Congratulations on becoming a parent!
Have you decided how you are going to raise your child?
Chances are, before your baby is even born, everyone around you has already formed a strong opinion about which parenting style is best. But, how you decide to parent will ultimately depend on your lifestyle, personality and your baby’s temperament.
One of the most talked about parenting theories today is attachment parenting.
Kids in the House interviewed renowned developmental psychologist and well-known author Dr. Gordon Neufeld to find out more about what attachment is and how it develops.
Year 1: The Need to Be With
According to attachment parenting theory, the bond between parents and children is largely formed in the first six years of a child’s life. The strength of this bond determines the dynamic of the relationship, and plays a large part in how effective parents are in influencing their children later in life.
“The [first stage of attachment] is the beginning of a wonderful unfolding and development of the capacity for a relationship” says Dr. Neufeld.
During the first year, the foundation of the parent-child bond is set through physical attachment. A baby attaches through physical touch, sight and smell, by being near to their parents. This may be achieved by wearing your baby, co-sleeping or sharing a room, or just by spending as much time physically bonding as possible.
Year 2: The Need to Be Like
According to Dr. Neufeld, “by the second year of life a new way of attaching should open up in which the child wants to be like [their parent].”
By being close to their child, and communicating with them constantly, parents learn to respond to their baby’s needs. Once a baby feels that their needs are being understood, they will develop the confidence and desire to communicate using the parents’ language.
Year 3: The Need to Belong
When parents listen and respond to the needs of their child, the child will learn to be attentive to the needs of their parents.
“By the third year, a child becomes preoccupied with belonging and loyalty and that’s when the obedience instincts begin,” explains Dr. Neufeld.
Although you cannot control your child’s temperament, you can control the depth of your parent-child connection. A child that is more connected to their mother or father trusts their parents and tries to please them. This is the root of obedience.
Year 4: The Need to Matter
When children feel safe and secure within their family and trust that their parents are always available to them, they gain the confidence to go out and explore the world.
Many critics of attachment parenting believe that it creates dependency, but the goal is actually the opposite:
“There’s this idea in our society that children can be too attached. It’s a dreadful idea. The short answer is: absolutely not.” says Dr. Neufeld. “If a child is deeply attached through a sense of belonging, loyalty, and emotional intimacy, they have many ways of holding on when physically apart. The more deeply attached a child is, the more they can separate physically.”
Year 5: The Need for Emotional Intimacy
“If everything unfolds properly, the fifth year is incredible. The limbic system, 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,” Dr. Neufeld says.
At this point a child’s capability for emotional intimacy is fulfilled and they are able to fully reciprocate the love they receive from their parents and caregivers.
Year 6: The Need for Psychological Intimacy
At age 6, if the parent-child attachment is secure, the child will open up their inner world and want to share everything with their parents. Once that level of psychological intimacy is achieved, the level of trust will stay with the child throughout their entire life. This is what sets the stage for the rest of parenting.
According to Dr. Neufeld, we cannot parent children whose hearts we don’t have. This is why attachment is so important.
For more information about attachment parenting, check out https://www.kidsinthehouse.com/baby/bonding-and-communication/attachment-parenting
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