Tuesday, May 20, 2014

To Loop or Not to Loop: A Controversial New Parenting Strategy is Gaining Popularity.....

Brookline, MA- We've all seen them: toddlers attached to a caregiver at the zoo or shopping mall by a cord and a kid friendly backpack harness. Although not a favorite means of keeping tabs on toddlers for all parents, most would agree that this is a safe and effective way to keep a young child safe from harm while in a crowded place. The true controversy involves a new parenting technique, known by proponents as "looping", that is quickly becoming popular in some areas of the country.

A toddler safety harness prevents child from floating away while holding a large handful of balloons
Looping involves the continued attachment of a child to a parent, usually but not always the mother, even after their days of accidentally wandering off are long behind them. While the practice is most common in the elementary school-aged child, rates are even increasing among middle and high school students. Some school districts, particularly in more affluent neighborhoods like Brookline, Massachusetts, are seeing as many as half of children being "looped" with a parent. This is forcing schools to find innovative ways of accommodating the increased parental presence in classrooms.

The looping harness was historically made at home, using simple rope, but many parents have begun ordering specially designed gear online. These are preferred by children because of increased padding for comfort and by parents because Kevlar ropes and cables are resistant to cutting and burning. The harness is usually worn at at all times, even during sleep, although many parents allow for periods of time where they are unhooked to be earned by good behavior or the achievement of predetermined goals.

Why are these parents literally attached to their children? Although safety is offered up as a reason for some parents, the primary impetus for looping is the desire to encourage a more steady and reliable emotional and psychological development. Some parents see looping as a means of counteracting negative societal influences.

The National Looping Association (NLA), formed in 2012 by looping advocates Brit and Mitzi Miller, claims that there are a variety of social, psychological and medical benefits for both children and caregivers. Although published studies are lacking, there is no shortage of testimonials. According to the Millers, encouraging word-of-mouth from satisfied parents is their primary approach to advocacy.

"I talk to parents every week who are seeing their child blossom literally right in front of their eyes," Mitzi Miller explained. "When you're looped to your child, you are always there to assist with any difficulties, to encourage them when they are hesitant, to comfort them after any setback. In two years, I don't recall hearing one negative experience."

Well adjusted teen in loop harness enjoying some earned time "off the loop"

Not everyone agrees with the Millers. Harvard based Child psychiatrist and parenting expert Mort Fishman looked into looping after he noticed a number of local children raising the issue during counseling sessions. "I kept hearing unfamiliar terminology from my patients. They would talk about being "on the loop" or "off the loop". At first I thought there was a new street drug."

Fishman quickly put the puzzle pieces together and began a year long investigation into looping culture. What he found shocked him. In his soon to be published book on the subject, he will put looping into a historical context and discuss why, in his opinion, looping will likely backfire and result in children who are less prepared for the real world.

"This has all the markings of a bogus parenting fad," Fishman revealed. "I understand that parents want to protect their children, but at some point this type of anxiety and desire for control becomes pathological. And I am very concerned about the long term effects. What happens when they leave the home? Will parents follow them to college or into the workplace?"

For now, looping proponents are unfazed by what they see as an ivory tower incursion into the home. "Frankly I don't see what the fuss is all about," said Miller. "Looping provides a literal safety harness for your child. And they love it! You just know a looped kid when you meet one. That look of docile acceptance is unmistakable."

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