I have a love / hate relationship with attachment parenting. I love fostering closeness with my children, I love being gentle with them. I love when my kids and I successfully communicate. I enjoy taking care of my little ones in a loving way.
What I don’t love is how challenging discipline can be. The stereotype is that people who choose gentle parenting DON’T discipline their kids, and this accusation is not totally unfounded. True attachment / gentle parenting is not permissive parenting, and it is not avoiding setting boundaries, but in practice… setting and enforcing boundaries gently can be a huge challenge.
A question that comes up a lot in unschooling / freedom minded circles is: Would you let your child cut their own hair? What about washing or brushing it? If it is their body, doesn’t that mean that it is their choice? What if they don’t want their hair cut? Well I won’t say our family tends towards absolute and total freedom for children, or that my version of homeschooling is all unschooling (although it does include plenty of that)… but we do try to respect our children, respect the ideas that bodies and property belong to their owners, and make peaceful choices.
For a long time I wanted to let Miriam’s hair grow until she asked me to cut it. I thought, well, there’s a possiblity that she’ll never want to cut it and that should be her choice, not one that I make for her. I let it grow to about this length before I decided that wasn’t working for us:
Maybe you can see why, eh? Bangs in the face, in her eyes, alllll the time. I was a kid her age once, I had bangs, they grew long. I remember just how well you can see out of long bangs. That is, not well at all. Miriam absolutely refused to keep hair clips in, or let me do side pony tails, or anything other than a quick brush.
it helps her learn that doctors are a normal part of life
Because they are. She will have to go to doctors her whole life, and I want her to know that it’s normal and that I do it too. I want her to experience that. I also think it helps her not be afraid of doctors when it is her turn to go, because she has seen me do it and be just fine. She knows what happens there. The doctor’s office isn’t only the bad place where she gets poked and prodded… it’s also a place she gets to watch others be examined, and a place to play and learn.
If I want her to continue going for check ups as she grows up, I need to instill in her that there is value in taking care of her health. That it is something that we all do, that it is part of our culture. She will learn as she gets older that I ask doctors questions. I stay involved in my care, because I am the one who ultimately must take care of myself.
When we set out figuring out how to discipline our child I knew a few things: first of all, I did not want to screw up my kid or give her problems later in life. I knew that there had to be some kind of order. However it happened, I did not want wild kids with zero boundaries. I did not want our method of discipline to exhaust me. (Hard is okay, but it had to be manageable). I also knew that I didn’t want to be cruel, violent, or for my discipline to lack meaning.
What I’ve settled on (for now, I tend to change things when they stop being effective), is that boundaries work for us. Meaning what we say works for us. Natural consequences work for us. We don’t spank, we don’t do time-outs, we don’t assign out punishments that are the same for every offense.
My two year old is a professional boundary pusher
It feels like your baby is manipulating you– she won’t stop crying, she won’t sleep in her crib, she is asleep until the SECOND you put her down, she demands to be held all the time. Your friends kids don’t do this do they? Maybe your relatives think you’ve spoiled her by holding her too much and just need to suck it up and let her cry.
Does this sound familiar? To many moms, it does. You are not alone. You are among a sea of women who have heard this before and have talked about it and searched for solutions. Much research has been done. Many theories have been tried. Now let’s find what works for you.