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Does Attachment Parenting Create Oversensitive Kids?

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Elizabeth Lindell: I am a nurturer. When my child was a baby, I rocked her, I snuggled her, I engaged her and even wore her (in a sling) while I puttered around the house. I know that my daughter feels secure in my love for her and that my use of attachment parenting has had benefits. She is strong, confident, compassionate and not afraid to speak her mind.

mom and baby
Attachment parenting, however, has shown me that it can cause problems for children later in their lives. Children who grow up in extremely nurturing environments can be more compassionate, which is wonderful, but they can also be overly sensitive. 

While being nurtured, children also need to be taught how to interact in a world that doesn't feel so safe all of the time. They need to know how to self-soothe right from the beginning. They need to know how to comfort themselves if they wake up from a bad dream at three in the morning. They need to know how to deal with a teacher's disapproval, a classmate's jealousy or a friend's betrayal. 

Most nurturers want the best for their children. I think there is much we can do for our children to help support them in becoming the best adults they can be. A few years ago, a friend told me about a mom who started "training" her daughter from the time she could barely walk. She would notice a small piece of fuzz or paper on the floor and ask her child to please pick it up and take it to the trash. The child would then do so, picking the object up with her fingers and then toddling over to the can.

As she told me the story, all I could think was how much catch-up work I had to do. When my child was a few weeks old, rocking her while listening to music nurtured me deeply. That, to me, is appropriate. Feeling that kind of comfort from responding to a child's needs later in life, though, is not healthy. 

Sometimes I think we need to consider who we are really nurturing when it comes to our children. Are we doing it for them ... or for ourselves?

next: Kids Need Adult Conversation!
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
KS December 2, 2010, 10:24 AM

Every family dynamic is unique in it’s own way. If your way of parenting has created a clingy overly sensitive child who is unable to cope with life then you should address that. I would seek out the help of a family therapist to help if it were me. Attachment parenting in general however doesn’t create children who are incapable of functioning in society.

Children need to be taught how to confront issues and resolve them appropriately. You can’t just expect them to learn those skills without guidance either because their personality traits and behaviors that have been modeled for them will be their only guide. So if you have a shy child they will most likely simply accept unacceptable behavior. If you have a whiny child they will probably cry and scream about it. If you have a strong willed child they will probably get violent.

Your blog is a little all over the place. A child needing to be comforted after a bad dream is completely normal and not the product of attachment parenting. Then again I don’t see what that has to do with another mother teaching her child to pick up trash.

Anonymous December 2, 2010, 10:31 AM

Of course attachment parenting creates oversensitive children.

It also creates special little unique wonders who believe they are entitled to everything because mommy told them no one was ever as special as they are and never said no and fought every battle for them.

Anon December 2, 2010, 1:58 PM

I’ll take a compassionate kid who is sensitive to slights over a tough but uncaring kid any day.

Although I think it has more to do with your own kids than attachment parenting. I’ve seen kids who were raised with attachment parenting who are outgoing and thick skinned.

???? December 3, 2010, 6:57 AM

makes kids weenies!

A mom December 3, 2010, 8:08 AM

Your story is very confusing. I don’t see the tie between teaching a child manners, such as picking up a piece of trash, and nurturing. I am sure that the mother that is teaching her daughter to be courtous of the world by taking care of it is also nurturing. At what age do you feel you are supposed to stop being there for your child? I am 40 years old, and there are times when I need to call my mom, and just hear that she still thinks I am special. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have the social skills needed to deal with life today. I can handle issues. I am still not sure what you are trying to say in this article, but it seems like you are on the fence about the whole issue.

Wolf Pascoe December 5, 2010, 7:12 AM

My wife and I wonder about the same things. Your post is right on. The question you close with, is it for us or them, haunts me. Perhaps, as with many problems in life, the real work is finding balance.

Christine December 8, 2010, 8:20 PM

The goal of attachment parenting is to meet early needs for dependence so that, out of this security, children can become autonomous, independent beings. Sometimes people confuse attachment parenting with permissive parenting. They are not the same thing. This article seems to be making a point against permissive parenting, not attachment parenting.

Amelia December 29, 2010, 8:21 PM

What a terrible article. If the mention of a “trained” child was the arguing point against attachment parenting, there were many points missing to link the two and make it believable. My husband and I have practiced attachment parenting because we just went with what felt right from the moment he was born. We also teach our child many things including throwing away trash. He is not even 3 years old and he clears his dinner plate and puts it in the sink! He definitely is NOT overly sensitive. If anything, many parents have commented on our sons independence…
I thought I would read an article here of substance. Instead I read a mishmash of things that lacked true research, debate and intelligence!

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