Attachment Parenting Discipline


Dr. William and Martha Sears pioneered attachment parenting, a method of raising children which focuses on physical and emotional closeness, as well as emphasizing gentle methods of discipline.

Attachment parenting discipline does not involve hitting children, nor does it mean making children afraid of the consequences of bad behavior. It’s a gentle form of discipline which begins at birth – a parent listens to and meets his or her child’s needs, and builds a bond of trust, so that the child wants to listen to the parent’s directions and advice. Attachment parenting also has been shown to create what Dr. Sears calls “an organized brain”: as the neural pathways form, habitual nurturing creates positive patterns of thinking and behaving.

Three main elements of attachment parenting discipline are prevention, distraction and substitution. Prevention involves moving harmful things out of a child’s reach – also known as babyproofing – so that the child has fewer opportunities to get in trouble. If fragile china is within a child’s grasp, of course he’s going to want to touch it, taste it, and perhaps see what happens if he throws it. Distraction works when a child is focused on bad behavior: for example, if your child is trying to pull the cat’s tail, pick the child up and bring him to the window; show him people and cars outside, and he’ll probably quickly forget about the cat. Substitution involves changing a child’s behavior by directing him to another behavior – if he’s smacking his little brother on the head, bring him a toy drum he can bang on to his heart’s content.

Discipline in attachment parenting doesn’t mean forgoing the concept of “no,” though. It just means presenting it in different, more positive terms. Instead of saying a blanket “no,” to all your child’s negative behavior, try saying “Not for baby,” or “Not to eat.” If a toddler is screaming because he doesn’t want to leave the park, instead of telling him to calm down or stop crying, try saying “bye-bye” to all the things in the park – bye-bye toys, bye-bye slide, and so on. This teaches the child a way to put an endpoint on an activity without having to cry or scream about it. It teaches him that you respect his feelings, and that you’re going to show him a more positive, constructive way to work them out.


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