Attachment Parenting and Discipline

I am a proponent of Attachment Parenting. Here is an excerpt from the website

The goal with attachment parenting is  to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.

The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.

Attachment Parenting isn’t new. In many ways, it is a return to the instinctual behaviors of our ancestors. In the last sixty years, the behaviors of attachment have been studied extensively by psychology and child development researchers, and more recently, by researchers studying the brain.

Children Learn What They Live: (Dorothy L Nolte said this best):

  • If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident
  • If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate
  • If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves
  • If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world
  • If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal
  • If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous
  • If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are
  • If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and those around them
  • If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you agree with these principles, then read on–there are some solid and positive ways to incorporate attachment parenting into (positively) disciplining your children.

The Dangers of Traditional Discipline

  • Instilling fear in children serves no purpose and creates feelings of shame and humiliation. Fear has been shown to lead to an increased risk of future antisocial behavior including crime and substance abuse
  • Studies show that spanking and other physical discipline techniques can create ongoing behavioral and emotional problems
  • Harsh, physical discipline teaches children that violence is the only way to solve problems
  • Controlling or manipulative discipline compromises the trust between parent and child, and harms the attachment bond
  • It is a sign of strength and personal growth for a parent to examine his or her own childhood experiences and how they may negatively impact their parenting, and to seek help if they are unable to practice positive discipline

A Gentler Approach to Discipline

  • The bonds of attachment and trust that are formed when parents consistently and compassionately respond to an infant’s needs become the foundation of discipline
  • Positive Discipline involves using such techniques as prevention, distraction, and substitution to gently guide children away from harm
  • Help your child explore safely, seeing the world through his eyes and empathizing as he experiences the natural consequences of his actions
  • Try to understand what need a child’s behavior is communicating. Children often communicate their feelings through their behavior
  • Resolve problems together in a way that leaves everyone’s dignity intact
  • Understand developmentally appropriate behavior, and tailor loving guidance to the needs and temperaments of your child
  • Children learn by example so it’s important to strive to model positive actions and relationships within a family and in interactions with others
  • When parents react in a way that creates tension, anger or hurt feelings, they can repair any damage to the parent-child relationship by taking time to reconnect and apologize later

Tools for Positive Discipline

Again, this is excerpted from

Please look at the API website to learn more about Attachment parenting at all stages of development.

  • Maintain a positive relationship
  • Use empathy and respect
  • Research positive discipline
  • Understand the unmet need
  • Work out a solution together
  • Be proactive
  • Understand the child’s developmental abilities
  • Create a “yes” environment
  • Discipline through play
  • Change things up
  • State facts rather than making demands
  • Avoid labeling
  • Make requests in the affirmative
  • Allow natural consequences
  • Use care when offering praise
  • Use time-in rather than time-out
  • Use time-in as a parent, too
  • Talk to a child before intervening
  • Don’t force apologies
  • Comfort the hurt child first
  • Offer choices
  • Be sensitive to strong emotions
  • Consider carefully before imposing the parent’s will
  • Use logical consequences sparingly and with compassion
  • Use incentives creatively with older children

ADHD?! But my child can watch TV for hours!

Sometimes I think ADHD should be called “Interest-based Attention”

Many parents will tell me that their child can attend to television, video games, or other enjoyable activities four hours on end.

  • This does not mean their child does not have ADHD. Children with ADHD can focus when the activity is something they enjoy.
  • It doesn’t take as much “mental energy” to focus on something that is interesting to us.
  • This is also why some children do better in classes with teachers that they “like”.

Need for more frequent feedback and reward:

  • Parents will also tell me that their child is lazy, or choosing not to do their homework or classwork, because when an adult sits with them, they are capable of completing the work.
  • They may also observe that their child can persevere at a video game but not to other things. 
  • Most children with ADHD require more immediate feedback and reward that other children to maintain their attention and their behaviors.
  • A 1:1 setting provides more structure, and more frequent and immediate feedback and reward.

Video games provide almost constant feedback and reward.

This need for frequent feedback and reward has important implications for parenting and teaching; remember to provide regular, frequent feedback–and praise!

For more information, contact