was drawn to AP as a "method" of parenting (i.e. *how* to do things) long before I had children. Since then I discovered Taoism which I embrace as a life philosophy, and AP fits hand-in-hand with Taoism as a "philosophy" (i.e. *why* I make the gentle, positive, and respectful choices that I do.)

Also, I'm not sure how Natural Parenting got pulled into this thread, but I thought I'd comment on that. Natural consequences are a facet of the gentle discipline promoted as part of Attachment Parenting. I consider "Natural Parenting" to be about choosing natural-based and easy-on-the-Earth items over synthetics, artificial items, and excessive packaging. It is a completely separate parenting/purchasing decision from AP; some APers dress their kids in polyester, feed them juice boxes and individually-packaged cheese snacks, and let them play with plastic toys, while some NPers practice CIO and spank their kids. Cloth diapering, a subject that gets much attention on this board, is actually a NP topic rather than an AP one, but we don't have a NP board here at StorkNet so it ends up being discussed here.

From hedra ~ Good point about the usefulness of the method for those who don't have the philosophy in their blood, so to speak. Interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks!

From birdy ~ I've never tried to classify my parenting style. I do find many posts on this board very helpful as I think through topics and thus I feel my leaning is towards AP. I believe that one's parenting choices are guided by an overall philosophy. I think to the extent that that philosophy can be simply stated and internalized, the easier it is to evaluate parenting alternatives and methods as either aligned or not to the philosophy, and the easier it is to identify supporting parents and unemotionally dismiss the critics. In the same way that in business (using my currently languishing career as a metaphor), choices are guided by the business strategy, and when strategy is lacking or constantly up for debate, there's a lot of drift.

I'm new to this - my only child is 13 months, but during this first year, my philosophy is much clearer to me: (1) respect my daughter at all times; (2) allow DD to separate from me at her own pace; (3) be accessible at all times (okay maybe "all" is idealistic, but these formative years seem really critical to me). Sometimes, it easier for me to explain by way of saying what I do not want to do as a parent: Regarding my "separation tenet": I do not want to ever say/think/imply "buck up" to my child at any age, including an adult child -- if co-sleeping calms her, then fine; if she cries on her first day/week of playschool, then I'll stay with her til she's okay; if she's 9 and wants to come home from a sleepover, I'll go get her; if she's in college and having a meltdown and asks me to come visit, then I'll go.

Regarding "accessibility" -- I view caregiving by the mother as an almost exclusive activity for the first 3-4 years with an ever widening net after that, such that by the teen years, the child is forming her own network, separate from the family, through after school activities, jobs, etc.

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