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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Time Magazine on Attachment Parenting


Family in nature

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But again, I have my strong doubts, as I believe strongly that discipline is essential in child-rearing and children should learn to go to sleep in their own beds at their parent’s direction.

But there are other reasons for my departure from Dr. Sears’ points of view. I have long maintained and written that the greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother, and that the greatest gift a mother can give her children is to love their father. What children need to see above all else is that love works. The two people who brought him or her into the world are attached through the universe’s strongest force, namely, love. Therefore, the birth of a child should be bringing a couple closer together and not making them feel separated by a baby.

Second, there is the general issue of a child learning that, slowly and gradually, he has his space and mommy and daddy have theirs. This is a very important lesson for the child to learn, for a number of reasons. First, the child must learn that he or she is an individual and that slowly, through separation and proper boundaries, they have their own existence, as do mommy and daddy. How could the child possibly develop in a healthy manner if it feels itself to be a limb of the mother? After all, the baby, in being born, has become a separate being from its mother. Clearly separation at the appropriate time, therefore, is a healthy thing. The key is balance.

I am a great believer in the Golden middle path in all things, as advocated by the great Jewish thinker Maimonides. Balance means finding the proper measure of being attached to our children on the one hand, and giving them their own individual identity on the other. At the appropriate age a child should know that when they are put in their bed at a certain hour, and after being soothed, rocked, and comforted, they should go to sleep. The fact that they cry does not mean that we should indulge them immediately, lest they use crying as a means by which to manipulate their parents. We want to avoid raising children who cry to get what they want instantly. Such children, most would believe, are spoiled, indulged, and slowly but surely become the masters of their parents. Though I accept that there are differing points of view, I cannot understand how this can be considered healthy for a baby. On the contrary, it is not the child who knows what is best for himself. Rather, it is the parent that knows what is best for the child. It is not the child who is supposed to rule the roost. Rather, it is the child who is supposed to listen to his or her parents.

However, Dr. Sears’ theory would have us believe that if a child cries, they all should be given what they want by being picked up. It seems to me that this is a recipe for spoiling children and robbing parents of downtime or peace.

My wife and I are blessed, thank God, with nine children. I believe, of course, in them being nurtured and feeling loved that all times. But I also believe in discipline and having the children listen when they are instructed by us. When they are supposed to go to bed, I believe they should go to bed. This does not mean they always listen. Indeed we sometimes find it challenging to put our youngest to sleep. But I do believe that a child learning to follow rules is an essential part of their education.

It seems to me that elements of attachment parenting are extreme and lack balance. And in the same way we should avoid religious extremism and political extremism, perhaps we ought to avoid parenting extremes as well. Inappropriate ‘helicopter parenting’ potentially snuffs out a child’s initiative, individuality, and sense of self. Attachment parenting runs the same risk. But here it is not just the child whose individuality is potentially compromised, but the parents as well. Families are well-integrated machines and they require balance above all else.

A family is comprised of individuals. And when individuality is compromised so is the family.

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About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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One Response to “Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Time Magazine on Attachment Parenting”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    After his article on Michael Jackson, I thought that there must be a cuckoo's nest nearby, but he appears back on track with this article, although all this psycobabble is only important to those who either have too much time on their hands, or whose children are naturally little darlings…like mine.

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