“So, what do you think of attachment parenting?”
My inquisitor was a 30-something mom. I sensed she was testing me, trying to determine whether I was worth her time.
“Not much,” I said. “I don’t see any objective research that would verify any short- or long-term benefits; therefore, I don’t think the effort — on the part of the mother, primarily if not exclusively — pays off.”
“Well, I disagree,” she replied. “I practice attachment parenting and I see lots of benefit.”
“Uh ... to both me and my child.”
“How many kids do you have?”
“He’s my first.”
“So you have no control group or other point of comparison.”
“Maybe not,” she said, bristling, “but I have a right to raise my child any way I choose.”
“Actually, no, you don’t.”
“Well, isn’t that narrow-minded of you!” At which she stormed off.
Yes, it is narrow-minded of me. If one’s thinking doesn’t “narrow” as one grows older, then one is simply not paying attention, much less truly growing.
Anyone who thinks she is entitled to raise a child any way she chooses is wrong. In the raising of a child, one has an obligation to one’s neighbors, broadly defined. That obligation overrides one’s obligation to one’s child, in fact.
Furthermore, the parent who understands and practices what I just said is going to do a much, much better job than the parent who believes his or her child is the beginning and end of their obligation. The child who learns, early on, that he is not worthy of being the center of attention, that the world does not revolve around him, is going to be a much happier camper than the child who is caused to believe otherwise.
Another way of saying the same thing: Esteem of self — once known as pride — makes only ONE person’s world go around. Humility — a willingness to serve others, no matter the inconvenience — is what glues culture together. Humbleness also makes for the highest level of personal satisfaction.
For those reasons, the highest of all child-rearing goals is to raise a humble child. There are not multiple, equally viable ways of accomplishing that. There is one. Therefore, there is one proper way to raise a child and the Almighty YOU do not have a “right” — self-conferred, of course — to raise YOUR child any old way YOU choose.
That is narcissism, plainly speaking. It could be argued that one has a right to be a narcissist, but if so, the right ends when one’s self-absorption impacts another person. The only functional narcissist is a hermit.
Attachment parenting is the latest postmodern parenting aberration. Women who have practiced it and then escaped its cultlike grip attest that there is no way a child so idolized can draw any conclusion other than that his needs surpass everyone else’s. It is HUMANism pushed to a pathological extreme, the epitome of not understanding that the proper raising of a child is an act of love for one’s neighbors.
It’s quite simple, actually: By keeping one’s obligation to one’s neighbors uppermost in mind, one will do the very best job of raising a child. When said child finally realizes why he’s so happy, he will not be able to thank you enough.
Rosemond is a family psychologist in North Carolina. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.