Detachment Parenting?
April 6, 2010 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink

VelcroStripsAttachment is a parenting “buzz” word.  Detachment is a Buddhist one. The combination of both is the dynamic duo of raising children. The western definition of attachment is a connection, a deep desire to care for, protect and be a part of someone’s life. It is the foundation of healthy emotional development.  Yet, attachment in the Buddhist lexicon has more negative connotations.

Attachment is like a craving. We hold on tight to ideas or things with the false belief that they are unchanging. We attach to moods, emotions, and phases as if they are constant and everlasting. This explains why we are blindsided by change, hopeless when things feel hard and get overly invested when things are going swimmingly.

Here’s an example:

Your child has been sailing into the classroom so far this year and says goodbye with a confident wave. You become “attached” to this phase and behavior.  The inner dialogue is self congratulatory, and you are flying high on the pride and gratification that comes from having an independent kid.

After your vacation, you walk into the classroom that first day back and your son is whiny and clingy. He doesn’t want you to leave. Your heart is pounding, your face is flushed, you worry “What’s wrong with him?” and “Why is this happening?”  Simultaneously you feel angry, truth be told, because your clingy, whiny kid is embarrassing. You finally peel him off and spend the rest of the day feeling sick with worry.

Detachment, in the Buddhist sense, means you have a separate observing ego talking you down off the ledge. The observer reminds you that all things must change, that being resistant to going to school is as common a phenomenon as loving to go–maybe even more common. The detached observer is not detached from your child, actually you are more tuned in because you are staying calm. Using detachment, you are caring for him by not escalating anxiety to the point where he believes that feeling hesitant to go to school one morning will become a major problem for his mother and therefore, him. Detachment approach helps you calm the choppy waters of your internal world so that your response is not reactive but helpful.

Don’t think for one second that this comes easily. Cultivating an attitude of detachment takes practice, practice, practice.  I wish I had this perspective twenty years ago when my kids were small. Since there is no lack of opportunities to practice detachment when you are raising children–by now, I might be at monk status!

Thank goodness it is never too late to start. The muscle of attachment/detachment in it’s wonderful east/west combination becomes stronger the more it is used. You are more grounded, less reactive and a much sturdier rock for your kids to rely on. So maybe there’s a movement here, “Detachment Parenting”?

Bookmark and Share


  1. April 6th, 2010 | 9:22 am

    Right on, Lisa! Thanks for this.

  2. Zina
    April 11th, 2010 | 12:02 am

    I need help! with this—-so hard.

  3. christine
    July 4th, 2010 | 3:43 am

    Just wait until they are teenagers detachment parenting keeps you sane!

Buy Our Book, 'A Mother's Circle'
Facebook  RSS

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /nfs/c07/h03/mnt/180010/domains/ on line 346