Where's the line between AP and "smothering"? *see note added 02/02 - Mothering Forums
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Parenting > Where's the line between AP and "smothering"? *see note added 02/02
Bena's Avatar Bena 09:36 PM 01-30-2010
Note (added Feb.2)
My intention with this post was not to start a debate on my friend's specific actions (which is why I don't go in details), but about smothering in general. I only mention this friend as background to explain how I came about to wondering about this. I'm not implying that she is or is not smothering her child, I'm not in her shoes and cannot be a judge of that.

I'm curious about people's opinions.

Without going into details, I'm growing more and more uncomfortable by a friend's behaviour towards her 12 month old. She's often saying to people "We're doing AP", but I'm not so sure her behavior is about her son, but more about her own insecurity.

Of course, I don't think I'd ever bring this up with her...I'm not going to stick my nose in someone else's parenting.

But that did get me thinking about the line between AP and smothering (or helicopter parents, which, as a high-school teacher, I deal with too often, sadly)

I'm re-reading Dr. Sears' Baby book on AP, and he clearly states that AP is not smothering, and how smothering is damaging and more about the mother's (or father's) insecurity. I agree, but he doesn't go into details about where AP ends and smothering begins.

I'm curious about people's opinion!

Polliwog's Avatar Polliwog 09:39 PM 01-30-2010
I think it's hard to answer since you aren't giving any details about the situation.
Chamomile Girl's Avatar Chamomile Girl 09:40 PM 01-30-2010
I figure that AP is about responding to the needs of your child, while smothering is trying to make your child conform to your needs.

As another high school teacher I too have seen many examples of the second!
Sk8ermaiden's Avatar Sk8ermaiden 09:41 PM 01-30-2010
This is an interesting question, and I'm sure you'll get a hundred different answers.

To me, smothering, or helicopter parenting is when you you don't let your kids explore or be kids, parenting out of fear I guess, or a belief that they can't do anything without you.

AP is just being there when they need you. I guess I really don't see any real similarity between AP and smothering. I think you can have smothering parents who are totally un-AP and AP parents who smother...
Polliwog's Avatar Polliwog 09:48 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl View Post
I figure that AP is about responding to the needs of your child, while smothering is trying to make your child conform to your needs.

As another high school teacher I too have seen many examples of the second!
The child is 12 months old, so those are pretty intertwined.
Kuba'sMama's Avatar Kuba'sMama 09:49 PM 01-30-2010
Like the pp said, I don't really see any connection either. Smothering is not a healthy way to parent, and you can find smothering parents on either side of the spectrum. I don't think it has anything to do with AP or not.
AP is focused on breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping when desirable by everyone (ie. not forcing the older child to co-sleep when they want their own bed), baby wearing, but not when the child would rather run around and explore. So basically like pp said meeting the child's needs and not making the child meet your own.
Smothering has negative connotations to me, such as hovering over a happily playing child, spoon feeding and eager self feeder, dressing a child who wants and is ready to dress themselves, protecting the child from "dangers" which don't exist... etc, etc.
harrietsmama's Avatar harrietsmama 10:18 PM 01-30-2010
As a recovering helicopter parent, I think at 12 mos it is a very fine line. I never did the scoop 'em up and oh poor baby when they fell or anything, which I think is smothering - let them decide first if they are actually hurt, then comfort them. Otherwise, oh, you fell down. But now that mine are a little older, I have to try hard not to be right over them in the pool for example at my Aunt's house(they are 8 &10, and non-swimmers) - there are 15 or so adults right around the pool plus several swimming kids in the pool. I *can* just put them in a life jacket and let them figure out how to move around in the water, rather than stand by the pool wringing my hands and directing what they are doing. I am still struggling with the apron strings but I am trying
Grace and Granola's Avatar Grace and Granola 10:21 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba'sMama View Post
Like the pp said, I don't really see any connection either. Smothering is not a healthy way to parent, and you can find smothering parents on either side of the spectrum. I don't think it has anything to do with AP or not.
AP is focused on breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping when desirable by everyone (ie. not forcing the older child to co-sleep when they want their own bed), baby wearing, but not when the child would rather run around and explore. So basically like pp said meeting the child's needs and not making the child meet your own.
Smothering has negative connotations to me, such as hovering over a happily playing child, spoon feeding and eager self feeder, dressing a child who wants and is ready to dress themselves, protecting the child from "dangers" which don't exist... etc, etc.

zinemama's Avatar zinemama 10:22 PM 01-30-2010
Oh, I see the connection.

To me, it's when parents (usually mothers) won't let their children (babies/toddlers) be alone with anyone else, even the father in cases. Where they fall into the trap of feeling that only they can care for and meet every single one of their child's needs. Some have interpreted AP to mean they must wear the baby every moment for fear of not being sufficiently "attached" - whether or not the kid wants to be worn or in fact would rather be exploring and crawling around.

I think smothering - in some cases - is AP misinterpreted.
chfriend's Avatar chfriend 10:38 PM 01-30-2010
A 12 month old is a baby. A mother responding to a baby or a little kid has no relationship whatsoever to not allowing a high school aged person to grow up.

My older dd didn't even walk at 12 months. Me carrying her in the sling in a hip carry hasn't seemed to impede her progress as a 9 year old.
One_Girl's Avatar One_Girl 11:06 PM 01-30-2010
I don't think you can tell whether someone is crossing the line between AP and smothering when their child is so young, though I do agree with the pp who said that smothering can include not even letting the father meet the child's needs and wearing the baby when the baby wants to crawl around and explore. Kids change so rapidly at that age that it is hard to adjust quickly to their new abilities so sometimes it may look like smothering when really you are just starting to get used to your child's new abilities in a safe way. When you are a new mom you also tend to be overprotective and do to much a lot of times, but that evens out as your child grows. I have noticed that teachers tend to be very black and white about what they view as right and wrong parent interactions and I think you should ask yourself if you are judging her harshly because you assume that this is how the helicopter parents started out or if she is really smothering her one year old. If you were a teacher in an infant room then I think you would be coming from an informed place, but there are huge differences between infants and high school age children and a mother who seems to be smothering now is probably not going to be doing so a few years down the road, especially if she has more kids.
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 11:40 PM 01-30-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polliwog View Post
The child is 12 months old, so those are pretty intertwined.

annekh23's Avatar annekh23 11:55 PM 01-30-2010
If you have to justify your behaviour as because it's AP then I'd have to question the reasons. I don't justify anything I do by saying it's AP, it's because of a parenting style I subscribe to etc etc I just say I'm meeting her needs, if I get a response that suggests that I've misread a need, I'll consider it, I'm not perfect, if I get a response that says that need doesn't need to be met, I'll disagree, but unless I need to communicate strongly to someone to back off and name a parenting style to indicate that, then saying it's AP would seem quite defensive.

AP for one child is smothering for another, because AP is about needs not rules.
mamazee's Avatar mamazee 12:00 AM 01-31-2010
I am trying to picture what smotering a 12-month-old looks like, and I'm having trouble. More details would work.

I have known people who seem to go beyond AP in the name of AP. I know someone who refuses to drive the car if her baby dd doesn't seem to want to be in the car, even if a sibling misses something, even if they miss a doctor's appointment, no matter what. She calls that AP but I don't. I think you keep working to help the little one handle car rides, but you can't put the rest of the family's lives on hold until the baby hits 3 or whenever kids relax about the car. That's the closest I could think of, but I don't know if it falls under the category of smothering. I would just call it unrealistic or unfair to the other kids or somthing like that.

Making a kid co-sleep who doesn't want to co-sleep? Not letting other people ever hold or interact with the child for fear that would cause problems with the parental attachment? Withholding solids from a child who clearly wants them so they only breastfeed? I don't know. I guess maybe those kinds of things would qualify.
sapphire_chan's Avatar sapphire_chan 12:35 AM 01-31-2010
I think it's more common for people to be accused of smothering when they don't force a baby to go to other people or introduce solids at 4 months or make the kid cry to sleep.

that said, it is weird that she'd say it was because of AP and not just that it was right for her child. That might actually be the line right there
Bena's Avatar Bena 12:45 AM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba'sMama View Post
So basically like pp said meeting the child's needs and not making the child meet your own.
Smothering has negative connotations to me, such as hovering over a happily playing child, spoon feeding and eager self feeder, dressing a child who wants and is ready to dress themselves, protecting the child from "dangers" which don't exist... etc, etc.
My feelings exactly.

This post comes from the fact that I've noticed some of these exact behaviors with my friend, and it makes me uncomfortable...(for ex:she spoonfeeds him, claiming he won't eat by himself, but I've seen him play with a spoon and bring it to his mouth; another time, we went to a playgroup and she held on to him though he was wiggling to get to a toy; and last week, at my house, I gave him a stacking tower and she sat on the floor next to him and "showed" him how to use it)

But, like I've mentionned in the original post, I'm not going to do anything about this, as I don't think it's any of my business...it just got me thinking.

The "smothering" vs "AP" is due to her "justification" of alot of her behavior on "We're doind AP". I completely agree that smothering can associated to any parenting philosophy.
As for the helicopter parent thing, I agree that a "smothering" parent does not necessarily become a helicopter parent later on, and I'm sorry if it seems like that is what I implied. I do think, however, that they are similar behaviours, regardless of how you call it, and that it can hapen at any age (except, of course, in the case of young infants...but even though a 12 month old is still a baby, they are at an age where they do have abilities that they need to be allowed to develop, andI think smothering happens when we get in the way of these abilities, IMO)
alegna's Avatar alegna 01:06 AM 01-31-2010
I think they are totally different things. To me, AP is parenting in a manner to foster an appropriate attachment- wearing when baby wants, not forcing separation before baby is ready etc. For dd that meant that I didn't leave her with even dh until well into toddler-hood, that was dd. Ds was fine hanging out with dh by a few months and Grammy and Granddaddy by a year.

Smothering is *not* respecting your child's needs and appropriate development.

It is neither appropriate to force separation nor constant attachment.

-Angela
PlayaMama's Avatar PlayaMama 02:03 AM 01-31-2010
this is her first right? when i was a mom the first time around i really freaked out if my ds fussed in any way whatsoever and put the boob in his mouth at the slightest provocation because i didn't know what else to do. i also let him explore on his own (which it sounds like she's not doing) but i was afraid i'd damage him if i left him in another room and he started to worry.

the second time around, i know that i can have a minute to go pee if i need to and i don't have to nurse when i'm doing it. i'm more relaxed and i don't worry that my dd is going to become "unattached" if i don't respond to her within seconds any time she raises her voice.

i hope she'll relax a little bit as she grows as a mother. i did.
Tjej's Avatar Tjej 03:03 AM 01-31-2010
It sounds like she's a first time mom who is blaming her parenting choices on AP. Next time she does it, you could kindly and naively ask her how that particular behavior is a manifestation of AP.

The toy thing totally irks me when people do that - toys are for kids! I think it is a perfectionist tendancy that makes a person do that. Could be perfectionism in the feeding thing too. I consciously battle my perfectionism, so I STOP myself from doing these things.

Lap squirming, I'll give her my benefit of the doubt and say I've had to hold squirmy babies who seemed to want other things for reasons that would not be obviously apparent (the kid was really too tired to play and would be a bear if actually let down to play, for instance, but then again if I only had the one kid then I'd have just gone home).

Tjej
mata's Avatar mata 03:06 AM 01-31-2010
As the mother of a 10 and 6 year old, I long ago decided I prefer the term "intuitive parenting." For me it means putting aside ego, understanding my own unmet needs and not projecting those on my child, and really getting to know what they need most. Sometimes that happens seamlessly, sometimes I make mistakes. Smothering to me means a dependency is created.
lalemma's Avatar lalemma 03:26 AM 01-31-2010
"We're doing AP" always makes me think of Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go.

It seems pretty easy for some AP adherents to become smothery/helicopter parents. People who are terribly concerned about what kind of cracker the child might temporarily be exposed to at someone else's house. Or, their toddler hates their car seat, so they just stay home all the time, because ever letting your child cry is awful. Or dad isn't really allowed to parent his own baby, because he would inevitably get everything wrong.

But I don't know if that's AP Gone Wrong, or just that those people were kinda helicoptery anyway, and AP is just what they seized upon..?

I do think it can be pretty easy for people to get lost in being extremely child-centered. Unfortunately I think (online) communities of AP-minded types can be really supportive of a mom martyring herself for the cause, whether it's a sleeping situation that isn't working for anyone, or a child who's twiddling the other nipple while nursing... you can always find somebody who will tell you this is such a short time in their lives, etc etc. And in turn I think that can lead to some helicopter-style parenting choices, where instead of people parenting in a family-centered way, where everyone's needs and abilities are taken into account, it becomes all about trying to make sure the baby never cries.

So I can actually see how someone who is maybe a little bit nervous about being a relatively new parent to begin with could really latch on to some AP dogma and conclude "I must never let my baby be alone!" instead of thinking "Hey, the plan here is that I let my child explore, and remain a safe home base." or whatever.

I think you've raised an interesting topic. I think about this stuff, too.
claddaghmom's Avatar claddaghmom 03:44 AM 01-31-2010
I don't know....I guess it's possible but I think too often AP is considered smothering anyways. Heck, when some people found out DD was nursing past one year I was accused of smothering her.

AP for me means paying attention to your child's needs and attempting to meet them. I do this for DH, I expect this done for me. It's part of being in a family.

Smothering OTOH for me means oppressing the child for emotional reasons. It's a byproduct of an unhealthy mother. And I say that in a gentle way. Perhaps depression, experiencing a loss, lack of support etc can cause this behavior. I saw this with my FIL who had a sibling death...it can influence all aspects of parenting.
Fuamami's Avatar Fuamami 04:32 AM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by lalemma View Post
"We're doing AP" always makes me think of Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go.

It seems pretty easy for some AP adherents to become smothery/helicopter parents. People who are terribly concerned about what kind of cracker the child might temporarily be exposed to at someone else's house. Or, their toddler hates their car seat, so they just stay home all the time, because ever letting your child cry is awful. Or dad isn't really allowed to parent his own baby, because he would inevitably get everything wrong.
Yeah, I agree with this. I have a family member who is one of the most smothering helicopter parents I've ever seen. She follows her 4 yos around with rice cereal spoon-feeding it to them while they play, won't potty train them in spite of their apparent interest, hates, hates, hates to let them cry at all costs, etc. BUT, she claims to be a big follower of Babywise. She's always talking about how important it is to get them on that schedule, and how they're such a laid-back family, and that crying is good for their lungs. I don't know if she just has that little self-awareness, or she talks the talk because it's more acceptable, or what. Anyway, it's not just AP.
spicyrock's Avatar spicyrock 06:02 AM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by lalemma View Post
"We're doing AP" always makes me think of Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go.

It seems pretty easy for some AP adherents to become smothery/helicopter parents. People who are terribly concerned about what kind of cracker the child might temporarily be exposed to at someone else's house. Or, their toddler hates their car seat, so they just stay home all the time, because ever letting your child cry is awful. Or dad isn't really allowed to parent his own baby, because he would inevitably get everything wrong.

But I don't know if that's AP Gone Wrong, or just that those people were kinda helicoptery anyway, and AP is just what they seized upon..?

I do think it can be pretty easy for people to get lost in being extremely child-centered. Unfortunately I think (online) communities of AP-minded types can be really supportive of a mom martyring herself for the cause, whether it's a sleeping situation that isn't working for anyone, or a child who's twiddling the other nipple while nursing... you can always find somebody who will tell you this is such a short time in their lives, etc etc. And in turn I think that can lead to some helicopter-style parenting choices, where instead of people parenting in a family-centered way, where everyone's needs and abilities are taken into account, it becomes all about trying to make sure the baby never cries.

So I can actually see how someone who is maybe a little bit nervous about being a relatively new parent to begin with could really latch on to some AP dogma and conclude "I must never let my baby be alone!" instead of thinking "Hey, the plan here is that I let my child explore, and remain a safe home base." or whatever.

I think you've raised an interesting topic. I think about this stuff, too.

yes, yes, yes and yes.

For me, AP is a label I was unsure about for a long time. Actually, I guess I am still unsure about it. I remember when my favorite mom-friend and I had just had our babies (just over a year ago, we gave birth 3 weeks apart)- we used to talk about how strange it was that moms divided themselves into clubs and sat on opposite sides of an invisible line, attaching parenting styles to themselves and using those methods to define what type of moms they were. Are we AP? We would ask... and the best we could do was determine that my friend was "more AP" than I am, and I am "more AP" than most people... I guess to me, AP is supposed to be helping babies and children become independent by ensuring that they know you are always there for them to meet the needs they have to the best of your ability. But I don't think I like the term.... It feels like a fashion statement. Those conversations my friend and I had, they remind me of teenagers sitting around and asking each other- are we punk rock? You might be more punk than I am, but I am more punk than those guys over there...

Sorry if that got a little off topic. Yes, I think it is easy for smothery types to latch on to this particular label. But I also know people who don't adhere to AP parenting methods at all, but still claim that label because they like the way it sounds.

It is late and I am pretty sure I am rambling only semi-coherently.
VisionaryMom's Avatar VisionaryMom 12:19 PM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
I am trying to picture what smotering a 12-month-old looks like, and I'm having trouble. More details would work.
I've seen what I'd call smothering of a 12-month-old. In general, for me it means holding/slinging a baby/toddler who's trying repeatedly to get down from mom. I've also seen moms who offer the breast every time their child makes a whimper, even when the child doesn't seem to be indicating any desire to nurse.
lizzylou's Avatar lizzylou 01:52 PM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by mata View Post
Smothering to me means a dependency is created.
I was going to say the same - smothering is creating a dependency, AP is recognizing that certain dependencies exist at certain times and meeting those needs.

But if it is her first kid, I would definitely cut her some slack. The stuff you described isn't too terrible, and hopefully from her observance of other moms she will learn to strike a balance.

I do think there is an "AP gone wrong" that even the best of us might exhibit from time to time. Unfortunately it's these incidents that the mainstream seems to latch on to as an example of what AP is.
lemonapple's Avatar lemonapple 03:17 PM 01-31-2010
I guess I think it's pretty impossible for Attachment Parenting to "go wrong" and turn into smothering.

Maybe I have the wrong idea of what AP IS, but hubby and I basically step back from ds and let him "discover' pretty much everything for himself. We cosleep, breastfeed, etc... but I bet those things are not what's meant by "smothering" a 12 month old...nor do they seem like things that could turn into bad things. What I mean is, we are ALWAYS available to ds, but we do not push our presence or preferences on him. If he wants to play in the dirt and chase pigeons...that's cool...if he wants to eat off my plate one day and off his own table another....that's also fine. I don't PUSH him to do anything. Isn't this AP? Where can the 'smothering' come in then?
artgoddess's Avatar artgoddess 03:28 PM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bena View Post
My feelings exactly.

This post comes from the fact that I've noticed some of these exact behaviors with my friend, and it makes me uncomfortable...(for ex:she spoonfeeds him, claiming he won't eat by himself, but I've seen him play with a spoon and bring it to his mouth; another time, we went to a playgroup and she held on to him though he was wiggling to get to a toy; and last week, at my house, I gave him a stacking tower and she sat on the floor next to him and "showed" him how to use it)
yeah strange she calls this AP because it has nothing to do with being an attached parent, but probably more a control freak. Does she not want the mess involved with self feeding? Cause it is messy sometimes. Playing with toys the "right" way seems on the other end of the spectrum from meeting your child's needs. A babe needs to figure stuff out, explore.
lalemma's Avatar lalemma 04:32 PM 01-31-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by spicyrock View Post
they remind me of teenagers sitting around and asking each other- are we punk rock? You might be more punk than I am, but I am more punk than those guys over there...
LOL!

And - yes. That is so totally right on.
DaughterOfKali's Avatar DaughterOfKali 05:12 PM 01-31-2010
It sounds like the mom is nervous and/or insecure.
Nothing to do with AP, in my opinion.
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