Perhaps what’s most concerning to me about attachment parenting, though, is the thread that runs through each of these practices—sharing beds, feeding on demand, keeping the baby close at all times. It is a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’, all the time. Parents are at their best when they’ve taken care of themselves—when they’ve had a decent night’s sleep, when they’ve had a chance to connect with their partner, and when they’ve had the opportunity to move around baby-free.
Attachment parenting, as described by Dr. Sears, is NOT research based. It’s a philosophy, and it does not even correlate with optimal parenting practice research, which prefers an authoritative style (Baumrind, 1966). Authoritative parenting involves respecting, nurturing, and responding to your child’s emotional needs while setting appropriate limits. It is these limits that help children to feel safe and secure. When we don’t set limits, the children feel a leadership void and may act to fill it. This is human nature. Some parents may think seeing their children fill this leadership signals healthy self-esteem. It doesn’t. It means just the opposite.
Our job as parents is prepare our children to be societal citizens. In order for society to function well (and, yes, there is much to show that it doesn’t) limits, such as laws, are necessary. If we are constantly accommodating our children’s every whim, what do they learn? They learn they are the center of the universe, and it’s others people’s responsibility to ensure their every need is met.
Have you ever worked with someone like that? Ugh. It’s dreadful.
I want to be able to be hit by a bus and have my children feel that they can keep on and create good lives for themselves (I don’t really want to be hit by a bus, but you get my drift). If I act in way that makes them dependent upon me, I’m actually making their “self” about ME, not them. Their job is to self-differentiate. My job is foster that process.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t claim to be a perfect parent. Far from it. I absolutely expect my children (I would say “kids,” but they’re always reminding me that they’re not baby goats) to be angry at me for something or other when they’re adults. They’ll be on the couch talking to their therapist just as I was. But at least they’ll know to call that therapist and take responsibility for working things out for themselves.