Attachment based parenting means that you become a model for your child’s future relationships, by helping them feel accepted and secure in connecting with you as parent, and eventually with others. It essentially entails giving your child a blueprint of how a relationship should be.
Daniel Huges (2009) established the PACE approach, which parents can use to form a stronger bond with their child, in order to enhance the secure attachment. PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.
The idea around attachment parenting is that, in following this approach, a child can feel safe and understood, and are then more likely to be influenced by parental rules. This is not about throwing rules out the window, but rather about also being approachable and relatable, whilst being firm with your child.
How to implement the PACE approach:
- Be attuned to your child and include some playfulness, laughing, and humour.
- In everyday life, the family relationship and interactions have a lightness and openness. Enjoy each other’s company.
- Admit mistakes and be able to share your learnings, including having a laugh at yourself as parent.
- Try to keep things light. Maintaining a playful attitude makes defensiveness less likely when addressing misbehavior.
- Be unconditionally accepting, including accepting a full range of emotional expressions from your child.
- Accept your child beyond their behaviors. By separating behaviour from the child, parents can address the behaviour whilst accepting the person.
- Discipline works better when brief expressions of anger are directed at the behaviour, and is followed up by comfort, support and repair to the relationship.
- Safeguard the relationship. Attachment is compromised when the relationship itself is used to discipline i.e. a parent withdraws. This can lead to future behavioral problems.
- Do not let assumptions replace curiosity about your child.
- Discover the “Why” by being non-judgmental and curious about their thoughts, feelings and intentions.
- Truly listen to your child. Remember, they can read your body language, so be available and open-minded.
- Help a child feel understood, comforted and heard, without minimizing or solving the problem for the child.
- If an event was stressful for a child, the parent’s emotional presence reduces the child’s stress. The parent helps to hold part of it, so that the child can experience their empathy, and be better able to manage stressful situations without becoming dysregulated.
- It is important for a parent to be comfortable with the emotions that the child is experiencing.
- A parent’s empathy for the child helps him have empathy for himself.
- If we have experienced empathy from our parents, it is easier to show empathy for other children.
By Marilise Nel – Counselling Psychologist