My view on Attachment Parenting
As a young woman who grew up as the oldest in her family I was always interested in parenting philosophies. When I headed to my adult years I began to discuss different views with my parents, and more recently with my husband. A few years ago I started to hear more about the popular Attachment Parenting philosophy. At first I was intrigued but withheld judgment. I was waiting for research and results. In the meantime, I have read every article and blog post I could find on the subject - pro, con, and indifferent. I’ve also been closely watching the children of parents who subscribe (to varying degrees) to attachment parenting.
For the purposes of this article I am painting in broad brush strokes and summarizing attachment parenting with the popularized 3-B’s: Breastfeeding, Baby-wearing, and Bed-sharing. From the research I have done attachment parenting theory stems from psychologists’ research of primitive tribes, particularly mother-child interactions in Amazonian tribes.
As mentioned before, I’m the oldest of 7 children. I am not yet a parent, but expectantly wait the day when I am blessed with the privilege of motherhood. I am not unfamiliar with birth and bringing up babies. I grew up seeing my mother breastfeed, and carried my brothers and sisters around in front and back baby carriers.
I have decided that it is finally time for me to carefully pen my views on this topic. My concerns with the attachment parenting craze are three-fold.
The American culture we live in is extremely self-centered. As Christians, particularly Christian families, we are called to fight against selfishness and live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. As parents we should be laying our lives down for our spouse, and be modeling a life of other-centeredness. Attachment parenting in practice is extremely self-centered and child-centered at its core. It places the parent-child relationship (particularly, mother-child) above all other relationships. Reflecting on the fact that the most important part of a traditional, healthy parent-child relationship is the parent-parent relationship, attachment parenting encourages misprioritization. One of the most horrifying results of attachment parenting’s co-sleeping or bed-sharing is what should be called “relationship replacement”. I know of one father who has been sleeping on the couch for the better part of 2 years because his toddler son will only sleep with the mother in their master bed. In that family’s dynamic the husband has been replaced by the son. They now have a daughter and the toddler son and baby daughter sleep in the big bed with Mom while Dad sleeps on the couch. Dad has been relegated to the role of guest on the couch in his own home. I can almost guarantee that this toddler son who already has little respect for his father will grow up to despise and hate his father for allowing this unhealthy relationship to develop. Yes, babies have needs. They get hungry, wet, and scared at night. That doesn’t mean they have to sleep with us. Good parents are one cry away from their babies.
A child-centered philosophy of parenting is also selfish for each parent because the parent’s value as a person is mixed up in their child’s need for them. This is particularly important for women to recognize. As a woman I believe I can challenge other women in this area. Our value and priorities must be in this order: my God and how He sees me as a woman and His daughter, my husband and his view of me as his helper, partner, lover, and sister in Christ, and then my child and his view of me as his parent. If I get those out of order then I am mis-portraying my own values system to my child. Children are so smart that they will easily pick up on these inconsistencies in our worldview and practice. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. One of the most heartbreaking observations among parents who have homeschooled their children is the rampant divorces that are taking place. As their younger children grow up the parents realize their marriage has fallen apart. These parents have incorrectly prioritized their children over their spouse. I think this mistake is easy to make and know that when I become a parent I must hold myself to a high standard.
Missing Long Term Vision
My second concern flows straight from the first one, particularly this: attachment parenting lends itself to a short-term vision for your children and your family. One of my parents’ sayings during our childhood was: “We are not raising children. We are raising future adults.” I didn’t realize the profundity of that philosophy until I had made it to adulthood. My transition from child to teenager to adult was very smooth and I credit that to my parents’ challenging us to grow and mature. My parents worked hard to make sure that we realized we were not the center of the universe, not even their universe. We were loved and cherished, and never for a moment questioned or wondered about their love for us. However, we fit into their lives, not the other way around. I fear that the short-term concern of parents who follow attachment theories for their baby’s or toddler’s needs encourages only raising children, not adults.
Let me expand this thought further with one example. While I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding, I am not a believer in extended breastfeeding or that children should determine when they want to wean. Breastfeeding is a good thing. It is the way God designed babies to be fed, and science has proven that it makes for healthier, happier and more wholesome children. However, in what other case is it acceptable to allow children to make the decisions for their life? Never, unless we want to raise disobedient, selfish, and unhealthy children. I don’t think any parent would want to start their child on that path.
The family is the child’s first government. Children, even babies, must know that their parents are their authority and that their job as little ones is to listen, learn, and obey. When my Mother realized that her little one was not as interested in eating or could handle solid foods well, that’s when she weaned us. It was a different age for each of us. She realized that breastfeeding was not about her being needed by her child. Her job as a parent was to grow her children up, not plateau them at any stage. Attachment parenting in practice makes the parent’s concern to be what the baby needs or wants now, not what they need for the future, which is a short-sighted perspective.
My final concern also stems from my parents’ influence on my life. They taught me to always dig for the motivation behind any movement. If you know me, you know I’ve dug for why my generation isn’t getting married, among other things.
I keep asking myself, “Why?” “Why are so many of my fellow homeschool graduate Moms enamored with this theory?” Perhaps I’m most concerned about this because it’s ambiguous, and it could be a different reason for each person. I will always defend each couple’s right to raise their children the way they think is best, so long as it does not counter the Word of God. I still think that it is important for us to ask ourselves why we might be attracted to this theory, or what our personal motivation is.
Are you attracted to this theory because it is the newest idea out there? Or, because your friends are doing it? Or, is it because you are craving to do something different that your parents? As young married couples with families we must guard against reacting to our parents’ little mistakes in a big way.
We should certainly learn from our parents, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can’t answer why you, my reader, is interested in attachment parenting theory. Regardless of your reason I would challenge you to think about your motivations, be thoughtful in reading both sides, and count the cost.
One final encouragement
As we raise Godly families let’s remember that theories, plans, and ideas should never be our hope. We must only hope in the Lord, and follow the principles He has given us in His Word. Let’s turn to those principles, stay in constant prayer, and model Godly lives as we raise the next generation.