Thursday, February 13, 2014

Have I Become an "AP" Parent?

I always sort of despised the "Attachment Parenting" movement because I felt like it was based on bad science. My sister, a part-time practitioner, said once "studies show that babies who are sleep trained are more likely to commit crimes as adults."

I couldn't help but fire back, "Oh yeah? Which studies? Can you show them to me?"

Moreover, I felt like "the movement" -- that is, the "experts" that preach it seemed to criticize us non-believers. 

I sleep trained my daughter. I did it. And I put her on a feeding schedule at eight weeks of age. And my daughter grew happier with each change I institutionalized. She started to sleep through the night immediately, and to be the happiest baby around. As long as I kept her on her schedule.

I don't insist that everyone adapt my methods. Though admittedly, I do suggest babies down to sleep much sooner than most parents do, simply because my daughter's infant evening fussiness immediately disappeared when I made these changes. Still, if your parenting style works for you, rock on.

But please don't insist that my methods are practically child abuse. That's disrespectful.

So as a result of all this meanness, I tend to write off all AP ideas.

But a reader of this blog suggested I check out this blog, and not realizing what it was, I did. 

And you know, a lot of the suggestions made sense. And so I started trying them out. 

The biggest thing I've learned, partly from this website, is that, duh, kids' feelings matter.

This sounds so obvious, but how often do you hear well intentioned parents' mocking their children's feelings? Saying things like, "I know, I'm SO mean!" Or, "yeah, you had SUCH a hard day, playing at daycare all day. You should try going to work all day!" Or even, my friend telling me that she laughed as her toddler melted down about some small toddler-sized problem.

The thing is, their problems feel very big to them. Just as big as our problems do to us. 

And so, what does this jeering teach our children? That their feelings aren't real, that their problems don't "count"? That they don't deserve empathy?

And most importantly, how would I feel if someone treated me that way? 

Like crap, is how I would feel.

And you can bet that it wouldn't make me more empathetic towards others.

So I've been working on this. I've stopped giving time outs. (Though I don't promise I'll never give one again.) I've started giving "time ins" instead. 

When Calliope, rather predictably, starts to spin out of control and misbehave when I first get home from work, I try to catch hold of her hands or her shoulders and say, "You seem like you are having a hard time. Do you need a hug?" 

Most of the time, she says yes, and melts into my arms. If she says no and keeps swatting, I restrain her in my arms anyway and just say, "I can't let you hit." 

So far that has worked. I'm sure I'll have to up my game but so far, it's remarkable how well it's working.

I'm trying to remember my motto of "she's not giving me a hard time, she's having a hard time."

It's helps me to think of her actions not as misbehavior but as dysregulation. She's two. She can't always get her impulses under control. When her emotions become to strong, she lashes out as a way to release the tension. Punishing her doesn't teach her how to regulate herself, just shows her the negative consequences for doing so. But at those times, she's not necessarily logical enough to think back to previous consequences and make better choices for reasons other than fear. Showing her that I can help her curtail her actions when her impulses are too strong for her shows her that I'm on her side and I won't let her hurt someone else. I can see that she doesn't really want to hit me, she is just overwhelmed by emotion. 

I guess she thought that Susie was in danger of misbehaving yesterday Calliope walked up to her and asked seriously, "Do you need a hug?"

Susie answered back, very seriously, "Yes, yes I do need a hug."


  1. Very interesting... I too find parts of AP very superior and unrealistic to people who have to work but the thought process you've described here makes total sense. The link you posted however didn't work for me. Would you mind posting it again as I'd love to give that blog a read! Thanks so much!

    1. I fixed it -- sorry about that!

      The website is kind of a jumble but you can sign up for thrice weekly emails which are good. Kind of a every other day reminder of parenting goals. Empathy being the big one.

    2. PS let me know if you have trouble with it again.

  2. So much yes on this! I don't consider myself an AP, but I totally agree about respecting your child's feelings. My biggest complaint about my mother is her constant discounting of every complaint or feeling I had - nothing I felt was valid, just because I was a kid. Her response to everything was "get a job". I promised myself I would never do that!!!

    Right now B is super clingy and emotional and I'm sure it's a combo of the baby coming and his turning two. And you know what? I go with it, because I know he feels insecure and scared and now is not the time to "lay down the law". When he hits now I find the most effective way to make it stop is to say, "let's do hugs instead!" Stops the hitting immediately! To the untrained eye it looks like I just rewarded him for hitting me. But it's not like that. It's that he needed to connect with me and is too little to understand how to get my attention. All I know is "punishment" simply does not work - and in the end you want to do what works!

    1. I think this is exactly right! B is telling you "I'm overwhelmed by my feelings right now! please help me, Mommy!" when he hits -- it's not like he is even capable of being malicious at this age! So I think hugging him is listening!

      Thanks for making me feel like I'm not crazy!

  3. This is so much what I believe! I can remember being a kid and being SO angry but also so sad/scared at the same time -- emotions are just a jumble when you're little. I hope I can keep that in mind when M enters the toddler years!

  4. That's the problem I have with AP parenting books - that if you aren't doing AP, then you're a bad parent.

    But that being said, I like a lot of the things they do promote, especially empathy and remembering how overwhelming things can be at that age. That being said, I have to also remember that like you said, sometimes you just have to be strict and lay down the law. I have a hard time with balancing the two, but both are equally valid and important tools to have in our parenting tool kits - and I don't think there's a blanket right or wrong out there, it all depends on your child.

    1. Oh jeez, I'm so tired - "that being said" twice. Oh well, you get my point. :)

  5. Thank you for posting this site, it looks helpful! I really resent theories that make you feel stupid for not using them. Mel over at StirrupQueens had a great post a while back about approaching parenting theories & books like a buffet, take what you like & pass over what you don't. That's the way I've approached things, I used some sleep training techniques but ultimately did what I thought best for us, taken some of the HTOB tips but disregarded other, the same with AP, some I like & buy into, others, well they just don't work for us...