We are back to discuss more of our latest book study “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. Today we are on “Chapter Two: Skewed Attachments, Subverted Instincts.”
The authors begin this chapter with a bit about fourteen-year-old “Cynthia” whose behavior had changed in the last year to the point where she was “obsessive about her privacy and insistent that her life was none of her parents’ business.” “Typical” methods of discipline – sanctions, groundings, time-outs had failed.
The authors write, “The cause of Cynthia’s puzzling behavior becomes self-evident only if we picture the same scenario in the adult realm. Imagine that your spouse or lover suddenly begins to act strangely’; won’t look you in the eye, rejects physical contact, speaks to you irritably in monosyllables, shuns your approaches, and avoids your company. Then imagine that you go to your friends for advice. Would they say to you, “Have you tried a time-out? Have you imposed limits and made clear what expectations are?” It would be obvious to everyone that, in the context of adult interaction, you’re not dealing with a behavior problem but a relationship problem. And probably the first suspicion to arise would be that your partner was having an affair.”
In a way, Cynthia was having an affair – with the peer group that had become more important than her parents and her family.
(And this is Carrie’s not here: note I do think having realistic expectations, and for teenagers having clear expectations actually is important. It can be important for adult relationships as well. But, notice what I say is the key to discipline here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/22/the-number-one-way-to-discipline-a-child/)
The authors use this scenario to work toward the next section of the chapter, entitled, “Why We Must Become More Conscious of Attachment”. The authors define attachment as “a force of attachment pulling two bodies toward each other.” They argue that we must become conscious of attachment because economically and culturally our society is no longer geared toward attachment of children toward adults. Attachment must be known about and experienced.
There is a concept in psychology called “psychological orientation”. The authors write, “As children grow, they have an increasing need to orient: to have a sense of who they are, of what is real, why things happen, what is good, what things mean. To fail to orient is to suffer disorientation, to be lost psychologically…Children are utterly incapable of orienting by themselves. They need help……A parent is by far a child’s best compass point—or another adult, like a teacher, who acts as a parent substitute.”
I love this quote on page 19 in reference to the research of the psychological attachment patterns of children: “Absolutely clear is that children were meant to revolve around their parents and the other adults responsible for them, just as the planets revolve around the sun. And yet more and more children are now orbiting around each other.”
The next part of the chapter, the six ways of attaching, is so important that I would like to address it in tomorrow’s post.