What Is It About AP?

December 14, 2010 at 8:08 am (Attachment Parenting)

I’ve recently been working with some moms who are going through some difficult behaviors with their children.  I enjoy doing this; as a parenting educator, I like helping moms and dads understand their kids’ behaviors and help them find new tools–respectful, empathic, emotionally connective parenting tools–for approaching them.  Although I don’t always have Answers for them, I like knowing that I’m helping people create stronger relationships with each other; we need more emotionally secure people in the world, and it starts at home.

It is hard, though, when I work with a family who has older children and they’ve never parented with attachment parenting or positive discipline…never even heard of attachment parenting, and don’t understand what makes positive discipline “positive”.  These families are not very receptive to new parenting ideas because they think, “that’s not what’s going on,” or, “that will never work.”  They want to continue with their same ways, just find different same ways of doing things.

It makes me wonder what is it about attachment parenting that allows our family to avoid common behavioral issues, or at least respond and recover fairly quickly from them.  Why don’t we have serious behavior problems with our kids that permeate our lives and overall happiness the way some families do?  It’s because from the very beginning of our parenting journey, understanding attachment theory has shaped the way we view our relationships with our kids.  An AP philosophy is the foundation for how we relate to our kids, and therefore how they relate to the world.

So, what exactly is it about AP?  Attachment parenting is about…

Listening.  Active, engaged, responsive listening.  Repeating back back what you are hearing.  Verbalizing the emotions you’re hearing in their thoughts.

Connection. Physical connection; lots of touching, hugs, and cuddles.  But probably the most important form of connection: emotional. Genuine empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

Availability. Being physically and emotionally available as often as possible.  Personally, I don’t take off evenings to do girls’ nights.  I don’t go away for weekend getaways.  I am not looking for my next “mommy break.”  And I also don’t feel like I’m making huge sacrifices to do this.  I enjoy being with my kids, and I make it a point to be there for them; with them.

Common attachment parenting practices for parents of very young babies (such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping) are great for creating a strong early attachment, but what’s most helpful about AP in the early years is that it establishes a strong foundation for a lifetime of positive relationships between parents and children; attachment parenting sets up a positive-parenting-frame-of-mind.  The actual AP methods themselves are certainly healthy for a baby’s development, but they’re not necessarily essential, as it’s the effort and intent behind them that’s crucial.  They establish a philosophy and approach to parenting that parents will use throughout the rest of their experience raising kids.

Attachment parenting is not a checklist of dos and don’ts, it’s about the understanding that with a strong relationship, overcoming any parenting hurdle is possible.  AP is different.  It’s not common, mainstream, or “normal.”  But it’s more about thinking differently than doing things differently.


  1. Jackie said,

    great post! you really focused on core ideas/practices of AP. we use AP here at our house and it seems to really work well for our whole family. Unlike you, though, I do still go out for a girls’ night here and there. I usually only go a few times a year and I go out once the kids are in bed and my husband is still at home with them. I don’t see it as I need a break from the kids, but I enjoy being able to spend time with other mom’s and have uninterrupted conversations (you know – finish the ones we started at the park – haha!).

    • Kelly said,

      Hi Jackie…I am with you! When I do go out with friends, it is usually after they are in bed, and my husband is home, so I don’t miss out on much time with them. I should have clarified. 😉 The little bit of social life I do have is due less to any obligation to AP, and more to my inherent introversion! 🙂

  2. Janet said,

    A couple questions. And if you have time to respond, please feel free to send me a message if it’s not really applicable to your blog 🙂

    Do you think you can use positive discipline without following AP? I can’t really consider myself an AP parent since I work full time outside of the home and my kids go to daycare. But I definately approach “discipline” differently than many other parents I know.

    And do you have any book suggestions to follow “Hold On to Your Kids” that would discuss overcoming peer orientation in the classroom? I have a new class of 7th graders that are just PARALYZED with “fear” to offer an answer, read out loud, etc, for fear of seeming to “care” in front of their peers. 😦 One of my toughest groups in a long time.

    Thanks. Thanks for another thoughtful post!

    • Kelly said,

      Hi Janet! You’re totally an AP parent. Because like I said, it’s more about how you think than what you do. OK, it’s a little bit about what you do, but mostly it’s about a mindset of connection and positive relationships (not obedience as a great many parents think). I used to think I wasn’t “AP enough” to go to the group meetings because I didn’t nurse as long as some moms, and my baby slept (gasp!) in a crib. But it’s so not about that. I am just as emotionally connected to my children as any co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding AP mom is, we just have our own way of getting there. And you do too…you’re there! 🙂

      But yes, even a parent comes to a class without any prior exposure to AP philosophy practice (which happens to be about 90% of participants), they leave having gotten a lot out of the class. Because again, it’s mostly about changing the way you think about discipline, and therefore changing how you relate to your child. It’s not about being “right” or “in charge”, or “mother-knows-best-so-do-as-I-say-or-else.” It’s about creating respectful, cooperative relationships between parents and children. Then the “methods”, or tools, of positive discipline fall into place once you understand where they’re coming from and why they work. It takes practice (some people more than others), but it does work…never too late!

      And about your other question, I’ll have to get back to you…I’ll see if I can think of any books that might be helpful. An interesting dilemma…

  3. Sunday Surf 12.19.10 said,

    […] little post about exactly what Attachment Parenting […]

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