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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer


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Attached at the Heart

a book by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker

(our site's book review)

This is an excellent parenting book, full of great goals for not just parents but humanity as well. It is kind and loving, making none of the mistakes the William Sears The Baby Book makes.

Attachment parenting involves lots of closeness between caregiver and baby
Attachment parenting involves lots of closeness between caregiver and baby

What Dr. Spock was to the 1950s, William Sears, M.D. was to the 1980s. He is a main author for the Attachment Parenting movement, which originated mostly from the work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Attachment parenting is also authoritative parenting. The mistakes William Sears The Baby Book makes are use of rewards and punishments (even spanking, although it’s discouraged), using orders when deemed necessary (e.g., breaking up a squabble), using nondemocratic power tactics, providing too little focus on the win-win context of parental needs being filled as well as kids’ needs, including too much sexism, including old-fashioned Second Wave ideas about family structure and function especially with regards to mothers, and assuming too much—naïvely—about the available time parents will have to be around kids in modern society.

One parenting instructor teaching ideas that were derived from the Attachment Parenting movement is Aletha J. Solter (see our comments on her book Tears and Tantrums and Helping Young Children Flourish), the key author of the Aware Parenting movement (which is a spin-off of the Attachment Parenting movement). Her Aware Parenting methods oppose any sort of punishment or spanking—even logical consequences training is opposed, which make it the most like P.E.T. and Unconditional Parenting of any Attachment Parenting method.

Defining 2-year-olds' tantrums as bad, misbehavior, or a symptom of a psychological problem is incorrect—they're not 'problems,' they're solutions!
Defining 2-year-olds' tantrums as bad, misbehavior, or a symptom of a psychological problem is incorrect—they're not 'problems,' they're solutions!

The main difference between the ideas in Attached at the Heart and Solter’s Aware Parenting movement is that logical consequences is opposed by Solter, but not by Nicholson or Parker, Solter is much more thorough in dealing with temper tantrums than Nicholson or Parker, and Nicholson and Parker are more thorough than Solter in the discipline area and in stressing how critically important it is for parents to create a support system for their family because Attachment Parenting is a lot of work. Attachment Parenting International (API) support groups or extended families or circles of friends are the prescribed support systems.

The authors Nicholson and Parker state that “rewards and punishments are other ways that we as parents manipulate and coerce our children”—and they happily reject such things. They subscribe only to nonpunitive logical consequences, and these are appropriate only if they meet the criteria of being reasonable, simple, purposeful, and a valuable learning tool. They diplomatically ignore the defects in Sears’ discipline ideas, not wishing to poke the master, as it were.

The books Helping Young Children Flourish, Attached at the Heart and Tears and Tantrums are a credit to the Attachment Parenting movement. Sears’ book The Baby Book is one of the best books around for medical advice about babies and achieving attachment parenting relationships with kids, but it falls back to traditional clichés in the discipline area, including the ludicrously obsolete idea that the goal of discipline is obedience! And here we thought that was true only with dog training! Silly us!

William Sears still thinks that the goal of discipline is obedience!
William Sears still thinks that the goal of discipline is obedience!