Whether you’re expecting a baby or already raising one, you’ve probably thought a lot about what kind of parent you want to be. This is where parenting styles come into play.
Some parents commit to a parenting style and decide to follow it to a tee, whereas others choose to mix and match different principles from multiple parenting styles such as attachment parenting, and natural parenting.
Attachment parenting and natural parenting are two of the most talked-about parenting styles at the moment.
While they may seem pretty similar on the surface, they do have some key differences. So, what’s the difference between attachment parenting and natural parenting? Let’s find out.
What Is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment parenting is a mainstream parenting concept founded on attachment theory, which was initially established and outlined by 2 child psychologists.
This research-backed approach is founded on the idea that a parent’s closeness and sensitivity to their baby’s needs have a long-term impact on their baby’s psychological health and even their future relationships.
Attachment parenting emphasizes the loving bond that parents and caregivers can form with their children. This nurturing relationship is seen as the optimal approach to develop safe, self-sufficient, and compassionate children.
Supporters of this parenting style argue that solid, trusting parental figures as a child helps to create the foundation for healthy relationships and autonomy as they grow and into adulthood.
This technique, it is hoped, would boost both parent and child comfort. This is because the parents learn to detect and react to their infant’s signals, and the baby feels confident that their needs will be addressed.
Basic Principles Of Attachment Parenting
Attachment parenting theory suggests that treating your children with compassion and respect will encourage mutual understanding, trust, and dignity.
Attachment Parenting International is an organization that supports the approach. Their website features lots of useful information and support for those looking to find out more. They have highlighted 8 key principles of attachment parenting, which we’ve summarized below.
Starting At Pregnancy
In attachment parenting theory, it is believed that parents must start practicing from as early as pregnancy. This involves making informed decisions about how the pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting will pan out.
While these things aren’t always easy to plan and some things are sure to deviate from what you imagined, it is best to be as prepared as possible.
One of the most important aspects involves trying to eliminate any negative thoughts and feelings surrounding the idea of pregnancy and childbirth. It is believed that this will prepare the parents for the mentally demanding work of raising a child.
A prime example of attachment parenting in the early stages would involve seeking out multiple different opinions and options for the birthing procedure and using their own initiative to make an informed decision that feels right for them and their baby.
Another principle of attachment parenting involves quickly identifying and responding to the child’s needs. Again, this should be established early on in the child’s life.
Many supporters of attachment parenting advocate breastfeeding, as they believe it helps to create a secure attachment.
While this isn’t always possible for every parent, so long as you’re responding quickly to your child’s nutritional and emotional needs, you’ll be on the right track.
These fast responses will need to be employed as the child grows. For example, sleep routines, basic discipline, and emotional connection should all be approached with prompt but predictable responses so that the child knows that you acknowledge their feelings and needs.
In the realm of attachment parenting, aggression and negative reinforcement should always be avoided, even when the child is misbehaving.
It is believed that all acts of misbehavior, even explosive tantrums, can be traced back to a key need not being met and seen as a child’s attempt to communicate these needs to their parents.
This principle is pretty controversial and has been widely debated over the years, but it essentially just encourages parents to try to communicate with their children rather than acting on impulse in the heat of the moment.
Instead of harsh punishment, negative words, and raised voices, attachment parenting suggests that parents should approach their children with gentle discipline and compassionate correction.
Keep Them Close
Attachment parenting, as the name suggests, involves a lot of close contact with your child. This should start early with plenty of skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding, but it comes into play as your child grows too.
For example, it is believed that placing a baby in a sling and carrying them around when you’re out is far more beneficial than pushing them around in a stroller, as they can feel you close, smell your scent, and hear your heartbeat.
Another way to achieve this close contact as they grow is to take joint baths. Infants can benefit from this closeness to their parents and will begin to associate bathtime with quality time with their mom or dad.
Many supporters of the attachment parenting theory support the practice of co-sleeping. Co-sleeping involves keeping your baby in the same room as you when you go to sleep.
It is believed that this can help the child sleep more soundly as they feel safe and secure with you around. It also means that you’re ready to meet their physical and emotional needs throughout the night when they need it.
Some parents choose to take this a step further by sharing a bed with their children. However, pediatric professionals warn that this poses some risks to the child.
While unlikely, bed sharing can result in accidentally rolling onto your child in your sleep and can increase the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Be Present, Be Loving
Advocates for attachment parenting claim that the most important aspect of the approach is to simply just be there.
It’s believed that the mere presence of a parent can keep children at ease and safe knowing that their needs are going to be met.
Some people find this more difficult than others, especially parents who work long hours or want to retain their busy social life.
However, supporters of attachment parenting believe that children under 2 shouldn’t be without a parent for longer than 20 hours per week.
Attachment parenting involves practicing positive discipline right from the get-go; from newborns, through the toddler tantrums, and right into adulthood.
Instead of getting frustrated and reacting on impulse with harsh punishments, cruel words, and physical punishment, parents are encouraged to figure out what their child is trying to communicate to them.
One of the best ways to approach positive discipline is to lead by example. If your child witnesses you reacting negatively to stressful situations or raising your voice at other people, it is likely that they will begin to do the same.
Parents should work alongside their children to come up with a solution to the situation at hand with gentle words only.
Keep The Balance
Attachment parenting isn’t always easy, and it can be very demanding on the parent. To tackle this issue, parents are encouraged to form a support network with other adults that the child trusts.
This means that when you need a break, you can pass the baton to another caregiver for a few hours. It focuses on a parent’s need for their own individuality, without neglecting the needs of the child.
Parenting burn-out is all too real, and to prevent your child from seeing this and subsequently feeling guilty or unloved, a strong and trusting support system is essential.
This can involve another parent or family member and can allow you to live a healthy lifestyle and balance without harming your child.
Criticisms Of Attachment Parenting
The most significant and potentially dangerous downside of attachment parenting is bed-sharing. As previously stated, the danger of asphyxia and SIDS is greater with co-sleeping than it is with just room-sharing, which involves placing the infant in a dedicated and protected sleeping area within the same room as the parent.
While the consequences of attachment parenting strategies have not been well studied, they can be mentally and physically taxing on the parent (historically, the nursing mother) or primary caretaker.
The emphasis in this strategy on on-demand breastfeeding and continual physical proximity may hinder a mother’s capacity to develop her own sleep routine, resume work, or even retain the same degree of intimacy with her husband.
As a result, all attachment parenting strategies may not be compatible with the circumstances of some households.
What Is Natural Parenting?
Natural parenting does not have a single definition. This gentle parenting approach, which combines attachment parenting, ecological living, holistic health practices, and at-home learning or “unschooling,” was extremely popular back in the 1970s but is now regaining popularity.
You may have heard it referred to as off-grid parenting, compassionate parenting, or even intense mothering. According to the Natural Parents Network, the practice is “a choice to live and parent sensitively and intuitively.”
Natural parenting, according to supporters of the practice, is how mother nature intended us to raise our children. It’s often seen as the “scenic approach” of parenting, allowing children to accomplish milestones at their own pace.
Basic Principles Of Natural Parenting
Natural parenting theory adopts many of the same principles as attachment parenting listed above. It encourages approaching parenting your child with compassion, respect, and prompt responses.
However, natural parenting incorporates a few other basic principles that stem from holistic practices and encourage freedom. We’ve highlighted these principles below:
Love Of Nature
Natural parenting families attempt to lessen their ecological impact by living deliberately and making Earth-friendly actions, including using cloth diapers that can be washed and reused or practicing elimination messaging, helping local industries, etc.
Toys and apparel made from natural fibers and components are often preferred by natural parents.
Families will also strive to spend plenty of quality time outdoors, taking in the beauty of the natural world. In turn, this will encourage the child to develop respect for the natural world, a quality they’re likely to carry into adulthood.
In the realm of natural parenting, many parents choose to explore medical options and make informed decisions about all aspects of health care, including circumcision, immunizations, medical treatments, drugs, and so on.
Many families prefer nontraditional or organic healthcare, such as herbal medicines, physical rehabilitation, and natural childbirth without pain relief.
Families who adopt natural parenting spend lots of time together, and children are taught through play.
Parents attempt to promote learning without “teaching,” to assist children in asking questions that advance imagining, to develop respect for others without ridiculing or coaching, to provide decisions while trying to guide the children, to show respect to instinctive cues, to honor feelings and behavior, to allow advancement to occur in its own time, and to foster collaboration and peace without manipulation.
This could involve deciding to explore unconventional educational approaches such as alternate schools, homeschooling, or unschooling.
Criticisms Of Natural Parenting
Although there are many supporters of the natural parenting technique, it also receives an equal amount of criticism.
Apart from the fact that it is not backed up by scientific evidence, critics of the approach claim that natural parenting is predetermined.
They say that it sees children as vehicles for parental activity and ambition, rather than as human people with wants, goals, and aspirations that may differ from those of their parents.
Other critics argue that natural parenting isn’t actually about what’s best for the child, but more about what makes the parents look good.
Some people even suggest that natural parenting is more harmful than ‘regular parenting’ as it is an attempt to control the child and mold them into the adult you want them to be, rather than respecting their own autonomy.
Nevertheless, supporters of the natural parenting method vehemently deny these claims.
Now that you know the ins and outs of attachment parenting and natural parenting, it’s clear to see that there’s a huge crossover of principles.
In essence, natural parenting is simply an extension of attachment parenting, focusing more closely on organic means and creating as little harm to the planet as possible.
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