“So you’re still breastfeeding him?”
“And he’s nearly four?”
“And did I hear you say he sleeps in your bed too?”
“You might have done.”
“Oh my. You know, you have to let him go at some point. It’s just not healthy to keep him smothered like that. It’s not good for him! And I dread to imagine the state of your marriage!”
Did the above conversation feel familiar to you? Perhaps you’ve heard the same worries from a multitude of people over and over again?
They are concerned. They worry you are creating a narcissistic psychopath who is going to end up on the news all because he breastfed and co-slept until he was five. I get it, I really do. This fear is pushed on us from every which way. Independence is championed and our children will never gain that independence if we don’t push them towards it, right?
Well, no actually, this fear based belief is utterly wrong.
You see, we humans have been doing precisely the same thing for hundreds of thousands of years. And it has worked. We have breastfed for many years, we have shared our beds with our young. And somehow we have avoided creating damaged and disturbed children along the way.
We think that we need to encourage independence, but the truth is, when we push our children away, they only crave us so much more. They KNOW their place is with you, and they fight to be there. They resist weaning, they turn bedtime into pandemonium because it is not the natural path for them to sleep alone. They know this with every fibre of their being, so why don’t we?
When we force independence early, a child is thrown into an unsatisfying, insecure place. He is pushed before he is biologically ready to do things that no child in the history of the human race has ever done. He is so consumed with his unsatisfied needs he can barely focus on anything else. He has no time or energy to focus on development, on creativity or discovering his talents. His energy is entirely focused on getting the thing he wants more than anything – Attachment.
People are afraid of this attachment though. The overly sexualised culture we live in blurs our instincts and makes us see breastfeeding an older child as something wrong and disturbing. We are torn between what is natural and what we are told is right and appropriate.
We are fearful. We are fearful that our child will never learn to stand alone. We are fearful that we will be persecuted. We are fearful that we are damaging our babies. But the damage comes, not from continuing in the proven parenting style of our ancestors, the damage comes from the new “detachment parenting” beliefs which have been pushed by so called experts in the last few centuries.
When a child has a strong attachment and a secure base to begin with, they can thrive. They can focus their energies on developing, on following their passions, on working at their own pace, safe in the knowledge that they can always come back to you when they need you. They can develop confidence in their abilities and grow just as nature intended.
When we push independence before the child is ready, we send a frightened, insecure child into the world. Little wonder then that they display behavioural difficulties, aggression, anger and all those other symptoms that come from being insecure in their attachments.
We need to open our eyes to the cultural mistruths we have been fed. We need to listen to our child, not the media, not the interfering strangers, nobody else.
And what of the state of our marriages? Yours is not for me to comment on, but my personal experience is that when the parent child relationship is strong and flourishing, this brings more joy and happiness for the whole family.
When myself and my husband decided to let our son choose when he would leave the family bed, it felt as though an enormous pressure had been lifted from our lives. We no longer had to worry or to analyse the situation, we were free. This led to greater peace within our own relationship. Love breeds love. Animosity breeds animosity. Detachment within the parent child relationship affects the family as a whole. As you close yourself off to your child’s needs, it becomes difficult to remain open to those of your partner.
You don’t have to choose between your partner and your child. We have created an environment of family centred parenting, all of our needs are valid, all of our needs are prioritised. We are all winners here.
Your instincts may be buried and blurred but search hard enough and you will rediscover them. You will throw off the cloak of fear and uncertainty, and you will find that you are a competent, confident, able parent equipped with the knowledge passed down to you since the beginning of time. You will find a connection and trust in your child you never thought possible. And when you see it for yourself, you will know that there was never anything to be afraid of.
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