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Kids not listening? They might be craving a deeper connection—to you

You cannot truly care for a child who has not given their heart to you.

Kids not listening? They might be craving a deeper connection—to you

A father sat in my office, visibly upset that his 7-year-old son wasn’t listening to him. He recounted challenge after challenge with his son, from leaving the park to getting dressed in the morning, from eruptions of frustration to bedtime battles.


Exasperated, the father looked at me and asked, “Why would any child follow any parent in the first place?” It was a good question and one I couldn’t answer without making sense of attachment first.

Attachment science is the name given to the study of human relationships. Attachment is how we root our children to a secure base, create a sense of belonging and significance, and nourish them.

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What the father of the 7-year old boy didn’t understand was that all of the unrelated challenges he was having with his son stemmed from his relationship with him. Focusing on his son’s behavior would not reveal the answers he needed—it was when he started to understand what happened to their relationship that he could start to make headway with him.

Here are five crucial things to understand about attachment:

1. Understand that attachment is a two-way street

When parents consider how strong their attachment is with a child, they often reflect on how much they love their child or want to be around them. But attachment is not just a matter for the parent but for a child too.

We often fail to take a step back and consider whether a child is attached to their parent and if so—how deeply?

Without a strong relationship there is little capacity for a parent to harness a child’s instincts to follow, obey and adopt the same values, or seek help from their adults.Instead of being able to lead a child, a parent may face constant eruptions of frustration, resistance and opposition, as well as bossy and commanding behaviour.

When assessing how good our relationship is we should consider it through the eyes of our child. The answer for the father who asked me why a child would follow a parent was attachment. It is a child’s love for us that empowers us in our caretaking role.

You cannot truly care for a child who has not given their heart to you.

2. Realize that separation is the most impactful of all experiences

Attachment is the greatest need a child has. Therefore separation is one of the most impactful of all experiences. Separation is especially provocative for young children because of their immaturity and high dependency needs.

The experience of separation can stir up primal emotions in a child—hey may cling or clutch, erupt in frustration, or exhibit fear and anxiety, well after the separation has occurred.

The answer is to ensure wherever they go, they are attached to the adults who will care for them—from teachers to extended family members— is connection.

Connection is key when leaving them with others. Attachment and separation are two sides of the same coin, that is, our children only miss the people they desire to be close to. (Don’t we all?)

3. See your relationship as a shield to protect against emotional wounding

One of the challenges for kids is the range of emotions and feelings they experience, with the capacity to be hurt and wounded deeply. Being rejected, not loved or cared for, can be wounding to the heart, but this is offset by a caring relationship with an adult.

When a child cares more about what an adult sees in them, the wounding ways of their peers and other adults is less likely to hurt as deep.

The key to resilience and surviving stress and adversity in kids relies on the availability of at least one strong caring emotionally available adult who can comfort, provide a sense of consistency, warmth and guidance, and who will invite tears or sadness when necessary.

The reason children need to be attached to adults is that it gives that adult the capacity to preserve and protect the emotional health in a child.

4. Consider the instinct to detach instead of attach

Just as human beings come with instincts to seek connection with others, they also come with instincts to detach when the threat of separation or wounding is present. If caring about someone or something sets you up to get hurt, the brain can reverse the attachment instincts and lead the child to push away from that adult.

For example, the father in my office discussed how his son held him in contempt, did the opposite of what he was told, mocked, defied, countered, or talked back, or in other words—parenting had become a nightmare.

When a child detaches, the type of behavior that ensues can be very difficult to manage and usually creates more separation between the adult and the child. The goal is to focus on restoring the relationship while at the same time, having to deal with behaviour that is challenging and provocative.

5. And don’t forget about the depersonalization of attachment

Attachments can become depersonalized, meaning that instead of seeking contact and closeness, there is a turn to less personal forms of connection. Someone could move to collect belongings rather than seek a sense of belonging to someone. Someone could seek significance in groups, workplaces, through their constant achievements or striving, or through social media—all of which are one step removed from a close social bond with an individual.

Depersonalized attachments are an attempt by the brain to move someone towards connecting with others, but in ways that are less vulnerable and provide a buffer zone against the potential wounding from separation.

It is too often the case that when our children act in ways that defy understanding or are uncivilized, we are quick to focus directly on their behavior. What gets missed is that the child’s attachment needs and the emotional issues that drive the most problematic behavior.

While we cannot condone uncivilized behaviour from our kids, we can move to protect the relationship as well as use it to help influence and guide a child in a different direction.

If we treated the biggest problems we have with our kids as attachment issues, we would likely be closer to the root cause, and closer to making headway in the right direction with them.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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