This
content is provided in conjunction with This Emotional Life’s Early Moments Matter
initiative. Early Moments Matter is dedicated to making sure that every child
has the best possible chance at emotional well-being. Find out how to receive
the Early Moments
Matter tool kit
and provide one to a family in need.

Co-authored with Barbara Nicholson

This
content is provided in conjunction with This Emotional Life’s Early Moments Matter
initiative. Early Moments Matter is dedicated to making sure that every child
has the best possible chance at emotional well-being. Find out how to receive
the Early Moments
Matter tool kit
and provide one to a family in need.

Co-authored with Barbara Nicholson

For nearly twenty years we have been teaching and
disseminating the message of the importance of the parent and child attachment
relationship. We are mothers, we are teachers, we are advocates and we are
activists for children and their families.

What we have learned we can sum up very simply: attachment
is everything.

The attachment relationship (or lack of) is the pivotal relationship that can
determine who we become as adults, how we interact with our fellow human beings
and other living things. Whether we feel love, trust, affection, empathy or
compassion for others is determined by our early childhood experiences and how
those repeated experiences wired our brains.

Neuroscience
researcher Dr. Bruce Perry wrote that “The most important property of humankind
is the capacity to form and maintain relationships. These relationships are
absolutely necessary for any of us to survive, learn, work, love and procreate.
Human relationships take many forms but the most intense, most pleasurable, and
most painful are those relationships with family, friends and loved ones.
Within the inner circle of intimate relationships we are bonded to each other
with ‘emotional glue’ – bonded with love.”

“The
most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain
relationships.”

As
parents, we’re given mixed messages:

“Don’t
spoil”

“Children
are resilient”

“Children
manipulate”

“Children
need to learn to be independent”

“Toughen
up your kids because they need to learn how to live in the real world”

“Children
shouldn’t cling, cry, or need…”

“Children
won’t remember…” 

All
of these messages create fear-based parenting attitudes and emotional
disconnection. When we become adults, we often treat others the way we were
treated. Nearly half of us may learn that love is conditional, transient and
painful.

Cutting-edge
attachment research, supported by recent studies in genetic and neuroscience,
has now made a proverbial crack in the ceiling of myths and misconceptions that
we understand or think we know about children. Neuroscience tells us that
without consistent early nurturance and loving care, the frontal lobes of the
brain will not develop fully, disrupting emotional development. The prefrontal
cortex (the part of the brain above the eyes) is the last part of the brain to
develop in a child, which happens around four to five years of age. The
capacities for empathy, reasoning, impulse control are housed in this section
of the brain. Children who have been abused or neglected (even benignly
neglected) will often struggle to feel empathy or compassion for others.

How
can children learn empathy when no one has empathized with them?

Harsh
discipline and negative attitudes toward a child weaken the emotional
connections between parents and children. The stress of these experiences will
flood a child’s brain with the stress hormone cortisol that can, over time,
have significant long-term effects such as aggression, anger and violence. In
fact, children who bully other children at school have often been found to be
bullied at home by parents or other adults. Harvard researcher Dr. Martin
Teicher wrote “Stress sculpts the brain to exhibit various antisocial, though
adaptive, behaviors.”

As mothers and as educators, we have devoted our lives to
supporting parents and disseminating the findings of all this incredible new
research into the hands of parents and child advocates. We don’t have to feel
clueless and helpless when it comes to caring for our own children; we don’t
have to rely on the well-meaning, but misguided advice of others; we don’t have
to feel guilty for seeing the world through our child’s eyes and treating them
with the dignity and respect they deserve.

The research is unequivocal in supporting what our hearts
have told us all along;   yes, we can
pick up our crying baby, and yes, we can love our children deeply and
unabashedly, knowing that in doing so we are changing ourselves and the future
of our world.

Go to www.earlymomentsmatter.org
to learn about attachment and to get an award-winning toolkit that introduces
ways in which parents and caregivers can help their children build secure
attachments.

Lysa
Parker, MS, CFLE, CEIM and Barbara Nicholson MEd, CEIM
are
the cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and the co-authors of Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven
Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children

(iUniverse, 2009) Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker have committed their lives
to working with parent-child relationship issues and are the recognized
authorities on attachment parenting. 
They have been featured in national and regional publications including,
Newsday, Child Magazine, Mothering
Magazine, Natural Life Magazine, Washington Post, Seattle’s Child, Today’s
Parents
, Westchester Parent, and Charlotte Parent, as well as many
international publications.  They are
frequent guests on national, international, and local radio and TV programs. Attached at the Heart won the 2009 Book
of the Year Gold Award from ForeWord magazine.

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