A friend (and parent) recently recommended a book to me on attachment parenting. Very interesting.
I expect that you’ve heard the story that ducks will follow you around for life, if you’re the first thing they see when they’re born. Well, the theory is that humans are a bit like these ducks: We instinctively need other humans to be attached to, and it’s a strong instinct.
Until the last few generations, a child’s strongest attachment was to her parents. It was a “parent-oriented” culture. Perhaps the 1960s marked a turning point in which kids became closer to their friends than their parents. It became a “peer-oriented” culture. An advantage of a parent-oriented culture is that kids are close to loved ones who are looking out for them. A 12-year-old’s friends might satisfy his need for attachment, but they’re not going to make sure that he’s eating well.
The book my friend recommended is called Hold On To Your Kids. It says that we must not accept this new culture: If we let our kids go free, they’ll be drawn to empty attachments.
While much of the book resonated with me (my youth group has strong peer-attachments), I’m disinclined to fight reality, and the reality is that in today’s world, kids have more freedom. In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote this about electronic (social) media bringing people together: “Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the teenager. They can no longer be contained.” That’s a slight paraphrase.
Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message. When the medium is social media, the message is that kids will be connected to other kids.
At Reach, your kids will make strong connections with other kids. Reach is essentially a community of children (with a few adults around). A Sudbury parent recently wrote this: ”His time at school is HIS time. No judgement.”
He also wrote this: “Schools don’t raise kids, families do.” We don’t set out to bring you closer to your kids (Check out Alpha for comparison, where parents are very welcome at school), however parents often report that they do get closer to their kids when their kids switch to a Sudbury school. I think it’s because natural adult-child conflict is often misdiagnosed at other schools. As the attachment parenting book says, a relationship problem is often diagnosed as a behaviour problem.
The Jeff Bliss viral video shows a student misbehaving, clearly misbehaving, but is it a behaviour problem? The adult thought so, and the adult is now on leave. It’s a relationship problem: The student is in a school in which adults have power over kids, and they’re not using it well. At Sudbury schools, adults have power, plenty of power, but it’s “power with” or “power to”, not “power over”.
Sudbury schools don’t have the “behaviour problems” that stem from structural inequality, which means that there isn’t such an impetus for relationship problems with adults, whether staff or parents.
By all means, hold on to your babies and toddlers. Nurture that early attachment. But at school age, let go, for a few hours a day, and I expect that they’ll be more likely to come home and hold you. As a future parent, healthy attachments are important to me, both at school and at home.