This chapter is entitled, “Preserve The Ties That Empower”. I love some of the opening sentences in this chapter:
“Children do not experience our intentions, no matter how heartfelt. They experience what we manifest in tone and behavior. We cannot assume that children will know what our priorities are: we must live our priorities.”
On this blog I have talked time and time again about creating a Family Mission Statement, knowing what your values are and living them. Your personal life, the life between you and your spouse, the relationship between you and your family members must reflect good morals, dignity and respect if you want your children to possess these qualities. There is no disconnect in parenting. If you say your children are the top priority, then make your time with them a priority. Make your interactions with them a priority and more than a list of “Don’t do that, Little Johnny!”
Take a view of what it means to raise children long-term, which is really hard when your oldest is a baby, toddler or even preschooler. You may feel as if the normal developmental things they do will go on forever. I assure you they won’t!
Spend some time with mothers who have children a bit OLDER than yours. One thing I see frequently over and over in the attachment community is mothers who have two, three and early four year olds as their oldest child banding together and being together. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but they have no examples to draw from in parenting older children and when discipline needs to contain not just the connection and re-direction a two year old needs for boundaries and when that style of discipline really needs to shift and include stronger boundaries and different tools. In fact, I have seen some mothers with more dynamic five, six and seven year olds really be judged in the attachment community by mothers whose oldest children are only two or three years old. They are not there yet, and they do not understand the six/seven year change nor the nine year change. They just can’t! So, do have some friends with older children so you can see what is coming, what connection and boundaries for that age look like and how things look when there are no boundaries.
The authors remark that “Trying to parent, to “teach lessons” when we are upset or full of rage risks making the child anxious about the relationship. We can hardly expect a child to hold on to a connection that, in his eyes, we do not value.” A child cannot separate himself from your criticism, so do make sure that as often as possible (and yes, we are all HUMAN and STRIVING, so please forgive yourself here) you are approaching the child in a calm manner to help the child, from a place of love.
The authors mention on page 200 that most parents are not perfect and that we may go into reactions that are uncontrolled emotions – but how after this happens we must re-group and re-collect our children. They also talk about the importance of attachment and how many children need to have a sense that they truly matter.
Structure matters. “We have two jobs here: establishing structure that cultivate connection, and restrictions that enfeeble the competition.” They go to say, “The rules and restrictions should apply to television, computer, telephone, Internet, electronic games, and extracurricular activities. The most obvious restrictions that need to be put in place are those that govern peer interaction, especially the free-style interaction that is not orchestrated by the adults in charge. Unless parents put some restrictions in place, the demand for play dates, get-togethers, sleepovers, and instant messaging soon gets out of hand.”
Many more interesting ideas regarding setting up connection with parents that can replace peer attachment, but I will stop there. I am interested to hear what you all thought of this chapter!