Attachment parenting has received a bad rap in recent years, being misrepresented as a club of staunch breastfeeders that nurture and indulge with a belief that those things alone produce a well-adjusted child. However, psychologist, John Bowlby, who developed attachment theory in 1969, created it because of research which indicated that well-adjusted children had parents that allowed them to explore and fail, while also being emotionally available and respectful when the child needed them.

Considering this, an attachment parent is not illustrated by a mother hovering over a 3-yr-old as they try to walk along a log, but is instead the woman watching carefully nearby — waiting for the child to come ask for help, or perhaps, waiting for the inevitable tumble, so that she might draw near and say, “That was brave! You alright, deary?”

In one case, the parent is deciding that the child needs help. In the other case, the child is deciding, understanding that the mother is there, if needed, both before and after the grand “log” experiment.

And this illustrates the essential difference between helicopter parents and attachment parents. Yes, they are both consistently there for their children and they are both sensitive to the child’s needs, but one lets the child define the need, while the other defines and meets anticipated needs of the child.

Also, as one can see from this example, attachment parents are not fearful parents. Unlike their helicopter counterparts, attachment parents are not operating out of anxiety and overprotection.
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Parents.com interviewed Ann Dunnewold, Ph. D., a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, who accuses helicopter parents as “over” everything. “It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is over-controlling, overprotecting, and over-perfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.”

Attachment Parenting International, calls out another essential element to the Attachment theory, often overlooked by Helicopter counterparts… Respect: “What differentiates Attachment Parenting from other childrearing approaches is the parent’s desire to treat children with equal dignity, love, and respect as he or she would afford an adult. … they come from a place of great compassion, forgiveness, and patience as the child is learning about their place in the world.”

In the end, it is less about the media focus — co-sleeping and breastfeeding — and more about the original idea. That children thrive when parents are loving, sensitive, responsive and respectful. Attachment parents are also not over parenting or protecting children from failing or doing for themselves. Their ever present nature is not of the hovering variety, but instead is simply an emotional and physical availability when a child requests or needs help.

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