The Continuum Concept highlights how babies are born 'expecting' continuous contact with the body of a parent. Sleeping with the baby is part of how 'contact parents' apply the Continuum model, but accompanying the mother (or father) in their daily work is an important part of the socialization of the infant, as well as physically crucial to development, Liedloff has found.
Most traditional cultures raise their infants in this way, which 'developed' societies often tend to consider 'primitive' & not good for the child.
This constant contact then gives way to a spontaneous independence of the toddler & older child, which the adults don't need to 'entertain' or even supervise. All of this contributes to the infants becoming sovereign, secure teenagers & adults, without many of the personal traumas westerners carry, Liedloff argues.
This interview with Jean Liedloff by Michael Mendizza (Touch the Future) is a short summary of The Continuum Concept.
The 'contact parenting' & 'no nappies' aspects of this work are the better known parts, but another important component of the Continuum Concept - and the one that presents carers with the biggest challenges - is actually the 'non-attachment' part.
Liedloff observed how independent and un-supervised native children are, even noticing things like toddlers happily playing on the edge of precipices and in other situations which most western parents would find intolerably frightening, without the adults intervening in any way (once the child has spontaneously decided to start leaving the safety of the 'in arms' phase), but simply remaining a relaxed presence.
Liedloff says we easily transmit our own fears & anxiety to children and so - very counter-intuitively for us - actually put them in more danger if we are anxious to protect them, than if we trusted them: because the child's innate social drive is to fulfill the expectations of the adults around it.
So a "don't do that, you will fall" message (verbalized or not) is 'translated' by the child into "I want you to fall", or "I want you to stay still and don't move much" - either of which severely limit the safety and learning potential (especially self-confidence and physical / emotional development) of the child.
The native adult expectation (which turns into increased self-confidence in the children) is that children can tell for themselves what's safe and not: that their own bodies, instincts, senses and intelligence can handle the challenges that they will inevitably encounter.
This means they get a strong constant message that they don't need 'protecting' from their environment, or need others to tell them what to trust (but yes, always adult availability, for when they themselves feel they need it) in order to thrive. And this actually sets them up to become more secure, able, adventurous and balanced people who trust themselves.
As you will see, having complete trust in your children seems to be extremely beneficial.
For example, in the continuum concept, in tribal communities children were trusted completely and very little fear from the parents are placed upon them.
Jean talks about the Yequana and her amazement at being in the Stone Age, with John Travis, MD on her houseboat in August 2008. Sponsored by the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children aTLC.org
nterview with Aviram Rozin, about his views on kids education.
Particular experience with his daughter learning the alphabet.
Recomended book: The Continuum Concept - Jean Liedloff
About the Continuum Concept
"I don't know whether the world can be saved by a book, but if it could be, this might just be the book."
"This book is the work of a genius."
Robert Epstein, PhD
Liedloff was struck by how contented and relaxed the Yequana indians were in comparison to the stressed and neurotic inhabitants of cities in America and Europe.
In one chapter she comments on the very different attitudes to work and recreation between these Amazon natives and inhabitants of consumer societies.
The Yequana enjoy useful work and therefore have no need to invent separate activities for physical recreation.
There's no gap to be filled in as far as excercise and enjoyment are concerned.
Continue reading in Jean Liedloff on the role of golf in the Western lifestyle
The difficulties we have in implementing this model is of course that most civilized adults - who become parents - carry deep hurts from not having had the kind of parenting that Liedloff identifies as the natural expectation of human babies & children. And unfortunately these hurts are often not healed (or even conscious) by the time the baby comes along.
So these emotional wounds are - unwittingly - passed on to the children, often in the guise of 'giving loving attention to the baby', when really it is the parent that has the need for attention.
The infants, programmed as they are to fulfill the expectations of the adults around them, then learn to give the care and attention (or the need to be needed) that the parent is longing for, creating strange - but common - inter-generational dynamics which cause a great deal of pain to us as civilized people, but that we then consider 'normal' and 'part of human nature'.
Liedloff often points out that making the baby the centre of the parents' attention is actually harmful to the baby, whose natural expectation is to be a passive observer of the life of the village, whilst the carers get on with their normal every-day life. She traces the 'terrible twos' (anxious, attention-seeking, angry toddlers) we often see in western infants as resulting from this kind of reversal of attention - that is not found in native toddlers.
So, ironically, the term 'attachment parenting' is often used (and understood) as synonymous with the (more accurate) 'contact parenting' used to describe the first 'in arms' phase required for healthy baby development.
Liedloff also noticed that the babies were not the center of their mothers' attention.
The mothers would stop and lovingly address the baby's signals; otherwise she went about tending to household, village and social needs, and the infant was simply along for the ride.
She noted, too, that Yequana parents and other adults didn't initiate contact or activities with their children after babyhood, but were readily available when the children needed them.
Children spent most of their time with their peers, as did the adults with theirs.
Because Yequana parents placed such great faith in a child's instinct for self-preservation, the children enjoyed a great deal of freedom and displayed a corresponding level of autonomous functioning rarely seen in children in the West.