Bracing myself for backlash, argument, possibly even anger.
For the record, let me say that I have not actually read this book and I
probably never will. The concept of “Attachment Parenting” as a parenting philosophy, by itself, isn’t what scares me. In fact, of the eight principles which define it, there are actually a couple I agree with.
The book itself isn’t scary. The ideas presented in the book are not, at face value, terribly unhealthy. What scares me is the growing group of extremist attachment parents, who cite this book (and many others, like it) almost scripturally, as the foundation for their non-confrontational style of parenting. What I’m seeing, through observation and experience, is households where the line between grown up and child does not exist. Households where the children are in complete control, of everything, from eating and sleeping schedule, to food choice, to who’s in charge. What I see is tired mothers. Physically and emotionally worn out women, who wake up every morning wondering if today will be a good day or a bad day, as if such a concept is completely out of their control. Many of these mothers have put their own lives on hold because they cannot perform simple tasks, like showering or grocery shopping, if their children are awake.
Simply put, Attachment Parenting, taken to an extreme, has taken the authority and control out of the hands of moms and dads and put it in the children.
People. This is scary.
I subscribe to the parenting philosophy that it is my job to provide physical, emotional, and yes, dare I say it, schedule boundaries for my children. I do not believe my child instinctively knows what is best and healthiest for her (trust me, both my kids would pick candy and TV over every other option, including a lifetime of unconditional love, if the choice presented itself). I believe there is an age when it is actually counter-productive and unhealthy to immediately respond to crying. And, I admit, my marriage would severely suffer if John and I shared our bed with our daughters. But that’s just me.
When my daughters were infants (and even a little older), I even adhered to many of the eight basic principles of Attachment Parenting. This is pretty obvious, infants can’t do anything for themselves, except suck, and many of them come out having trouble with that. What I’m seeing is an increase in mothers who, by the time their children are three…four…nine years old, complain of “control issues,” “constant temper tantrums,” “he won’t eat anything but cheese,” or “bedtime is a nightmare,” and the resounding battle cry, for all of them, is, “Please tell me it’s just a phase, and this too shall pass!”
There has to be balance. And boundaries.
Dear mothers: do you let your friends hit you in the face when they are angry? Do you let your husband yell over you when you are trying to have a conversation with another adult? Then why do you let your three year olds do this? Will you continue to rock him to sleep, or, sleep on the floor of his room when he is in high school because it soothes him? Then why do it for your five year old?
As a high school teacher who might be back in the classroom about the time most of these preschool kids are 9th graders, this scares me. I believe that Attachment Parenting, in the wrong hands, will raise a generation of adults who are unable to think and act independently, let alone make decisions that take into consideration their place in society as a whole.
I know for a fact that I have offended someone today. As a quick disclaimer, I want to say this: Attachment Parenting is not for me. Maybe it is the best choice for some. Perhaps, as with Mother Theresa, when patience and love overflow at a sainthood level, Attachment Parenting can work at an exclusive level. I even believe that it is possible for children of prudent attachment parents to turn out well-adjusted, well-behaved, and generally pleasant to be around. I’m just skeptical of extremes, and even more skeptical of parenting trends that come with their own support groups.