As a parent you have probably heard the term attachment style parenting. You might even use it as a guide for your own parenting. You aimed for a natural a birth, you’re a strong believer in breastfeeding, and maybe you co-sleep on occasion. Attachment parenting of an infant isn’t easy but we have all had those moments where we know it was the best choice. It just feels right.
But what happens when your infant turns into a toddler? Attachment experts seem to disappear and there isn’t much guidance. Fear creeps in, and you begin to wonder if all the cuddles and affection are really creating a monster… what if your mother-in-law was right all along?
The focus of attachment parenting is about letting our little ones know they are loved unconditionally. As an infant that means lots of cuddles and bonding. This doesn’t change with a toddler. What does change is that now we also need to manage our children’s behaviour. Children are going to challenge the rules; they do this to explore their world and test out consequences.
Here is the good news. Attachment parenting is an affective style of parenting a toddler and we can use discipline while being attachment focused. Here are a few tips to help guide you…
Set clear boundaries. One common misinterpretation of attachment parenting is that we let our kids run wild and don’t ever discipline them. Somehow respecting and loving our kid unconditionally has been pared with letting them be in charge. This is not the case. Not only do our little ones need clear boundaries, they crave them (they really do!). They want to know how the world works, and they feel safest when they can trust their parents to know the rules and share them.
Setting clear boundaries is not always about saying no to behaviours we don’t like. It’s often about showing them the behaviours we do like. For example, my little one was always picking my flowers and generally destroyed anything I managed to keep alive in our garden. Instead of constantly telling her not to pick the flowers, I taught her how to smell them instead. I set a boundary and showed her the behaviour I expect from her. There is a trick to this (and don’t think for a second that this will eliminate all tantrums, but it might make your life a little bit easier!). Find out what drives the behaviour and meet those needs. My little one was exploring her environment; I showed her a different and more appropriate way to do it. (Some motivations are more difficult to work with. I talk more about these motivations in the parenting courses I teach, feel free to contact me if you’re interested in attending).
2. Use Encouragement. Focus on encouraging certain behaviours in your child. Our little ones aren’t tiny monsters sent here to drive us crazy. They just want to learn how best to be in the world. And remember, they are starting from scratch. Trust that for the most part, they want to please you and they want to behave well. So when they do share a toy, or say thank you, make sure to encourage those behaviours. Often we take good behaviour for granted and only notice when it’s bad. We just need to change our focus a bit.
3. Address the behaviour not the child. Sometimes, our kids are just plain misbehaving and we need to put our foot down. One thing to remember when we are doing this is to address the behaviour, not the child. By carefully choosing our language we can let them know we love them no matter what, but we don’t like certain behaviours. This is easier said than done however. Here is a simple rule that’s easy to remember. STOP-EDUCATE-REDIRECT. STOP the behaviour, EDUCATE them on why it’s inappropriate, unhelpful or ineffective. Then REDIRECT them to a more appropriate choice of behaviours. This tip helps to focus on the behaviour not the child, and it keeps us focused on the solution instead of the problem.
I encourage you to try out these tips and see how they work for you, but remember- you know your kids better than anyone and only you will know what is best for your family. Good luck and get some rest!
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