When I talk to people about attachment and focusing on the relationship they have with their children, I am well aware of the misconceptions. I know that often times people confuse attachment parenting with being permissive and being a friend rather than a parent. This is not the case. Just because a parent comes from a place of empathy and understanding , does mean that they have no rules or expectations. Focusing on our relationship with our children allows us to explore things from their perspective. It prevents us from using potentially hurtful tactics such as shaming, embarassing, or belittling to get them to behave a certain way. It does not mean that we don't teach lessons or offer guidance. It does not mean that we don't take action when needed. We are still the parents. I often explain that this is an incredibly important thing to keep in mind. We are the adults in the relationship offering guidance, support, and assistance. This is especially true when our children are losing control, it is essential that we remain the adult and in control of ourselves in order to assist our children. We offer support, we offer containment of their overwhelming feelings, we offer guidance. Most importantly we model for them the behaviors we want to see. We do all of this, while focusing on the needs, emotions, and individuality of our child. We take time to hear their opinions (this does not mean we agree). We acknowledge that their needs and thoughts are important and that they are human beings who need connection and love. Our role is to maintain that connection and trust while guiding them through childhood and into adulthood.
Parenting within the relationship we have with our children does not mean that our children never experience consequences. People often confuse punishment with consequences. My children have a lot of consequences but are not punished. I work hard to not impose threats or punishments because I do not feel that the lessons are learned (although I will admit this is hard to do and every now and then a "if you don't....then..... " statement comes out). They do however have consequences to behaviors.
Just last night my girls decided too play instead of get ready for bed, which I had asked them to do. I didn't nag but did remind them what time bed time was and if they weren't ready it would mean less time for stories. They chose to keep playing and had less story time. Were they happy? No. Did they ask for more? Yes. I gently explained bed time was now and that they decided to play and do one less story. These types of things happen a million times a day. There are always natural consequences that happen. This is part of life.
So parents that focus on their relationship and their attachment with their children (often called attachment parenting) are not more permissive than anyone else. Their approach is just different.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.