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Fundamentals of Attachment Parenting

When your bundle of joy comes along, it is inevitable that a bundle of parenting advice will follow shortly after. While so many opinions and ideologies can be overwhelming, it is worth taking a look at the concept of Attachment Parenting. This theory operates on a framework of six stages for the first six years of life, each based on fulfilling a child’s need for attachment so fully that a preoccupation for this type of intimacy does not form. Renowned author and psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld, PhD. spoke with Kids in the House about the finer details of accomplishing successful attachment parenting.

Stage 1:  The Need to Be With

It is a frequent misconception that attachment parenting involves being physically close to your child at all times. In actuality, this only represents the tenets of stage one.

“In the first year of life, the child does attach through wanting to be ‘with’-- to be in sight, in smell, in hearing, in touch,” Neufeld explains. A bond is formed through this type of contact, which can be achieved through simply holding your baby, co-sleeping, or just spending as much time as possible nearby.

Stage 2: The Need to Be Like

With each year of life, the type of attachment needed is built upon and becomes more complex. Stage two centers around your child’s need to be like you in terms of mannerisms, speech patterns, and other characteristic patterns they can pick up on. Neufeld deems this “the key to language acquisition” and “stamping our form on their behavior.”

Essentially, the first stage gives your child a trust that then transcends into their desire to simulate your behavioral and speech patterns.

Stage 3: The Need to Belong

“By the third year, a child becomes preoccupied with belonging and becomes preoccupied with loyalty, to be ‘on the same side as,’ which is a different way of closeness,” says Neufeld.

This need, Neufeld says, is what a child’s obedience stems from. A child who feels adequately close to his or her parent physically, in behavior, and in belonging responds by wanting to please them and meet their expectations.

Stage 4: The Need to Matter

Neufeld describes the fourth stage as the one where a “huge quest for significance, to matter, because he feels close now when he is dear to those that he is attached to.” It is at this time, according to the attachment parenting theory, that a child will feel secure enough in his or her attachment to their parent that they now have the confidence to separate.

If the bond between parent and child seems to the child to be superficial, the attachment parenting belief is that the child will be too fixated on achieving a genuine closeness to extend themselves into personal goals.

Stage 5: The Need for Emotional Intimacy

“If everything unfolds properly, the fifth year is incredible. The limbic system, the command center, or the amygdala of the command center, the emotional brain pulls out all of its stops and the child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to,” Neufeld says. This stage is crucial, he continues, because it functions as the foundation for building friendships and even marriages. It also determines the outcome of the parenting on a holistic level, because, Neufeld says, “We cannot parent children whose hearts we do not have.”

At this point, the attachment parenting theory states that the child will reciprocate the love and closeness he or she was given during his or her earliest years by turning it back towards whomever a bond has formed with-- whether it be parents, grandparents, or even pets.

Stage 6: The Need for Psychological Intimacy

This stage represents the time in which a child desires to share all of their thoughts, emotions, and secrets with their parents. With all other aspects of attachment fulfilled, the child is left with a need for psychological intimacy. This level of closeness is one which is retained throughout their entire life.

To see a full list of our videos on Attachment Parenting

For more information on Attachment Parenting, check out these videos from our experts:

Developing Good Attachment - Gordon Neufeld, PhD

What Attachment Parenting Means - Suchada Eickemeyer, Blogger

Six Stages of Attachment - Susan Stiffelman, MFT

Can Children Be Too Attached? - Gordon Neufeld, PhD

The Science Behind Attachment Parenting - Aimee Wheeler, PsyD

How Attachment Parenting Creates Independent Children - Wendy Walsh, PhD

The Misconceptions About Attachment Parenting - Suchada Eickemeyer, Blogger

What Attachment Looks Like Over Time - Julie Wright, MFT

Can I Practice Attachment Parenting with Twins? - Gina Osher, Blogger

Why You Need to Understand Attachment Theory - Julie Wright, MFT

Self-Reliance Verse Attachment Parenting - Alanna Levine, MD

How Anthropological Study Informs Attachment Parenting - James McKenna, MD


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