27 July 2010

Bring on the love!

As parents of a young child, DrLanky and I have been exposed to massive amounts of folk wisdom about how best to bring up LittleLanky. After much reading and reflection, we have stumbled into an approach called attachment parenting (championed by Dr Sears). It's good to read, then , that there is now more scientific evidence to support an approach which does not limit the affection you show to your child. In fact, this study seems to show that giving lots of affection to your child actually makes them more confident and able to deal with the stresses and strains of life. This is at the core of attachment parenting. 

So much of the advice we have been given by friends and family necessitates the imposition of artificial limts on affection, on the basis that 'they need to learn', or 'you don't want them to be too attached to you' or 'do you want her to be sleeping in your bed when she's a teenager?!'. We have chosen to reject this type of advice, because we feel that LittleLanky needs to be given emotional security from the beginning. We feel that she isn't actually an evil manipulator who's trying to manoeuvre her parents (as some 'experts' would have you believe), and that when she cries (which happens rarely), it's because something is wrong (even if we can't tell what is wrong). Some see the attachment approach as 'lazy parenting' that provides parenting difficulties down the line, but we believe and hope that a solid emotional start, where trust and affection flow in both directions, is what LittleLanky needs and deserves. It seems to be working so far, as LittleLanky is the most consistently contented baby I have ever come across. I expect some of that is her natural disposition, but I do think we learn most of our character traits rather than inheriting them in our DNA. So we can probably take an amount of credit for her cheeriness.

The problem with the attachment approach, though, is that a lot of people will feel that it is incompatible with a working life. It's difficult (not impossible) to continue with the attachment parenting principles if the mother has to return to work. Also, contrary to the 'lazy' description given by some, it can be really hard work to continue with some of the principles, even if the mother stays at home full-time to care for the child.

All this reflection on parenting makes me realise that there are two main lessons I have learnt so far as a parent. The first is that no-one is an authority on your child! The nearest you will find to this mythical creature is yourself, so be confident in your own instincts, and weigh up all the factors before you make your decisions.
The second lesson (which helps during the difficult times) is that with a child, everything is a phase. The good bits and the bad bits. 

50 days

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