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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 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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