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Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

“If you were on an island, and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do to give your baby the best investment you’ll ever give.” – Dr. William Sears on Attachment Parenting

Your baby cries. You bend over and pick him up or offer him a soothing hand. His little hand wraps around your fingers and you both are smiling. Granted, not every interaction with your baby goes so smoothly, but you proved the attachment theory naturally: that it’s the response to the security & touch of a caregiver that is important to a baby.

Attachment Parenting, a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author, promotes a maternal figure providing crucial warmth, security, nourishment and love in the critical stages of infancy to help ensure a successful, well balanced child.[1]

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Attachment parenting promotes very close connection between the mom and her baby.

The four key elements that center around Attachment Parenting encourage what is instinctively given between a loving caregiver and baby. These items help to form a bond and strengthen that connection between the caregiver, usually the mother, and the newborn child.[2]

  • Responding to Crying – tending to needs when crying begins and not letting baby get distressed.
  • Body Contact – Keeping baby physically close through holding it when feeding and wearing baby close to your body in a baby carrier or sling for as many hours as possible.
  • Co-Sleeping – sharing the same bed/ same room with baby, using safety guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges against using the same bed, due to possibility of parents rolling over on their babies, but suggests sleeping in the same room- in a separate bed to help prevent SID.[3]
  • Feeding on demand– Feeding baby when he wants, even if he is snacking and not at the parents convenience. Attachment parenting encourages feeding a child past the stages of infancy.

Why is parental attachment necessary?

It is essential in healthy childhood development for a baby to make that maternal bond. If the attachment is broken during the baby’s critical stage, the result could be detrimental to that child and their future.

In a highly criticized experiment done by psychologist Harry Harlow in 1958, a group of baby Rhesus monkeys were taken from their mothers. Half were put in a cage with a cloth mother, while the other half were given a wire mother who had milk. It was the monkeys with the the cloth mother who were more secure and ran to the safety of their mother when feeling scared, not the milk provider. Further experiments proved that lack of close maternal connections resulted in emotional and social problems when they were introduced to other monkeys.[4]

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The good things about Attachment Parenting

Children reared using Attachment Parenting are healthier, have higher self-esteem and are more resilient under stress.[5] The other positive side effects are:

  • It makes you a better person. – Giving love and care to an infant is rewarded by smiles, giggles and love in return.
  • It reinforces your parental instinct skills.  By paying close attention to your child, you begin to pick up on their non-verbal cues, like when they start sucking on their hand means they are hungry.
  • It helps your children to be more trusting, confident & secure.  Providing a close, secure environment, your child learns that you have got their back. They will face their fears with you there by their side.
  • Your child becomes better at learning to speak. – Being at your side, observing and listening to a parent speak, they are quicker to pick up on language and use it.
  • It helps to make them smarter & independent. – When all of their needs are met, and they don’t need to stress over not being fed or having that wet diaper too long, they can focus their resources on exploring/observing their world.
  • You and your child are more connected. – The child-parent connection grows strong with Attachment Parenting, and they can have a closer relationship growing up because of it.
  • Disciplining your child becomes easier. – A simple look can convey disappointment and displeasure when parent and child are more connected. That quick shake of the head can dissuade a child from doing something ill-advised.

The negative side of Attachment Parenting

With all pros, there are cons, and the Attachment Theory is not without critics.

  • It is too demanding on parents. – Responding to every cry can be taxing on parents and being awake for all those nighttime feeding is rough and dangerous, as it was proven that an over tired driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Studies show that being awake for 18 hours is similar as having a .05 blood alcohol level.[6]
  • It’s not feasible when parents work. – Unfortunately society does not always allow us to keep our babies strapped to our bodies. Work commitments often separate parents from their children, and third party caregivers are brought into the mix. Babies are often handed over to day-care centers to be taken care of during those hours.
  • The baby doesn’t learn to soothe itself. – If parents respond to their child’s every cry, then how can this baby learn to soothe itself? Babies learn techniques to calm themselves and even put themselves to sleep, that a well-meaning parent can disrupt by picking them up.
  • The baby becomes too accustomed to being held/fed and can be hard to wean. – A baby that has grown accustomed to food on demand can be harder to wean. And a baby that is picked up and comforted at every cry can become spoiled for attention and demanding.
  • Putting the child’s needs in front of parents’ can lead to a future of serving the child above parents themselves. – Critics of Attachment Parenting argue that by serving your child above yourself, you are opening up for a life of servitude- always putting your child first.

Taking the Middle Ground

Though with modern day lifestyles, wearing your baby in a sling for hours may not be feasible, taking a middle ground on Attachment Parenting by using what works for you and your baby best. Do what feels natural.

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Spend quality time with your infant

The most important time for your baby during this critical infant stage is time spent with you. This is necessary for parental bonding and can be done through quality time. One on one.

Offer your baby unconditional love

Your baby reaches out by crying and getting your attention as instinctive act of survival. They are also aware when they are not receiving the love and nurturing that they need.[7] A newborn is a clean slate. Untainted by time or experiences. Hold your baby often. Speak kindly. Comfort him when he is stressed. Offer reassurances.

Invest in a baby carrier

The closer your child is to you, the more you bond. A child carrier enables you to hold your baby and have your hands free to perform other tasks as well.

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Hold your baby during feedings

Not everyone breastfeeds their baby, but the mere act of holding your baby close during feeding- be it with a bottle or otherwise, can establish a close connection between you and your child.

Infancy is just a brief period but its impact on the child can be forever.

With the arrival of this new baby, your life has changed forever. Even though in the moment it can seem eternal, babies grow up at lightening speed. Infancy is a brief period and that one precious time you can form a lasting bond with your child. Use that time wisely. Use your instincts with your child to parent naturally.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Sears, Bill; Sears, Martha: The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby
[2] Susan Krause Whitbourne Ph. D. Psychology Today. The 4 Principals of Attachment Parenting and Why They Work
[3] AAP.org: American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Safe Sleep Recommendations to Protect Against SIDs, Sleep-Related Infant Deaths
[4] Saul McLeod. SimplyPsychology.com: Attachment Theory
[5] AhaParenting.com: Pros and Cons of Attachment Parenting
[6] NationalSleepFoundation.org. Drowsy Driving Vs Drunk Driving: How Similar Are They?
[7] ChidhoodDevelopmentMedia.com: The Infant Brain: An Long Way to Grow

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Sally White

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

Do you feel that you can become a better person, but your personality is hindering you from doing so?

Are you one of those people who is making a conscious effort to change, but no matter how hard you try, you remain a prisoner of your personality traits?

Don’t lose hope – it is indeed possible to change your personality!

Personality Crisis

According to the widely accepted model of personality with over 50 years worth of research and study, there are five dimensions of our personality, known as the “Big Five:”

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  • Extraversion: People with high levels of this personality dimension are much more outgoing and tend to be more comfortable in social situations compared to others.
  • Agreeableness: Your level in this dimension determines whether you are more cooperative with other people or competitive (even to the point of being manipulative) with other people.
  • Conscientiousness: Thoughtful people who have high levels of this trait dimension are much more detail-oriented and driven.
  • Neuroticism: Moodiness and the propensity for sadness are associated with people who possess excessive amounts of this personality dimension.
  • Openness: Imaginative and insightful people are very receptive to change and new experiences, whereas those who are not are much more stubborn and reluctant to try out new things.

These personality dimensions are further shaped by our genetics and our upbringing, the latter of which also involves our living environment and culture. These factors ultimately help shape your personality as you grow up, some of which could lead to personality disorders.

However, your personality is never fully set in stone. In fact, it is not uncommon for adults to tweak their personalities as they prepare themselves for new challenges and life situations. For example, stubborn partners will find themselves making an effort to become more cooperative with their loved ones if they want their relationship to work. While these instances may not necessarily lead to positive results, it is evidence enough that changing your personality is not impossible.

The question that begs to be asked is this:

How Much Effort Are People Willing to Put in to Make That Change?

According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, only 13% of respondents were satisfied with their personalities – most of them wanted to change for the better. However, instead of encouraging these people to get help from experts or take courses, R. Chris Fraley and Nathan Hudson conducted different tests instead to see if the respondents can quantify their personalities to make the necessary changes. The results of the test were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which you can view here.

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The first experiment involved an introductory psychology class, who were educated about the Big Five personality dimensions and asked to grade their personalities by filling out a rating form. They were then asked if they wanted something to change in their personality over the 16-week period of this study. To do this, they needed to find a way to change their undesirable personality traits using goals and metrics to track their progress.

Among the 135 participants, half joined the “change plan” condition, in which they were given writing assignments over the same period to assess the changes they need to make for their personalities. Every week, they were also required to complete additional writing assignments to evaluate their progress further. The other half were not asked to write – instead, they were placed in a controlled setting and were provided feedback about their development.

The second experiment involved roughly the same number of participants. The only variable that Fraley and Hudson changed is that, instead of focusing on personality traits, they targeted daily behavior related to the traits that defined their personalities.

The result of both experiments demonstrates the capacity for people to make breakthroughs with their personalities. Participants were able to make strides by getting better scores on personality traits that they wanted to improve. However, the comprehensive change plans only had a modest impact on the actual changes in personality. Also, the 16-week period for the study was not enough for the participants to make the drastic changes one might expect.

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Steps to a Better You

Now that you are aware that you can still change your personality, below are some proactive steps that you can take so you can make the change as early as possible.

1. Do not let “labels” define you

You are not a shy and timid person. Nor are you a cold and callous one. You are simply a person full of potential to change and become a better version of yourself every day. You can be anything, as long as you put your mind to it.

2. Do good deeds

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Getting rid of a terrible personality can start with doing something good. A study published in Motivation and Emotion suggests that engaging in acts of kindness allows you to overcome anxiety. Letting the focus from yourself shift to others leads to more opportunities for social engagement.

3. Just wait

If you cannot force change, then let it come to you. According to a study conducted at the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics, change that naturally takes place is not out of the question. The more you undergo transformative experiences in life as you grow older, the more chances that changes in your personality take place.

At the end of the day, change is inevitable. As mentioned above, our personalities are shaped by our experiences in life. By exposing ourselves to positive experiences that we can live by and keeping an open mind for our own identities, there is no doubt that change for the better is indeed possible.

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/GmoHIZ61eMo via unsplash.com

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