|The success of a Salt Spring-based parenting web
site has surprised even its founders. HTML page accesses on the site,
called "The Natural Child Project", have been growing steadily
since it first went online in December 1996.
Jan Hunt, a psychologist, writer, and proponent of attachment
parenting, created the web site with her son Jason, who handles its
artistic components. They established the site with a few of Jan's
articles when they lived in the Comox Valley.
Since then it has grown to eight megs of text and graphics, which
includes articles by Swiss author Alice Miller, attachment parenting
family counselor Naomi Aldort and other authors, the Global Children's Art
Gallery, letters from readers, Jan's answers to parenting questions,
classified ads and links to selected "sites of the month." It's
all easy to navigate with a search engine provided by Island Net.
The art gallery has also exceeded expectations. It includes
well-presented art pieces from children aged 1 through 12 world-wide.
The Hunts' site has received numerous official accolades, from the
Exploratorium's 10 Cool Sites list and USA Today's Hot Site to the latest
one: the April '98 Childfun Award. It was also featured on CNN Headline
News and Canada AM TV programs.
Jan says the hit numbers and amount of supportive mail she receives are
not only encouraging but surprising, since the views and information on
the site are "even beyond cutting edge." The Natural Child
Project isn't just opposed to spanking children, it is opposed to the use
of all punishment in child-rearing. Attachment parenting, which fosters
strong connections between children and parents through practices such as
long-term breastfeeding and the family bed are promoted.
"Our vision is a world in which all children are treated with
dignity, respect, understanding and compassion," states the web site.
"In such a world, every child can grow into adulthood with a generous
capacity for love and trust."
Jan elaborates on some of the ideas. "Perfect" behavior
should not be expected from children at all times - it is not demanded of
adults - and parents should trust that children will develop as they
should, without being pushed by externally-defined expectations. Jan cites
toilet training as a classic area where children are unnecessarily pushed.
"Every child has a built-in clock and timetable, and we need to
respect that," Jan says. She quotes home-schooling proponent John
Holt's explanation of this theory: "Children are not trains." If
a train is late at its first five stops, it will likely be late arriving
at its final destination. "But a child can be late at all the stops
and then suddenly be ahead of everyone else," she says.
Trusting children in another way is also important. If parents can look
for the underlying intentions behind a child's behavior, they will
discover that he or she intends to be helpful and to contribute to the
world, even if a lack of experience prevents the child from doing so in
the most ideal way.
Ironically, she observes, some people view attachment parenting ideas
as "new age," when in fact they are "age-old". The
crib, for example, is only about 120 years old, and has proven itself a
"We went off the track and I'm trying to get people back on
track," she says. If people living in natural societies "saw the
way we live and watched a baby being left to 'cry it out,' they would
think we are insane ... which we are." But Jan feels the web site
popularity indicates "our society is more ready than we
realized" to change child-rearing practices of the past century.
She became "sold" through her experience as a mother,
involvement with the La Leche League and home-schooling groups, and from
books and individuals she encountered along the way. She wants to give
back what she has learned, so new parents can avoid "learning the
Jan is a family counselor specializing in attachment parenting (even at
the prenatal stage), and the editorial assistant for Empathic Parenting
magazine. She has published site reviews in Mothering magazine
and articles in Natural Life, the Times-Colonist, the Sunriver
Sun, and other periodicals.