"Our 'child and youth problem' is not a child and youth problem; it is a profound adult problem as our children do what they see us adults doing in our personal, professional, and public lives."
|A revolutionary must-read for new and old parents alike!|
Something needs to give in our society full of crime, violence, and abuse, and with attachment parenting, it starts at home. This phenomenal book was written by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, Attachment Parenting International (API) founders, and through their studies of attachment parenting (AP) created by Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha, they felt a need to rally parents together, no matter how small the group, and thus API was founded and this book created.
AP is a "style of parenting that actively promotes compassionate, respectful treatment of children and provides much needed support for the attachment relationship." Many peaceful communities around the world are based on this philosophy and practice cooperation, compassion, and peace within families and societies. As an interesting example, a psychiatrist from WWII visited Okinawa after the destruction thinking to find people with severe mental health problems, but he was surprised to find that the people were relatively calm and collected, and with further insight, he came to find that before the war, there was not a single mental health facility and the only murder in the largest city was over 75 years prior to his visit. So how come in our society there is an overwhelming epidemic of mental and emotional health problems and violence then and still today? In the past 5-7 years, there has been a 4000% increase in bipolar disorder alone - which is one million children, and everyday in the US four children are killed by abuse and neglect, five children or teens commit suicide, and 192 children are arrested for violent crimes. Why?? Some believe the crisis is due to a deep lack of connectedness with parents and their community. These problems cross all racial, cultural, and economic barriers and are not limited to those living in poverty or who are uneducated. "They reflect a more intrinsic kind of poverty - a poverty of the mind and of the spirit."
How come spanking, yelling, talking harshly, jerking, hitting, and ignoring (to name a few) are "normative abuse" passed down from generation to generation? If our parents did it to us, and we turned out ok, it's surely ok to do it to our kids, right? In our society, we have desensitized ourselves to thinking that this kind of abuse is tolerable and that it doesn't affect our children in a negative way. But does it cause physical and emotional pain, even down the road? Think back to your own childhood and ask yourself those questions. Just because our parents did it to us, does not mean it is the most efficient and acceptable form of punishment. The cycle needs to be broken somewhere, and attachment parenting gives us the tools we need to be more loving and respectful of our children and ourselves. "Children will model our behavior before they will heed our words."
From birth, attachment is a mother's protective, nurturing guidance. In the first 3-5 years of life, it is crucial for us as parents to share this connection and attachment with our children and help them to develop empathy, trust, and affection. If it is not learned in the beginning, then it is hard to develop because, as stated in chapter one, during the first years, the millions of cells of the brain are waiting to be developed, and if they are not stimulated, the brain begins to prune back unused cells. The brain is a "use it or lose it" organ. We must model how to treat others in these first years of life. "How parents treat a child can shape which of his genes turn on." Changing the family environment can change genetic traits.
I also found the next quote very powerful: "Each of us has the potential to change the course of our familial inheritance and the hidden potential within ourselves and our children, but we can't and shouldn't do it alone." If there is a history of depression, dysfunction, or addiction, it may take a few generations to see the long-term benefits of AP, but with love and a deep-rooted connection between parent and child and community, we can overcome these stigmas that bring us down. AP is no fix-all for the community, but every revolution has come from a small group of individuals trying to make a difference. If we all support one another, we can turn a world of war into a world of peace, and being the optimist I am, I am more than willing to give it a try!
What I found truly interesting in this first chapter was the history of child development from a psychological perspective. Experts in the field in the early 20th century like Sigmund Freud and John Watson influenced millions of homes around the country by promoting raising "good," obedient children. John Watson (who we studied in great depth in college), founder of behaviorism, even wrote in his hugely published book that we as parents should treat our children like small adults, do not hug or kiss them unless on the forehead, and always be objective and firm (never learned about this side of things in college!). Shockingly, John Watson left a legacy of suicide and depression to his family (3 family members commited suicide), and it shows that culturally accepted parenting practices can be abusive and neglectful.
The core values of AP are respect, empathy, and affection, and I believe far too many children do not get these three things showered down on them on a daily basis. AP is the golden rule of parenting, and through this book, it teaches us how to break the chain of normative abuse and make changes to "be the kind of parent and person we were meant to be." Amen to that!!
For more information on attachment parenting and this book please see the links below:
Attached at the Heart
Attachment Parenting International