Sears Method and Attachment Parenting

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Dr. Sears method = spoiled kids?

October 2003

Are there any other parents who, like myself, bought into the Dr. Sear's method of raising children and would be willing to share how it has backfired on them? I would like to find out if my husband and I are not the only ones who feel that his approach is passive and too touchy-feely and that it has ended up creating precocious children who are in control of their parents instead of the other way around. It seems like he is suggesting that we treat our children as if they are the center of the Universe, and that is just not realistic.

We've read The Pregnancy Book, The Baby Book, and The Fussy Baby to help us understand our strong-willed child. These books were helpful as far as helping us get into the mind of our child to understand what she might be thinking or going through. HOWEVER, the down side is that I have become this overly understanding parent who is afraid to discipine for fear of doing the wrong thing, and as a consequence -- my 2 children (both under 4) are kind of 'running the show' here at our house. I now have to find a way to backpaddle and regain control of my kids and to enforce that I am first and foremost the parent, and they are the children.

For example, since my daughter was 6-months old she has been a 'screamer.' We let this go on thinking it was just a phase, which it turned out was not. I didn't discipline, just tried to explain that she was using an outside voice. Now, I have a 4 year-old who screams a lot as a way to express her anger. She never grew out of that phase -- I realize now that I must have made a mistake by being too passive and 'understanding' as I was encouraged to do by Dr. Sears writings.

Does anyone else have this issue and can trace it back to the Dr. Sears' suggested approach to parenting? His method is seems to be geared for people who are either wealthy like himself and can afford hired help so that they can focus 100% of their time on their kids. I would love to get a discussion going about what others who now have older toddlers have experienced in their homes, and if possible how those parents have regained control of their kids. Thanks very much.

a Sears' book rebel

I have two small children, one almost four and one nearly two and a half. I do not purport to be an expert, nor have I read Dr. Sears much (though I understand the general direction of his teachings), but I have found several patterns at work with my daughter, who tends toward the extremely strong-willed.

We have gone through phases of very difficult behavior with her: extreme stubbornness for one, extreme insistence on a particular thing (be it snack, outing, parenting doing diapering, whatever). What I have found is the opposite of my first inclination (which I think is somewhat Sears-like): the more permissive I am, the more accomodating I am, the more she persists in negative behavior. I'd read, of course, that children need structure to feel in control, but I know how much I resist structure, so I tended to allow her to control things, both little and big. At times we got to a point where both of us (my husband and I) were in some ways afraid to cross her, afraid to say no--we feared her tantrums, her ability to totally detroy a calm setting, be at home or out. What has made it better has been our ability to be firm, to be clear, to have confidence in our basic ideas about how things should go in the family. It is not that we don't work to understand her; it is not that we don't try to help her figure out what she wants (to get the magnets stuck together in some particular way, or whatever) but we work also to get her to ask for help in a way that is pleasant. We make it very clear what behaviors are and are not acceptable.

There are so many issues at work here that I fear I'm not explaining the dynamic very well, but one central element to the problems in our household were (as I mentioned above) fear--fear of her tantrums and yelling and whining and also my own fear of the intensity of her emotions. I have tried to learn to hold her through them, to believe that I can indeed help her feel better.

Hope this helps

How brave of you to post this question.

I too read Dr. Sears when my first one was born and tried baby-wearing and it hurt my lower back so I stopped, loved sleeping with my baby for the first 6 months and then decided I'd had enough of sleep sharing, and needed a good night's sleep so did the cry it out technique with my toddler. I think it saved my sanity.

I generally found Dr. Sears advice to be not a good fit with my natural parenting style which I would describe as more parent-centered.

I think almost all advice practitioners and so called experts have something to offer but when it comes right down to it, it's your kid and you've gotta draw the boundaries and enforce them. Consistency, consistency, consistency has worked well for us. It also helps to be the kind of parent who gets off the couch/stops the car/leaves the restaurant and/or physically removes the child if they are screaming/kicking/hitting because kids really want to know where the boundary is, will test it, and expect you to discipline them when they act up.

My son is in first grade now and people often comment on how polite he is because we've always enforced table manners, require that they do household chores (even the 2-year-old has to help with clean up), and almost never give in to whining/pleading for toys or sweets.

Don't take any guff. Stand your ground. You'll be glad you did when they are teenagers.

It sounds to me like you are being hard on yourself for feeling like you chose the wrong childrearing method. Please don't be so hard on yourself! I don't think there is any one magic way to parent, and you sound like a very thoughtful parent who has read a lot and is doing her/his best. We too have used a lot of the advice given by Dr. Sears, and one of the things he says in his books is that you should take from him what works for you/feels right and fits for your family and reject what does not work for you. Most of what he says really resonates with our family and is working wonderfully for us and our toddler. But we have rejected and/or tailored other parts to better fit our lives and temperments (e.g., our toddler sleeps in his own bed, etc.). I think it's important to note that childrens' temperments differ vastly, and Sears' philosophy isn't right for every child or every family. People should respect that some of us love Sears and some of us don't, and that's ok. So if it isn't right for you, don't feel bad about having tried it and deciding it's not for you! In any event, I just want to reassure you that you haven't chosen wrong or made some huge parenting mistake -- it's a process and all we can do is try our best. I would encourage you to keep reading books, articles, etc. to find information that works for you and your kids. Also, keep talking to other parents to see what works best for children with different temperments. All kids, parents, situations, etc. are different and what works for one might not work for another. So Sears is great for some families, but if it isn't working for you, then I'd say keep reading and experimenting. You aren't backpaddling; you're parenting! Best of luck to you!

I am a big Sears fan and I haven't found he is against setting limits or boundaries with children. What I read in what you wrote is that you want to set firmer limits with your children and so you should - without worrying if that isn't the Sears way. In the end as a parent you have to find what works for you. I use a lot of what Sears says but in the end I do what feels right for me and my child. So listen to your own inner voice and set the limits you need to set to feel comfortable.

That said, I would like to offer some words of comfort - you have two children under four - of course things feel chaotic and like the children dominate the household... that seems pretty normal for two children under four and has little to do with parenting philosophy and more to do with having two small children.

Sears does have a book on discipline and you might find that useful. But there are lots of terrific books on childrearing and limit setting, why don't you browse some at a book store and pick up some that appeal to you. The important thing is to not let someone else determine how you raise your child, you are the one doing it and no book has all the answers.

Another Mom

I don't know Sears, but I know kids four and under. As a friend said, people always talk about the terrible twos, but they never say anything about the x!@## Fours!

I would supplant Sears with Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. Your Four Year Old and also with Terry Brazelton, M.D.

Good luck -- you are at a very hard age.

Sorry, but I must've read Dr. Sears' books differently than you and your husband did. While the books advocate attachment parenting, none of the books say that you cannot or should not discipline your children. So, to blame Dr. Sears for screaming and uncontrollable children is unfair.

You get a lot of advice from reading books and from friends and family (solicited and unsolicited), but ultimately, a lot of it has to come from your own common sense. It's important to understand your children and also to let them know you are not just reacting to they actions. But, once you get that out of the way, it's your responsibility to correct the behaviors - be it screaming tantrums, selfish actions or what-have- you.

Dr. Sears does not say children should not have manners, or be well-behaved - just that both parent and child understand what those things mean and how to achieve them. No one book or person can give you the secrets to successful relationships - it's foolish to blame others for what you are ultimately responsible for. You are both adults, so you should weigh all your actions, whether they are brought on by best-sellers or by your own decisions. This may sound harsh, but it's pretty harsh to blame your children's characters and upbringing on books!

Robert Shaw recently published a book on this subject, The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children, (with Stephanie Woods; ReganBooks, $24.95). It was excerpted in the SF Chronicle Sunday Magazine in August.

There was an article, The Selfish Child, published in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine on 8/31/03 about the book, The Epidemic by Robert Shaw, director of the Family Institute of Berkeley. It is clear that the parenting trends have gone over the years from Dr. Sears to That's it, we're cracking down tonight on those tantrums. If you've read Carolyn Crowder's Backtalk: Four Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids for example, you'll know what I mean.

Many Sears-parents, including myself, have had the same doubt as yours. Many teachers/grandparents/family psychiatrists and behavioral experts, like Robert Shaw, have started questioning how Dr. Sears and like-minded experts have influenced us and our children over the last three decades. As a result many have written books and articles after becoming advocates for stronger enforcement of rules, disciplines and boundaries. It's quite common to find stong words such as bad parenting, dysfunction, and parents in serious denial in those publications.

After reading a few of those books, I've found that it's important not to let the pendulum swing too far on either the developmental or the disciplinary end. I've picked up a few skills and now feel less guilty when I enforce rules and boundaries, really let my 5-year-old know it's important to follow rules and keep boundaries. At the same time, I let her know she's good (with lots of various positive re-enforcement) and I want her to be even better by enforcing rules and boundaries, and make sure she truly understand that I still love her dearly.

Many parenting experts say that children are happier and more secure when they know clearly where the rules and boundaries are. Indeed, my kid now seems happier and more confident as there are less tantrums, bargains and arguments. And most importantly, she knows I love her and is there to work with her.

I look forward to other parents' thoughts and ideas.

I think there's this misperception that the Sears method is all about permissiveness. My understanding of it is that it encourages you to understand your children so that you can better guide them. I think it's in the Baby Book that he says discipline means teaching. I don't think that the Sears method asks you to make the child the center of the universe, but rather to guide the child from the infantile perception of oneself as the center of the universe to a position of greater empathy and broader understanding -- through the example of our own conduct. In any case, don't despair that your children are hopelessly spoiled, and certainly don't blame it on Dr. Sears. Instead, start asking yourself, and your kids, how you can make things work better. For example, with the screaming, perhaps a (softly spoken) reprimand such as I can't help you when you're screaming, repeated often enough will sink in. This seems, gradually, to be working with my two year old and the whining thing. Good luck!

Not exactly an AP advocate, but trying

YES YES YES! I would also love to hear some discussion on this. According to various grandparents etc we are too lenient with our baby. And according to a preshool teacher friend of mine her students are way more precocious these days... So what to do. Our first conflict with Dr Sears was with the crying it out thing (CIO). Our baby was a terrible sleeper and after about 8 months of little to no sleep I had enough and decided we had to do something. So we tried the CIO and although our baby didn't sleep through the night right away, he certainly started sleeping better and eventually did sleep through the night. Our baby was happier during the day and so was I. My very laid back parents have also made comments about how we jump at every command our baby makes and I keep wondering if we are going to pay for this in the future. I am now trying to take a good look at how we react to our baby's needs/wants and teach words/phrases such as 'wait' 'later' 'mama is busy right now' 'play on your own' etc. I think Dr Sears has some valid ideas and I found some of his books to be helpful and comforting, but I do think some discussion on this method is necessary. Thank you for introducing the topic

Before we had our first daughter, my husband and I read several parenting books--Sears, Babywise, What to Expect. We figured something in the middle would probably make sense. Our child must have read Sears in the womb and decided that was the approach for her--she needed to be held, nursed, and to cosleep for most of her first year. Doing that for her felt right to us and my husband and I have consistently turned to the Sears books for other advice. We have found what he contends to be true-- that our daughter is so attached to us (though she is an independent, happy , outgoing little 3.5 yr. old girl) that discipline is easy. We rarely have to use anything other than what our daughter calls a frownie voice/face for discipline. She appears to want to be connected to us/receive approval from us. So, Sears has worked for us. Many people comment on how well-behaved, smart, respectful, and easy-going our daughter is. We seem to be having success with the Sears approach with our second daughter as well. She is 10 mo. and listens to our few nos. That being said, I don't think Sears is for every parent and every child. You have to do (and Sears I think would agree) what feels right to you and right for your child and that might be different for different children. I learned that in the classroom as a teacher. What worked for one didn't work for all kids and the approach that worked for the teacher next door didn't necessarily work for me. So, I disagree that Sears produces spoiled kids, but agree that Sears may not be the approach for you or your child.

Sears works well for us

I agree with you very much. It's a method which turns out very disrespectful children. I am working since 8 years in preschools and day care center. The parents who used that method had most of the time very disrespectful children. The Sears method is esspecially commen in Berkely since it is very liberal here which is of course great to a certain extend. The children who didn't turn out disrespectful were anyway even tempered from birth. Eveybody is born with a certain temperent level and the ones who are more prone to be moody and aggressive have to have limits. Many people think discipline is bad. They think about spanking and screaming at the child but that's not true. You can set limits without spanking and screaming. Disciplining means teaching your child to respect others. For example: It's not a bad thing to let your baby cry it out unless it's under 6 months. First you need to make sure it's not hungry or in pain or wet. Pay attention to your child when it's awake, but bed time is bed time. It's o.k to cry. I am having a 2 year old who also tests me alot. I just don't give in to tantrums. She has the pontential to be disrespectful if I had used the Sears method. I am glad I didn't. In my playgroup were a lot of moms who used the same method like Dr. Sears. The kids were mostly screaming when the mother got up to get something. The children were totally in controll and aggressive when they didn't got their way. There is a book called The Epidemic which talks a lot about passive parenting and the result of it after 20 years. This style of parenting startet in the 80's. I am sure you will still have a chance to turn out nice kids it's just harder now. Good Luck!

Wow. Did your message ever ring a bell. I have wondered whether I might be the ONLY parent who has felt the way you do...

My almost 5 year-old pretty much runs the show around our place, and I really have wondered whether I went overboard with the attachment parenting stuff. I wholeheartedly believe I have done the right thing as far as breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, etc., but on the other hand, I am finding it very hard to maintain my authority in the parent-child relationship. And, while I firmly believe in respecting the child as an individual, honoring the personhood of children, and tending to their emotional selves, it has become increasingly apparent to me that much of our family conflict really IS about power struggles; even my family therapist has suggested to me that my child really and truly needs firm boundaries in order to feel safe and secure in the world. She maintains that kids need to know that grownups are in charge so they don't feel like it is their responsibility to manage everything. I know this sounds old- fashioned to some, and outdated to others, but I really think she may be on to something. In fact, all the research shows that children with laissez-faire parents end up with the most problematic behavior--NOT those with authoritarian parents. Additionally, it seems we can't go anywhere these days without seeing parents letting their children run wild, often creating a negative environment for others in classes, parties, etc. We decided to stop attending a weekly dance class I paid for because it was full of running, screaming kids whose parents did not think it appropriate to let them know what attentive class behavior is. I really think that letting the kids do their own thing is a great, positive thing. But allowing children to live without boundaries and limits is a setup for later misbehavior--kids need to know what our culture and society expects of them, and they need to be taught it, not merely expected to pick it up as they mature. This has been a very hard lesson for me, as a mom, to learn.

In the Bay Area, it is really hard to take a non-Searsian position on anything without being criticized by other parents/caregivers. But you yourself know if your parenting needs some fine-tuning to work better for your family. Try reading Spoiling Childhood: How Well-Meaning Parents Are Giving Children Too Much--But Not What They Need, by Diane Ehrensaft. It has helped me to realize where I need to rein things in a bit, and has given me some courage to make some changes, especially in the face of stiff criticism from well-meaning Sears devotees.


I think one key to parenting is not following any one philosophy. Rather it is trying to figure out what works best for your children and your family. Parenting gurus, books, friends, family merely provide examples of options you can try out and fit on for size. Some work well for some families, and some don't. Take what works for you and your children from a given philosophy and leave the rest behind (or file it away for another stage). What I have always appreciated about the Sears approach is not so much the practical how-toi advice, but more the advice on how to look at your children and read their cues and communicate with them. With those tools I can then pick and choose from all the parenting advice out there and make what I feel are the best choices at the moment for my family. Kids change, parents change, needs change, circumstances change. Parenting choices can change along with them. Follow your heart and that of your children and partner to discover what works for all of you.

I just wanted to thank you for raising this issue. Forgive me if I don't comment on discipline in particular as we haven't reached the point where it's necessary yet.

I was giving the Baby Book as a shower gift. I have followed its advice, but am starting to think I made a mistake. I think your point about the Luxury of Wealth is a good one, especially when I read things like don't go back to work, if you need the income start a home business Okay, sure Dr. Sears. That sounds really easy.

I do know that next time I will definitely do things differently. Initially I truly believed demand feeding was what was most natural and resisted the approach in Babywise and the Baby whisper to create a schedule. But now I look with envy at my friends whose babies fall asleep without nursing, sleep through the night and show so much more independence. As one friend pointed out when I questioned her schedule, her son actually does feed on demand, only SHE shaped her son's demand to be when he woke up from a nap. Now that seems like good parenting.

Its still too soon to tell if toddlerhood is going to be a disaster. But in the meantime you have made me mindful that how to dicipline is an important thing to think about.

I'm not sure how you came to equate Dr. Sears's method with not disciplining/having spoiled children. He and his wife have written an entire book on discipline (The Discipline Book: Everything you need to know to have a better-behaved child - from birth to age ten), in which he has a section called The Importance of Saying No and states, It's necessary for a parent to say no to a child so the child can later say no to herself. He also has sections on what to do when your child interrupts and taming temper tantrums. I am not sure how you are implementing his techniques. You mentioned that you have a spirited child and while your child may be more challenging than some, I think that Dr. Sears does address discipline and his method does not lead to spoiled children. You might want to also consider reading The Positive Discipline series by Jane Nelsen, which is excellent. However, discipline takes a lot of time and effort, at least in the beginning, when you are trying to shape your child's behavior and show them what is expected. I recommend that you read either/both book and give them a try. I know that it can be very trying and challenging!

Good luck

To summarize this post: I used a blend of Sears (co-sleeping, baby-wearing/holding) with a more stern disciplinary system, and my now 3 1/2 year old child is not spoiled. (She is also not perfect--we have plenty of issues on any given day). My story below.

Like you, I was a Sears parent, or rather a quasi-Sears parent (at least with my first child. I have a new baby and plan to do things differently this time around). I ended up using Sears' method primarily because my first was a demanding baby, and his advice about wearing/holding the baby, and sleeping with the baby, were what my particular child seemed to need. I actually did not follow his advice on discipline, preferring a more structured, loving-yet-stern method I grew up with and thrived on. On the one hand, Sears' ideas about attachment parenting leading to a secure child made sense, and were borne out in my now 3 1/2 year old, who is a well-adjusted, well-mannered, easy-going, friendly, secure child, albeit one with high demands for attention from her parents. However, she is a very poor sleeper (can't go to sleep by herself, and if she awakens in the night, needs a parent there again), which I blame on co-sleeping. Since I believe that good sleep is an essential part of life, this is a real problem, and one that we have yet to solve.

That said, I won't be using Sears's ideas with my second child. First, the co-sleeping really has impacted our lives in a detrimental way. Second, I simply cannot hold my new baby constantly: he has to spend more time on his own, simply because I've got a lot more on my plate this time around. He seems fine with this; he is a very happy,thriving baby. Third, and most importantly, I take issue with Sears' assertion that children's sense of security and love derive primarily from his method of attachment parenting. My older child is evidence, in a way, that it can work well, but I see many examples of fine children among my extended circle of friends. I am the only one that used Sears as much I did, but I don't think you could tell that if you were to compare my children to those of my friends. In other words, well-adjusted children can come from a wide variety of parenting styles.

As far as discipline goes, I subscribe to a sterner form of discipline than I think Sears would countenance. I don't think asking a very young child to be quiet, for example, is always appropriate. It's fine at first, but then we as parents have to tell our children to be quiet. I believe children need limits, and effective discipline, to feel secure. Further, they need their parents to show them how to deal with frustration, anger, hurt, shame, etc. It's not easy and it takes some time, but if you consistently tell your child that screaming is not okay and won't get her what she wants, and follow through by not giving in, your child will eventually stop, or at least reduce the screaming. A child who has always been allowed to scream has no real incentive to stop.

Please follow your instincts. If a particular philosophy is not working for your child, you are allowed to change/modify/abandon it. Ultimately, we must listen to our instincts, and through trial and error come up with a parenting style that helps our children gain the skills they need to navigate life as successfully as possible.

Hi There - I could totally have written your message. When I was pregnant with our first, someone recommended the Dr. Sears book and I bought it and read it and totally agreed with everything. I think it really shaped my parenting style. However, now we have two (both under the age of three and over the age of one :) and I no longer agree with everything. I DO think it encourages parents to be too soft. And children should NOT have the control in the house, parents should. While I agree with the basics (breastfeeding, slings, and even cosleeping) I don't think the child should be made to feel as if the world revolves around him or her. I cannot stand all the whiny, self-centered children I see (wow, that sounded harsh, eh?). I really, really like the book Positive Discipline because it shows an effective way for the parent to remain in control while still respecting the child. And I also really like the Ferber sleep book. I always think if you're going to read one extreme (Dr. Sears) you should also read the other (Ferber) - just to be educated on the issues. I know this is rambling - I just wanted to tell you I agree - and the most important thing to do is follow your gut and do what is right. If it doesn't feel right letting your child cry, then don't. But don't be afraid to discipline, or set boundaries or anything if it also feels right. Good luck!

I have read several of Dr. Sears books and a couple of the ones you mentioned. I don't remember any of them saying to be passive. He gives many examples throughout all of his books in his own experience of raising his eight children of needing to be assertive and knowing when to say no and when to set boundries between being being a loving parent and being in charge. I am a sturdy parent. I do not allow my strong-willed son to run the show. I do however deeply value the time I spend nursing my son, cuddling with him in bed. I listen empathetically to him when he crys or throws a tantrum, but I draw the line when he becomes manipulative (screaming to get his way) or inapropriate (hitting, being too loud in a public place...) I do not believe his methods create spoiled kid. But each parent can interpret his information in their own way. I could see how this could lead to differant results for differant families.

How my husband and I have interpreted Sears is to honor the child's physical and spiritual self and not do authoritarian parenting whereby the child is made to feel helpless and choiceless and powerless. I have seen (read) him caution in his books that to allow a child too much power in the decision-making process, essentially turning the child into an adult, prematurely, can make for an anxious child. I have not gleaned from the book to raise a child without consequences--Sears advocates natural consequences with which I agree and have seen work more effectively than unrelated or delayed consequences. He also urges parents not to hit their children, even mildly/slightly, as he considers it poor modelling, cruel, and a defeat in parenting. I feel that, most of all, Sears is advocating respect that comes in the form of non-accusatory, non-judgemental discipline, but, to repeat, I never saw him propone letting a child rule the roost (we don't and wouldn't) or to go unchecked about a destructive or unsavory behavior. I also like his idea (really every psychologists' idea) that children who are doing something excessive and/or extreme (or even a persistent mild behavior) are sending an SOS of sorts.

I have interpreted Sears to say that every child needs a voice and validation in a household, but I don't think that he is advocating a home in which the child gets to indulge every whim or persist with inappropriate behavior.

I wish you well with your little darling and maybe a consultation with a child psycho

Loving but appropriate parents, we hope

I think you asked a really important question. I wrestle with the different ideas I have about what kids need. My parenting could be called attachment parenting because it resembles that over another style but I have mostly acted on intuition. For example, even if I thought crying it out was the right thing to do I could not physically do it. On her last visit my MIL was in my face about how I jumped every time my 3.5 yo had a temper tamper. She thought that I needed to let them have it and that at this age they need limits. Well, I know they need limits. But how is responding to their anger not setting a limit. I don't always give them what they want. I just try and calm them down and show them how they can communicate much more effectively by speaking clearly instead of screaming, throwing, hitting, etc. That is a far cry from letting them get away with these behaviors. My MIL wanted to send him to the corner or the door until he was done with the fit. Is that better than saying I understand that you are upset? If I can not give my child what they want because there is a limit (i.e. a cookie before dinner) then if they continue to tamper I just repeat why they can't and tell them they have a right to their feelings. Is that not setting a limit? My desire (Dr. Sears or not) is to treat my kids compassionately while still giving them limits. The whole point is to show our children how to control their own behavior in an appropriate manner according to the situation. So I think discipline should be a form of instruction. Is that somehow indulgent? I have friends who practice a Dr. Searsy type parenting and I think their kids are brats. So I am trying to find the balance. An I idea I have, but have not put into practice is to make my own parenting manual. In a notebook or binder write down what I want to achieve. For me it is children that can govern themselves appropriately according to the ethics in our family. Which are...write out your ethics and make them a concrete vision that you can refer to. And I want my children to go through this process being treated in a compassionate and humane manner so that they come out unscathed. That they feel a sense of well being and wholeness and self worth and have the ability to whether the storms of life and return to a happy state. Don't we want our children to be happy above all else? So in this binder you can write down how you want to respond to a temper tamper and how you want to respond to a certain situation before you find yourself in it. Then you can review it and steep yourself in what you think is important and how you want to achieve it. I would stop reading Dr. Sears but don't lose the compassion that I think is the cornerstone of his philosophy. Instead read No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them by Michele Borba and The Secret Of Happy Children by Steve Biddulph.

trying to acheive a balance

For what it's worth, I never read any of the Sears books, and I've experienced the same phenomenon of having to regain control of my srong-willed kid. It's certainly not too late for you to do so, too. My mantra: A family is not a democracy.

I know this message will spark a lot of lengthy discussions, so I will keep this one short. Never be upset with what your choices were in the past. Following the Sears method or any other 'method' is great, broadening your horizons. At any point when you feel someone elses method isn't sitting well with your gut instinct (and it is always your own gut that you need to follow, because its usually right), just change what you've been doing to match what your instinct is telling you.

Put down the books, and raise your children with the morals and manners which you expect. Start today, its never too late, in a few weeks your children will understand that there are different expectations/rules than perhaps were in the past, and slowly and surely, your children will adapt to your new needs. A childs reality is the here and now, they don't over think things. Trust yourself and you'll be fine! Hugs from the east bay!

Dr. Sears didn't work for me. My spirited child had turned into a demanding, backtalking kid. After re-reading The Difficult Child, especially the Chapter on Regaining Parental Authority we are instituting a new world order of clear expectations (explained in calm moments and written down), and clear, not pleasant punishments when rules are not followed. (I gave up on trying to think of punishments that fit the crime. Sometimes I can, but often it's just a punishment for punishment sake, such as no dessert.) It is very difficult to consistently and constantly discipline our persistent, spirited child but I could not live with his behavior. I was so stressed by how out of control our house was I was getting depressed. I found Sears useful for the compassion and patience you need for babies and pretty much useless for boundry-testing older kids. Maybe his kids weren't as challenging mine? Maybe he has this aura of authority that he subtly conveys to his kids? I recommend the Difficult Child and the Spirited Child. The only two parenting books I found useful.

I can't comment much on Dr. Sears - I have read some of his stuff but not particularly followed his method. But as to your last question about how to turn this behavior around - you might check out a recent book by Dr. Robert Shaw entitled The Epidemic:. (long title follows but this will locate it for you at bookseller.)

Dr. Shaw spoke to our preschool group last week and said that he began thinking about the ideas that would become this book after the Columbine shootings. As a child and family psychiatrist for over 40 years he wondered what kind of parenting would produce children who would do such a horrible thing?

In a complete nutshell ( and I haven't read the whole book yet) he feels that child raised in a child-centric household - one in which the child is not told no, not required to assume responsibilities, not allowed to experience frustration or boredom - are not developing the tools and social skills to become responsible, empathetic, contributing members of society. Nor will be able to be just happy people.

He said that he bases this not only on his own practice but what he sees everyday in public place in terms of the behavior of children. I must say I agree with him on at least this part.

The book was excerpted in the SF Chronicle Sunday magazine on Aug. 31. If you go to you can check the archives and read the excerpt.

Whether or not one agrees with his ideas he seems to be at least raising the question that no one else seems to ask.

good luck.

Mom of 3

Wow, can't wait to read the firestorm on this one! thanks for the super juicy question!! About a month ago, or maybe it was two or three, there was a feature article in the Sunday SF Chron magazine, titled Brats or something like that, and the author (a Bay Area man with grown children, I think) had just written a book that was critical of the Sears method (and other similar modern parenting techniques). I didn't agree with everything he wrote - I thought he was way too hard on families w/2 working parents and also WAY too harsh on paid caregivers (he made it sound like all they did was plunk the kid in front of the TV all day, which is so unfair to the awesome babysitters I've had who would cut off their arm before doing that). The article may have been more one-sided than the book is, though. He did have some good points, and you might want to hunt down that article and see if his book might interest you.

(not a Sears believer, but my kid is pretty spoiled too)

I certainly don't believe that following Dr. Sears makes for spoiled kids -- quite the contrary, in my experience. However, I do think that the Sears books are considerably less useful for older children than they are for babies, particularly for those of us who are not (by choice or otherwise) at-home parents. (I certainly like, and used, The Baby Book much more than The Discipline Book.) I also believe that no child expert has all the answers for every family, and that every parent has to take responsibility for using whatever mix of child-raising methods works best for her own family. In my experience, that tends to be a little Sears, a little Spock, a little good-old-grandma -- you get the idea.

In your efforts to regain control you might want to read any of the Positive Discipline books by Jane Nelsen (et al.). I also liked Love and Logic (Cline and Fay).

Hi! I have been thinking about your message since I read it last night. We used the Baby Book by Dr. Sears and loved it. BUT - we modified a bit for many reasons. No. 1 we had b/g twins with very different needs. At first the little girl needed constant holding, then our little boy did. We took our cues from them. After a while (6-9mos.) we had to be honest with ousrselves about some of the crying that was going on: crying because they need us? Crying because they want us? The other thing we did is that we drew the line at some things - no more sleeping in our bed unless someone was sick after 6 mos. As far as discipline - at 18 mos. (if not before)the child clearly understands the meaning of no. What we used to balance Dr. Sears book was Dr. Brazelton's Touchpoints. I cannot remember how old your children are now, but Dr. Brazelton has a whole line of books for each stage of the child's developement. His philoshy is also very caring and supportive of the child (which is the only thing we are comfortable with). Best of luck

Like you, we loved the ideas of Dr. Sears. The breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping etc... We did not really look into his (or anyone's) methods for discipline too closely. While I loved the relaxed, natural, no-stress style of Dr. Sears, I now have almost 4 year old twins who cannot sleep without Mommy. I love cuddling with them and having them in bed but it has been a real strain at times. I nursed them until they were 2 and during that time they woke up constantly to nurse at night. I was getting NO sleep, nor was my husband. It was becoming a REAL problem. Even now, my husband and I never wake up in the same bed because he sleeps in their bed once they crawl in with me. On top of that we have a 11 month old who is also in bed with us although he starts out in his own crib (and naps there too) which is something we didn't do with our twins. I can't handle the idea of sleep training so I am not really sure what other answers there are to getting better sleep. I have many parent friends who did the Dr. Sears/co-sleeping thing and all of them have had the same complaint. Some days I just try to remember that this is a short (hopefully) phase in their life and they won't always be crowding us out at night (by highschool at least right?). Other days though, I really envy those other parents who have gotten their kids to sleep all night without a peep. Maybe Dr. Sears could come over and watch my kids so I could get a nap. No good answers, sorry- just struggling with the best way to get the job done like you.

I just wanted to let you know that I actually burned the Sears and Sears baby book when my daughter was about 5 months old. I found him to be too rigid in his attachment parenting techniques and basically just mean to those of us who couldn't breastfeed (or didn't want to sleep with their child or feed them ONLY organic foods, etc). I had breast reduction surgery in my early 20's and physically couldn't nurse and I really just wanted him to say SOMEWHERE that if due to medical reasons you absolutely couldn't nurse, that it was OKAY. Nope, all I got was guilt, guilt, guilt. This coupled with the dirty looks of horror I got around town as I bottle fed my three month old made me burn the book (we had a lovely roaring fire that night). I didn't need his book, which I thought might help me in my parenting journey, add to my already guilt ridden self. After reading a bunch of the posts, I'm so glad I burned the book early on.

Now three years into the parenting process it is also incredibly clear to me that the answers to parenting questions aren't found in books. Books might be a place to start, but for me, it's been trusting myself, seeing how proud I am of my daughter's behavior and development and comparing notes with other parents to see what works them.

I think it's so great that you brought this topic up.

not a Sears fan

You've already gotten a lot of responses to this post (it promised to be a hot-button issue, and it is), but I wanted to add a bit from someone with an 8 month old who co-sleeps. We plan on being more strict than some, but right now we are doing the Dr. Sears method, mostly. A friend has a 2 year old who uses his methods, and she (the 2 year old) does seem a bit spoiled. However, I recently read about the Continuum Concept which questions Child-centered families while at the same time supporting co-sleeping and baby wearing. Here is a link to one article, entitled, Who's in Control?: and here's an excerpt: Being played with, talked to, or admired all day deprives the babe of this in-arms spectator phase that would feel right to him. Unable to say what he needs, he will act out his discontentment. He is trying to get his caretaker's attention, yet -- and here is the cause of the understandable confusion -- his purpose is to get the caretaker to change his unsatisfactory experience, to go about her own business with confidence and without seeming to ask his permission.

Dr. Sears is not at all against setting firm limits. Check out his discipline book or his web site (as dr. There is an entire section on parents who have a hard time saying no and it sounds like maybe that is something you are experiencing? Dr. Sears advocates loving parenting that promotes attachment between parent and child so that discipline is easier. We are having tremendous success with it, as is my sis-in-law, whose kids are older (9, 7, 2) and are wonderful. Also, no matter what methods you use, kids do misbehave and have tantrums. It's normal. It doesn't sound to me like Dr. Sears' writings have any bearing on your kids' behavior. Check out the Positive Discipline book (can't recall author) and Dr. Brazelton too. Good Luck

Dr. Sears Fan

Hi, I was very interested to read the responses to your post. The following is my opinion of the Sears books, not parents who practice AP. Someone gave me the Sears books before my daughter was born. I found them to be very unhelpful, and I spent many hours agonizing over my parenting decisions because the books touched my own fears of not trying hard enough, not sublimating my own needs enough. I think that he does contend that if you don't follow his methods, your child will feel abandoned and neglected. Of course, most of the books say if you don't follow their methods your child will have problems, but I think for most tend to present the problems as the child will be spoiled, etc. By offering that essentially your child might feel unloved unless you practice AP, Sears is hitting parents of infants in a much more sensitive place (after all, most people would rather risk a spoiled baby to an unloved baby.) I found this caused me great anxiety as a new parent. I also find many of his explicit and implicit assumptions to be problematic (along with other parenting book authors) in terms of the role of the mother as primary care giver as somehow more natural and essential, and that parents should avoid daycare and working at all costs. This has always struck me as another way of implying that women should stay in the home- because it is 'natural' and best for the child. I am not criticizing people for doing just that- but I am saying that it is not for everyone, and those who choose other options are not 'bad mothers.' Sears gives lip service to the idea that you should do what works for you, but also indicates that his way is really the best. That said, I also do not really believe punishment is an effective way of parenting, given my values and goals. I want my child to see natural consequences resulting from her choices, not follow my commands because she is afraid of me. I use a positive discipline method, and have found it very helpful with my very spirited child. The positive discipline books by Jane Nelson, Lynn Lott, and others have been very helpful for me. My goal is for my child to see herself as an important and capable part of the world, not as the center of the universe. I also want her to feel comfortable with her emotions, to be able to express them in appropriate ways, and to understand that different situations call for different types of behavior. I want to avoid power struggles by giving her autonomy in as many areas as possible, while teaching her limits and being willing to hold my ground in a kind way. I try and choose my battles, and remain flexible about the rest. Some days I feel good about my parenting, and other days I see lots of room for improvement. It is a process, like everything else. My child is two, and I don't think she rules our household. She is also a very strong-willed individual, and I respect her for that. Our mantra is that we all do the best we can, and when we make a mistake, we try again. Good luck!

doing my best

i had similar thoughts about some of the dr. sears methods backfiring. especially during those long all-niter nursing marathons my little one binged on when teething!

but when i went back to his website for help, i saw that he had different suggestions for how to deal with these problems and i concluded that the main problem is that his advice is either disorganized or manipulative (and just long winded in general)!

i think the baby book is great for first time moms who bascially know nothing and need a lot of caring support and options. but i think the way the advice is given it doesn't allow for people to make informed choices or he expects people to follow his logic or experiences.

example: w/ night nursing and cosleeping - if you look at what they actually did it's different from what a lot of us ended up doing thinking we followed their (dr and martha's) advice. they used the cosleeper sidecar so baby was not in the bed and makes transition to own bed easier. i think with one or a few of the babies they stayed in their bed till 3 or 4 years old! if he had said this up front when advising (i.e. if you choose to cosleep this is a LONG term choice!) that many people would choose differently!

i totally agree that sears babies have a hard time sleeping on their own which prob sparks more than half of our how to get baby to sleep on their own discussions! my babe is just over one and we will bite the bullet and cry it out with her in the next year or so!

but also, sears says if you resent it change it but never really offers that advice up front, which i think leads to the all nite nursers etc. he also advises for daddy to nurse the baby to sleep - but maybe i'm a dummy, but it would have helped to have a more straightforward plan. like say: if you nurse the baby every nite to bed they won't learn to sleep on their own without nursing, rotate nursing with daddy (partner) and ensure they learn to sleep with a variety of methods i think he does say this somewhere, but not up front!

basically, too much of their knowledge on the shortfalls of some of their methods is hidden away and not in the bold print we all could have used before our nipples were chapped and losing more sleep in the long run.

on discipline, we just used our common sense, talk to our baby with respect and don't baby talk with her. she seems to understand us just fine!

second time around will be different

I am sorry to hear your house feels so chaotic right now, but unfortunately I think that is bound to happen with two kids under 4. I know if I were trying to juggle the many needs, wants, developemntal phases, etc. of two small children I would be pretty frustrated, too. I wonder if that is where some of your feelings about Dr. Sears is coming from.

I know many folks who have sworn by Sears their kids are well behaved, I know others who followed the same advice their kids are... let's just say not-so-well-behaved. I think it is important to take what works for you your family-- given you your child's tempermant/personality, resources, etc-- pass on the rest. Obviously being consistent, picking your 'battles' having a sense of humor are all of utmost importance.

You didn't mention his other book, The Discipline Book, which might have more resources for you.

Best of luck!

Every once in a while I read something like this that makes me think that I'm too lenient, so I get tough for a day or two until we're both completely miserable, then I decide to go back to enjoying eachother. I'm pretty sure I'm not raising a brat, but I guess we'll see!


Hi concerned parent and Sears rebel,

I also have two kids, ages five and under and used the Sears method for babyhood. I still appreciate the advice Sears offerred in the Baby Book, but I don't follow any book's advice in a dogmatic way. Parenting in this culture and these times is complicated and challenging and there are not many easy answers. I don't think you should feel that you've spoiled your kids by having tried to provide a strong attachment and I don't think you should feel you have to adopt the Sears approach as the answer to all of your parenting issues. (By the way, I agree that the Sears family must have a lot of help that most of us can't afford. I also think they don't address temperamental differences nearly enough!) That said, it seems the problem you are discussing isn't really about the Sears attachment parenting approach, but more about the transition from parenting very young children to parenting the two y.o. and up. The Baby Book is only about the 0 to 2 y.o. crowd, and attachment parenting shouldn't mean permissive parenting--have you read Sears and Sears' Discipline Book which focuses on parenting kids ages 2 to 10? It clearly advocates for parents to be firm authoritative disciplinarians--in fact they emphasized that parents must be able to say NO to their children and that not being able to do so was a problem they often saw with parents. Sears would say that kids need more discipline (teaching)and boundaries as they begin to leave infancy and enter childhood. In my experience attachment parenting in the first year or two is highly appropriate, but the role of parents (call it attachment parenting or not) as kids get older is different, and for some of us, more challenging. The most basic parenting advice any of us needs to be reminded of is that you have to consider temperament and developmental stage. Not all methods work with all kids, and what works at one stage might not at another. Know that you've provided a loving foundation and work on expanding your parenting repetoire. I don't have all the answers (and I'm sure Dr. Sears, though wise, doesn't either!), so I'll close with some non-Sears book and speaker recommendations that I've found helpful: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles has perhaps the most concrete and helpful ideas of any book on discipline that I've read. I also appreciated the Positive Discipline books (one for ages 0 to 3, and another for ages 3 to 6). Raising a Son and Raising a Daughter by the Eliums are also useful and supportive of nurturing but authoritative parenting. Aletha Solter has written several interesting books and Patty Wipfler is a local parent trainer (these two will make you feel good about having done the attachment parenting route) and their basic philosophies are similar: cyring is good--set appropriate limits but provide nurturing and let them cry when they need to. You might want to read Aletha's books The Aware Baby and Crying and Tantrums for suppport around your daughter's screaming. Enough said! GOOD LUCK on this wild and wonderful parenting journey!!!

another mom trying to figure it all out!

It's been fascinating to read all the various posts about Sears and by now I think the original poster has gotten a lot of support for setting limits with her children and also the message that Attachment Parenting definitely does include setting firm and consistent limits. What I think is important to emphasize is the reason people follow the Sears methods - what the goal is. For me is was to make my child a priority, to understand his needs, to listen respectfully to him, to make him feel secure.

I have gotten all those things and more out of it. I have a really lovely six year old who is kind and capable of great empathy toward others. He is affectionate, makes friends easily and bonds well with adults. We have a very close connection and he talks easily to me about what he is feeling. We have all along set clear and consistent limits, I think this is part of being a loving parent. I believe this is what we got from being AP parents. Not that you can't get there with other methods - I just wanted to explain the reason people follow the Sears methods... the end results can be so wonderful.

Sears Fan

Just thought I'd add to the already voluminous mail on this topic. Not about Sears per se, but to me there is a big difference between attachment parenting and permissive parenting (although they can certainly overlap). Attachment parenting may even facilitate discipline in some ways as it makes your disapproval or removal a huge punishment (when my 4 yr old acts disrespectfully, I tell her that I don't want to be/play with her when she acts like that and she immediately changes her tune. Not always, of course, but it does work.)

Also, every child is different. With our 4 yr old we co-slept, carried her all the time, etc. Now with our newborn, she actually needs to be left alone alot. Sometimes she will fuss and cry and we try everything and finally put her down and she calms down. Or she'll be lying calmly in her carrier and I'll feel bad for not holding and cuddling her more and I pick her up and she cries and fusses. (Not that she never needs cuddling or carrying, she loves to be carried in the sling alot more than our 1st baby did, and she smiles and laughs with people, she just actually prefers to be left be much more than I would ever have thought of a baby.)

Also people seem to be confusing nursing on demand with comfort nursing. I feed/fed both babies on demand but I don't let them suck just for comfort. That's what pacifiers are for! So they set their own feeding schedule, but they both can fall asleep without nursing. (Although with our first we did have to wean her from nighttime nursing when she was about 8 months old, and we wish we had done it sooner!) ok, that's my 2 cents. I'm enjoying the discussion.

p.s. On the topic of spoiled kids, materialistic kids and parents who find it difficult to assert their authority, I really recommend a book called Blessings of a Skinned Knee. (sorry I don't remember the author's name.) It takes a Jewish perspective, but you don't have to be religious or even Jewish to appreciate it. I found it very useful/ interesting.

A heart-felt thank you to all the parents who replied to my posting by sharing their stories, and giving good suggestions and words of wisdom. It was helpful to read issues other parents have had such as toddlers still not able to sleep through the night in their own beds (this is ongoing in our family too). The most helpful and repeated suggestion was to keep methods from any parenting book in perspective. I'm so grateful for this network of parents.