Drawing (and Re-drawing) the Lines of Attachment Parenting

Frustrated child folding arms

Attachment parenting for my family is about listening to the needs of children and of parents and adjusting actions to needs. Needs aren’t always the same from child to child or even from day to day with the same child, so attachment parenting is for me one long improvisation.

And, yet, each of us has lines we draw or want to draw then realize we need to re-draw.

Choosing Where to Draw the Line

A friend wrote to me recently about choosing where to draw the line. I am writing about her experience with her permission.

“Funny,” she wrote to me, “how, as parents, we let some things go.”

I swore we would never have individual video games in our house or toy guns. I’m wondering now what I did stick to—attachement parenting in broad terms, extended breastfeeding, child-led weaning, no pacifiers, family bed, and vaccines on my terms. I think beyond that, I caved. My son is allowed to wear a tu-tu if he wants. Turns out he wants to while playing with the above mentioned, previously banned toy gun.


The important point to me is following the child’s lead. I am the responsible party, and I am my best self when I bring my own honest experience to parenting. True. But, I need to remember that attachment parenting guides me to compassion and sensitivity for my child’s needs. Laying down the law on absolutely every subject makes me the force to fight. That does not create a cooperative parent-child relationship.

There are areas where I draw the lines and leave those lines where they are.

There are other areas where I thought I would draw the line, but it doesn’t seem like a fight I want to have now.

In still other areas, I just try to help my children get as much information as possible, as much as I think they need, and I encourage them to make their own decisions. I know that if I forbid a book, a word, a game then it will become the object of desire. On the other hand, I have no flexibility on who my children spend time alone with.

My Re-drawn Lines

For me, video games were a line that moved over time, though I keep a hard line drawn long before violent stand-alone games that a few friends of my children play. Seeing my children playing Wii tennis or golf or obstacle course at their friends’ house is entertaining for me, for them, and for all of the parents watching. It turned out it wasn’t video games I was opposed to so much as days of endless screen staring and graphic violence that bends the mind.

Another situation, one that made me even more uncomfortable, was my teen daughter’s obsession with a recently popular vampire romance. I knew she was going to read it after encouragement from her friends. I thought it was a horrible idea just from the point of view of not polluting one’s mind with a poor excuse for a novel. Since she was going to read it anyway, I decided I would rather have her read it while willing to talk to me about what she was reading than to have her read it surreptitiously, letting the secret become part of the enjoyment.

I admit I sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of the experience for her by giving her my feminist reading of the genre, but that didn’t stop her. Because she read it and talked to me about it, I know that this infatuation lasted only slightly longer than the very short-lived Justin Beiber crush. I’m not saying mine was a great approach, but it was the one I improvised on the fly. In the end, it was fine.

How Will You Improvise?

Better to let the fire burn quickly then fade naturally than to feed the flame with my resistance. This has been my approach to my children’s interests since they were young. Because this has been our pattern for so long, it has made the transition to teen independence a much easier time than some of my friends tell me they are having.

Before you are faced with the reality of your child’s own ideas and interest independent of you, you may have ideas about what is good for them. What will you do when you find your ideas and theirs don’t blend perfectly? Maybe you re-draw some lines and explain why other lines stay firm.

It’s OK, even imperative, to listen to your child and to yourself in order to make decisions that work for your family and for each child. Everyone is different. For my family, attachment is not one-size-fits-most. For us, attachment parenting means custom-fitting for each of us with the occasional just-make-it-work hand-me-down.

Image © Kaarsten | Dreamstime.com

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