Abusive Parenting Techniques
Between therapy sessions, parents are taught to “treat” their children at home. Attachment Therapy methods are designed to force children to accept maternal domination in even the smallest life details. These include:
• Home “holding” sessions (coercive restraint)
• Excessive or pointless chores
• Strenuous exercise, especially to “earn” meals
• Long periods of “strong sitting,” i.e., unnaturally sitting motionless, sometimes for hours
• Separation from friends and siblings, indeed from everyone except the “awesome mom”
• Isolation, sometimes for days, in a “respite room” stripped bare of all contents
• Fed a diet of peanut butter sandwiches or cold oatmeal for weeks on end
• Treated as an infant (see reparenting)
• Made to feel a prisoner by having alarms on their rooms’ doors
• Forced, unnatural eye-contact
• Severely restricted in their choice of toys or play activities (e.g., only allowed Legos)
• Kept home from school (it’s considered a privilege).
Children usually do not suffer just some of these. They can get them all — and get them often!
One especially brutal form of “paradoxical intervention” — as practiced only by Attachment Therapists — forces a child to do something in excess when they break a rule, such as being forced to gorge on food, candy or drink that they have been caught sneaking. This has led to tragic consequences in some cases.
Isolation tactics often amount to imprisonment of the child within the home…in solitary confinement. Even when allowed to talk, a child is restricted as to what can be said and to whom. Rooms are alarmed, and the child has to ask permission to leave it, even to go to the bathroom. The child must sleep on a cot or in a sleeping bag on the floor, and this can be the only other object in the room.
Parents can be desensitized to the harm they are causing by these cruel games, so when children react naturally to the abusive situations in which they find themselves, parents can stubbornly fail to stop what they’re doing, or worse still escalate the severity of the “treatment.” This, too, has had tragic outcomes.
Unsurprisingly, there are unintended consequences for these sort of actions. There have been divorces, CPS removals, disrupted adoptions, criminal prosecutions, injuries, and even deaths.
A leading teacher of AT parenting methods is Nancy Thomas. Ms Thomas has neither formal academic training nor clinical experience. In fact, all of her training has been within the AT community in Colorado, and a great deal of what she teaches is of her own invention. Notwithstanding her lack of credentials, she is a highly popular and requested lecturer in AT circles. This is perhaps because she views AT parenting as a matching of wits between mother and child, and she is unreservedly on the mother’s side. Her lectures are sprinkled with anecdotes about how she or another mother would count coup on the children in their custody, proudly stroking the air with each “gotcha!”
Parents are misled about the effectiveness of AT parenting methods. Few, if any, have any sound, reliable research to support its use, and many are contra-indicated by what is known about child development and about treatment for known conditions with similar symptoms. Rather than evaluating progress, parents are instead encouraged by “therapeutic parenting specialists” to ignore signs of failure for the tactics employed, and instead to conclude that it is the child who is failing.
For more information on AT parenting, read an essay on this subject prepared for ACT.