Attachment Parenting is Not

Attachment Parenting is not Indulgent Parenting. Attachment parents do not “spoil” their children. Spoiling is done when a child is given everything that they want regardless of what they need and regardless of what is practical. Indulgent parents give toys for tantrums, ice cream for breakfast, allow their infants to forward face before they’re physically safe doing so. Attachment parents don’t give their children everything that they want, they give their children everything that they need. Attachment parents believe that love and comfort are free and necessary. Not sweets or toys.

Attachment Parenting is not “Afraid of tears” parenting. Our kids cry. The difference is that we understand that tantrums and tears come from emotions and not manipulation. And our children understand this too. They cry and tantrum sometimes, of course. But they do this because their emotions are so overwhelming that they need to get it out. They do not expect to be “rewarded” for their strong negative emotions, they simply expect that we will listen. I don’t remember the last time my partner was feeling so frustrated about something and needed to vent, and I told him to go sit alone in a corner and come talk to me when everything was hunky dory dandy. We pick up our babies when they cry, and we respond to the tears of our older children because we believe firmly that comfort is free, love is free, and that when a child has need for comfort and love, it is our job to provide those things. We are not afraid of tears. We don’t avoid them. We hold our children through them and teach them that when they hurt or are frustrated we are here to comfort them and help them work through their emotions.

Attachment Parenting is not Clingy Parenting. I do not cling to my children. In fact, I’m pretty free-range. As soon as they can move they usually move away from me and let me set up a chase as they crawl, run, skip and hop on their merry way to explore the world. Sure, I carry them and hug them and chase them and kiss them and rock them and sometimes sleep with them. But this is not me following them everywhere and pulling them back to me. This is me being a home base. The “attachment” comes from their being allowed to attach to us, not from us attaching to them like parental leeches.

Attachment Parenting is not Selfish Parenting. It is also not selfless parenting. We are not doing it for us, and we are not doing it to torment ourselves.

Attachment parenting is not Helicopter Parenting. I don’t hover. I supervise. I follow, I teach, I demonstrate, I explain. I don’t slap curious hands away. I show how to do things safely. I let my child do the things that my child wishes to do, first with help and then with supervision and finally with trust. I don’t insist that my 23 month old hold my hand when we walk on the sidewalk because I know that I can recall him with my voice because he trusts me to allow him to explore and he trusts me to explain when something is dangerous and to help him satiate his curiosities safely.

Most of the negative things that I hear about “attachment parents” are completely off-base and describe something that is entirely unlike AP. AP is child-centric and focuses on the needs of the child. Children need structure, rules, and boundaries. Attachment Parents simply believe that the child and the parent are allies not adversaries. And that children are taught, not trained.

24 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting is Not

  1. So true! I often find people around me have misconceptions about my choice of parenting. I often get told that my daughter won’t grow up to be independent, or self capable. Not true at all! Thanks for writing the truth about what AP is versus what people just think it is.

  2. Thank you! I hate when I’m told you’re baby needs to learn and cry not to get her way! I actually have been told your child will be neurotic because I don’t make her cry it out or don’t want her to cry long while others hold her! She’s happy and thriving so I am happy with attachment parenting!

      1. Thanks very much! We always give a credit and a link – if you want us to include more details, send them to my email address.

        I’ll be sure to send you the link as soon as it’s posted!

  3. That’s how you parent. And it sounds like you’re a good mum. Why does it have to belong to “attachment” parenting. Some attachment parents are doing what you say you don’t do. And “non attachment” parents do what you do. Why don’t we just call it “parenting” with the understanding that everyone does the best they can.

    1. This post is about misconceptions regarding attachment parenting.

      AP is commonly confused with indulgent parenting, narcissistic parenting, clingy parenting, etc. This post is about the fact that AP is none of those things.

      Not that “non AP practices” are inherently “bad”, just that the misconception is a misconception.

    2. I totally agree with you. Every attachment subscribing parent I know uses a different method, yet calls it AP. I baby wear, feed my baby when it’s hungry (which happens to be every 3-4 hrs), home birth, don’t believe having a family bed is healthy for my marriage. Yet I have friends that feed whenever baby wants to suck on something, uses a family bed to space children, and have unmedicated births… we don’t use titles to describe our parents. We do what works for us.

  4. I love this! I so wish I could *not* hold my son’s hand when walking down the street. He’s been attachment parented from birth (before I even knew what it was called), yet he does not always come when called and has run in the street a couple times. If we are not near a busy road, I do let him roam free though!

    1. All kids are different, Bridget. :) Some are more responsive to certain things than others. The same child that I can trust next to a street (not a busy one– a residential one without many cars and with a wide sidewalk.. I take no chances. :) ) I can’t trust to not climb EVERYTHING.

      I think part of the reason why he respects the street is because when he approaches the street I intentionally let a note of panic into my voice, call him back, hold his hand and then approach the street in a certain way. He also has the example of his older brother.

      But again- child specific. My mom used to outright freak out when my oldest sister ran towards the street. My sister found it amusing. Every little personality is so different!

  5. It seems so obvious – let a child grow up feeling safe and secure and loved unconditionally and he will become a strong, secure and loving person. If you want your child to become independent, give him a secure childhood where he can feel safe and protected and unafraid – precisely the opposite of how I was raised. I see the proof of this in my own son who has grown up to be a strong, courageous, kind, and independent young man, unafraid to face the world with an open heart. He is the kind of man I wish I could have been at his age.

  6. Sounds great! I just don’t understand why we call this “attachment parenting”.

    There should just be “effective” parenting and “not effective” parenting.

    Thanks for the article!

  7. Who cares how others parent? I mean really? Who cares? Do whatever you want. Just don’t breastfeed them when they are old enough to talk.. it’s creepy

    1. Elizabeth, Thank you for your comment. I’m curious about why you feel that breastfeeding duration and talking have anything to do with each other. I’m also curious at what point it become “creepy”. When they can say a word or two? When they can say complete sentences? I’m always curious about the arbitrary milestones that allow one person to pass judgement on the parenting practices of another person. -Sarah

  8. I think if kids are able to eat solid foods, they don’t need to be breastfed. I just think this world has gotten so crazy with pressure to raise kids in the most perfect way possible. It’s like if parents (mainly moms) don’t blog about everything, research every chemical, grow everythig organic, have cloth diapers, sleep with their kids until they are 5 years old, and be perfect eco-friendly parent, then people judge them. I say, stay off the internet (although I’m not right now) and let your kid grow up without beating yourself up if they didn’t have organic applesauce out of a recycled bowl without BPA, while crapping into a cloth diaper.. and then blog about it. Kids eat dirt for crying out loud. People need to relax. Kids are fine and will be fine if you don’t “wear” them as babies, or breastfeed them into their teens.

    1. hey Elizabeth, have you heard of the world health organization?

      and to quote “continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

      I’d be hard pressed to find many 2 year olds who are not eating solids. And to say ‘breastfeed when they are old enough to talk’ and then come back with ‘until they are teenagers’ is a very VAST difference.

      And by the way your entire statement is full of ‘cares’ and ‘judements’ on how others parent.. exactly what you stated NOT to do. Just saying..

  9. I would feel so much better about this post if I didn’t get the feeling that you’re implying that you do these things better than non-attachment parents. But it strikes me as deeply passive aggressive. Here’s how I’m reading this: “We love our children unlike those other people who can’t afford for one parent to stay home full-time…”

    1. Kristin,

      A lot of attachment parents work full time and their babies or children have to go to daycare. I’m on my cell phone at the moment so I can’t re-read this post easily, but I don’t remember taking any hidden jabs at working parents.

      Do you feel that AP parents look down on working parents? Perhaps that feeling is causing you to read something into what I wrote?

      I did take a few jabs at permissive parents, but not so much to say we love our kids more than permissive parents. Just that AP isn’t ‘permissive’ by nature.


  10. I loved this article. Thank’s for sharing. Now I can explain better why I do not ever scold my child and be harsh to him when someone judge my parenting.

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