Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are Attachment Parents Helicopter Parents?

This last weekend I participated in delightful and fun workshop about teaching science. I was expecting the typical curriculum and procedure approach, even for a Waldorf school. I was greatly surprised that the focus of the workshop was how to develop our senses. The goal was "getting back to our senses and how use them." This is what Leonardo Da Vinci and Rudolf Steiner used when conducting experiments in the natural sciences. They eliminated their pre-conceived concepts and opened their mind.  What a novel concept!!

During our breaks the topic among the teachers present turned towards the Common Core Curriculum and how our Guest Speaker's approach was such a stark difference to the Common Core Curriculum. 
The teachers from the various Charter schools were lamenting on how they were struggling with maintaining their identity and being forced to implement the Common Core Curriculum. WOW! As it turns out any school that receives federal or state funding must implement the Common Core Curriculum and the State Standards. 

In my previous post about Common Core Curriculum I encouraged parents to stand up and be the advocates for their children. I once again raised the rallying cry for parents to become their child's advocate and not be afraid of being called a "Helicopter Parent". So, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I heard a Charter School teacher complained that she didn't need any "Helicopter Parents" telling her what to teach. REEEALY??

Then I started to think. What is a Helicopter Parent and why are they associated with Attachment Parenting?
I have been accused many many times of being a Helicopter Parent which I actually wear with great pride. Who else is going to advocate for my children? Who else is going to make sure my children are safe and taken care of in this world? 

I learned about Attachment Parenting from two of my parent friends and from Mayim Bialik interview on the subject. Who is Mayim Bialik? For one generation of television watchers she is Blossom. For another generation she is the long suffering girlfriend of Sheldon's on Big Bang Theory. She also wrote a powerful book on Attachment Parenting called Beyond the Sling which can be viewed here.

Originally, I ran from the label "Attachment Parenting" because I thought a good attached Mommy held their child until they were 3 or 4. Due to medical reasons I couldn't carry my two Viking Kiddos past 18 months. I am also a working Mom- which continues to be on going source of guilt. So, naturally I thought I failed in this category. 

Then I read Mayim's book and The Attachment Parenting International.

Here is what I learned.....
Purple is API rules on Attachment Parenting Green are Viking Mom's responses.

1. Prepare for the Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting. Parents need to become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth.  (Check! I lost count how many books I read. I was so thrilled to be having a children. I researched the many birthing techniques for Mother's with spinal injuries, alternative birthing, breastfeeding, passing on Celiac Disease to the next generation, spinal injuries and parenthood. The list is huge!)

2. Feed with Love and Respect. Breastfeeding is the ptimal way to satisfy an infant's nutritional and emotional needs. Follow the cues of both the infant and child and encourage them to eat when hungry and not by some dogmatic schedule. (Check-Breastfed both Viking Kiddos! Hooraayy!! Breastfeeding skin-to-skin was the most awesome bonding moments. In the Waldorf community Rudolf Steiner encouraged breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an extension of the Mother's loving will towards her child.)

3. Respond with Sensitivity. How many of you cringe at the Screamer Parent? I made it a goal to myself not to be one of those parents. By not screaming a parent builds the foundation of trust  and empathy beginning in infancy. Parents who tune into what the child is communicating, then respond consistently and appropriately build that trust. Babies can't sooth themselves and really need that sensitivity to be calmed. (Check-We taught the Viking Kiddos very early on sign language. I can't tell you how many melt downs we avoided just by the simple signs of "hungry," "tired," and "snuggles." Instinctively I tuned into the Viking Kiddos body language. We avoided terrible store melt downs by recognizing the tired look and changed our plans.)

4. Use Nurturing Touch. Touch meets a baby's need for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective such as breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. This is where we see many Attachment Parents "wear" their child because this also meets the nurturing touch. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massages, and physical play also meets this need. (Check: Due to a severe back injury carrying the Viking Kiddos became difficult after a certain age. This is one reason I avoided the term Attachment Parenting. I couldn't "wear" my children for a long period of time. However, I modified certain techniques so the Viking Kiddos could crawl up into my arms. They have learned to wait for me to sit down before they can crawl into my lap. Our poor couch is rather worn from the many "puppy piles" that occur on the couch. Viking Monkey Boy loves his back massaged and gently rubbed. Viking Lady Bug and I have "Mommy Moments" where she enjoys her hair being brushed and putting on essential oils. When I first read Mayim's book I was taken aback at her negative approach to Mom's using strollers et al. However, when I read that giving a nurturing touch goes further then just wearing my child I felt more assured I was doing the right thing. I was able to breastfeed the Viking Kiddos skin-to-skin which was awesome! Now, that the Viking Kiddos are older the need for play is so important especially at the end of the day. I think it goes beyond the physical play. Viking Dad and I travel with treasured Loveys which have Grand Adventures during the day with us. At the end of the day we tell stories about the Lovey's adventure. I am no longer afraid of the term Attachment Parenting because we are attached in other ways.)

5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally. Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day. They do need to feel safe, secure and comforted. Children rely on their parents to comfort them and help understand their intense emotions. It has been proven that "Sleep Training" actually increases anxieties and night fears. Safe co-sleeping has benefits for both babies and parents. (Check: We call these moments "Puppy Piles." We didn't do a co-sleeping situations due to both parental health but the Viking Kiddos slept in the same room as we did. It still is not uncommon to wake up in the morning with Viking Lady Bug elbow in my ear or Viking Monkey Bugs knees in my butt because they have come in during the night to snuggle with us. The Viking Kiddos enjoy sleeping in the same room together.)

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care. Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, and responsive caregiver. Usually, this means a parent, however, if an alternative caregiver is needed chose wisely. (Check: To be honest this is where I thought I failed as a parent and as an Attached Parent. It is one of my greatest source of guilt and anger that I have to work. I am blessed that I did find an outstanding day care that shared my bond with my children. In the years the Viking Kiddos went to their Playschool I never felt they were being warehoused or ignored. The Director believed in hugs, which is rare in this industry. Children who needed a pat down for nap are given this extra tender care. Many times I observed one of the Caregivers holding a child or allowing a child onto their lap. Many times these Caregivers were soothing or comforting a scared or upset child.To this day the Viking Kiddos are still in contact with their favorite teachers. The Director is even on their school's Emergency Card. This is an area of anxiety and self doubt for many working Moms and Dads who have to work duel jobs but still want to provide consistent and loving care. We do want to provide the best for our children but we also have to work for financial reasons. I think many confuse that "Working Career Mom" with those who dream of being a "Stay at Home Mom.")

7. Practice Positive Discipline. Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. (Check: I don't know what else to say but, "DUH!" I am sure we have seen and experienced those parents that are snarky, negative and snappy towards their children.)

8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life. It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don't be afraid to say, "no". Recognize individual needs within the school and meet them to the greatest extent possible with compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting and take time to care for yourself. (Check: I think this is where parents are accused of being "Helicopter Parents." We put our family and children as a priority and balance this out with our personal and family life. I remember explaining to a former Principle when she asked how I liked parenthood. I responded, "I feel complete."  I have a fused spine from a spinal injury and additonal complications. To be there for my children and family I have learned to pace myself. I will do anything to be there in the future for my children.)

Are there real Helicopter Parents? The ones where they literally smother their child and enabled the child's future progress. The ones who come in a demand to know why the teacher gave their child a "F". Ignoring the fact that the child didn't do their work or never attended the class physically or mentally. Yes, these parents do exists. I have had to deal with them as a teacher. I don't call these parents Helicopter Parents- I have another name.

Being a good parent whether its called Attachment Parenting or Hands-On  is not being a Helicopter Parent. 

In an article written in Psychology Today it was reported that parents are soundly criticized by the media, by teachers and by "experts" and called these scary terms- "Helicopter Parents," "Going to ruin your children and send them to therapy."  

"Viking Mom, Don't you think you are being a Helicopter Parent?" 

Attachment Parenting has been loudly criticized for smothering and ruining children.  I heard one Public School Psychologist exclaim, "Attachment Parenting only leads to clingy, scared and smothered children who will need therapy to work out their Mother issues."   REEEEALLLLLY!??
In this same article in Psychology Today several hundred families and children ranging from 18-49 were interviewed by a Dr. Fingerman. She found through these extensive interviews that children whose parents provided them with intense support experienced better outcomes, higher life satisfaction and more clearly defined goals.  Finish reading the article here.

In summary- are Attachment Parents Helicopter Parents? 

Once again, I am going to declare...... Time to shrugged off the fear of being called a Helicopter Parent and become the best advocate in the world for your child! 
Embrace being an Attached Parent. Embrace being a Helicopter Parent.....It means you are an awesome parent!!

I am proud to be a granola crunching, barefoot, hippy-dippy, Attached Parent- Helicopter Parent......And you can accept my Type A Personality!  

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