8 Principles of Parenting

The mission of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to promote parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. API believes that Attachment Parenting (AP) practices fulfill a child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection and will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships.

Over the past sixty years, psychology and child development researchers, and more recently, neurologists have been studying child development guided by John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. These studies have revealed that infants are born “hardwired” with strong needs to be nurtured and to remain physically close to the primary caregiver during the first few years of life. A child’s emotional, physical, and neurological development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently and appropriately. These needs can be summarized as proximity, protection, and predictability and play.

To help guide parents along their journey, API created The Eight Principles of Parenting. These guidelines are founded on sound research and are known to be effective in helping children develop secure attachments.

API acknowledges that every family has unique circumstances with distinct needs and resources. Developed to promote optimal attachment, these principles are developmentally appropriate and comprehensive enough to apply to a broad spectrum of family situations. API embraces the diversity of family structures and values all people in a child’s life who actively foster a strong attachment relationship with the children in their care.

API invites parents to use their own judgment and intuition to create a parenting style that fosters attachment and works for their family. API offers these principles with the advice, “Take what works for your family and leave the rest.”

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, healthcare and educational matters. Set realistic expectations and remain flexible.
Go to API’s website to read more…

2. Feed with Love and Respect

Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs. “Bottle Nursing” adapts breastfeeding behaviors (holding, cuddling, caressing, gazing and talking lovingly) to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues of both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior. Wean from the breast or bottle gradually and gently. As children grow, try to make at least one meal a day a time for connection and community.

3. Respond with Sensitivity

Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.

4. Use Nurturing Touch

Touch meets a baby’s needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.

5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping (sleeping in close enough proximity to be responsive to nighttime needs) has benefits to both babies and parents.

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed (or is willing to form) a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Ideally, a substitute caregiver should commit to being a part of the baby’s life for at least the first three years. Try to keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.

7. Practice Positive Discipline

Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.

8. Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Avoid parent “burn out” by creating a support network, setting realistic goals, putting people before things and not being afraid to say “no.” Learn to recognize when you need help and ask for it. Respect individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Take time to care for yourself and nurture your relationship with your partner. Be creative and have fun with parenting.

For a more thorough discussion of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, click the links above or read Attached at the Heart, Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children, by API’s co-founders, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker.

These principles are the main focus of Monterey Bay Parenting’s events.

This document was adapted from API’s website: www.attachmentparenting.org