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Does Attachment Parenting Create a Clingy Child?

A frequent concern about attachment parenting is that it will cause the child to develop a lasting dependency on the parent. If a child is given constant attention during their formative years, then perhaps they will expect and need this to continue indefinitely, right? Proponents of attachment theory insist just the opposite.

“You’re not creating dependency by practicing attachment parenting, you’re creating security,” says Dr. Wendy Walsh, a relationship and parenting expert. The attachment parenting theory outlines a series of six stages, one for each of the first six years of life, that highlight specific types of closeness and intimacy for the parent to develop with their child. The ideology behind showering your child with so much attention early on is to eliminate their longing for it. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a renowned developmental psychologist and author, explains that fulfilling a child’s need for physical, emotional, and psychological closeness eliminates their preoccupation with it, leaving them free to branch out from the parent’s side and pursue their personal goals.

“Actually, you’re creating a secure child who will be ready to leave your lap when they feel good. They will feel good early because they’ve got lots of self esteem, they trust you, they trust the world, because their needs are met,” says Walsh.

Neufeld attributes the myths surrounding attachment parenting to the false conception that attachment equals physical closeness. This parenting style operates on the definition of attachment as meaning closely bonded. A child attached to their parent in this more meaningful way is confident in the strength of their shared relationship and trusts that it will not deteriorate, even when physically apart.

“If a child is deeper attached through sameness, through significance, through a sense of belonging, of loyalty, emotionally through intimacy, or feels known, they have many ways of holding on when physically apart,” says Neufeld.

Avoiding attachment parenting over worries of raising a clingy child can backfire drastically.

“Pushing a baby or toddler away from you too early creates a clingy child,” says Walsh. Without enough attention given freely from parent to child, the pursuit of that type of close relationship may preoccupy the child and distract from other crucial activities and behavior that should occur during their first six years.

“Our job is not to push independence, in fact, independence cannot be pushed. The more we push it, the more the child is alarmed and panicked and transfers their dependence to another. It's paradoxical. We need to be able to meet their dependency needs,” says Neufeld. According to the attachment parenting theory, the more closely bonded or attached you are to your child in the first six years of life, the more likely they are to achieve independence on their own while maintaining a connection to their parents. 


More from Dr. Gordon Neufeld on Attachment Style Parenting

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