Since having my seventh child, I have been very interested in learning about a phenomenon called, RAD, or, Reactive Attachment Disorder. (Description here, in this article.) I have always been an "observer", if you will, of other moms, their methods, and how their children turn out. I watch very closely, noting how they interact, how their child responds, if it changes as they get older, etc. I have noticed a couple of things.
First of all, when the mother is miserable, the child is also miserable. It doesn't matter if the mom wants their child to be happy, and tells them they need to be happy- if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Happiness is a skill most people need to learn. It's not something that just happens. Sure, there are more bubbly, outgoing personalities, but happiness comes to one simple thing- contentment, and a choice to be happy. If you have a discontent mom, you are most likely going to have a discontent child.
Secondly, some moms act like their children exist for one purpose- to make them look good. They don't care if the house is chaos in private, but publicly, if one of the kids acts out- look out! They love the compliments, and the accolades from strangers. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with receiving a compliment, and being happy that your children are being well behaved in public. But the truth of it is, our kids are going to mess up. They are going to embarrass us. If you are having kids just to get the compliments and praises and to prove how great you are at this "raising kids" thing, then you might as well just not have them. You will fail often. You will mess up, and your kids will mess up, and there will be tears, and you will feel like a failure, and you will find out just how much you need Jesus on this journey. It's not for the faint of heart.
Our children aren't dolls, to be played with once in a while, and then placed on a shelf. They are to be loved, and doted on, and kissed, and trained, and disciplined! It seems to be common sense, but oftentimes, it's not.
Yesterday, one of my friends, Mrs. Zsuzsanna Anderson, of the blog, "Are they all Yours," and also a vlogger on her Youtube channel, did a very interesting video.
It was called, "Having Pleasant Children".
In it, she talked about how to have pleasant children. We have both been moms around the same amount of time, and also in the ministry for many years, and we have both observed a lot of the same things when it comes to children.
One of the things that we have seen is that some children are happy, delightful little creatures, and some others are miserable. They cry, whine, and just about always have something wrong with them. Why are some children happy, and then others miserable human beings? I really think she nailed it when she talked about our relationships with our children as their moms. So much rises and falls on how we treat our children. And so much begins from the time of birth.
From the moment a child is placed on our chest, bonding begins. Obviously, bonding began from the moment of conception, but from the time that our babies are placed on us, so much more starts to happen. Do you know that as humans, we need touch? There have been many studies done with infants, showing that when they are denied human touch, it affects every area of growth- physical, mental, and social growth. Here is one study, for instance. It's so sad to watch! A baby's entire existence is wrapped up in its mother. He takes his cues from her- on how to act, react, and interact socially with others. An experiment was done, called "Still face" to see what would happen when a mother did not react at all to their baby. It was pretty amazing what happened. It showed just how much our children rely on us, as mothers, and how much they need our love and reactions. It is found here.
As I started researching more and more pertaining to this fascinating area of life, I started seeing more and more correlations between attachment parenting and happy, secure kids. When a mom wears her child many hours during the day, co-sleeps, (or at least nurses\bottle feeds them to sleep every night) nurses on demand, doesn't let them "cry it out" at an early age, and showers them with love, kisses, hugs, and affirmation, a deep, close bond is formed. This bond is so important from an early age. It establishes to the child that they are loved, and wanted, and cherished! Babies and toddlers that have RAD are affected for their entire lives. It affects them socially on every front. The first year is the most important when it comes to this attachment and bond. That's why you will find that children who are abused from birth are very messed up emotionally and socially. Even if they are adopted by a loving family at an early age- even at the young age of 2- if they have been denied a mother's love from birth, they have problems. Oftentimes, they never fully recover.
Having and raising children is more than just a checklist. It's more than- Yep, spanked him for that, we should be good! Or, Yep, he got punished for that, so he should be a functioning adult now!
Having and raising happy, pleasant children, is about having a relationship with them. It's about delighting in them, finding pleasure in them, rejoicing with them, laughing with them, and having fun with them. Liking your children is not the same as loving your children. I have seen many homes that are run like a military base. They have the "checklist mentality".
A clean, sparkling home? Check!
Hardworking kids? Check!
Respectful, saying Yes ma'am and No ma'am? Check!
Smart, intelligent kids? Check!
Always behaved in public? Check!
They make me look good, and people admire my child raising skills? Check!
All of those are good things- but with no love, compassion, or empathy, those things are void! Mark my words- a child raised in a house run like the military, and devoid of parents delighting in them, will have emotional problems as an adult.
For some of you, it might be hard to love on your child like you should. Maybe you were raised with a mom that didn't show emotion, and wasn't attached to you like she should've been. It's going to be hard to not repeat the cycle, but it can be done! Tell yourself every day how important it is to show your children that you love them. Cuddle with your kids more. Read to them. Laugh with them. Go to the park with them. Sing with them. Hug them throughout the day. Get off your phone and look into their eyes when they are telling you a story. Let them know that they are important to you, and that you love them fiercely.
If you have a newborn, take naps with them, and nurse them, and enjoy them. The first year is gone before you know it, and it's one of the most important years developmentally for your child. You can never have those years back again.
I look back at my younger Mommy years, and I wish I could have a re-do. I would've stressed less, and held my children more. I didn't have anyone telling me that wearing babies was a good thing, and co-sleeping was great for bonding, and nursing until at least a year was the way to go. Instead, I got a lot of advice like, "Put your child on a schedule for sleeping, eating, etc, and let them cry it out...." "Show them who is boss from day one!" "They need to know who is in charge!"
Luckily for me, kids are very forgiving, and they forgive and forget easily. I have also always loved cuddling my babies and singing and rocking them, so that worked in my favor, too. But I would still do things differently. I would laugh more, and delight in them more, and forget about the house as I just sat and watched my babies, marveling at the wonderful little human beings that had grown in my womb.
Does attachment parenting spoil a child? No. It makes them feel secure, loved, and wanted.
Do you want pleasant children? Then go delight in them. Go give them some extra kisses, and tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them how funny, smart, and great they are.
And watch their face light up in joy.