Last week, I was contacted by the producers from Dr. Phil and asked if I would be willing to appear on the show as a parenting expert to discuss some of the controversies surrounding extreme attachment parenting and to provide some of the hard science that the research in developmental psychology shows about the potential risks this form of extreme parenting has on subsequent development. I gladly accepted their offer. I’m always eager for the opportunity to be able to set the record straight whenever bogus propositions are being presented as fact. Attachment parenting is one of those instances.
They went on to tell me that Jamie Grumet would be one of the featured guests. I’ve never made it any secret that I think she made a very poor parenting choice in choosing to exploit her son in that manner. In addition, I think she succeeded in perpetuating all of the stereotypes and stigmas that stand in the way of women breastfeeding. Would I be able to talk about the effects of this exploitation on the show? Again, the answer was yes.
However, when we showed up on the set this morning the producer informed us that Jamie had cancelled her appearance on the show. Jamie recently returned from being out of the country and had gotten very ill (side note: I hope she feels better soon and that her illness is not serious). What this meant was that the show went on to Plan B.
Plan B meant a lot less talking about attachment parenting and a bit more talking about some of the other controversial parenting techniques that are out there as well. The piece on attachment parenting was only a small piece of the rest of the show. It was really interesting to be a part of an active dialogue between so many opposing viewpoints of parenting. My favorite moment was being able to point out to Dr. Sears that the studies he was citing were being misrepresented and having Dr. Phil agree with me. Oh, and having an enmeshed grandmother call Dr. Phil a quack was a highlight as well.
But, there was a lot that I didn’t get to say. There was more I wish I would have been able to say. Most of you know that my posts have been a bit slow lately given that we had a recent death in our family and other life situations that presented themselves. I thought I’d put my Mommy Psychologist hat back on and take some time to identify the problems inherent in the attachment parenting philosophy. Warning: This may take a few days. So if you are sick of attachment parenting, check back in a few days and I’m sure I will have moved on.
One of the things that I said on the show this morning was that attachment parenting is a demonstration of self centeredness at it’s worst that is misrepresented as loving parenting. Why do I say this? Because it is a parenting approach that focuses almost exclusively on the relationship between the mother and the child. The father is almost non-existent in the equation. If you read the literature you see it everywhere: mother, mother, mother. Where’s the father? What about dad?
It makes the assumption over and over again that the bond between the mother and the child is the most important bond in the child’s life. This simply isn’t true. Parenthood is plural. It is a dual relationship not an exclusive relationship. Any style of parenting that leaves out the other parent in regards to the child’s development is incomplete and insufficient.
It makes sense that there is this glaring hole in the theory, though, given Dr. Sears’ background (Bill, the founder. Not his son). Dr. Bill Sears had a father who left when he was only a month old and he was raised by a single mother. It’s not surprising at all that the theory of parenting he developed is devoid of a father.
I’m thinking we should change the name from Attachment Parenting to Attachment Mothering. It seems it would be a better fit.