When you consider the big picture, the ultimate goal in raising a child is to help them become their own separate person. We should want them to have their own mind, set their own goals, form their own reasons, make their own decisions, think for themself, know their boundaries, and create their own intentions. What we really need to be asking is what do we need to do to make sure our kids grow like this?

Young children are hungry for attachment because they lack self-sufficiency and are highly dependent on us for care-taking. By the time they reach five to seven years of age, they should be able to play more freely on their own, take responsibility for simple things like getting dressed, and even start to do chores such as cleaning up their toys.

Children can’t be too attached, they can only be not deeply attached. Attachment is meant to make our kids dependent on us so that we can lead them. It is our invitation for relationship that frees them to stop looking for love and to start focusing on growing.

When kids can take for granted that their attachment needs will be met, they are freed to play, discover, imagine, move freely, and pay attention. It is paradoxical but when we fulfill their dependency needs, they are pushed forward towards independence. As a child matures they should become more capable of taking the steering wheel in their own life and we will be able to retreat into a more consulting role.

What are some of the signs a child is working at attachment?

The prerequisite for growth is resting in the care of an adult. In other words, a child shouldn’t have to work for love. There are many ways kids can work at getting their relational needs met, with the following just a sample of some of the ways.

  • A child works at trying hard to fit in, to belong, to be good enough, and to measure up;
  • When a child is self-deprecating or tries to be favourable towards others so that they will be liked;

How can adults work at attachment so that kids will not?

  • Make it safe for them to depend on us by not using what they care about against them (e.g., sanctions and withdrawing privileges) or forms of separation-based discipline such as time-outs or ‘1-2-3 magic;’
  • We need to earn their trust by being consistent in our care-taking, as well as being generous with our attention and signs of warmth, delight, and enjoyment

– Deborah MacNamara

Read More: Can a Child Be Too Attached to Their Parent?

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