My daughter is 11 years old this year. As we head into the teen years, I’m looking at her with new eyes. Change is on the horizon as my little girl’s brain develops and her world widens. I see sprouts of a healthy push for independence. I want to be sure that our relationship stays strong and healthy as we go through the next growing up phase together.
I find myself looking back to her baby years. How has our mother-daughter bond developed? What is the strength of our bond? Is there a way to make it better? How is our communication? Do we enjoy being together?
Not entirely satisfied with my answers, (and/or having a bout of mommy-anxiety), I’ve been looking into how that bond develops.
Dr. John Bowlby, an English psychiatrist who died in 1990, is the father of attachment theory. The bottom line of his theory is that in a healthy bond, the infant has a tendency to seek closeness to another person and feel secure when that person is present. This attachment comes as the baby’s needs are expressed and met in a satisfying way.
Bowlby was interested in what happened when an infant’s needs were neglected in a prolonged manner. Not surprisingly, his work showed that extreme neglect is often a reliable predictor of pathological personality disorder. He concluded that how children are nurtured can shape their future.
Dr. William Sears, 73, is a pediatrician and preeminent advocate of Attachment Parenting, an outflow of attachment theory. Parents who practice attachment parenting would likely value breast feeding, avoid corporal punishment, and welcome co-sleeping to give a few examples. Attachment parenting suggests that children whose emotional and physical needs are met in the context of close, loving relationships with parents have a foundation for becoming secure and healthier adults. In attachment parenting, the child’s needs are attended to closely around the clock.
Attachment parenting has its critics. They would say that it is good, but goes overboard: meeting a child’s every need 24/7 is not only exhausting to parents, diminishing their effectiveness, and creating over-dependent children.
Looking into parent attachment theory has reminded me that discerning what is the best approach to creating a strong bond with my daughter is such an individual affair. As I think about how I parented her from birth, I recall the struggle to navigate the many parenting theories. I struggled to be certain I was doing the right things for her then as I do now. Often we were just trying to survive during those grueling sleep-deprived first months. But I gave it my imperfect best shot–that I know.
As I’ve thought about how to strengthen my bond with my daughter this week, I’ve learned a lot and come full circle. I’ve been reminded of our unique journey together. I’ve rediscovered that there are many different parenting theories to be considered and wisdom to be gleaned from them all. The answer lies in choosing what seems to be best for my unique mother-child relationship and pressing forward confidently. The ongoing challenge for me is to move forward in faith that my heartfelt best efforts will bless my child and draw us close, even if my best is imperfect.
And I’ve worked on our relationship. You know… the simple things; listening, smiling, kindness, thoughtfulness, caring about her interests. And guess what… it’s been a great mother-daughter week!
-posted by Donna Detweiler, who found that researching attachment theory was a confidence building, worthwhile exercise.