Raising Securely Attached Kids: Using Connection-Focused Parenting to Create Confidence, Empathy, and Resilience

Raising Securely Attached Kids: Using Connection-Focused Parenting to Create Confidence, Empathy, and Resilience

by Eli Harwood
Raising Securely Attached Kids: Using Connection-Focused Parenting to Create Confidence, Empathy, and Resilience

Raising Securely Attached Kids: Using Connection-Focused Parenting to Create Confidence, Empathy, and Resilience

by Eli Harwood


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Create a lifetime of connection with your children.

Therapist and wildly popular attachment research expert Eli Harwood (a.k.a. Attachment Nerd) illuminates attachment theory as foundational to the only parenting approach proven to have a lasting impact.
How do you raise kids who are confident, capable, and caring?
The first ingredient is a secure and close relationship—key to helping them self-regulate and thrive later in life. When children feel seen, heard, and supported, all other parenting tips and tricks start to work.
Groundbreaking author Eli Harwood makes attachment theory (the science that explores the innate human need to bond with other humans) accessible and actionable in how it can help our children learn and grow into compassionate, warm adults.
For anyone looking to build a better life for their kids, no matter what you went through growing up yourself, these simple, real-life strategies will help you:
·        Help you create a secure attachment relationship with your kids by choosing connection over control
·        Prompt reflection on attachment patterns you developed in childhood and why you respond in certain ways during emotional moments with your children
·        Help you resolve past attachment traumas so you can gain effective skills to offer calm, connected, and secure base
·        Provide scripts and practical tools to build and reinforce a strong foundation of trust
·        Encourage you to release the reins of influence as their independence grows
Hopeful and inspiring, this essential evidence-based guide will show parents across different ages and stages everywhere that they are not alone in the questions and concerns they may have about their children's development. Though there have been countless studies on how attachment styles affect our romantic relationships, Raising Securely Attached Kids reframes the subject for cultivating a strong relationship between parent and child to bring transformative change to your relationships of all stripes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632175465
Publisher: Blue Star Press
Publication date: 09/03/2024
Series: Attachment Nerd
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 19,968
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

ELI HARWOOD is a licensed therapist who lives in Colorado with her husband, Trevor, and their three children. Eli has been nerding out on attachment research for the past two decades and is on a mission to help make the world a better place, one relationship at a time. She continues this mission in her clinical work, her writing, and running her mouth about attachment on social media. When she isn't working to make the world a more secure place, she is playing dress-up with her kids, obsessing about her sourdough starter, and reminiscing about that one time she won a set of globes as a Price is Right contestant. Visit her at AttachmentNerd.com.

Read an Excerpt


There are so many good books and guides available to help us all learn how to parent in conscious, smart, and effective ways. While those resources are wonderful and can be a huge help in navigating particularly challenging situations or stages, clients often report that the techniques or approaches in these books “don’t work”, and that they have had to fall back on parenting techniques that they don’t want to do, like yelling, shaming, and punishing. 

When I check out the books they have been consulting, they are usually giving sound parenting advice. But, the advice written in them is advice that works brilliantly IF and ONLY IF, we have already cultivated a secure way of relating to our children. And while it’s great to learn an acronym to help us stick to consistent discipline, it won’t do diddly squat in the long run if our children don’t emotionally trust us. 

Creating a secure relationship with our children is the foundational step to helping them to live a deeply fulfilling, meaningful, and connected life. When our children feel seen, heard, supported and emotionally soothed by us, all the other parenting tips and tricks start to work much better. 

A connected relationship is truly the most outstanding ingredient needed to raise a well-regulated, socially capable, all-around secure kid, who grows into a caring, confident and resilient adult. 
Secure attachment also benefits us by making for a far more enjoyable child-rearing process. Instead of being at odds with our children in a constant battle for power, we get to be their allies and supporters as they navigate this wild ride we call life. 
This book will:

  • Help you create a secure attachment relationship with your children across different developmental stages
  • Reflect on what attachment pattern you developed in childhood and why you respond and act in certain ways during emotional moments with your children 
  • Guide you in resolving past attachment traumas or insecurities
  • Provide secure scripts that you can use in specific scenarios with your kids 
  • Provide practical tools for building trust and repairing conflicts and cultivate a culture of cooperation between you and your children
  • Show you what to do about the tricky or uncomfortable topics that we all face in our parenting journey 
  • Encourage you to (securely) release the reins of influence as your children grow in independence

I want to clear up two misconceptions about attachment first.

Fact #1: Attachment Research and Connection Focused Parenting IS NOT NEW.
This is not a trend or something I personally discovered or made up. 

It is a human adaptation that has been practiced in every indigenous culture since the beginning of human existence. While it may seem new in contrast to parenting trends of the past couple of centuries, those disconnected patterns happened as a result of wars, colonizations, and influential people who did not have a solid understanding of attachment science. 

For instance in the 1930s, Dr. John Watson, one of the founders of behaviorism gave this advice to parents in his book, Behaviorism: “Never, never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.”  Disconnected parenting advice like Dr Watson’s went viral in the 1900’s and merged with the unresolved traumas that many people were navigating during that era. These ideas have been around long enough to feel old-school, but in the context of humanity, they are but a blip on the radar.

And, even as a behavioristic idea of parenting was making waves in popular thought, simultaneously researchers like Harry Harlow and John Bowlby were questioning the validity of those notions and began important studies on the relationship between children and parents, and the long term impacts that come with different levels of connection in those relationships. 

As you are reading, some of these ideas may seem new to you, but I want you to remember that secure attachment patterns are as old-school as human survival and adaptation and have been validated by an incredibly rich and valid body of research that has been happening since the 1950s. You’re not hopping onto a new band wagon here, you’re tapping into some of the oldest wisdom around. The wisdom of human attachment. 

While attachment science has been around since the 1950s, a wider knowledge of the subject of attachment in the greater culture and community has not. 

When I first started studying attachment in 2007, the resources available were exclusively intended for nerdy graduate students like myself. Full of big words, lots of scientific data, and very little guidance on how to heal or shift attachment patterns. I loved the big words and the nerdy studies because it helped me to trust this research, and to see its validity. But I also felt uncomfortable with the fact that these incredible truths about the parent-child relationship were inaccessible and obscure for anyone outside of the research and clinical world. 

While we need the scientific data to ensure that we are not simply hopping on some random internet parenting trend, we also need the data to be accessible and easy to apply so that we can actually improve our lives with its wisdom! This book is my attempt to marry the two. To take the incredible science given to us by some very special smarty-pants over the last 70+ years, and to translate it into words and concepts that we can all understand and apply in our parenting journey. 
This book is meant to help you support your child in an optimal developmental process, create a deeply secure bond with them, and help you identify how to use connection to guide them (and you) through those challenging crucible moments that every parent and child encounters along the way. 

Fact #2: Securely Attached Parenting is NOT THE SAME as “Attachment parenting”.
The term “attachment parenting” was coined by Dr. Sears, a pediatrician who created a parenting philosophy that is loosely based on attachment ideas, but makes some correlations that are not indicated by the developmental attachment science. His work was very popular in the 2000s and advocated for specific infant care strategies such as breastfeeding, bedsharing, and baby wearing. While none of these recommendations are inherently harmful to an attachment dynamic, they are not the keys to secure attachment. The key is in emotional connection and co-regulation. Don’t worry if that sounds abstract right now, by the end of this book you will know exactly what it takes to create a secure attachment with your child! 

Glad we got that out of the way. You’re almost ready to start, but I have a few goodies and guidelines to help you along your merry way! 

Attachment Nerd Word List
In order to best help us all understand what the science says and how to actually apply it, there are a few nerdy terms that come from the land of academia, that I just cannot find a way to de-nerdify. So I made us all a Nerd Word List. 

Read through these wordy-words real quick before you start reading the chapters to help keep us on the same page about some of these very important ideas. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test later. But if at any point in the book you are noticing a word that you don’t understand, come on back here and check out the glossary for guidance. 

Regulated: Calm. A “regulated” nervous system means that the brain is not over-firing with intense emotions or underfiring with exhaustion. Think of a car motor, a regulated car motor is not overheating or stalling out. A regulated child or adult is processing clearly and not blowing an emotional gasket or emotionally shut off. 

Dysregulated: Not calm. A person who is yelling and throwing things and running around the room name calling is dysregulated. So is someone who is in the middle of a panic attack. Or someone who has emotionally left the room. A body that is unable to be both calm and present is dysregulated. 

Co-Regulation: How a parent helps a child to return to calm. It can also be used when referring to the process of emotional regulation between two adults, like two sweethearts or a therapist and their client. One calm(er) person helping a less calm person to feel seen, heard, nurtured, and therefore more regulated. 

Attunement: The skill required for emotional connection where a person is able to accurately pick up on the emotional cues of another person and receive those cues enough to communicate empathy in an effective way. 

Misattunement: A moment where someone misreads or fails to receive the emotional state of another person. 

Phew. You did it. You read through the wordy words. Do you feel fancy now? I hope so! I want all of us to inherit and adapt these attachment words into our personal parenting vocabulary and understanding. While these words originated in the research, I hope they will now belong to the people! 

Ages and Stages and Diversity 
Did you know that as of the second I am writing this book there are approximately 8,071,780,714 human beings on planet earth. That’s a boatload of unique stories, family combinations, identities, and life dynamics. Each and every one of you comes to this text with a different dynamic, perspective and need. 

Here are some thoughts to help you consider how to best use this book for your particular parenting reality. 

Parents of Wee Ones: If you are starting this book while your children are still wee ones, that is SUPER SMART STUFF! It’s such a tremendous gift to you and to them to be able to start working on your attachment patterns now. There will be content in this bad dog that you have not yet encountered in your parenting journey, don’t skip over it. It will help you form the kind of mindset and awareness that will keep you more on your toes and less flat out on your back when the hard stuff comes rolling down your street. 

Parents of Semi-Growns: If you are starting this book and your children are grown-ish, maybe they are in late elementary school or in early to late adolescence, I AM SO STINKIN PROUD OF YOU!!!! It takes true grit to make a U-turn in our parenting process and to try to learn something new mid way through the journey. My mother made a U-turn for me and it has made all the difference. 

Parents of Full-Growns: YOU ARE A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH!!! To take up a book like this after your children have flown the coop, means you are truly a person of great heart and integrity. Perhaps you are reading to help you understand your adult child’s perspective on their childhood, or you are wanting to know what you could have done differently, or you are helping to raise your grandchildren and want to give them what you were not able to give to your children. Well done, you are modeling growth for your family and that is no small feat.   

Parents of Neurospecialized Kids: If you have a child who has autism, ADHD, high sensitivity, cognitive impairment, downs syndrome, etc., you have a neurospecialized kid (often referred to as neurodiverse or neurodivergent). What that means is that your child’s brain and developmental process will not match the large portion of the “bell curve” of  typical child development. As you read through these pages you will notice recommendations and ideas that won’t apply to your child. Throw them out! You know your child better than anyone else on planet earth, and definitely better than I do! 

Parents of Children Who Face Identity Oppression: As a straight cisgendered white woman living in America with the financial means to care for myself and my family, I want to acknowledge that this book was written through my lens. While I worked hard to consider as many different parents as possible while I wrote this text, there will be gaps and topics that are missing for you. I honor that there are crucial dynamics that you are navigating in the world that myself and my children are not. Your reality deserves space.

I hope as many of you as possible will delve into the field of attachment science and add your unique voices and viewpoints into the dialogue to accurately nuance the ways we understand humanity around such a central and pervasive topic.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: The Most Important Lesson
Author Eli Harwood sets the stage for understanding attachment in the parenting context and the mindsets necessary for a parent to cultivate a secure relationship, and how children learn whether or not they can rely on us for connection and support.   

Chapter 2: Connection is the Most Powerful Form of Influence
This chapter explores the emotional side of parenting and the importance of those challenging moments when our kids are submerged deep into their feelings.  

Chapter 3: They Can Feel What You Don’t Heal 
This chapter focuses on the ways that our unresolved traumas from the past and our dysfunctional relationships in the present affect our children and how we can heal them in order not to pass them down to our kids.  

Chapter 4: Feelings are for Feeling
In a world full of so much misconception regarding emotional health, this chapter helps you build your child's emotional intelligence through mythbusting current mindsets about what it means to be emotionally healthy. 

Chapter 5: Structure is Nurture's Best Friend
This chapter discusses the power of playful connection and enthusiastic delight, and empowers parents to cultivate positive interactions and explores dominance vs. connection.

Chapter 6: Secure Conflict
This chapter gets into the nitty gritty of conflict with our children and the different ways it shows up in them and us and how to take a discovery mindset instead of a fear mindset with conflict.

Chapter 7: Connection as Protection
This chapter focuses on navigating outside sources of potential harm and struggle with our children. It will help parents learn how to offer protection without sliding into fear mongering or controlling responses.  

Chapter 8: The Self-Confidence Recipe
A child can only become confident in their self if they are first able to be confident in the care of others. This chapter guides parents into how to help kids feel securely adored, understood, and supported which internalizes into positive narratives about themselves.

Chapter 9: The Tricky Topics
This chapter dives into the terrain of the tricky conversations that every child needs their parents to have with them. It breaks down conversation by conversation the important things for parents to be aware of as they navigate these dialogues and how to effectively hear and be heard.  

Chapter 10: Letting Go *is* Staying Close
This chapter leans into the very complex and emotional process of our children building autonomy and independence. It addresses the emotional ways we come to these moments and how to offer our children the best possible launchpad to move into new stages of independence.

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