“Reparenting” with bottlefeeding [Photo: Orange County Register]

Re-Parenting Methods

If a child asks a parent to treat him as a younger child, such as cuddling, obliging the child is within the range of acceptable parenting. “Re-parenting” methods, on the other hand, impose this treatment on a child, i.e. the child does not initiate the request. Another term for re-parenting is “Forced Age Regression.”

Re-parenting is a subtext of both Attachment Therapy and Therapeutic Parenting. Proponents will treat an older child of any age, even teenagers, as an infant or toddler. This includes:

• hand-feeding solid foods
• bottle-feeding liquids
• wearing diapers
• lying in or across the mother’s lap, and for lengthy periods of time
• while in the mother’s lap, requiring the child to gaze lovingly into the mother“s eyes
• making all decisions for the child
• requiring the child to be within a few feet of the mother for hours on end, sometimes even tethering the child with clothesline or a belt
• speaking only baby-talk to the child
• prohibiting the child from speaking, except to make urgent requests of the mother
• requiring that the child ask permission for everything from the mother
• allowing the child to play only in plain sight of the mother, and then only with baby toys
• keeping the child out of school

Re-parenting is done to a child immediately after he has undergone hours of Holding Therapy (euphemistically called “cuddle time”). Attachment Therapists may rely on the child being emotionally and physically exhausted from struggling against the restraint and unable to resist further. The expectation is that the child will learn from the Holding Therapy and re-parenting experience that he must be dependent on his parents for all his needs.

Re-parenting is also part of the attempt to “re-do” early developmental stages that Attachment Therapists claim the child has “missed” or “gotten stuck in” as a result of “repressed infantile rage” caused presumably by early trauma or neglect. But there’s no indication from research that developmental stages can actually be redone.

Martha Welch, MD, popularized re-parenting with daily holding session in the home. In the belief these sessions could redo developmental states, she initially claimed it was a cure for autism:

“When we first used [Holding Time] with normal children, we were very puzzled by the extent of the fight they gave their mothers time after time....Even a young child will sometimes question the fairness of using this type of force....Rejection begins as the child tries to escape your embrace, your gaze, or your words. The child may spit, kick, writhe, butt, scream, turn purple with rage — or his sad crying may break your heart.” (Holding Time, 1988, page 51)

Re-parenting is also an adaptation of controversial practices introduced by the late Jacki Lee Schiff (All My Children), who had been at the center of a violent therapeutic cult stretching back to the 1970s.

No cognizance is given as to how such practices strip a child of his or her dignity and self-respect. Indeed, Attachment Therapists will claim that children secretly crave this type of treatment, even when resisting it. (Trout)

All of this is contradicted by what is known about child development. Developmental stages don’t get stuck and can’t be redone, though they may take a different trajectory that normal. Humiliation is rarely, if ever, therapeutic. Moreover, it may hinder healthy development. Because re-parenting is likely to cause emotional abuse, it is considered a potentially harmful practice.