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Attachment Parenting

When your child isn't the poster child for Attachment Parenting
From Our AP Forum Archives
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 From Ange: I haven't visited this board in a long time, but am hitting a crossroads that I think you guys may be able to help me navigate through.

My way of parenting is very different than that of pretty much everyone I know in real life. I won't go into what does or doesn't qualify me as an attachment parent because I honestly think that's silly, but I do try very hard to do what I feel is best for my son and his mommy and daddy. Family members (dh's and mine) pretty much think I'm a parenting freak. So for the past 3 years I've been following my instincts in regards to nurturing, disciplining, guidance, feeding, sleeping, etc. I've been very consistent and do not let my son run all over creation and do whatever he wants. Problem is people don't look at my child and say: "Oh look at that well-behaved little boy. Look how secure and independent he is. I want to follow her parenting style because it works so well." Instead I hear (not always to my face): "What an active little boy (the nice way)" but usually "What a spoiled brat. He's out of control. He controls his parents. He needs to know who's in charge, etc."

The thing is, it's probably half right. But in my heart . . . no, in my gut . . . I KNOW that how I'm parenting my son is right for him. He is special needs and very spirited, and high risk for ADHD and a gazillion behavior problems. I truly feel that if we would've parented him traditionally, he'd either be a lot worse or a completely 'broken' little boy. But even though I trust my instincts, I'm doubting myself . . . if that makes sense. And since I'm the only one who parents this way, I feel like all of the "new" mommies I know are taking notes on what not to do with their babies so that they don't "turn out like" mine.

And he's not a monster. He has a wonderful personality, a great disposition, great manners 80% of the time, is a cuddler and always is concerned about others, but he has no impulse control (Like most three year olds, but on overdrive) and is very strong. He also has sensory issues that usually come out as behavior problems.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for except maybe support or someone to say "Maybe you should try other methods." Any ideas? I'm not a perfect parent, and I'm definitely not in the ideal situation to even attempt perfection, but I am doing the best I can. Sometimes it just doesn't feel like that's enough. Is it bad that I refuse to "de-spirit" my child?

 From Hunter: Absolutely not! Have you read the Raising Your Spirited Child book?

One of the things that I kept in mind was to pick my battles. Does it really matter if Alison is twirling around while learning her ABC's? We homeschool, we have room to twirl, so the answer for that was no, at least she's learning while twirling. Does it really matter if she only needs something like four hours of sleep every day and gets up to play during the night? She's growing, she's healthy, she has no symptoms of sleep deprivation, and our home is fully child-proofed, so as long as she doesn't wake the rest of us up, the answer is no. Some people thought she was out of control and taking advantage of us, but we would take a happy, confident, cheerful, independent spirit any day over a sad, broken, empty spirit who had learned to "behave" at the expense of her soul.

But we drew the line at safety: I don't care how happy and spirited a child is, a dead child won't be. Alison broke her arm when she fell trying to jump from our dresser to our bed; we really thought she'd learned her lesson (this was rather early in our experience with her) but then it happened again. So we moved the dresser. Alison couldn't control her impulse to run away from me and/or into the street. For our child and our family, which included four other children, and two of them were newborns, the best solution was to put her on a leash. For many A/P minds, that's right up there with CIO and spanking, but like swings and playpens, I think it was a useful tool when it was used properly. We never told her it was because she was bad, and we never threatened her with it; we told her we were using it to keep her safe and when she learned how to walk with us safely, then we wouldn't use it anymore. She liked it better than being in the stroller!

So if you feel like you're parenting your child the right way, you probably are, no matter what someone else (who doesn't live in your world) thinks. Alison has really settled down in the last year; she still has spirited moments but no more wild days. She's a wonderful child who has a unique view of the world, and I think it's because we gave her the freedom to be who she is. Our society is breeding a generation of computer-dependent, stand-in-line, industrialized and digitized robotrons instead of free thinkers. We need more independent spirits, like my daughter and your son in the world! You're doing a fine job; he'll be a great kid. (((HUGS)))

 From Ange: Thanks Hunter . . . we do pick our battles, but I guess that's the hard part to get across to others. For example, when Zach gets overstimulated or needs to soothe himself, he still uses a pacifier. If he doesn't get that stimulation, he often bites or mouths things that aren't safe. We are trying to move him to a chewy tube, but not with any luck. MIL swears that he is controlling us because he doesn't need it when she watches him. The truth is she won't let him have it and refuses to give it to him no matter what. The outcome is usually a very out of control temper tantrum where he can't calm himself down. To me that's a power struggle that's pointless and if he asks for his binky, then we don't make a big deal out of it. We do try to take it away (usually with success) after he has "soothed" himself and sometimes it is hours if not longer before he asks for it again.

Another example is we let him play with cars at the table. Apparently that is bad, but it keeps him sitting as he picks at his food. We don't have a problem with this at all, but apparently it's VERY wrong. If Zach is at BIL's house, he is not allowed to do this and gets in big trouble. I understand you follow the rules of the house you are in, which is why we rarely go to their house. They parent the exact opposite of us and have a lot of rules, most like "children should be seen and not heard."

Sorry for rattling on . . . we definitely pick our battles, but are made to feel that we are letting him get away with murder.

And I totally agree with the safety issues . . . not just his, but ours. I think that's what scares me the most. But on the good side, we have been using maggic 123 and he responds pretty well for the most part. I can tell he really means well, sometimes he just loses control.

Thanks again for our advice and support. It really means a lot.

 From LawnGirl: Others seem to always point out the flaws in a child instead of the positives, especially if you are raising him in a different way that they just aren't used to. Sounds like he is very spirited, but, also very sensitive. If you are doing what you feel nurtures your child, then you are in no way wrong.

ps: My son, Sebastian, LOVES to hold onto a toy while he eats. He just drums away while the food goes down the hatch. I don't see a problem with it either!!!

 From mom2jazzygirl: Repeat after me.

This is something I want my child to possess as an adult. My child is NOT spoiled, he is self-assured. He is assertive. He is determined. He is creative. He is energetic.

I've only got one 'poster child' for AP. She's six months old. I fear her spirited siblings will corrupt her long before she is old enough for me to enjoy how laid back she is.

But, I have two children that are going to be LEADERS when they are adults. I have two children who are not going to allow anyone to make them do anything they don't want to do. They will find creative solutions while those around them are completely stumped. They will reach out and make a difference in their world and demand that it meets them on THEIR terms. Will I survive to see those results? Some days I doubt it. Others I know that I will and will stand proud of them.

Now, go to your nearest bookstore and buy Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

My goal as a parent is NOT to make compliant children but to give my children the tools they need into adulthood. I don't really care what others *think* about my children. There are NO negative labels or remarks allowed near our children. Last time someone dared to try, I heard my husband chewing his mother out from across the house!

 From carrottop9: Honey don't you listen to what anybody else says. Picking your battles WORKS! I do it with my husband all the time LOL. None of the things you've described seem to be too big a deal. So he plays with cars at the dinner table, do these people have any idea how many families stare at a TV while they're eating? So he still uses a binky . . . I personally need to be on my bed holding a pillow to destress in a stimulating situation and I'm 28 YEARS OLD! The binky is just not a socially acceptable tool but I'll bet EVERYONE has something with which to calm themselves down. What's the big deal? Nothing. And if you honestly think that you're the only one who parents like that, you're not. I do too. I just don't feel like my son needs to conform to the world. Let the world conform to him. It did for me . When someone makes comments about my parenting style I just smile a little and say yes, but what a happy little boy. When I'm 90 years old I want to look back on my life and say yeah! I gave my kid a GREAT childhood. And look what an amazing man he turned out to be. My son is also a spirited child so maybe that's the difference . . . maybe I just want to be able to say yes more often than no. That's how I was raised and I had an fantastic childhood. I'd like to do the same for my son. Keep up the good work!

 From patnrose: Neither of my children are poster children for AP either. My son had a stroke in utero and has some special needs as a result (and because he is only 7 months there are likely going to be more special needs as time goes on . . . we just don't know). My daughter, Anna, is 2.5 and severely speech delayed. She is catching up slowly with Birth to Three Intervention. She is also an extremely spirited little girl and a joy. Anna still has her paci also. She is extremely "oral". She sucks the pacifier still like a small infant does. It calms her down. She has a tendency to totally freak out over "nothing" and it soothes her. Yes, some people think we are incompetent and soft because we let her have the paci still. To them I stick out my tongue. We also pick our battles with her. People just don't get that with about 10 major meltdowns a day, I just don't care if she wants to have fruit snacks for breakfast and run around naked.

Raising Your Spirited Child has also helped us like no other book. It has made a big difference in our household.

 From bizzybee: I feel for you and know what you are going through. Hang in there and keep feeling with your heart. I am told similar things all the time but just need to look at my kids to know I am a great mum. You are too. Also remember that it is nice to compliment others on their children in a genuine way. Sometimes I find if I ooze compliments on others that next time they look at my kids they find positive things as well.

 From Paige: I know your family too well to doubt any of your parenting techniques. No, Zach is not the poster child for AP. Neither is he the poster child for a "normal" child. He is different and needs to be handled in different ways. You and your husband have spent way too much time, energy and research for there to be any doubt in my mind that what you are doing is right for him. Your mother-in-law and brother-in-law do not understand his needs. They have not been doing this since the day he was born. You and your husband have. You two have been through the evaluations, the appointments, the conferences . . . not them.

I have watched you with Zach. You are following your instincts and while it is really easy for us and for the rest of the world to sit there and look at Zach tearing up a truck you just bought him and wonder at why you aren't doing anything, we are not aware of your situation. You are picking the right battles! Zach is a beautiful child and I truly wonder if he would be as beautiful if his spirit were broken.

 From hedra: My niece is has often been a challenging child. It would be easy to say 'wow, you guys let her run all over everyone' etc. But really, she is just exceptionally bright, assertive, independent, self-assured, and knows what she wants. As a 2 year old and a 3 year old, those traits suck for bystanders, including parents at times. But we've watched her (she's 5 1/2 now) and those traits that were SOOoooo frustrating and annoying earlier are starting to come into line with what we want our family members to be as they get older. She's solid, self-assured, self-driven, inquisitive, and in charge of her own management. She still has low impulse control, but she is starting to develop that as she is starting to tie the results of her actions to the implications for future events (such as, if she sneaks downstairs and eats all the chocolates she got for St. Patrick's Day, she won't have any left for tomorrow, her Baba will be angry with her, and she might not get ANY chocolates at the next event). Is it tricky at times? yes. But she's got fewer genuine issues than you are dealing with. While the proof is in the pudding, some puddings take longer to cook. I still think you will be glad in the long run that you are doing what you are doing.

 From ange: I just want to thank everyone for your encouragement. I thought about where all of this doubt was coming from, and realized it was from so things that happened at my sister-in-law's baby shower. We were all writing down advice for fun, and my husband's cousin, Zach's previous babysitter (not since nearly 2 years ago), said "I'm going to write down how it's ok to let the baby cry . . . it's good for their lungs . . . it's a doctor fact" I about blew up, but knew it wasn't the best thing to do in the situation. I just couldn't believe that this woman used to watch my child (one of many reasons we removed him from her care). I then offishly said "I'm going to write down not to listen to anyone's advice, but trust your instincts." That really made her mad and she went on and on about all the advice she has given and how people would be better off if they'd listen. I of course meant, consider advice, but don't blindly follow it if your gut tells you otherwise, but I didn't have the composure to clarify. I guess that was what set me off, because I want to let my sister-in-law know that there are other ways to parent besides the way everyone around us parents (by everyone, I mean the people we are in contact with and surrounded by in "real" life), but I worry that we give those ways a bad name. Does that make sense?

Anyhow, I plan on checking out the recommended book and try to keep a balance between what I tolerate hearing from people and what I actually listen to.

 From hedra: And if someone gives you that crying is good for the lungs thing, you can tell them that it is a doctor's fact (documented) that crying increases the strain on the whole system - heart, lungs, vocal cords, etc. LAUGHING is good for the lungs, works the muscles without constraint, doesn't stress the heart or vocal cords, etc.

 From stargirl: When we brought J home from the hospital, she cried and cried a LOT. My mom gave me the "crying good for their lungs" story, which I believed. I also thought "my God, parenting is going to be so hard if I have to accept that this crying is good for her". After posting over at the breastfeeding support forum about all the crying, I realized that she was just hungry, poor thing.

Looking back on it, when I was in the hospital (I was there 4 days due to c-section) the nurses always encouraged me to feed her if she cried at all. I should have paid more attention at the time - they were very good nurses in hindsight.

 From djk42: No time to really post, just a word of encouragement - two of mine are terrors, really. People are so shocked that Abigail is sweet and quiet. It's when I get to say, "See, it isn't my parenting, it is their personalities." I am not permissive at all, but my older two can be real brats, and usually in public. My son is just like his dad (he hates public places too) and my daughter is just like me (spirited), but Abigail is like "other" children the kids our friends have. She just got the best parts of us both without the baggage.

 From Gayesy: I think it is a myth that attachment parenting can somehow make all children into sweet, easy-going, compliant children! What I do believe AP does is to enable each child to meet his or her potential, to grow up feeling loved and secure and confident, to keep whatever spirit that is inherent.

APed children might not always be better behaved than others. In fact, at some stages in their lives I suspect that they might be more of a challenge to discipline, both because their spirits have not been broken and because gentle, respectful discipline can take more time to have an effect than harsh punishments that generate fear (and of course have many, many negative side-effects). I personally would rather have a spirited child who does occasionally embarrass me in public than have that same child who is only behaving perfectly because I had broken him.

Children will be children. We are all only human. Some children in particular have special needs, be that autism, developmental delays of one kind or another, ADHD, being gifted. Some children are very spirited in their nature. As APers, I feel we can't expect our children to be advertisements for our parenting style at all times, or even in some cases at all. What we do need to think about is helping our child be the best person, the happiest person, that he can be. I strongly believe that an AP style of parenting helps us give our children the best possible chance of achieving this.

Oh, and remember to look at the big picture. There are bound to be challenges along the way, tantrums, etc. Look forward to the man your child will be in 20 years. I am SURE what you are doing now WILL have a positive effect on the man he will be.

Hang in there. {{{{{HUGS}}}}}

 From ange:
As APers, I feel we can't expect our children to be advertisements for our parenting style at all times, or even in some cases at all. What we do need to think about is helping our child be the best person, the happiest person, that he can be. I strongly believe that an AP style of parenting helps us give our children the best possible chance of achieving this.

Thank you Gayesy . . . That is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I didn't know it at the time, but it really hit home.

Thank you everyone.

 From TwoForUs: I agree that Gayesy's is a lovely quote! It's so HARD to realize that your child is NOT an extension of you, but an individual in his own right. Our "responsibility" to our children is to teach and help them . . . we can't MAKE them BE anything (sweet, kind, polite, happy); we can just give them the tools they need and let THEM work it out.

A different way to look at it is this. I have no problem accepting that my husband can go out dressed as he wants (appropriately or inappropriately, wrinkled, or pressed, clean or dirty). It's HIS choice. If I provide my child with clean clothes and don't allow unhealthy things (yuck from the chicken coop, a poop explosion or a spilled glass of milk that will sour in 3 hours) then the rest is up to him! He may not match, he may not be tidy, heck he may not be wearing a coat in 40 degree weather (but there will be one in the car).

But I don't feel "judged" walking with my husband if he's not stylishly and impeccably dressed. I *do* feel that way with my child. Silly... but I'm working on it! I still let him do what he wants and I talk to myself, saying that he is FINE and NO reflection on my parenting.

What a ramble! I hope it makes some sense, and puts into proportion what we CAN do with our children and what we CAN'T (or as Gayesy said, what we wouldn't want to do because I don't WANT a child who mindlessly follows the crowd. I want an independent thinker, which isn't always CONVENIENT before they learn tact!)

 From SusanH: Ange, I've been wanting to reply to this since I first read it. Now that I have the time, I discover that everyone else has already left you feeling fine and you don't need me to blather on at you.

So I'll just say I know how you feel! Try not to let people's negativity get to you. You are raising Zach to be the very best Zach he can be!

 From ange: Sometimes when my husband and I don't know what else we can do, we look at each other and say . . . "it sure is hard to be a grownup!"

Besides that, it's hard being a mommy and a wife, or a daddy and a father!

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