Sowing the seeds of love or three ways to grow your plant!


So, in the last post about attachment, you read all about how to deepen your connection with your children. You can read it again here:

And if you prefer video, here’s a quick summary of the post 

So basically,  attachment is like a plant; multiple roots and what we see is the result of the rootedness of the plant. So, just like growing a plant, for attachment to proceed the conditions must be conducive to its growth. What does that look like though? Well, conditions must be warm and safe and the child’s heart must be soft. That means they must feel safe to feel all of their emotions. (Watch out for my next post all about children’s  emotions)

Children will spontaneously fall into attachment if conditions are conducive. According to Gordon Neufeld, there are 3 such conditions.

Three conditions for attachment to happen spontaneously

#1 is a good enough invitation: An invitation to what? To exist in someone’s presence. Children long for this; to see in your eyes an invitation for their own individual self to exist; an invitation that is not withdrawn because they have misbehaved. They need to see that there is room for them as their own person. The child is seeking the invitation to exist in someone’s eyes and the adult is the answer. Attachment is hierarchical and a child’s attachment is what enables & empowers an adult responsible for the child. Attachment facilitates dependence; it enables one to take care of another – the child is seeking something and the adult is the answer- not has the answer but IS the answer. We can’t become independent without first learning that it is safe to depend. Attachment provides the adult with the power to take charge of the child (be the captain of the ship), take care of them, and to act with natural authority. It’s not skill or knowledge; it’s about the relationship. The child’s attachments are what make them receptive to us.  Children must always feel the warm invitation to exist in the presence of their parents and other adults in their lives who care for them. How do we do this? Through the warmth in the tone of our voice and delight in our eyes when our gaze finds theirs. Showing our delight in seeing them at the end of the school or working day.  (You can read more about this in another post here:


# 2 is safety from disruption: What does this mean? It’s not that the child has to be with her parents the whole time. It’s more that they need to be with them until they can preserve closeness or attachment through sameness or until they can keep close via belonging and so on through the 6 stages of attachment. Children need to be able to hold their parents close when apart. So for example, when my little girl started school last year, we used to make origami hearts; one for her pocket and one for mine. So she could touch the heart during the day and preserve our closeness. Or I used to put notes in her lunchbox. Over the summer when she was going to sleep later and still asleep when I would leave for work, I would write her mystery notes that she had to decode and leave them where she would see them when she work up. Other ideas are giving your child something of yours to wear or mind for you even something as small as a pen. (You can read more about bridging separation here:

#3 A soft enough heart

In Gordon Neufeld’s fascinating course on making sense of children, he states that emotion is the engine of development. Yes, you read it right! Emotion, not behaviour, not cognition, not consciousness, not intention, not even love, but emotion is at the heart of our children’s development. What developmental science has uncovered, he reports, is that our brain can only move us to mature when we feel our emotions, especially the most vulnerable ones. But it’s not easy to face life with a soft heart because we are easily wounded and people are not always nice! But in order for our potential to unfold we are meant to feel our wounds. We are feeling creatures. How do we help our children keep their little hearts soft? Watch out for my next post which will be all about helping children deal with their emotions.

So, attachment may be the most powerful force in the universe. What?!! Attachment is what makes our babies’ shit smell sweet! What?!! When my little girl has vomited on me, it never bothers me because of our attachment. But if a stranger was to vomit on me that would definitely bother me! Same with changing a poo-ey nappy- when it’s your own baby or a baby to whom you are attached- by and large- no problem. But when it’s someone that you don’t have an attachment with, it’s a different story! Attachment gives us the power to create a sense of home; to provide comfort, rest from the pursuit of proximity caused by fear of separation, and a place of retreat. A home is where the heart is. Children need to feel at home with those who are caring for them or teaching them.

Hope you enjoyed the post! If you did, please share it with your friends! And watch your inbox for the next post on children and emotions.

Let’s get talking!







  1. Hi Marypat
    Thanks for this post. Found it really interesting to reflect on the 3 important conditions for attachment to happen, especially when I consider my relationship with my two children. Condition 1 is especially interesting when I reflect on my endeavours to build rapport with the many and varied children I meet in my clinical practice.

    • Hi Siobhan- thanks a mil for commenting and I’m delighted you found the post helpful! I love Gordon Neufeld’s approach- he talks about ‘attachment manners’ and how we often approach our children ‘cold’- we wouldn’t do the same with strangers! He also talks about connecting first through simple but powerful things like getting eye contact or a nod to indicate connection before moving to direct the child. And for young infants to begin by talking to the parents so the child sees that you’re approved of before making a bid for their attention.

  2. Oh, what a wonderful post I’ve just read! Thank to you,Mary Pat, and your work. I have learned so many useful things! I’ve got no children yet and I am getting myself prepared for motherhood, so once again I want to thank you for helping me to do it!

    • Oh Daria- your comment has made my day! Thank you SO much for taking the time to comment! I really love attachment – it feels so right to consider our relationships with our children from this perspective! xx MP

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