Attachment Parenting: Formation and Failure

What's Covered

Have you always look at your child with adoration? Have you even felt that heart melting joy whenever you touch your child? You may have answered these questions with a YES and NO at this point.

Some would take parenting with so much sensitivity that parents tend to look more closely in every detail on how they are raising their child. Starting from the very first day that they held them, feed them, attending when they cry and every little moment of their child. Parenting is exhausting but parents who take their parenting seriously and devotedly would survive and become happy people as parents.

The Joy in Parenting        

Being happy in parenting is not always the case to some people. There are those who struggle finding joy in attending to their child. Some would suffer depression for feeling inadequate in their role as parents. It is not about not loving one’s child but it is merely about the feeling of not being able to do enough or do what is right. If the baby is crying and the mother fed him, rocked him to sleep and sung a lullaby to calm him, yet he still continues to cry.  The mother will become frustrated and wondering what could be wrong with her child. If it keeps happening, the mother might start developing the thought that she is not capable of knowing what her child needs.

Being there for your child in every turn and develop deep understanding with his needs or experiencing difficulties in doing so are all concerns of attachment parenting. It is building a bond with your child that would allow you to better understand his actions and could therefore respond to him effectively. If such bond is successfully established, the child would develop a sense of security, the feeling of being loved and cared and become a happy person. Although this would all seem to be a a hard work in progress but this book by Karen Thurm Safran might help you loosen up along the process.

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Defining Attachment Parenting

Attachment pertains to the connection that exists between two individuals. Attachment, if associated with parenting becomes the connection between the parent and the child in which such connection established will be a huge factor that will determine how the child will develop mentally and emotionally. If such connection is well met, the child will grow as a confident individual who is capable to share the same connection with others. He will be able to trust, love and create friendship.

This bond between parent and child builds from every cries of the child and the parent was able to respond correctly what was the crying all about whether the child is hungry, thirsty or wanting to be cuddled. It is a challenge to parents to determine which is which.

Attachment parenting’s study was explored by the Psychoanalyst John Bolby. He conducted a study to 44 juvenile thieves, wherein he stated that the early disruption of mother and child relationship is the primary factor that causes mental disorder.[1]

Is Attachment Between Mother and Child Instinctive?

The answer is No. Parent may love their child the moment their child was born but the attachment and bond will be a work in progress from then on. Giving birth is exhausting and stressful most specially to new mothers. There will be a lot to take in, from the new little person that is now your responsibility, to changing of your lifestyle, to additional finances and etc. It will be basically a new life to live now.

With all these changes that the mother has to adapt, here comes as well the building of attachment to the child. A new born child will have many demands and its means of communication will mostly be crying. Interpreting the child’s crying will not always be easy and the mother could get the message wrongly and therefore would respond to the message incorrectly. This creates stress to the mother and when she becomes too stress to deal with the child anymore, this will also be the start where building of attachment fails.

Knowing the child’s every whim makes the attachment building easier and this will be a comfort to both parties. To analyse the situation, it can be perceived that the severity to build and successfully establish attachment relies on the parents solely since at this early point, the child is still unconscious or incapable to control his actions. Parents must extend patience and exert more efforts to successfully raise a mentally and emotionally healthy child.

Principles of Attachment Parenting As Guide

 According to the Attachment Parenting International or API, they have developed Eight Principles of Parenting that will serve as guide for excellent child development based on Science. [2] With these principles, parents can be self-taught on how to handle their child with more confidence and on track to their healthy development. These principles are:

Prepare For Pregnancy

The moment a mother learns of her pregnancy, the usual reaction would be is to provide herself with food that will be beneficial for her health and her baby’s health. This is indeed one of the preparations need to be taken, however most mothers forget that they need to be mentally and emotionally ready too. They can read books about expecting mothers. They can also search the internet about the things that they will have to expect during and after pregnancy. A supportive husband will also be a big help when it comes to this ordeal. Learning what to expect together will lessen the stress of pregnancy. They can share to their husbands how they are feeling and whatever it is that worry them. It is critical that a mother must not feel alone and even though she will be the only one who will carry on the pregnancy, the load becomes lighter if she feels secured and being taken care of. Reading books about how best to prepare this journey could also help in the anxiety.

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Feed With Love and Respect

There is no other better way to establish this but through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an intimate activity conducted by the mother to her child. This will also save the child from several illness that might be acquire during infancy.

Respond With Sensitivity

When a child cries, it could be a lot of things and it is the parents’ responsibility to determine. It is a frustrating job most especially for mothers’ who have not experience prior how to care for a child. A child cries should not be dismissed at all even though some researchers suggested that a child must be trained to be able to sleep on his own at night. It is a part of its training is to let the child cry and not to attend to him for a few minutes until the crying stops but this could be a problem in the building of attachment. This could be perceived by the child as neglect to his needs.

Use Nurturing Touch

Touching your child is a way to send a message to him that everything is alright. This brings comfort and assurance.  A mother’s touch helps the child to calm down when crying and to have a good sleep. A child deprived of touch often shows delay in their cognitive development and finds difficulty when responding to others.

Engage In Nightime Parenting

A new-born child cries more often at night. This will be the time when parents’ patience is tested to the very core. Parents usually work during the day and during the night. They would expect for a good rest at night but with a new-born in the house, this will be a struggle. A new-born often wakes up after 2-3 hours to be fed. Being able to attend to the child’s need at this hour and consistently everyday would strengthen your bond with the child. No matter how tiresome it is, this daily routine would turn any responsible parents as an expert to be up and ready at night.

Provide Constant Loving Care

Giving constant loving care could simply by shown by just being always there with the child. If it is not all the time, it should be more often as possible. The parents’ presence is one way to make their child feel secure, cared and loved. It is always observe how a child calms down whenever held by his parents after crying. This is how important the parents’ presence in caring for a child and cannot simply be substituted by a plaything or any videos used by modern parents this days.

Practice Positive Discipline

This focuses on disciplining the child. This will be one of the challenges in parenting. It is a challenge to find the best way to discipline one’s child and if the child would respond positively and if the desired result is achieved. As much as parents wanted their child to behave, it must be put into consideration the child’s emotion because understanding it well will help parents determine the right course of action whenever their child misbehaves. There are instances when the child keeps making noise, it cannot always be misinterpreted that the child’s action is just really what it was, rather it might be perceived in a way that the child wanted attention that the parents failed to give.

Strive For Balance in Personal and Family Life

Many people wanted to prolong their unmarried status simply because of fear that they might lose themselves if they get married or create their own family. Family life can take so much of a person’s time to the point that some leisure may no longer be possible. Your family and your family’s needs become the first priority above all else. This will be the point when you would come to realize how little time we have for a day. As noble as this sound, it is unfortunately wrong. It is not wrong to prioritize family but forgetting to find one’s own personal time is. No matter how busy you are, finding a time to breath and be able to still do things that you love doing is beneficial to become a better person and a better parent to your child.

Attachment Parenting Gone Wrong

As a general idea, parents go through any length just to provide their child’s needs. This is to ensure that their child would grow as a healthy and well-equipped individual who is capable to become an active member of the society. It is a hope to parents to be able to raise a child to be an individual who can make attachments to others, who is capable of expressing himself, who is capable to feel empathy to others and someone who is capable to be responsible in his own actions. These are all tough targets to achieve where the real work starts and narrow since the child’s infancy.

Some parents become engrossed with the ideal child that they wanted to raise without noticing that something has been going wrong already. Here are few things that parents overlooked:

Saving Your Child From Disappointments

All parents wanted to see their child’s charming smiles or hear their laughter around the house but hopefully not in the expense of them growing spoiled. As much as you wanted to give everything to your child, there will always be imperfect or inconvenient situations when this will not be possible. You just have to bring the bad news to your child with your heart on the ready to see his glowing face turn sad and tears rolling down from it. You cannot push yourself to the breaking point just to please your child. Being honest about what you cannot do or cannot provide may well sit on them after a while. This will help your child mature emotionally and become more understanding of your capacities.

Saying no on some occasions will make them understand that they cannot have everything. There will be instances that what your child wants is not necessarily important. To help your child better understand the situation, do not do it in a snap but you have to talk to your child clearly eye to eye for them to see that you are sincere and that you do not mean to disappoint them.

When your child becomes adult, these experiences will help them become better in coping bigger disappointments in their life. When things do not go along how they wanted it to be, they become equipped on how to handle themselves.

Getting Swayed By Your Child

Your child may be as sweet as a candy but do not be fooled by it because it can be used to get away with punishments and rules. You as parents may well be the first authority that your child would recognize. Setting rules to them and making sure that they follow is vital for their development. Getting swayed by them to bend your rules is a failure with greater consequences when they grow up.

Your child would love to test your rules especially on how firm you are in imposing them. A child who can follow rules, instructions and commands will turn out to be better responsible citizens in the society one day when they grow up while the child who cannot do so could possibly turn out to be someone who reject rules and will escape consequences of their mistakes in every turn.

Over Rewarding

Goal setting is one of the best things that a child could learn as early as possible. Achieving a goal would make them earn a reward in the end. A reward is an excellent motivating factor to your child apart from the encouragement coming from you as parents.[3] Helping your child realize their true potentials is vital to discover more about themselves. When does rewarding becomes too much? Let us go back to the goal setting. What is the goal that you set for your child?  

If the goal is about your child being able to expand their skills and talents then reward is entirely appropriate but if your reward is to be given just because you are being defeated by your child’s laziness then maybe discipline is more preferable. One example for this is when your child fails to fix his bed after waking up and then you offer him a reward just to push him do it. You must make your child understand that he has responsibilities around the house and one of those is to maintain orderliness in his own bedroom.

Rewarding could make things easier for you as parents but you must also think of its effect in the long run if applied incorrectly in raising your child.

Prioritizing Your Child All The Time

You love your child, there will be no question to that but being parents is not the only role that you will need to play the whole time. You have other different roles too and even apart from those roles, you have yourself. Sometimes you will have to prioritize those other roles because it might be more important at the moment or it might also play a big part for you to be able to raise your child well.

One good example for this is if you are having problems with your husband/wife. This must be given time to be settled with and to avoid the problems become bigger than they are. Although teamwork between you and your husband is essential in raising your child, you will still have separate problems not concerning your child.[4] A problem in the household can be felt by your child too and choosing to ignore such problems or not taking action for it immediately would lead to a lot more problems that could be more difficult to resolve. You can also explain to your child in some level that he could understand why he should not come first this time.

Ignoring Your Child’s Mistakes

Your child’s mistake might be very small but it is a mistake just the same. No matter how small a mistake is, this must be recognized by both parents and child. Failure to let a child own to his actions will lead them to be complacent knowing that they could just simply get away with it.

Stop making some excuses for them. They will not be sent to gallows but they need to learn for their own growth and moral development. A child’s action is mostly overlooked by parents if this involves humiliation for their child. You need to be aware that you can be smart in dealing with such situation. A little humiliation is still possible but if handled well will not cause permanent damage to the child. You just have to be confident in yourself. Check on this book, it will help you more in understanding how your child’s mind works.

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Attachment Built by Instinct

From the very first time that you learned of your pregnancy you might have received all sorts of advice from both your family and friends who have been through it several times. You have listened to some of those advices positively thinking that you will be able to do it better. Reality is, we are all different. Your pregnancy and experiences from it may be a lot different from the rest so no matter how much you try to follow all the lists of dos and don’ts, you will not always have everything figured out.

This notion continues during the time that you have given birth and could finally hold your child in your arms. When your child is born, you start following advises or articles with regards to establishing attachment to your child but you should realize that you must be flexible. What worked to other mothers might not work for you and if you are only sticking to them then you are at a dead end.

What mothers have in common is their instinct to their child’s needs[5]. First time mothers or not, you have to believe in yourself and be confident of your own skills in caring for your child. Being insecure in child caring would create unnecessary difficulty in the situation. You have to remember that what a child needs is love and care and this two can be expressed in many ways and not just limited to what you read in the book. Become responsive to your child’s needs and exercise patience in figuring out the meaning of their cries. You are your child’s parent and therefore you have connection with your child and this does not exist between your child and anyone else but you.

Conquering the Struggles

Parenting is deliciously strange at some point. Each parent is different thus it makes all the tips to be confusing. The key is confidence. Confidence in what you think is best for you and your child. It does not come easy and sometimes you would have to try different methods to finally find which one is effective that will help you establish attachment. Attachment parenting, once successfully achieved, will be the connection that would make nursing and dealing with your child becomes effective thus would make your everyday a lot easier. With the struggles dealt with, you can be a happy and fulfilled parent that can look forward now to a brighter future.


[1] Fonagy, Peter. Attachment theory and psychoanalysis. Routledge, 2018.

[2] Nicholson, Barbara, and Lysa Parker. Attached at the heart: Eight proven parenting principles for raising connected and compassionate children. Health Communications, Inc., 2013.

[3] Vostanis, Panos, et al. “Relationship between parental psychopathology, parenting strategies and child mental health.” Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology 41.7 (2006): 509-514.

[4] Sevinç, Müzeyyen, and E. Sibel Garip. “A study of parents’ child raising styles and marital harmony.” Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 2.2 (2010): 1648-1653.

[5] Vicedo, Marga. “The social nature of the mother’s tie to her child: John Bowlby’s theory of attachment in post-war America.” The British Journal for the History of Science (2011): 401-426.

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Author

Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas
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