by Peggy O'Mara, Mothering Magazine
Jan Hunt tells the truth about the real nature of children. Many
terms are popular today - attachment, natural, empathic - to describe
a way of parenting that is really not new at all. Being with children
in the way that these terms describe is what parents all over the
world have done since the beginning of time. Jan points the way for us
today. The cultural voices of fear tell us to distrust the neediness
and dependency that children so naturally express. It is an acceptance
of this neediness and dependency that Jan speaks about so eloquently.
By modeling this acceptance, she makes it easier for us to accept our
children and ourselves as well.
It's not often that I open a book and find that I have as much in
common with the author's point of view as I do with Jan's. I often
check the index of books for references to breastfeeding, co-sleeping,
discipline, attachment, and other topics dear to my heart and seldom
find the compatibility that I feel when I read The Natural Child.
We have the same understanding about the nature of the child and both
want to remedy the misunderstandings about children in modern culture.
When we make up new names like attachment parenting for old ways,
it is because we are looking for more enduring wisdom than adversarial
customs offer. We know that the bliss we feel parenting from the heart
means that it is right. In regards to our children, it is not only
wisdom we seek, but also an acknowledgement of our participation in a
To me, it is very simple. The propensity to act aggressively is
related to unmet needs. When we objectify our babies and manipulate
their legitimate needs to meet our own comfort level or prescription
for living, we may unknowingly put them at risk. We can instead choose
to surrender to the mystery of our baby's needs and the surprises he
or she brings just as we would surrender and adapt to the surprises
brought by new love. A baby is our new love.
Can we choose love by accepting our baby's legitimate human needs
and responding to them with an open heart? This requires that we trust
our babies and ultimately that we trust ourselves. Each of us is an
original. We are equipped for the job even though we are still
learning how to use our equipment. Most of our decisions as parents
are more about our state of mind than about the particulars of the
situation. When we choose from love we act very differently than when
we act from fear.
Jan tells it like it is. Children and adults are not different. We
have the same feelings. Children who are disciplined with love respond
lovingly. Parents are not perfect, but we can continually recognize
the critical importance of how we behave toward our children. Crying
is the language of babies. Co-sleeping is safe and smart. Children
need to be involved in the problem-solving of the family. Punishment
interferes with the bond between parent and child. Children have a
natural love of learning and do not have to be coerced. Learning
"disabilities" may be learning differences. Children deserve
to be acknowledged in public. Children deserve to be treated with
These shared beliefs are why Jan and I are so compatible. We've
never met and compared notes. And while we have both been influenced
by many of the same people, there are simply many common conclusions
that stem from trusting and respecting children. It sounds easy, but
we all know that what I describe is a lifetime journey. Many of us
have been raised in cultures and families where control is highly
valued. Our children are often our first teachers in this regard. In
learning to trust them, we learn that we can be trusted as well.
It is the potential limitlessness of simply trusting our children
that frightens parents. We ask how we can maintain order and harmony
in the household without control, without punishment. As Jan will so
aptly teach, the household based on empathy, compassion and
cooperation will have an inherent discipline that does not have to be
enforced by punishment. It is enforced by love.
This book is about simple principles that can take a lifetime to
learn. As the parent of adult children, I can attest to the
helpfulness of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, home schooling, discipline
without punishment and other trusting choices. All of these choices
are implicit in the egalitarian relationship that I hope to have with
my children. They are my equals, my teachers and my beloved ones. I
try to remember this when I interact with them. Jan's book will help
you remember too.