There’s nothing wrong with AP that a little Supernanny can’t fix

January 18, 2008 at 3:35 am 1 comment

In an ideal attachment-parenting world, loving guidance would be easy. We would prevent bad behaviour by ensuring our children had plenty of sleep, always ate nutritious food, had plenty of physical activity outside in the sunshine, while basking in our love and attention. Being realistic in our expectations of toddlers, our houses would be completely child proofed.

 As mothers, we would be calm, well rested, well nourished, and we would make sure to ‘take time out for ourselves’. We would be 100% supported not only by our partners, but by a wonderful village of like-minded friends, parents and in-laws. These same like-minded people would mirror our parenting approach, so that our children benefited from our consistency. 

And when our child’s behaviour did test the limits? Forget smacking, we wouldn’t need even need house rules or time out. The word ‘no’ would have no place in our house.  We would be able to use a combination of distraction, empathic listening skills, and assertive communication to enforce our boundaries in a loving and gentle way. As inspiring parents, we would tap into children’s intrinsic motivations, rather than using rewards and punishments. 

 Buoyed by reading wonderful writers like Alfie Kohn, Robin Grille and Jan Hunt, this was my fantasy of how life with my attachment-parented toddler would be. Fair to say, this didn’t last very long. 

 At 13 months, darling daughter developed a fascination with a free standing lamp in our living room. She wanted to swing on it, which risked the lamp and the glass surround crashing down on her. With no way of lighting the room without it, and with no easy way of child proofing it, we had to make it off limits. We tried the ‘distraction’ technique recommended by Dr Sears of removing her and then distracting her with toys. No luck – she was a moth to a flame. After a few days of that, we upped the ante. We tried ‘directive attention’ – ignoring her bad behaviour while playing loudly with her toys on the other side of the room, and making a special effort to give her loads of attention when she wasn’t at the lamp. Again, no luck. Daddy playing with the blocks was not nearly as interesting as that lamp. And after seeing the lamp come within centimeters of the wooden floor, we realized we had a problem.

 I’m not sure quite what a one year old’s intrinsic motivation for not swinging on the lamp was supposed to be. But we realized it was a major hazard, and our living room is now illuminated by the light of the TV.  At this point in time, I decided that unless I wanted to live at the local Playcentre, I probably needed some more tools in my parenting kit. 

So what were my options? Watching a rerun of Supernanny one night (I have a love-hate relationship with Jo Frost – but that’s for another post) I saw her teaching a mother how to use a low, authoritative tone. I saw her take the child off to the ‘chill out zone’, which I preferred to her usual ‘naughty spot’. I heard her explain the importance of consistency, calmly doing the same thing every single time. And I realized this was what my poor hubby had been trying to get me to do with darling daughter, while I was caught up in my AP dream. And, as much as part of me doesn’t want to admit it, we’ve found that scooping up darling daughter and popping her in the hallway works every time.  

Don’t get me wrong. The AP dream is still alive and well, and I want to keep working towards it. But I’m starting to really understand that my daughter needs boundaries, and she needs me to enforce them. It’s a pretty scary world otherwise.


Entry filed under: Parenting.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Megan  |  January 21, 2008 at 12:24 am

    AH yes I think this is something that a lot of AP’s forget and when we get to the point in the Sears books where they say our children need boundaries and discipline we kind of switch off because we’ve “read” “heard” all the other lovely stuff.
    I may be an AP mum but I’ve got a no nonsense side to me because its dangerous in our lives and homes a lot more that just walking in the park.
    Good work Mum
    And you don’t have to keep up with the Supernanny to do this


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