Attachment based parenting consists of four distinct pillars that help kids develop healthy relationships with their parents and other adults. Kids who believe their parents are safe people to talk to and be around, feel seen and understood by their parents, and are soothed instead of ignored when they do have problems develop a secure attachment to their parents that builds their resilience and helps them succeed in life. Although it is important to remember that no parent will perfectly reach these ideals and mistakes will always be made, solid attachment based parenting ensures kids that you will be there to support them when they need it.
So, what are the 4 pillars of attachment based parenting? These are mildly adapted from Dr Dan Siegel, one of the leading authorities on attachment science and relationships.
First and foremost, attachment based parenting is built on making sure our kids have what they need to survive and thrive. Protecting children and helping them form healthy relationships with parents and other adults, rather than fearing them, helps kids feel safe at home, at school, and in life. Misguided attempts at having difficult conversations while parents are still angry can inadvertently trigger a fear response, and seeing parents as people to be feared instead of to attach to can confuse kids and cause them to want to avoid talking to their parents about problems in the future.
Kids need to know that their parents understand what they are thinking, rather than only what they physically see. It is important to remember that kids view many situations differently than adults do, and letting them know that you “see” what they feel helps them learn to think about what they are feeling and feel secure in knowing that you are willing to understand what they are thinking about. This “mindsight” helps kids improve their ability to manage their emotions in a healthy way to build their resilience and ability to relate to others.
This pillar emphasizes the importance of letting kids know their feelings are valid. By taking the time to deeply listen to what your kids want to tell you, rather than simply hearing it, you can respond calmly and rationally. Being a dependable parent that your kids know they can count on to be there to support and soothe them when they need it helps them develop the ability to work through minor problems on their own instead of always having to ask for help or needing another person to help them feel better. It also reassures them that you will be willing to listen when they do have significant problems they need help with.
Supported & Challenged
Finally, children must feel supported and challenged. Support means the parent believes in who the child fundamentally is. Challenged means that the parent can hold consistent boundaries as well as pushing children to stretch their comfort zones and grow in every area of their life.
Secure relationships between parents and children build trust and strong communication that allow families to work through problems together. No parent will get everything right all the time. However, admitting and reflecting upon mistakes helps kids understand that missteps in these areas do not have to lead to fear and keeps the lines of communication open to talk about future misunderstandings before they become bigger problems.
At The Relationship School, we prioritize helping parents learn to develop healthy attachment based relationships with their children. Kids who feel safe, seen, soothed, and supported and challenged (the 4 pillars of secure attachment) develop security in who they are and in their relationships with their parents, which helps them build resilience, confidence, and the ability to form healthy relationships with others in the future. This model also helps them develop the ability to calmly discuss mistakes in these areas and other problems, rather than automatically getting defensive or excessively angry.
Contact us today to learn more about building healthy attachment based relationships with your kids!
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