Our lasting presents as parents

by API Blog on November 25, 2014

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barbara nicholsonBy Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker

My mom has a compression fracture in her spine and will spend Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas in rehab. At 95 years young, she has been in remarkable health for most of her life, so seeing her suffer in pain is so hard.

When something like this happens to an aging parent, the roles reverse and I find myself doing all the things that I’ve done for my own children, and of course the things that she used to do for me.

barbaras mom nowI’ve been reflecting on my childhood in the 1950s, helping me to realize how much my mother practiced what we now call Attachment Parenting.

One of my earliest memories is a Christmas when I was about 4 years old and wasn’t feeling well, so Mother held me in her arms that whole morning while my dad and brother unwrapped my presents and brought them to me on the couch. I can even remember that she was wearing a soft sweater, and I loved feeling safe and warm in her arms. She didn’t budge for hours, even though I know now she must have needed to get Christmas dinner on the table and clean up the wrapping paper — things that seemed important at the time.

As I bring my mother a glass of water or cut up her food, I think of all the times she so lovingly cared for my brother and I when we were home from school with some childhood illness.

Back then, in a time when doctors made house calls, everyone got the measles or chicken pox. My mom would give me a little brass bell so I could ring it whenever I needed her. To this day, I crave chicken soup and 7 Up when I don’t feel very well, as that was the menu prescribed and that’s what we got. We never had soda in our house, so it’s funny to me now that being sick was the exception!

Barbaras mom setting holiday tableAs Thanksgiving approaches, I tear up thinking that my mom may not be able to come to our house. My brother and his family are flying in from Colorado (USA) so that will cheer her up immensely, but it won’t be the same if she’s not at the table, supervising the way the table is set and making her famous cranberry salad.

There is something intangible about these traditions, when they’re prepared with love and care, that is like a sacrament at the table. The fact that it takes Mother hours to prepare this little Jello salad with boiled cranberries, grated oranges and chopped pecans gives it a quality that takes us back to every holiday we’ve had together as a family.

My reflections lead me to so many of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:

  • Feed with Love and Respect takes on another meaning around the holidays, and I hope that all of you also have family traditions. If not, you can start now and pass them down to your children.
  • barbaras mom reading to childrenRespond with Sensitivity has an even more significant meaning when you combine that with a childhood memory, like Christmas morning or being home sick in bed. You’ll never regret reading that favorite story one more time, when you know that as an adult your child will look back with such gratitude. That deep imprint will serve them well when they are caring for their aging parent.
  • The critical importance of Using Nurturing Touch cannot be overstated! My memories of my mother’s soft sweater and sitting on her lap while she’s reading my favorite fairy tales over and over to me are a tangible, tactile memory. Even though I can’t give my mother a big hug right now because it hurts too much, we can still hold hands while we watch television and give her a kiss whenever I come and leave.

Keeping our focus on loving connection around the holidays is everyone’s goal, but it can easily get lost in all the shopping and decorating. If I have anything to offer from my walk down memory lane, it would be:

  1. barbaras momInvolve your children with the cooking and decorating, keeping it simple when they are very young. They will remember your love and attention more than any gift they receive.
  2. Find a recipe that you can pass down to your children that they will associate with loving preparation for a holiday meal. It could be a special dessert, dinner rolls or a cranberry salad!
  3. No matter how busy we get, take plenty of time for touch, holding and reading favorite stories. As much as we watched television back in the 1950s, my fondest memories are of story time, not TV time.

Much love to you all and Happy Holidays!

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Struggling with Attachment Parenting?

by Rita Brhel on November 21, 2014

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100_0272I feel it is such a sign of true strength when parents can be honest with themselves and others that they, too, struggle.

Especially with Attachment Parenting (AP), many parents feel that they have to be “perfect” but that is an impossible standard. We all have moments where our knee-jerk reactions get the best of us.

Just the other day, I stubbornly insisted my oldest daughter was the one misunderstanding a situation. She was in tears, and I was adamant that I was “right.” It was a little past our usual lunch time, but it didn’t even dawn on me that perhaps I was seeing things in a different light because I needed to eat.

And then as soon as I got some food in me, my mood mellowed out and I quickly realized that I was completely in error in how I related to my daughter. So I apologized and we talked about how I need to work on taking care of myself better so I’m not taking out my low blood sugar on others.

Emotion coaching is such a huge part of AP. It’s not that AP parents always have it together, that we are superhuman in handling our strong emotions and therefore never raise our voices or give in to our knee-jerk reactions. It’s that we are comfortable with teaching our children that all of their — and our — emotions are healthy. We don’t need to be scared of our emotions, and there are ways to work through them in a healthy way.

That includes when we’re thinking thoughts that we think “real AP parents” never think of. Ha! It’s not that other AP parents don’t have these thoughts, and sometimes the actions that go with those thoughts, but rather how we repair the disconnection that happens when those thoughts/actions arise.

I try not to sweat an occasionally hard day of relating with my kids. But when I get into a pattern of relating with disconnection, I go back to Attachment Parenting International’s Eighth Principle of Parenting: Strive for Balance. I also go back and re-read my AP books to relearn and remind myself of what I’ve been taking for granted.

Earlier in my “career” as a mother, I had a very difficult time with API’s Sixth Principle of Parenting: Practice Positive Discipline. It took me seemingly forever to get the healthy patterns in place to change my mindset from punitive discipline to positive discipline. I was particularly vulnerable to others’ opinions of my parenting approach, especially from disapproving family members.

When I was a younger mother, and still figuring out how AP was going to work in our home, as well as healing my own childhood emotional wounds, it helped me so much to talk to parents who had “gone before” me and whose children were living proofs that AP works. There are times in the early years when it seems to some parents new to AP that this child-rearing approach might be setting a child up to be aggressive or “spoiled,” but so much of that perspective is part of the growing pains of wrapping the non-AP brain around the concept of Attachment Parenting.

The development is different for a toddler who is being raised AP than for a toddler who is raised in a way where strong emotions are suppressed, but when a child is raised with guidance through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, the seemingly difficult toddler grows into a child very aware of his or her emotions who is empathetic and creative and exceptional at problem-solving.

I’m seeing it in action with my own children, the oldest of whom is 8 years old. And I’ve seen it in action with others’ AP-ed children, some who are in their teens or preteens and even a few who are grown, married and are raising a second-generation of AP kids. Attachment Parenting works.

There were times when I would have to remind myself that my child acts a certain way, because he or she was not raised with an iron hand or where crying was punished — and that is OK. For example, some of my family members’ views on children are that they are “to be seen and not heard, and preferably not even to be seen.” Children are expected to play by themselves in an out-of-the-way room while the grown-ups talk together. But my kids are used to, and like to, be part of the togetherness of family. They don’t want to be out of the way; they want to be with and connect with the grown-ups.

Some of my family members may see this behavior as impolite or bothersome. And that is OK. What any one person defines as “good” behavior is subjective.

What’s more important to me is that my children are absorbing the values I want them to have as adults — and right at the top of the list is a desire to connect with others, emotional health and authenticity. So much of that is how I respond when my own strong emotions come up — like anger, sorrow, fear, disappointment, jealousy, embarrassment and others — especially when I didn’t deal with them well the first-time around.

My children are learning how to navigate life from me, and it’s important that part of what they learn is how to navigate when I make mistakes in my relationships so they know how to do that when they are parents themselves.

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Control or the lack thereof

November 20, 2014
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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2008, but it puts into perspective why new motherhood can sometimes be hard to adjust to. I’ve always liked to feel in control of my life. In my pre-baby days — back in the mists of time — I used to work full time in […]

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A grandmother’s take on Attachment Parenting

November 19, 2014
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By Donna Wetterlund Like every grandparent, the arrival of my first grandchild was a rite of passage with mixed emotions. I was in denial about the label that clearly identified me as “old,” but I was fascinated with my daughter’s changing body and the life growing inside it. I was proud of my daughter’s healthy […]

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How children benefit from rough-and-tumble play

November 18, 2014
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By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker Play is a critical component of healthy, secure attachment. As our children grow, we parents need to ensure that they have plenty of opportunity for active, fun activity. Our culture is often criticized for too much structured […]

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Love works for everybody

November 17, 2014
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When I see the debate among people about parenting and the different tools and methods, the way most arguments seem to finish is “…but whatever works for the family.” I’ve been thinking about this, and it just doesn’t make sense. Spanking works for nobody, no matter how you slice it. It’s just a quick fix […]

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Trust

November 14, 2014
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Whenever I encounter turbulence on my maiden voyage of parenting, I take solace in reminding myself of one really crucial ingredient of Attachment Parenting: trust. Trust is both an awesome gift and an incredible challenge, one that we receive and take on as part of the mantle of parenthood. We witness it in the eyes […]

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It’s not called permissive parenting

November 12, 2014
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Sept. 23, 2008, but it serves to remind parents how Attachment Parenting differs from permissive parenting. The world is full of followers, but you’re not one of them. ~J.L. Glass I recently attended a seminar taught by motivational speaker J.L. Glass — a very funny, charismatic speaker […]

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