[Viewpoint] Are we forgetting how to raise kids?

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[Viewpoint] Are we forgetting how to raise kids?

Time magazine’s May 21 cover featured a slim, blonde Californian, Jamie Lynne Grumet, breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. The headline was “Are you mom enough?”

The story was about “attachment parenting,” a new trend in America that which endorses full-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping and babywearing.

This is exactly how Korean women traditionally raise their children. According to the article, the Eastern method was introduced in America when Bill and Martha Sears published a book on parenting. In the past 20 years, the method has spread to a wide spectrum of parents, from mega celebrities like Madonna to the general public.

In fact, Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman among other Hollywood celebrities have been photographed wearing their children in baby carriers or wraps. Some online shops specializing in baby products in the United States and Europe sell Podaegie, or a traditional Korean-style baby carrier, and they share video on how to use Podaegi to “wear” babies.

Attachment parenting is gaining popularity as researchers show that brains of children who were worn by the parents are better developed and breastfed children emotionally more stable and more sociable. Some Western mothers breastfeed their children for as long as seven years.

It is a generally accepted theory that the experiences before the age of age 3 are a huge influence on the remainder of a child’s life. In early childhood education, the attachment created by the time a child is 24 months old has critical influence on confidence, trust, emotional security and social development. Children who established stable and loving relationships with their parents progress more easily to playing by themselves, and move on to develop independence.

However, those with insecure attachments frequently suffer from separation anxiety, are overly dependent and lack social skills.

The best, and only, way to build attachment is to provide sufficient skin-to-skin contact. Just like the kangaroos, parents need to embrace the child to build trust in the newborn that the world is a warm place.

While Western culture learns from the traditional childcare method of the Eastern civilizations and focus on attachment, Korean parents seem to be headed the opposite direction.

According to statistics, 740,000 children up to the age of 2 were in nurseries as of April. That represents a 29 percent increase from February. The free infant childcare policy was implemented in March. This policy may be a symbol of “welfare state,” but many parents are in a dilemma.

A stay-home mother recently signed up her 16-month-old child for daycare. “I was hesitant at first, but other moms said it would be foolish not to take advantage of the benefit. Also, I want some time of my own.” But she is still not sure if the overcrowded daycare is the best thing for her child.

Working parents are equally concerned. As number of children in daycare increases, each child may not get as much attention as before. They suggest it may be better for the future of the country to extend maternity leave to two years instead of providing free childcare.

At the same time, private daycare centers are unhappy with government policy. Home daycares for children up to age 2 get added benefits, while private nurseries caring for 3- and 4-year-olds face more restrictions. Every day, staff at private daycare centers stage protests in front of the Blue House and the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

At a time when Western parents are trying to keep their children closer to their bodies, using Podaegi and other products, Koreans with children in childcare facilities are fighting for their interests. Are we raising our kids as they should be?

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sunny Yang
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