Research out of Notre Dame yesterday tells us that if we stick to the parenting practices of our early ancestors, our kids will be moral, compassionate, well-regulated little people.
Three studies report, after looking at young children in observational and longitudinal research, that those who were parented in ways resembling our hunter-gathering ancestors were better adjusted, and had more self-control and empathy for others.
What recommendations did the researchers make, besides to breastfeed for 2 to 5 years and sleep with your baby?
1. Constant touch — lots of positive touch and holding. No spanking.
2. Prompt responses when baby is upset. You can’t “spoil” a baby.
3. Breastfeed for 2 to 5 years. The child’s immune system is still growing until they are 6.
4. Multiple adult caregivers. Lots of people to trust.
5. Lots of free play with multi-age playmates.
6. Natural childbirth.
I think it’s a great list. Here’s the thing. I truly believe that being responsive and tuned-in to our kids — smiling, laughing, and touching — is our most important job as parents. But I’m highly skeptical of anyone who tells me exactly how to attach to my child. Attachment is an innate, biological drive, and it unfolds differently in every family. It happens when we’re not looking, in all the subtle day-to-day interactions we have with our kids. The tickling, jokes, walks, story times. It’s not about slings versus strollers.
I hold sleep in high priority, for example. So, quite unlike a cave-family’s sleeping arrangements, my son slumbers in his room — no exceptions. But when he wakes up in the morning, I bring him into bed and we talk and cuddle — bond-forming oxytocin and all.
So I’m all for emulating early humans — I personally loved wearing my son (to the point of back strain), and I took breastfeeding so seriously it felt like my full time job. As I said in the recent science column, Attachment Parenting Made Easier, I just think we have a misconception about what attachment really means, and it leads to judging and the feeling many parents have that they can never get it right.
By the way, if anyone can get their hands on the original studies (not the press-release version circulating the internet), please share.
Image: Flickr/Clara S.
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