After becoming a parent, it surprises me how often I hear criticisms about various parenting behaviors. When I first got married, I asked for suggestions on how to be most effective in a relationship and people gave very little feedback. Then I grew a child inside of me and I was invited into this world of constant opinions. Everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your child and unlike marriage, they are very eager to share this opinion. Being in the counselling field, I am hyper-aware of some of the things that can create concerns in individuals when they get older. I always joke with my husband that I wonder what our son will complain to his therapist about since I know that we are not able to do parenting perfectly.
One of the opinions I hear constantly, that I believe is a myth that needs to be dispelled, is the notion that holding your baby too much or sleeping with your baby will create dependence. These practices are common with attachment parenting but the critics of attachment parenting talk about attachment as creating dependent children and thus dependent adults. I also have read that we shouldn’t engage in these practices because we exist in an independent culture. Both of these notions I believe are false for two reasons:
1) Using practices that promote attachment do not create dependence; they create trust. If you enter your child’s mind for one second (and remember, they have very simple processes going on and are not as logical as an adult), if your child cries and you answer the cry, you teach your child that you can be trusted. If you are trying to discourage them for being dependent and thus let them cry, they may conclude that if they cry, they can not trust that you will be there to take care of them. Until the age of 18 months, a child’s primary developmental task, according to Erikson, is trust versus mistrust. If they learn during this period of time that you are trustworthy, they will progress to the next stage, which is autonomy versus shame & doubt. If you ever worry that your child will dependent, spend time around a two year old who will constantly be telling you “no”. That is a child’s way of learning to develop a unique sense of self and will be a stage your child goes through around the age of two years old (according to Erikson’s stages of development).
2) It is in my opinion that we do not live in a culture that promotes independence. We are relational creatures and thrive when we are in relationship. If you look around in North America, it is more normalized if you are in a couple or have close friendships. People who spend a lot of time on their own or lack close relationships are seen as strange or different. So, I believe we need to dispel the erroneous assumption that we are a culture that values independence and instead teach people how to engage in healthier relationships, because that will be a skill that will be more valuable for our children throughout their lives.
I hope this information helps you to start to look at your own parenting practices from a different lens. The previous information is not meant to add another opinion to make you question your parenting strategy. My hope is that more parents will be able to listen to their own intuition and not feel guilty if they feel inclined to hold their baby. If your parenting practice does not match what I am describing, my hope is that you will nurture your own trust in yourself by doing whatever feels best for you because “Mother truly does know best.”
Some websites I would recommend: