Some time ago, Time Magazine ran an article regarding Dr William Sears’ theory on Attachment Parenting (AP). If that doesn’t ring any bells, you may remember the front cover, a picture of 26-year-old mother Jamie Lynn Grumet breastfeeding her almost-four-year-old son, and asking “Are you Mom Enough?”. The cover and article caused controversy, no doubt intended. Here we talk with Kristi Ligaya, mother of two-year-old Ozeio, and one of the founders of Facebook group Attachment Parenting Singapore.
The term AP seemed to pass me by as a parent, but now I see it mentioned more and more. What is it?
It’s about creating a strong bond between the parent and child, and when they’re young a lot of it is about physically reinforcing the connection. The key principles are baby-wearing (using a sling rather than a stroller), breastfeeding, bed-sharing, being wary of sleep training as this goes against the key principles of AP, being responsive to your child, feeding with love and respect, and practising positive discipline.
What do you mean by positive discipline?
One of the things that people get confused about is how to follow AP when children get older. I’ve been a mother for just two years, so I’m not saying I’m an expert, but the key to positive discipline is establishing mutual respect, getting respect by giving respect, being empathetic and treating children with dignity.
It is possible to discipline with not only firmness, but also with kindness. It’s about putting things in positive terms, so instead of saying “Don’t touch”, I’ll say “That’s not for baby”; and instead of saying “Don’t stand up”, say “Sit down.” After a while, this starts to become instinctive, and ultimately the idea is that the more connected you are to the child the less discipline you need anyway.
How has AP been received?
Some people think it’s way too much and AP parents are just hippies, and then some people practise it to the extreme. It’s like any approach to parenting; you can follow it to the letter, or you can just take what you like from it.
How did you find out about AP?
Until I had Ozeio I didn’t think I wanted children, but then we had a very welcome surprise pregnancy. When we got him home from the hospital and I went to put him in his bassinet, I just couldn’t; instinctively, it just didn’t feel right for me. I also hated putting him in a stroller; it felt like he was too far away from me, so I always carried him. My friends asked if I was following AP, but this was the first I’d heard of it.
I’ve always made sure that I involve him in what I’m doing, so when I couldn’t put him down he would participate in things like the washing up. Yes, it might have been messier, but he’s a happy and calm child. In fact we’ve been so lucky, he’s always been so sweet and well behaved, and he’s never had a tantrum. I’ll never know if this is just his nature, or the result of AP.