Attachment parenting has picked up what Bowlby discovered about attachment – creatures that attach get close to one another. Bowlby called this “proximity seeking.” The way humans adopted this was to bring a baby into the same bed with the parents and have baby carriers in front, behind, on the sides, above and below the parents.
Dr. Schore (nicknamed the American Bowlby) realized that closeness alone did not produce good attachments. I have picked up twelve elements from Schore’s work that help develop good attachments. There are more than these twelve elements but here is a good start.
1. Eating together – who feeds us is the biggest factor in attachment. Who (or what) are you and your children looking at when you eat. Keep track of every time food or drink goes in your mouth for a week and see what your family is bonding to.
2. Uniqueness – attachments are unique. Notice and celebrate the uniqueness of each person. Remember children don’t like to be called by their brother’s, sister’s or dog’s name.
3. Specialness – why is this separate from unique? Letting someone know they are really special to us is quite different from “you are different.” Special is “I really like you!”
4. Building relational joy – let your face light up to see those you love. If your face does not light up much, then share it with Jesus and let His look be on your face.
5. Creating rest together – we trust those who see we need a break and share that break with us.
6. Mutual mind – come let us think together so we know each other’s thoughts.
7. Closeness and distance – like learning to ride a bicycle. I stay close when you are starting but let you do things on your own as soon as you are ready.
8. Sharing unpleasant times and feelings – if we can only be close when we are joyful and rested, then life is a really big threat. Sharing closeness when we are upset lets us learn that nothing can separate us from love.
9. Building a stable and accurate self – looking for what suits the identity of the other person in our attachments helps us develop stable senses of who we are. Children must learn to do this for others as well.
10. Freedom to fail without loss of relationship – play is learning without punishing consequences. When we can fail safely, we will grow and love a good challenge.
11. Stretching – insecure attachments leave us in a “comfort zone” that is too small. Good attachments promote growth.
12. Part of a people – strong attachments make individuals into members and protectors of a people who will go on beyond our individual existences. Do you help your children respect and nurture their “people?”
These twelve attachment elements help us be ready to teach our children to be present, build relational brain skills, develop sustainable relationships and resilience. Attachment will never substitute for learning skills. Attachment only provides us with the best place to start learning skills and maturing.
In the next blog, I will discuss one simple and usually overlooked skill – helping children become people we can trust. One of the most frequent outcomes for parents who work really hard to attach to their children and show wonderful empathy is raising children who cannot be trusted when unsupervised.
Comments from Jen:
I was recently talking to a mom about her 4-year old daughter. Her daughter had much experience calming with her mom and recovering from upset with her mom, but the mom was exhausted. The mom had inadvertently become the necessary ingredient for recovering from upset for her daughter.
Was her daughter capable of recovering on her own? Yes, she had enough practice recovering with her mom that she could have started doing it on her own but didn’t. Her daughter had not internalized this recovery from upset because her mom was her external source. After all, she didn’t need to because mom felt if there was upset, it was her job to attune. This mom did not yet understand the importance of point 7: We stay close while they are learning, then start to back off to allow them to internalize the skill.
Which of the 12 attachment builders listed do you want to try this week? Pick a couple and see what happens!
Did you miss the first Part One? Check it out here.