Misconceptions about Attachment Parenting

Dancing with Dr. Phil

The Call That Started it All

Author: Korenna Barto


Last week I got a call from producers at NBC asking if I was interested in appearing on the Dr Phil show. They said they were doing a show entitled “Extreme Parenting” and wanted to include Attachment Parenting.  Knowing all-too-much about the aftermath Breastfeeding Momma Jamie Grumet experienced following her recent TIME magazine cover story, I was a bit wary.  Well, after a 30 minute interview with assistant producers I was told I wasn’t “AP enough” for what they were looking for and asked if I could refer them to families where:
  • Moms had never left their kids alone with anyone else, not even Dad, EVER.
  • Parents whose marriages were in danger due to extended breastfeeding or the “family bed”
  • Parents who are committed to never saying no to their kids
You get the idea.
My response was a resounding “NO!”  And, at my husband’s urging, I let the producer know that I couldn’t refer them anyone like this because these are not healthy examples of AP! I informed her that, while I was sad not to participate in this amazing opportunity to bring Attachment Parenting to a national audience, it seemed they were more interested in sensationalism and shock value rather than educating the public about AP, and I simply could not support that.It seemed my rant paid off, because a week later I got a call from Dr Phil’s executive producer asking me if I’d come on the show as a Psychologist & Parenting Expert an help dispel the myths about AP.Yay!!!  I’d LOVE to do that… I was still wary about the possibility of their underlying intentions, but I agreed to go.

Look, The Way You Parent Your Kid Really Pisses me Off… So STOP It!

Yah, that about sums it up…  I was right to be wary.Upon arriving at Paramount Studios, I was ushered into a golf cart and wisked off to meet with Dr Phil’s people.  Soon, I joined a group of five (yes, you read that FIVE) feisty women who were there to speak out against Attachment Parenting.Interestingly enough, when they found out I was the API Representative sent to.speak out in favor of AP they treated me like I had the plague. No joke, Mammas, one even got up and moved across the room!
The 6 of us spent just under an hour in various green rooms & waiting areas before we we ushered into the audience, and you’d better believe I took that opportunity to listen to their concerns & offer education where I could!And, guess what!?!  The things that had these women outraged were the very same misconceptions that the shows producers were looking to highlight. In fact, I don’t think any one of these women had seen, or heard of, a healthy example of AP at all.

The spunky blond was a “mainstream mom” and a pre-school teacher. She emailed the show to complain about an “Attachment Mom” who insists her son not be “made to do anything he doesn’t want to do” e.g. If he doesn’t want to leave his desk to join the circle for story time, t accommodate that. And that was just one of the four stories she managed to spew at me before we were moved to another room.  No wonder this poor teacher is pissed!The tall, fashionable one was child psychologist. She was appalled by the AP parents who “force” their children to share beds with them, and very concerned that the AP philosophy fails to teach children about limits & boundaries.I have to admit, Mammas, none of these criticisms were new to me. A-N-D I have personally met parents who have done & said similar things, all the while calling themselves “AP”  But, guess what!  These extreme examples are no more an example of Attachment Parenting than the acts of Westboro Baptist Church are an example of the tenets of the Baptist Faith.  Unfortunately , Dr. Phil wasn’t interested in hearing this.

Reality TV – Where Rationality is Outlawed and Sensationalism Sells


So, the show finally starts, and thankfully, I’m joined by AP’s heir apparent (and my knight in shiny white lab coat) Dr. Jim Sears. The Six Angry Mom’s were joined by their own defender – The ever-cranky editor-with-an-ax-to-grind: Hara Estroff Marano. For an added degree of difficulty, the original guest – TIME Magazine cover Mommy Jamie Grumet, backed out at the last minute and the producers filled her spot with a sweet but extreme example of permissive parenting in AP clothing.
I think Dr. Sears and I did a great job bringing a hint of reality and rationalism to the Dr. Phil – fueled anti-AP barrage that flowed freely on that stage…  Just like we do with our kids, we addressed each (outlandish) concern with respect & empathy. Stressing that AP is MUCH more than just breastfeeding, bed sharing, and babywearing. A fact that Dr Phil kept failing to integrate into his definition!  And that the tenets of AP include discipline, we just prefer a more positive, respectful approach to this task. I also tried to drive home that AP is not a check list or a set of rules, but rather a  set of tools & guidelines meant to help individuals parent from their hearts, as their instincts dictate. And that it is based in connection, respect & empathy, not permissiveness and entitlement.  Time after time we were cut short and scoffed off by the Texan-in-Command in favor of witty one liners and extreme examples that gave him an opportunity to show boat his repertoire of “Am I Right?!?!” faces. If you catch the show, watch for the African American mom with fabulous hair who thinks breastfeeding a toddler is “disgusting” because, and I quote “they got a full set of teeth!” I watched her practice that line (and the crowd-pleasing gestures & facial expression that accompanied it) in front of a mirror in the green room for several minutes. Perhaps I should have taken notes on how to get a daytime talk show to pay attention to her message!After what seemed like an excruciatingly long 2 hours, we were ushered  out of the studio & back to the green room. Dr Sears quipped that, while everything I said was wonderful, I shouldn’t be surprised if most of it ended up on the cutting room floor. Maybe I should have worked on my ‘I’m so outraged at your blatant stupidity’ faces… I’m sure they’d  have warranted some airtime!   
B-U-T, all was not lost, Mommas! Two of the Six Angry Moms approached me after the show and told me that I had opened their eyes (err, minds) about Attachment Parenting and that the AP I described not only seemed a drastic departure from what they had previously envisioned, it actually seemed powerful and something they could support.The Parenting Expert Formerly Against AP even took my information and suggested we keep in touch!So, Dr Phil may not be ready to stop parading sensationalism and mis-information across the airways, favoring ratings over educating the public about how to release the old adage that kids are noble savages that need to be shaped & controlled lest they run a muck in favor of  parenting from the heart…But least two strong opponents of AP left that studio better informed.

I can only hope other impassioned parents  in the audience did the same, because I fear Dr Sears is correct – most of the important, balanced information we offered about AP will end up edited out of the final show!I guess common sense just doesn’t pull ratings!