A consistent, loving connection with at least one adult is essential to create the healthy, strong parent-child bond that children need to thrive.
There is, and has been for many years, an abundance of well-documented research on what conditions children need to thrive. The research shows that a secure bond with at least one adult is vital to the brain development that determines children’s optimal physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
Why do we spend time and money to do research and then not disseminate the results of that research?
Parents are not being told that our most important job is to secure and maintain a healthy, strong parent-child bond. This critical information about the conditions that children need to thrive has not made its way into the media. Parents hear far more about what new product to buy to hold their babies than they do about the importance of holding their babies in their arms. What our children need most, money can’t buy. Our children need human connection. A healthy, strong parent-child bond, created through consistent, loving connection, is essential to our children’s wellbeing and optimal development. The bond is the key to our effectiveness as parents.
Many children in our country are in crisis. Parents are reading parenting books and taking classes. We are looking for answers because we are struggling. Parenting has always been work, but it hasn’t always been a struggle. Our grandparents and great-grandparents didn’t read books on parenting or take parenting classes. Did they already know about bonding? No. Our great-grandparents didn’t know about bonding either. It was not what they knew that made parenting different for them, it was how they lived.
In our great-grandparents’ day, children’s need for human connection was met naturally by a lifestyle that supported a strong parent-child bond. Babies were born at home, they were breast-fed, and spent their early years at home. The mother-infant bond and parent-child connection was not compromised by separation. Parents’ and children’s lives were more connected.
Our lifestyle has changed dramatically. Today most babies are born in the hospital and are bottle-fed. This early compromise to connection is compounded by the reduced amount of time parents and children spend together. Many infants and young children spend long days away from their mothers and fathers. The stressful pace of modern living, the loss of extended family support, and the ever-increasing amount of time adults and children spend with television and computers have further weakened the parent-child connection.
Because that vital bond grew naturally and was not created consciously, when our lifestyle changed we were unaware that those changes were eroding the parent-child connection essential to our children’s wellbeing. Even though the adults didn’t know something was missing, the children did. Children’s unmet need for connection began to show in behavior problems.
Instead of addressing the behavior problems by asking, “What is not right for our children? Some adults asked, “What’s wrong with our children?” Rather than looking for the cause of children’s behavior, they focused on finding ways to control children’s behavior. The answer they found to controlling children’s problem behaviors was authoritarian parenting, control through coercion. Time has shown that coercion has increased behavior problems instead of solving them.
Meanwhile, other adults asked a different question about the behavior problems and they found a different answer. Children, like all living things, do not thrive when their needs are not met. If a seedling isn’t growing well we look at the growing conditions. We ask, “Is it getting enough sunlight? Is the drainage adequate?” When we get the plant’s growing conditions right, plants thrive. When we get human growing conditions right, children thrive.
The strong bond that once grew naturally now must be cultivated. It was changing the way we gave birth, nurtured our children, and lived that weakened the parent-child bond and now we must make changes to restore the parent-child connection. There is a growing population of parents who are adapting their lifestyle to create conditions that meet their children’s need for more human connection.
The parenting practices that create the secure connection infants and toddlers need for a healthy, strong parent-child bond, are known as attachment parenting. Attachment parenting promotes natural childbirth and keeping babies in human contact through breastfeeding, wearing babies in slings, co-sleeping and caregiver constancy in the early years. My work on strengthening the bond with children of all ages, through providing consistent, loving connection, is becoming known as Connection Parenting.
Connection Parenting is not a “new” way of parenting. It is a return to providing the parent-child connection children have always needed. We cannot go back to the old lifestyle where parents and children were connected naturally by how they lived. So, let’s go forward and intentionally create the conditions for connection in our new lifestyle and provide our children with the strong parent-child bond they need to thrive.
Excerpt from Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. Reprinted with the author’s permission www.connectionparenting.com