Attachment Parents, Go to Your Caves!

Julie Ryan Evans

cavemenCavemen often get a bad rap (just ask Geico), but when it comes to parenting, it turns out they and their cavewomen knew what they were doing.

Some new studies show that parenting like our hunter-gatherer ancestors can actually foster compassion and morals in our children.

So what does a good caveparent do?

Well, they look a lot like parents who practice attachment parenting.

According to a release in Science Daily, researchers identified six parenting practices our ancestors embraced that we should too:

  1. Lots of positive touch -- as in no spanking -- but nearly constant carrying, cuddling, and holding;
  2. Prompt response to baby's fusses and cries. You can't "spoil" a baby. This means meeting a child's needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. "Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant's brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world," Narvaez says.
  3. Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child's immune system isn't fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks.
  4. Multiple adult caregivers -- people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
  5. Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don't play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
  6. Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.

I love this because it just confirms what I wish I'd learned earlier as a parent -- that parenting by instinct is usually the best path. That even though a book may tell me to let my child scream for half an hour while my heart is breaking, I should just follow my heart and go pick him up.

And while sometimes attachment parenting gets a bad rap for being too indulgent or too hippy dippy or whatever else seems to rub people the wrong way about it, this study is a great bolster for those who make the commitment to raise their children in such a manner.

What's scary, however, is how few people do embrace these practices, and the study's author, Darcia Narvaez, minces no words about their negative effects.

"Ill advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms, or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will 'spoil' it," she said. "The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well being and a moral sense."

She goes on in the Science Daily article to talk about how these "ill-advised" behaviors may lead to today's problems of anxiety, depression, and criminality of our children.

While I think calling using formula "ill-advised" parenting is ill advice, and I'd take an epidural any day, she does make some great points and ones that every parent should consider as they raise their children.

Do you parent like a cavewoman?

Image via Orin Zebest/Flickr

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