Deb and Jai launch into the discussion about one of the core elements of raising emotionally healthy kids - attachment. Here, they discuss the importance of shifting from seeing parenting as a role to fulfill to seeing it as a dynamic relationship to inhabit. They also talk about the important distinction between Attachment Theory, which a developmental explanation of relationship and bonding, and Attachment Parenting, which is a set of specific parenting strategies. Tune in by watching the video below or reading the transcript below that.
Transcript of this Episode:
Deb Blum (00:00):
There was a study that was done. It was the Minnesota longitudinal study of a risk and adaptation. It was a 35 year study. And what they showed was that kids who have a secure attachment history ended up that they were more likely to develop a greater sense of agency, better emotional regulation, higher. Self-Esteem better coping under stress, closer friendships in middle school, better coordination of friendships and social groups and adolescents, more trusting and positive romantic relationships in adulthood, greater social competence, more leadership qualities, happier and better relationships with parents and siblings. It sounds to me, right? Like those are some great things
Jai Flicker (00:50):
For most of human history. People have parented the way their parents and grandparents did with culture, providing the cues. We call this Parenting 1.0
Deb Blum (01:01):
For various reasons, parents began to question these approaches and we started turning more and more to so-called experts to learn to parent. This was the beginning of Parenting 2.0 This allowed for some real advances, but also a lot of confusion as we got further and further away from our natural parenting instincts
Jai Flicker (01:20):
Parenting 3.0 is about reclaiming those instincts and integrating them with our current understanding of child development. It brings together the wisdom of the past with the best scientific and psychological research of the present
Deb Blum (01:35):
Parenting 3.0, isn't a fad or a quick fix. It's a set of principles that allows us to engage with our kids and life from an informed and empowered place.
Jai Flicker (01:46):
I'm Jai flicker, and I'm Deb Blum. Welcome to Parenting 3.0.
Deb Blum (01:57):
So today we're talking about attachment theory and you know, that's going to be a pretty big topic that we're going to talk about over many, many episodes, but today we want to do an introduction, right? That's the plan. Yeah. And before we even get started on exactly what attachment theory is we will maybe just start off with just talking about why attachment is important, is that a good starting place? Yeah.
Jai Flicker (02:26):
Yeah. I mean, I'm imagining that different people will have very different levels of familiarity with the concept of attachment and have heard about it from different sources. And so just try trying to start from the ground up here, I think will be really useful. And and, and I think one simple way to get at the importance and value of learning about attachment is to look at it from the child's side and on the one hand and on from the parent perspective on the other, and as we'll talk about in depth on this episode and in future episodes, attachment is a fundamental human need. It's maybe arguably the preeminent fundamental human need. And and as such, it fuels human development. So from the child perspective, having a secure attachment will help the child grow and mature and develop as a, as a individual on, on, on a number of different levels starting with the neurological and all the way to the behavioral.
Jai Flicker (03:50):
So that's the child side on the parent side. It turns out that the way nature has designed the parent child relationship is, is that, and you can see this in human relationships as well as in animal relationships that when there is a secure functioning attachment connection the, the offspring are more willing and likely to follow the lead of the parent. So if you imagine, you know mama polar bear walking through the snow and the little Cubs following along behind that's that's attachment at work. And and so from the parent perspective, attachment a strong, healthy, functional attachment relationship makes it easier to parent. It also makes it more enjoyable because there's an an emotional component to when attachment is happening, that feels good. It's sort of where we are evolutionarily wired for it and therefore sort of rewarded for it. And so it makes parenting easier and more enjoyable and it makes us more effective, which also feels good. So very simply the two sort of sides of, of attachment and why I think it's so useful and so helpful.
Deb Blum (05:25):
Yeah, that's really great. And because it's so in line with nature with, for both the child and for the parent, it is, you know, you talk about it being easier. And I think that's one of the big pieces in one of our big goals, right. Is to try to make, take away from this idea that you need to have like a prescriptive approach to how you handle every situation. That it's more, that it, it does actually foster this ability for the parent to know what to do in situations because they are, it's more natural. It's more, yeah.
Jai Flicker (06:00):
Yes. I'll give one quick example with my two year old. So understanding how attachment works gives me more confidence to lean into it when, when I'm feeling frustrated or something's not going smoothly. So for example, getting her socks on this morning or other other mornings if she's sort of not being cooperative I, I w let me, let me, let me say it this way. I noticed that she is a lot more cooperative once she's filled with attachment energy, when she's feeling really, I can tell that she's had she feels relaxed and connected and we've had time to hang out. So if she's not feeling cooperative, it's a reminder or a signal to me that she might not have gotten those needs met yet. And so I will I will lean into attachment and sort of spend a little time connecting with her bonding instead of trying to get into, you know, F you know, force that conflict that, that power struggle I'll back off connect with her.
Jai Flicker (07:12):
And then once she's, it's almost like once she's finished that emotional meal and she feels satisfied, then I'm like, okay, let's get your socks on. And then she hands me her foot. So it's not like she's consciously withholding until, you know, it's not a, it's not a strategy it's on her part. It's just, there is a, a instinct for cooperation that gets activated when our attachment needs are being met. Yeah. So that's, that's obviously a very sort of small mundane example, but it, I think it, it scales across all the different ages and all the different situations.
Deb Blum (07:52):
Well, especially because it's one of the most challenging pieces for most parents is the, I mean, I know when my kids were little, like getting out of the door out the door in the morning, it was one of the hardest things. And to know that it might not just be them being difficult and it might actually be something else and having another possible way. I mean, I think what we're trying to say is like, if you, if we come from this way, sort of at the undercurrent of everything, then we actually can tap into that. That becomes available to us all the time. It's not a strategy so much as a way of being like, you just knew that that's what, like, Oh, this is something that I would want to give a try, you know, right now. And it, and it ends up probably more times than not being exactly what she needed.
Jai Flicker (08:34):
Yeah. Yeah. And I think just as I'm even talking this out right now, I'm realizing that for me, that the, it, at times it is hard for me to like, not get sucked into the, the frustration. But, but the easy, the ease part comes when, after I've kind of held back and resisted that temptation to kind of just force the issue. Cause I'm getting impatient and I've made sure her needs are met. I then when I come back and I'm, I, you know, I'm like, okay, let's see if this works here, let the time to get your socks on. And then she just puts her foot up. Here you go. I'm like, ah, that's how it should be in a sense. Maybe not how it should be, but that's how it can be. And that, and so there, so it's not like it was even easy the whole time, but the actual thing that was really hard before it became easy. Yeah. Yeah. I just want to try to paint as realistic, a picture as possible here at the outset.
Deb Blum (09:37):
And, but I just want to say something too. I think about even as an adult, like I'm highly, I'm far more motivated to cooperate if you want to use that word. But someone, when I feel connected to them, then when I'm feeling like if someone just comes in and demand something of me and I have no context and no, you know, no relationship, I'm like, yeah, no, it's not going to happen. But with someone, like, if you ask me to do something, I, you know, I have a connection with you and even more. So if we've actually spent some time together before you ask me, there's a much greater likelihood that I'm just, you know, wanting to do something to that would be, you know, cooperative, if you will. And so it's not a kid thing.
Jai Flicker (10:15):
Yes. For sure. It's inherent in the attachment dynamic or, or bond across all ages. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Yeah.
Deb Blum (10:25):
I want to just share real quick, the, some of the things just on the level of look, why is attachment
Jai Flicker (10:33):
Important and what it maybe
Deb Blum (10:35):
Provides if you want to, I hate to use that word, but there was a study that was done. It was the Minnesota longitudinal study of a risk and adaptation. Where did they come up with that name? M L S R a. It was a 35 year study. And it was about the other quality of early attachment. And then like what it, how it, what are the implications later in life? And what they showed was that kids who have a secure attachment history ended up that they were more likely to develop a greater sense of agency, better emotional regulation, higher. Self-Esteem better coping under stress, closer friendships in middle school, better coordination of friendships and social groups and adolescents, more trusting and positive romantic relationships in adulthood, greater social competence, more leadership qualities, happier and better relationships with parents and siblings sounds to me, right? Like those are some great things.
Jai Flicker (11:36):
Yeah. It's it's so it's almost like I would imagine if I was listening to this and hearing this for the very first time, and I had maybe heard of attachment theory or the concept of attachment that that might be hard to believe. And I think for me, it was in the beginning and kind of like hard to I, I'm a pretty, like, I think healthily skeptical ingester of new information. And so I wanted to understand how that could be true, not just that it was so if somebody hears this and just goes, Oh my God, that's awesome. Great. But if, if, if you're more, a little bit more skeptical, I think that's awesome too. And our, my, my, my goal is to over time. Cause it takes time to lay this all out even more than just one episode to present the information clearly enough and with enough comprehensiveness that it, it actually answers the question, like, how has that, how does it do that? Why does it lead to that? How does it really lead to that? And to get to the point where it makes sense to everyone, like, Oh, I can see how even it could possibly do that. Yeah.
Deb Blum (12:57):
You know, one of the other things I can imagine, I know that I have thought, and I'll actually explain a little bit about my experience on this. Is that the question of like, is there like a person might also be thinking my kid's 17 years old. It's too late. I already, you know, I already, first of all, probably this is not true, but that you might in your head might be thinking like, Oh man, I already messed this up. And I just want to say that I don't, I know that that's not true. I don't just think it's not true. I've watched many people, grandparents and, and parents reconcile relationships with their children after they learn more about attachment theory. They're able to put in place new, you know, take responsibility for things that they did in repair. Because actually, I don't even think I understood as much as I do now that it's not necessarily about getting it right all the time.
Deb Blum (13:49):
It's, you know, in fact, I I'm surprised I've seen, I've seen this several times, but I read it again recently that in healthy, securely attached relationships misattunement happened something like 70% of the time and that so it was not like, you know, you need to get it right a hundred percent of the time in order to nail this. This is about being in relationship with a person, which means that sometimes you're also going to make mistakes and that repair is part of it. Like repairing relationships is actually a big piece of how we end up with secure attachment.
Jai Flicker (14:26):
Yes, for sure. And the repair process deepens attachment. And it also, it's like a really vital life skill to learn is to, is that that conflict and disconnection is, is inevitable in any relationship. And so that's part of a real human relationship. It's not even getting it wrong. It's, it's just part of real life. And so having that cycle of like connection and then conflict or disconnection, and then repair and reconnection and, and having, having that be just a like really healthy part of family life is that's, that's going to build resilience and social and emotional intelligence. I mean, it's, it's really good. And I, and I even want to add one thing it's like it turns out that this stuff is so fundamental. So instinctive in that lots of parents are, you don't have to be taught about attachment theory to be doing it already, big time.
Jai Flicker (15:32):
So for me and I think we've talked about this, so I, I think it's true for you as well. You can obviously speak to that, but that learning about this has confirmed things that I already felt to be true has encouraged me to stay the course with things that I already felt were working and has helped refine some things that were already working very well or maybe working somewhat well, but could be better. And then also filled in gaps where I, I just had blind spots or I had, you know, kind of underdeveloped aspects of myself that I realized, Oh, I really need to I really need to work on this. So it's, it's I think it would be a rare, rare, rare exception that someone would hear all about attachment and go - I'm not doing any of that already.
Deb Blum (16:30):
Right. Right. And, and even if a person thinks they're not, they probably still are. I agree. You know,
Jai Flicker (16:36):
I don't know if, I don't know. I think you would really have to be like a literal, absolute sociopath to not be doing any of any of this. Like, so if you are, maybe if you're a serial killer out there and have kids, then that could be the situation, but yeah, everyone else, that that's not the case
Deb Blum (17:04):
People tend to be. I think people tend to be tough on themselves. And sometimes there's a way we might look at what we do and not give ourselves credit for what we do. And even when I said like, you know, like you might get it wrong. I think one of the challenges in parenting is how often we feel we got it wrong. You know, even if it really is just a normal product of being a human being in messy relationships. Yes. But there's a way that we feel like we got it wrong. And it's nice to know that if we have that feeling that we got it wrong, it doesn't mean that you actually have to sit in that space. That there's a lot of opportunity for repair. And it's probably even worthy for us to do an entire episode on repair because I think people, when people think repair, I think a lot of people think just an apology and while that can be worthy, there's so many ways that we can repair, you know?
Deb Blum (17:47):
And so it feels like it might be a good time for me to just talk a little bit about you, as you said, that, you know, like how it's been for you around attachment. And I'll tell a little bit about what's happened for me. So I've had some like humbling experiences recently, which is really great. And I always like to be humbled, but I am so I have been a student as have you of Gordon Neufeld for a long time. I read his book, hold on to your kids. I don't know. I mean, it had to have been at least 10 years ago, but let's just say even more than that, I want to say it was when my oldest was about five and I read it and I thought it was a hard read, hard read, but I did read it. And I,
Jai Flicker (18:37):
And just, just for context, for anyone who's never heard of them, which might be everyone. He is a Canadian psychologist and developmental theorist and who, who, and a huge part of like a huge part of the area of development that he focuses on is attachment. Right. Yeah. So, and hold onto your kids is all a lot of it's it's centers on attachment and some issues relating to it.
Deb Blum (19:08):
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for doing, for saying that. And so when I learned about this, I've been I've since then tried to put it into practice in my life even more. But so I'll say I'll work from most recent to the past for a moment here. So recently, because I wanted to better understand some of the terminology. I decided to take a Gordon Neufeld class called the attachment puzzle, and it was about 16 hours and it was so great. And I can't now I feel even more excited to share about attachment. So, you know, before that I was thinking, Oh, I'm going to share about attachment based on my experience, which is helpful. But I was finding that I didn't have some of the language that I wanted even having read the book. First of all, I read it a long time ago.
Deb Blum (19:58):
Second of all, it was not exactly. It wasn't as it just, it just didn't penetrate me the way that this did somehow being able to have seen now that my kids are 15 and 17, it's almost like I can see when I'm listening to them. I can see it play out in their lives in a different way. So, so what was humbling for me was, first of all, just, I guess I felt a little bit humbled by like nature just by nature and just by like how amazing we are as humans and how, if we can really rely on human nature and actually go there that we can see that like all this stuff that we do, this efforting that we do around parenting and like trying to try strategies and all this stuff, when actually, you know, it's the relationship, that's the fundamental key and that if we can shift away from role of being a parent and into the relationship between a parent and child, that that is like the ticket and
Jai Flicker (20:53):
Wait, can you say that last part again? Because I feel like it is a key insight and I just want, yeah. I wanna like really pause on that.
Deb Blum (21:04):
The shifting yes. From the role of being a parent into the relationship that is between the parent and the child. And so it's really shifting from role to relationship.
Jai Flicker (21:16):
Can you, and can you maybe just say one or, I mean, we'll come back to it again, but one or two things about that. Cause I've just, I mean, I just think that's so key.
Deb Blum (21:25):
I always said from the, probably from the beginning of time with my kids, but I don't, but I know I can remember more than, you know, more recently is in my head. I would always just recite the relationship comes first. I would just over and over and over again, say the relationship comes first. So I would actually try to ask myself as quickly as possible and believe me, it didn't, it wasn't perfect. But I would ask myself as quickly as possible, is this in service of a better relationship with my child or is this going to degrade my relationship with my child? And it was kind of the way that I handled situations. So it would be what would stop me from sometimes doing things that I knew could be hurting them, hurting me, hurting us,
Jai Flicker (22:04):
Just a very simple kind of universal heuristic or, you know, question to, to, to check, to see if you were aligned with your core value or not.
Deb Blum (22:20):
Yeah. Right. And so then it became kind of relationship first is what I would just say. It'd be like Deb, sometimes I'd be like, Deb, like don't say anything right now, relationship first like, Oh, I know you want to say this thing right now, but like, this is not going to be helpful for your relationship at this moment. And that if you go back and you actually process it a little bit more, you might be able to come back and say this in a way that's more like relationship preserving. So it was, was it attachment? Not exactly. And I think we, it will be helpful for us to talk a little bit more about how we can, how the words or the words might, there can be some semantics that could benefit from a little bit, but I think right now some nuance, but right now for the purposes of, yeah,
Jai Flicker (23:00):
Because, because, because I think what you're hinting or at, or alluding to is that all too often, people who have a very kind of introductory sense of that, or just have heard the term, it just sounds like attachment just sounds like just cuddling and just like, you know, being warm and fuzzy all the time and that that's going to solve all these problems. And, and that is a very I think a very limited view and actually maybe confusing or such a partial view that it would it would confuse more than it would inform.
Deb Blum (23:46):
Because it's not permissiveness and it's also not right. I mean, it's not, and it's not, and it's not like sweetie voice. It's like kind of, you know, there's so much to attachment, but I think that I didn't, this is, this is actually me going back to when they were little because when I, I didn't think so first of all, when they were very, very little, I think I did learn about attachment in certain ways. But mostly what I learned about was attachment parenting, but I don't think I fully even understood. And you know, and I'll let you share in a moment how you see the difference, but I don't think I fully even knew what was going on for me. So I was I had a preemie my first baby, and so he was five and a half weeks early. I was not ready. I had no idea that this was going to be happening on that very day.
Deb Blum (24:34):
And so it wasn't like, I, I don't even think I was I mean, I hate to say this, but I think people are so much more conscious about how they want to be as a parent. Now I was just more like I'm having a baby, this is exciting. And then he's five weeks early and it's a C-section. So, you know, nothing was what I was expecting. And, but I had read enough before that of just, you know, like the, what to expect when you're expecting. And I did have like my idea of a birth plan and I was gonna, you know, I was, I was going to be at the hospital, but I still wanted it as natural as possible. And lo and behold, I ended up with an emergency C-section and, and not only that, but he can't nurse. So we had to syringe feed him in the beginning, like a little bird.
Deb Blum (25:16):
And he is you know, he's immature, he's just got an immature digestive system, there, all kinds of things happening. And so when we're leaving the hospital, the doctor says to us, and luckily we had a doctor who was attachment oriented because this is a bit so we're talking 17 years ago, 17 and a half almost years ago. The doctor says kangaroo care, which I didn't know at the time what that was, but I figured it out, which is skin to skin contact as much skin to skin contact as you can possibly have. And this was even before really babywearing was like Vogue, like, you know, yes, people were babywearing, there were baby Bjorn's and I wore one, but it wasn't quite the same as it is now. So you have to kind of think about that, you know, 17 years ago it was actually kind of a long time ago, but they also told me to nurse on demand, you know, so I was like, okay.
Deb Blum (26:05):
Oh, wow, okay. Like, wow, this is different than what I thought was gonna happen. And so my husband and I get home and, you know, I'm on medication, I'm on like Percocet and, you know, and I'm in pain and we're trying to figure this whole baby thing out. And literally we have to wake up in the middle of the night. I have to pump and we have to, my husband has to syringe feed for the first week until finally things get sorted out. But so you can imagine like, there's massive pressure on me that I have to, you know, he has to be in the little, I have this little bed next to the bed and all this stuff and, and he is, and finally, you know, things start to get a bit sorted out. I'm going through all kinds of stuff. I remember, I literally, I literally remember my husband leaving, but one day to like maybe like a two weeks after, and I'm standing in the garage and I'm holding my baby and I'm crying.
Deb Blum (26:57):
I don't know if I can do this without you, you know, like I have no idea how I can do this and I can just remember that moment. And, you know, and so all of this stuff, like, you know, I'm we're, we're trying to be the best parents we can be. And I, am looking at books, trying to understand what's going on and I'm reading attachment parenting, and this is the beginning. Now I can see how different attachment parenting is from attachment theory. But at the time that this was what was present in like mainstream books, I think, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong on that, but it just seems like that's what was available to me and attachment parenting. It turns out that I didn't even realize this at the time. It was so strict with these like seven Bs, but like, you know, breastfeeding and, you know, bonding.
Deb Blum (27:42):
And, you know, I don't even remember what they were, but there there's all bunch of bees. And those bees were things that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do. I mean, I, it was like you know, babywearing breastfeeding birth bonding balance and boundaries be where baby trainers, I don't think those existed. I mainly think that at that time, Dr. Sears was saying basically sleep with your baby. I think these were some of the things sleep with your baby breastfeed on demand anytime all the time. And that you had to be incredibly responsive. Like you had to be like, just constant, like always responsive. What happened is that I was, I burned myself out. So that's all I can just say is that it was about five years later or four years later that I started to realize that, you know, I really, really did burn myself out the second, my second child came along and I, and he wasn't quite as demanding, but he still had his own set of demands.
Deb Blum (28:36):
And I wanted to, I felt like, well, if I gave it to Jake and I need to give it, you know, like I need to give it to her. So anyway, so we so I did, and, but it was a lot because I put massive pressure that I thought that I had to be this idealized version of a parent that met every single need that. And by the way, both of my kids had milk and tolerance and both of my kids had reflux. And when we finally got it in order, they were amazing. They like were like, so just like the most amazing children. But before that, they cried a lot because they were uncomfortable. And and you know what, I was not going to stop breastfeeding. I'm like, I'm going to figure this out. And, but that was like pressure.
Deb Blum (29:23):
There was so much pressure. And, you know, and, and I remember recently reading something that said that a mother who breastfeeds, but is anxious and like stressed out is actually, if you really are talking about secure attachment, that's actually worse in many ways than if you just said, okay, no, we're going to bottle feed, but you did it with a lot like care and attunement and love, you know? And, and, and not to say that there isn't love. I mean, so I may have been more stressed out forcing kind of this whole nursing thing. And so I, so that was also what was humbling is I had this like humbling thing that occurred to me, which was that, you know, like I really could have been easier on myself if I had learned attachment theory instead and realized that it's not about being a perfect mother. It's not about having to do everything exactly the way that I'm supposed to. And by the way, I wasn't even, it's not even that I was because no one can
Jai Flicker (30:17):
Be, but you were trying,
Deb Blum (30:20):
But I felt the pressure on that, right. I mean, no one can be a perfect parent. You're still human. You still have needs. I had to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I had to, he cried while I went to the bathroom or took a shower. So it's not like I
Jai Flicker (30:31):
You're sitting there thinking, and this is the problem with any sort of parenting strategy. That's not presented with a, you know, a certain minimum level of theoretical background. It's just like, you know, be responsive. Like, I agree with those three, like if you can breastfeed, that's an ideal, right. If you can and, and, you know, you obviously want to bond with your child and and you want to be responsive. I mean, I totally agree with that, but, but you can see how, you know, in just in your case alone, if you're going, and if you're taking a shower and you hear your baby crying and you just think, Oh my God, I'm not being responsive. I'm not being responsive without the theoretical background to understand that some separation is going to be just fine and babies are resilient. And that they just, that when then when you do come back and reestablish that attachment, it actually teaches them that, Oh, I can trust that we can be a part. And then we'll, you know, we'll re unite that that's not only okay, it's actually helpful. It's a necessary part of, of, of the growing up process. And so, so, so yeah, so, so just parenting strategies sort of that are floating out there, even if they're good without the background can be problematic. Yeah.
Deb Blum (32:02):
Right. So, yeah. And a lot of times what ends up happening is because it's also like were attachment theory, as an example, is so rooted in human nature. It is, it does really feel good when you're doing it. You know? And when, and when I was with attachment parenting, I didn't really have the basis, except for that. If you don't do this, it will be bad. You know, like that, wasn't what I really held in my head. Like if I, you know,
Jai Flicker (32:30):
Theoretical framework, that's just a belief / fear,
Deb Blum (32:34):
Right, right. And they've gone back like, so I think people have gone back home, like people who study attachment theory now can go back and look at, you know, the great intentions and, and the Sears, you know, doctor there. I think it's a doctor and a nurse that are married, who, who coined the term attachment parenting. Their intention was great. They raised eight kids. They probably, you know, it's probably really awesome, like, you know, and beautiful there, but, but to come to the depth of attachment theory and understand that there's a lot more room and being a human being, and like, I think you, you had just said to me before that, you know, their kid babies are more sensitive and also more resilient than we put, like kind of on both ends of the spectrum. And I think that resilience is important. And I think I was definitely buying into the idea that like, if I didn't take care of every need, then I was not doing it right.
Deb Blum (33:25):
Luckily I did begin to, I also believed in, which is really good. I also am a big believer in cultivating resilience and in preparing our kids for the future. So the good news was that as they started to get older, I already had shifted into wanting to you know, I didn't need to fulfill every single need every single second anymore. You know, if they could make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then I let them make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And so luckily I think, and then I started to learn and read, hold on to your kids. And that was the moment I think, where I started to see that I could take a deep breath and that there was a little bit more room for me to exist in the, in the relationship. It wasn't a hundred percent that like, I, you know, that I had to be focused on them.
Jai Flicker (34:18):
Yeah. Well, and I, and what I'm hearing you say too, and I think this is a super important point is, is, is that if you just hear, again, this is the problem with just hearing parenting advice versus understanding, you know, how humans bond is. That is that if you hear the advice and we'll talk more about this like that, it's important to be responsive to your baby's needs. There's a lot of room for interpretation and maybe, maybe my child needs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Now, maybe my child needs a Turkey and ham sandwich. Now maybe my ch you know, it's like, we can, we can end up trying to fulfill all these external demands or, or preferences. And when, when the actual need is, is much more simple and internal it's it's it's to feel secure. So, so, so you, you can, you, a parent can make, can, can support attachment and secure a secure, a sense of deep security without having to jump through every little hoop that their child is throwing at them. In fact, it's probably better it's, it's in many ways, it's, it's, it's actually can be detrimental to the dynamic to be just like, you know, doing that.
Deb Blum (35:44):
That's such a good point because that's what I think I could have seen going the path going to had I not had an another, like - and I think this goes to your point before that I a hundred percent agree with, which is that innately. I think we do know so much more and that the more the more we can peel away the layers of external pressure of who we are supposed to be, the more we'll find the natural place of knowing how to bond with our child and how to be connected. And then in fact, what I found was that the more that I found that the less that I felt I had to do all the other, like, kind of superficial things, and I was trusting in my relationship with my child. So then I started to realize like, Oh, well, this isn't really, I mean, yeah, like they want this need met, but like, this isn't really what we're really talking about here.
Deb Blum (36:34):
You know, we're talking about more on the emotional level, like the psychological level. And so I, luckily I think I got that because I can see how being responsive. Couldn't be really like, over interpreted, interpreted that like, it's literally, I meet your, every demand, not just your literal need. Yeah. So thank you for clarifying that, because actually, I don't even think I had thought about when that shifted for me as clearly, but that really did shift for me. And I think that it's attachment theory that helped me to it freed me, freed me from some of this pressure that I was feeling. Yeah.
Jai Flicker (37:14):
Yeah. And, and I think one other thing, just listening to you talk I'm imagining hearing this for the first time and it's like, you know, you would almost think like, well, if I learn attachment theory and I really like value it, and then I go and do some, and then I integrated into my parenting, wouldn't that just be sort of naturally kind of me doing attachment parenting. And I would say on the one hand. Yes. but, but, but on the other hand, no, and the no comes from the fact that like attachment parenting is like a trademarked brand of, and, and, and, you know, w whatever your opinion of attachment parenting is, or if you don't even have one it's, that's just a fact that a, that, so, and that's, so that's like a, it's now kind of has some associations and some prescriptions that, that are associated with it.
Jai Flicker (38:10):
So we could, it could be confusing to talk about attachment parenting TM on the one hand and just attachment parenting, not the Sears version of it. And I think the, the good news is you kind of don't need the, the qualifier attachment because all parenting involves attachment. So, so if you learn attachment theory, and then you, you integrate it into consciously integrated into how you're relating to and raising your children, you're going to be doing attachment parenting, AKA parenting. So what we're really talking about is parenting, and even, you know, the idea of parenting 3.0 is not, again, it's not like we've talked about before. It's not a set of prescriptions. That's why we're avoiding giving prescriptions. And we're focusing more on principles to apply, because that I think helps us to connect to that, that natural way of, of relating rather than coming up with this, again, reinforcing this role of I'm S I'm a parent and I, and a parent does these things. And so I'm going to do these things, check, check, check.
Deb Blum (39:23):
Yeah. Yeah. Especially because just to reiterate this, that the, it is for me, for sure, the more that I became externally oriented on these ideas of like what I was expecting and the check, check, check, and I need to do these things. Cause I did that, you know, I was really like, I, I remember a time when I was like looking around at people and like, how do I need to be as a parent? What's the best parent, like amalgamation of all parents and I'm going to be that parent. And the more I did it, the more it took it away, took me away from myself and then took me away from my natural intuitive sense of how to be a parent. Yeah. So it's really as much as you, as much as, like you're saying that kind of like, you know, just in contrast to like what we're doing versus not doing. I mean, I honestly think that those strategies are what take us away from that natural ability. I also understand it's hard because there's a lot of strategy out there and there's a lot of pressure that people are feeling to do that. So, you know, I acknowledge the pressure I was in it too. And I also say, wow, like, isn't it so nice though, that there is another way
Speaker 3 (40:39):
So I would love for you to talk more about attachment theory.
Jai Flicker (40:51):
We've talked a lot about what is sort of not, I mean, we've hinted at what it is and why it's important, but, but let's talk about that Attachment theory. Yes.
Deb Blum (41:08):
Thanks everyone. That does it for part one. And we're excited to bring to you the next episode, which will be diving a lot deeper into attachment theory. We're going to be talking about something strange, very strange, but actually it's literally the strange situation. Yes. So that'll be part two of this little series that we're doing here on attachment and attachment. Right. And so we invite you to subscribe, to like, to share, share for sure. Share if you like it, please do share with other people and also to leave a comment rate, review us. That would be really helpful.
Speaker 3 (41:55):
Very helpful. Yes. So we'll see you next week. All right. Thanks everyone. Thanks. Bye-bye.
Most of us struggle with the very real and painful condition of never feeling good enough. And it got created in childhood with the best of intentions - the desire all parents have to help our kids make friends, be good people, grow into successful adults and thrive in life.
I know you love your kids. Unconditionally.
The real question isn’t whether we love our kids, but rather – do they FEEL loved unconditionally.
You may be thinking, “Of course they do!” But so often I find that we make love and acceptance conditional—without even realizing it. Or should I say, kids come to believe that their parents' love and acceptance have strings attached. That they must behave and act in certain ways in order to feel that love and acceptance from us.
It's a tricky little dilemma - how do we show them we love them for who they are and set high standards. How do show them we love them for who they are and also push them a little bit? How do we show them we love them for who they are and also expect them to do things they have to do?
This is really “up” for me right now. My older son is off to high school next year, and I'm really curious how we’ll be able to ensure he feels loved no matter what he does and who he is, while still setting high standards for him to live up to his potential.
You see, while I've always loved my kids, my own actions haven’t always shown my love unconditionally. By realizing this, I hope to do better. Wouldn’t you like to show your kids unconditional love too?
Let’s agree on this starting point: Everything we do is well-intentioned and totally comes from the place of love.
Now stick with me when we dissect where our intentions and our kids’ perceptions differ.
We want our kids to be accepted by their friends so we encourage tweaks and adjustments to their personality (toughen up, kiddo). We want them to be acceptable in society, so we urge changes in behaviors (stop chewing with your mouth open). We want them to be successful and do great things, so we set a high bar (all A's and you’ll get that new iPhone) and rationalize that it’s our job to stretch them and ensure their success and financial independence. We want them to be responsible so we nag them about their laundry, homework, and the toilet seat.
We're trying to protect them.
But what if … to a child … those minor adjustments, pressures, and nudges are heard as you aren’t enough or I’d love you more if you… or I don’t love you as you are. Especially when we deliver them with a harsh tone or insensitivity to their tender heart.
MY HEART BREAKS A LITTLE AS I THINK ABOUT HOW MANY TIMES I’VE BEEN CRITICAL OF MY KIDS.
It’s tricky territory. We want them to be socially conditioned enough so they’ll have friends and be likable. We want them to be accepted by their peers. There’s a pretty widely held belief out there that it’s our obligation to shape them into “something better.” And, that if we don’t, our kids would surely miss the mark, end up a mess, and become homeless or live forever in our basement.
BUT, WHAT MESSAGES ARE WE REALLY SENDING?
Ironically and regretfully, in order to make them into this “better” person that will be more “acceptable” to others, I fear we actually might be creating a situation where our kids don’t feel acceptable … to us! (and then in the future, where they don't feel good enough, don't love themselves)
When we were little, the same thing happened to us. We were taught that there are parts of us that aren’t acceptable (you’re too silly, too shy, too geeky, too quirky, too bold, sing too loud, aren’t grateful, want too much, are too much . . .).
We learned to reject parts of ourselves to be accepted by our primary caregivers—we learned that in order to feel that love, we need to act the way that makes us most lovable. And that was what created our "not good enough" story in our head.
Even if you would never, ever in a million years stop loving your child no matter what he or she does, it’s possible that little messages you send are being perceived by your little one as conditional love: “I'll love you more if you stop doing x or start doing y.” Or worse, they may feel afraid that they will lose your love, affection, attention or acceptance if they don't change who they are or do what you suggest (or demand).
Ultimately, we create disconnection in our relationship. Which is the opposite of what we want.
So how do we show unconditional love? How do we rebuild the connection?
TODAY TRY THESE 8 THINGS:
1 – Bite your tongue. When you want to criticize, stop and find something you love about your child to focus on. Spend time really connecting with why this bothers you so much.
2 - Rather than criticize, try to relate to them, offer an invitation and show a path for growth. Perhaps they're struggling to make friends and you know it's because they do a few very annoying things. You want to just tell him how he can be better and do better. Perhaps instead, you could share a story about when it was hard for you to make friends. And then ask if they'd be open to some things you learned. Then maybe you can add in a few lessons that would be helpful to your child. Invite them to give it a try. Be in it WITH THEM. Ask them to report back to see if it helps. Caution: try not to encourage your child to be someone they aren't.
3 – Separate the behavior from the child. Instead of: “You’re such a slob. Why can’t you put your clothes in the hamper?” - talk neutrally only about the behavior ("the clothes belong in the hamper" or "please put your clothes in the hamper"). I know it’s tough, especially when you feel like you are constantly reminding your child about something. But try. Stop, get calm, say what you need to say about the behavior. And get over the idea that they "should" know this by now.
4 – Avoid labeling. Labels (slob, shy, lazy, athletic, funny, soooo kind, an “A student”, forgetful, too loud, too quiet, genius, wild, quiet, chatty) can stick and potentially keep our kids from becoming who they really are. And sometimes they aren’t really accurate – perhaps based on our interpretations and fears. If it’s a “negative” trait, get curious about why this trait bothers you, what are you worried about? If it’s a more positive trait, get curious why it’s so important to you that your child be [trait]. Labels limit us from seeing the real and unique child in front of us – their complex, contradictory, multidimensional little selves.
5 – Make time to be present. Our kids want time with us more than they say they do. This week, find 5 minutes free from distractions. In this time, put aside your preconceived notions of who your child is and pretend you are just meeting him or her. Each time see if you can learn something new about him or her. Perhaps sit down while they are watching a video and ask them what kind of videos they most like on YouTube. Ask them to teach you to play a game. Jump on the trampoline. Walk the dog. Eat ice cream.
6 - Be clear and explicit that your suggestions having nothing to do with your love and acceptance. While you may feel you need to discipline your child, tell her what you expect and help her to be better, you can do this with love. Never withdraw love as a strategy for compliance. Always remind them that you love them and you are there with them and for them as they learn how to grow up, relate to others and be a good citizen of the home and world.
7 - Cultivate Autonomy. Everyone wants to feel like they have volition, or control over their lives. Whenever possible, have a conversation and ask questions. Help them to come up with their own solutions and ideas for their challenges in life.
8 - Model the Behavior You Want. This is probably the most effective way to raise kids. They learn more from who we are and how we show up in the world than what we say to them. Focus more on you being the type of person you want your kids to become, than trying to tweak and adjust them. Be in it WITH them. Often we want our kids to avoid the challenges we went through so we try to protect them, or tell them how to be, think and act. Live your values and they will learn it through living with you.
And if you’re thinking, but it’s my job to teach my children how to survive in this world - I completely agree! And, I think we can love our children unconditionally, help them grow and become their best selves and guide them to thrive in a sometimes really challenging world.
WANT TO GO DEEPER?
Here’s a bigger stretch goal – accept and love yourself unconditionally. This does NOT mean that we don’t expect more from ourselves. But we don’t do better because we beat ourselves up. Face it, we’re all imperfect humans. If we can practice accepting the things about ourselves that we don’t like, it will naturally get easier to accept those things in our kids. I know this is edgy. Let’s say they’re lying. I’m not suggesting that we accept that they are “liars.” Rather, I’d like us to really examine our relationship with lying and not condemn them. The truth is that most people lie (even you). Can we honor the impulse to lie? Who hasn’t felt that impulse to defend ourselves with a lie? And then talk about why we must practice being honest so that we can have a good relationship based on trust? That’s the nuance. We don’t make our kids “wrong” for feeling the impulse to lie...we help them see the benefits of not lying and guide them to making better choices. It’s not that we don’t expect more – we just bring more conscious awareness to the discussion. We stop reacting with judgment and instead start guiding with mindfulness and compassion.
We help them to understand that life can be hard, but we are always by their side, figuring it out together.
You love your kids. Make sure they know—and feel—your unconditional love to keep your connection strong.
What's your experience around this? How have you navigated this path without being too permissive nor too strict?