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Posts Tagged ‘AP’

Isn’t this a crazy idea?  That a child can be too attached to his or her parent.  Just the thought that anyone could think that makes me react in two ways: slightly-too-hysterical laughter and deep resounding sadness.

I have come across two examples of this within the last week.  One was a friend whose mother thought that her grandchild was too attached.  The ‘warning’ signals apparently included clingy behaviour and that the child was still waking regularly at night. 

Why do people think that a baby preferring to be with her mother is an abnormal state of affairs?  Why might we have evolved as a species to be like this?  Why can’t we accept that this is actually totally normal behaviour for a baby or young child?  Why do women, especially, have such an issue with other women allowing their children to have a natural attachment?  I can hazard a guess but genuinely, answers on a postcard please.

Similarly, why do we consider a baby waking in the night to be unusual, strange or a problem that needs to be fixed?  It is common.  So common to be considered normal I would even put forward.  It’s been documented that the vast majority of one-year-olds still wake regularly at night.  So why are we so focussed on the sleep patterns of babies?  Why is this biological disposition attributed the deciding factor of whether a child is ‘good’ (shudder)?

The second was while waiting in a queue at the post office.  A woman with a girl of around two-and-a-half was in the queue with her sister-in-law.  The sister-in-law was talking to a family friend.  The conversation went something like this:

“Yes, this is my niece Mia” gesticulating at child.  “She’s driving me mad today” (Annoying Aunt – or AA)

“oh” (embarrassed friend)

The friend tried to bend down to say hello to this child whom she clearly didn’t know, the child hid behind her mum’s legs.

This prompted AA to launch a tirade of aggressive ‘advice’ against the poor mother.  Was Mia always like this?  Answer, no she’s fine at home and with people she knows.  Well she needs to get out!  She needs to socialise.  She needs to go to nursery.  Her mother is stifling her development.  She can’t stay home all the time, clearly she can’t cope in the real world.  She needs to mix with other people without her mother…. etc. etc.  And on and on. 

Clearly AA had no children.  She was young, and yes, clearly an idiot.  But by no means is this an isolated incident.  I’m sure we all hear and meet people like this all the time.  But where has it come from?  This strange and consuming idea that young children need to socialise away from their primary carers in order to develop properly. 

Just a few minutes of thought would render the very idea ridiculous and unworthy of any more consideration.  And if a few minutes of thought are not available then the stack of evidence that ‘socialising away from a primary carer’ is harmful to young children should stamp out this loony theory for once and for all.  Yet, it is so incredibly persistant.  Everyone continues with this theory as if it’s sensible and obvious … why?  What do ‘we’ get out of it?  Obviously it frees up women to go into the labour market, and further provides lots of jobs to other – mainly – women.  Oh and lots and lots of opportunities for nursery owners to make a lot of money.  But surely this can’t be the only reason for ignoring facts, evidence and instinct.  Can it?

Assigning babies, toddlers and young children the ‘problem’ of being too attached to their parents or too clingy seems to be a national pastime.  I just can’t help wondering why? 

It seems as clear as day to me that a baby and/ or young child needs to be raised by one primary carer.  This person is his or her rock.  They provide safety and security – a soft place to land.  The child knows this person and is utterly confident in their love.  They know that they are always safe when this primary carer is around.  And if this person suddenly disappears then surely a normal reaction is anxiety until they reappear?  Until such time as the child knows that this person will always reappear.  

Surely anyone knows in their heart that this is right and good.  Compare to a young baby or child who is left with a wide variety of people and has no strong attachment to anybody.  Yes, aren’t they ‘good’.  They can be left anywhere, with anyone.  They never cry.  This child never feels safe, they don’t have a soft place to land.  We know from scientific studies that these children have abnormally high levels of cortisol in their bodies which set the ‘normal’ level for the rest of their lives at a level that is too high.  This causes them difficulties for life which include attention-seeking behaviour, risk-seeking behaviour and relationship problems.  (Check out my shop for the Margot Sunderland book which contains all the evidence and scientific data that proves this pretty convincingly.)

Would anyone honestly choose an unattached childhood for their child if they knew the lifelong consequences?  Would anyone actually think that a child could be too attached or that a normal attachment could damage a baby?  I hope not, but I fear so.  Such is the crazy world we appear to inhabit.

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Thinktank DEMOS got quite a lot of publicity yesterday for it’s new report entitled ‘Building Character written by Jen Lexmond and Richard Reeves.

Building Character was funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and included such names as Penelope Leach and Penny Mansfield on the advisory board.  The EHRC commissioned DEMOS to undertake research into the development of character capabilities contributing to ‘life chances’ and factors influencing the development.

The methodology looks pretty robust.  They reviewed up-to-date literature, carried out a new statistical analysis of the Millenium Cohort Study and analysed policy initiatives.  The statistical analysis looked at information given by over 15,000 families.

The report first of all defines ‘important character capabilities’ which include empath, agency (locus of control), responsibility and self-regulation.  The authors state that these should be considered ‘hard skills’ if the definition of hard and soft skills is actually useful, which they doubt.

They go on to divide parents up into 4 groups:

  1. Tough love.  Parents are attached, warm and loving and ‘high control’ more rules, consistently enforced..
  2. Laissez-Faire.  Parents are attached, warm and loving and ‘low control’ have fewer rules/more variably enforced.
  3. Authoritarian.  Parents are not attached, have ‘low warmth’ and ‘high control’.
  4. Disengaged.  Parents are ‘low warmth’ and ‘low control’.

They then also look at parents capabilities, self esteem and so on.  They look at how children’s character develops in relation to the above style of parenting.  They also compare all the usual ‘risk’ factors such as low income, family make-up, employment, ethnicity and so on.

I think the findings are remarkable.  In virtually all cases, allowing for the capabilities of the parents the ‘risk factors’ become negligible.  The style of parenting is the most important factor in how children develop these ‘hard’ life skills.  Children of ‘tough love’ and ‘Laissez Faire’ parents develop character far better when all factors are taken into account than authoritarian and disengaged.  Children of Tough Love parents do significantly better and children of Disengaged parents do worse of all.

This is probably hardly surprising but it does bring about some interesting thoughts.  All the money being poored into providing childcare, welfare-to -work, reducing teenage pregnancies and so on is seemingly wasted.  In actual fact having working or young parents makes no difference to outcomes for children.  It is the style of parenting that is all important.

Demos make a very convincing case for refocussing public spending and energy on providing parenting skills and support to impact on the style of parenting.

There is really far too much information in this report to summarise in a blog post, but I’ve hopefully whetted your appetite enough to go and read for yourself.  If not, here are some quotes from the report which might convince you!  Check out the Breastfeeding one – one of my favourites 🙂

An analysis undertaken by Kiernan of the MCS found that family status was only very weakly associated with children’s development, once other factors – like poverty, maternal depression and so on – were controlled for.

When we control for other characteristics – namely parental style and parental confidence – the relationship between family structure and child outcomes disappears almost entirely.

Crucially, the outcomes for children of lone parents and step-parents are explained by the differences in other family characteristics such as parental confidence and self esteem; being a lone parent or a step-parent does not adversely affect child outcomes in itself.

There is a strong association between children’s development of character capabilities and breast-feeding to six months. This effect remains even after controlling for all other variables in the model, including primary carer attachment

There is no connection between paid employment on the part of either the main carer, or the second parent, and the development of character capabilities in children.

Parental disability and parental ethnic background are associated with significantly different outcomes for children at age five, but all differences are outweighed when parental ability was taken into account.

Now, I’m off to peruse the rest of the DEMOS website as this report is pretty good in my opinion.  Just wonder… is anyone going to listen?

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While writing a guest blog post for My Zero Waste it struck me again how having a baby has become such a huge consumer and marketing event over recent years.Expensive baby?

Even 14 years ago when I had my first baby, the range of products was tiny compared to those that new parents are bombarded with now.

The undesirable side effects of this at first thought are pollution, waste and the financial burden on families at what is already often an overstretched time.  However, dig a little deeper and another worrying idea emerges.

Every time new parents see a ‘vital’ piece of equipment such as a playpen, nursery swing, pushchair, steriliser or baby monitor does it chip away at the value of the parent?  Here is a piece of equipment that only costs X amount, yet will do the job of nurturing, feeding or being with your baby as well as you can.

Is it any wonder that the role of full time mother or father is so undervalued?  Apparently we can replace them so easily and so relatively cheaply.

We see women who have no money spending what precious little they do have on the newest pushchair or designer clothes for their babies.  Instead of pointing the finger and criticising, maybe we should look again with a caring eye at the reasons why.

These mothers are so often criticised for not being ‘good enough’, for having children too young or without the money to support them.  When we as a society value ‘things’ over ‘parents’ then it is not too difficult to see why anyone struggling with money would buy ‘things’ to show that their baby is not going without, despite what people think.

If we valued the role of mothers and fathers sufficiently then maybe everybody could see this stuff for what it is – a marketers dream.  An unnecessary mountain of items that no baby would choose over their parent’s loving arms and a smiling, interested face.

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