The Relationship Between Parenting Education and Attachment


When you receive this newsletter I will be in the middle of a wonderful holiday. I am visiting New York, I will be Ottawa for my brother-in-law’s birthday and my niece’s wedding along with other family and friend visits and then a leisurely tour of New England.

I will also have the opportunity to take a short work break and do a presentation for the wonderful folks at Borden Ladner Gervais in Ottawa.

For all these reasons, the next newsletter will not show up in your box until October 20.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about parenting education. Why, how to judge the professional qualifications of parenting speakers and authors and why it matters.

Doesn’t Parenting Come Naturally?

There are those who believe that when parents come to understand the importance of the relationship between themselves and their child, when they are truly attached to the child, then parenting, knowing what to do, will come naturally and instinctively.

My expertise lies in guiding parents to raise children to become capable and self-disciplined adults. I believe that the relationship between parent and child is the rock, the foundation of the parenting dynamic. That relationship is essential before any real parenting can take place. But, it isn’t as simple as that. Most of the parents I speak with really care about their children; they are connected, they are attached.

I believe that good nutrition is important. The better we eat, the healthier we are. But simply knowing that does not mean I will eat well. I need training. I need to learn about different foods, how to use the stove and microwave. I need to learn how to cook and what to cook. Then I will eat well. It certainly takes more than instinct.

Before we look at parenting education we need to look at attachment. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld, attachment is “a force of attraction pulling two bodies toward each other…in the psychological universe {it} is at the heart of relationships and social functioning.”

Whether you want to use the term attachment, relationship or connection, every parent educator I know would agree that this is the basis of raising kids who are secure, capable and ultimately self-disciplined. The issue comes after this point. Once parents understand the importance of the attachment to their child, will they instinctively know what to do when he is throwing a tantrum at the mall, whining or hitting his brother?

Let’s face it, I have a bias here. Many parents who have heard a lecture about attachment agree that it is not only important but also essential. But they feel inadequate and guilty if they can’t figure out what to do next. Does this mean they are lousy, unattached parents? Do they have malfunctioning instincts? Well, it’s like the nutrition example. I know vegetables are good for me but not being exactly sure which contain which nutrients and how to best prepare them doesn’t make me a bad person. It simply means I’m uninformed.

So, how do we become informed parents? We all have a responsibility to our children to be the best parents we can be, and that includes finding and using the best information we can. The first step in looking for parent education is to check the credentials of the teacher. Look for the initials C.C.F.E. (Certified Canadian Family Educator) after her name. If he is a psychologist or therapist, ask whether he has experience and training in working with parents of typical children.

There are basic differences between a one-shot workshop or keynote address and a full-scale parenting course. While a two-hour session or workshop can provide insight into a narrow topic, it takes a full parenting course to explore the full dynamics of the topic.

In a multi-day course you can expect that the leader can over time adjust the material to meet the needs of the group, handle specific issues as presented, provide a variety of learning experiences and answer questions.

There are also books, magazines and workplace wellness programs. There are websites with lots of articles available for free. But be aware and check the credentials of the author. Many authors of parenting books have articles on-line. It’s a great way to check them out before you buy.

When choosing a parenting program avoid those that imply that the child is somehow the enemy and that there are simple and foolproof answers. Completely avoid any parenting education sources that support any physical punishment of children.

It is simply not enough for us to love our children and be attached to them. We need to get down to the tough job of parenting our kids.

Parents don’t have to make it up as they go along. When we have a parenting plan in place, it makes the job easier. It enhances the relationship and gives everyone in the family more time for fun.

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