Attachment, “attachment parenting”, CIO and Montessori

I want to write something about “attachment”. Not “attachment parenting” but attachment. Attachment parenting writers have done a lot to terrify parents around crying, or “making a child sad/anxious/cry”. This is why I love RIE for infant/toddlers. Not that Montessori doesn’t have a lot of good observations about this age (by “Montessori”, I don’t mean Maria, I mean amazing Montessori I/T teachers all over the world; Maria did not work with infants or toddlers), but RIE has written more concisely about it (Janet Lansbury’s blog/FB page).

All children cry. All people cry. All babies cry. How we respond teaches them about the world. If we never respond, that is neglect, if we always respond to try remove all distress, I would say that we are teaching our children that they are incapable. If we are there, listening and empathizing, but not always “fixing”, and then express trust in the child, that is a life lesson.

Back to attachment. Attachment is something that has been studied for decades If you read about it, in depth, you see that attachment is developed through response and observation, starting at birth. That is responding to cues of wanting interaction (child looks at you, makes sounds) and responding to cues of wanting to be not in relationship (child looks away, turns away). A small amount of appropriate response in either direction solidifies attachment; the estimate that Boyles made was good responses 10% of the time. Yes, 10% of the time, caused good attachment. That does not mean that a child must be held, carried, slept with, pacified with pacifier or breast to be attached. In fact, attachment is very hard to mess up, with attentive (that is attentive to “come close” AND “go away” responses) parents. Abused children are most often still attached :(.

So, we do NOT have to be so afraid of our children’s cries. No one is advocating neglect, of course…..but we do not have to attempt to “fix” all struggles. Montessori would say that this is harmful to children. Now, when and how to start this is up to interpretation, but children are designed to learn to eat, sleep, eliminate, self-soothe and problem solve. We are there to support that learning.

Attachment theory is a psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long-term interpersonal relationships between humans. However, “attachment theory is not formulated as a general theory of relationships. It addresses only a specific facet” (Waters et al. 2005: 81): how human being…