When Attachment Parenting Becomes Permissive Parenting

Attachment parenting is often discovered early on in a parents journey, as they quickly learn that conventional parenting techniques such as leaving a baby to cry, sleep training or scheduling feeds, jar with their instinct to parent gently, and as such they go looking for other options.

In the first year of a baby’s life, attachment parenting, although not always easy, has simple and easily followable guidelines. Keep your baby close, hold them as much as possible, feed on cue, meet all of their needs as promptly as possible.


However, moving from the baby stage in to the toddler stage, brings new dimensions to attachment parenting. After months of meeting the few needs of your baby (milk, warmth, toileting and human contact), the addition of wants and desires to a child’s needs can leave parents confused about what to do. For parents who have been consistent in meeting their baby’s every need, it comes as a shock to realise that they can not always stop their child from expressing some strong emotions in the form of tears.

When it comes to gentle parenting, most parents are in agreement about the basic principals in the first year. But when things become more complicated, the parenting styles split off in a hundred different directions. Everyone is trying something different and it can leave parents feeling lost as to which path is best for their family.

This is a time when permissive parenting can creep in. In wanting to do the best you can for your child, and hearing about the perils of saying “No” too often, it is easy to slip in to permissive techniques. Pleading, bribery, letting important things go, and feeling totally out of control and out of your depth, can easily become ingrained in parenting through the toddler stage. But the more the parent pleads with their child, and gives in to their every desire, the more demanding, frustrated and angry their toddler becomes. They push their limits further and further, and behavioural issues become far more frequent and harder to deal with.

Parents may begin to put their child’s wants above the needs of everyone else, compromising the rest of the family and creating a child who is never satisfied. They may feel repeatedly disrespected by their child, who is pushing them to stand their ground. Although I believe strongly in creating a “Yes” environment, sometimes “No” is the answer that is most appropriate to a situation. Learning how to cope with being told no is an important part of a child’s development, and as their parent, there are ways to say no empathetically, gently, but also firmly, helping them to learn to deal with disappointment.

Parents are often permissive out of love. They are unsure how to approach these new situations and look to their child for the right answers. But children need a strong and confident role model in their lives. It is entirely possible to parent gently and fairly alongside setting firm boundaries. In doing this you provide your child with a guide for life, new learning experiences and the chance to develop, embrace and cope with their emotions.

My upcoming guide Trust Me, I’m A Toddler will aid you in bringing the principals of attachment and continuum parenting in to the toddler stage. I believe that children are entirely trustworthy, capable and deserving of respect. I also believe that the parent child relationship should be a partnership, a team, with both parties on the same side, and out to achieve the same goals; happiness and harmony. So often the toddler stage is seen as a battle of wills, us against them. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By parenting as nature intended, we meet both our own needs, and the needs of our child.

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