“Hold On To Your Kids”–The Last Chapter

We have arrived at the last chapter in the book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.  The last chapter is entitled, “Re-Create The Attachment Village”.   The authors paint the picture in the opening of this chapter that many of us grew up in  places where neighbors knew one another, children could play within the neighborhood and be watched over by any number of parents….and how this has disappeared for many of us today. 

The authors talk about creating attachment villages and the importance of children feeling at home with the adults we entrust them to.  “In traditional attachment communities a child never had to leave home – he was at home wherever he went.  Today’s children also shouldn’t have to leave home, or at least the sense of being at home with the caring adults, until they are mature enough to be at home with their true selves.”

The suggestions of the authors include:

  • Valuing adult friends who have an interest in  our children and foster our children’s relationships with these adults. 
  • Create traditions that connect our children to extended family.
  • Have socializing that includes children, not separating them.  “As much as possible, we should be participating with our children in villagelike activities that connect children to adults whether through religious or ethnic centers, sports activities, cultural events, or in the community at large.”
  • Introduce our children to other trusted adults in a way that confers an “attachment blessing.” 
  • Work with blended families – “We need to turn what may seem to be either/or relationships into this-and-that relationships.” 
  • Making sure we connect with our children’s friends – insisting on greetings, introductions, keeping the children in a common area, and cultivating relationships with the parents of your children’s friends. 
  • I liked this quote:  “Every parents needs a supporting cast, and the less one exists naturally, the more it needs to be cultivated by design.”

This book study has come to a close; the other books I have done chapter-by-chapter in the past include “Tapestries” by Betty Staley and “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall.

Our next chapter-by-chapter book will be “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma” by Nancy Samalin with Catherine Whitney.  You can see the book here:  http://www.amazon.com/Love-Anger-Parental-Nancy-Samalin/dp/0140129928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299692496&sr=1-1

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter 17

This chapter is entitled “Don’t Court The Competition”  and talks about how a child having friends/peers is NOT the enemy, it is peer ORIENTATION that is the enemy.  That is a large difference!

I liked this quote found on the first page of this chapter:  “…today’s parents and teachers view early and extensive peer interaction in a positive light.  We encourage it, unaware of the risks that arise when such interaction occurs without adult leadership and input.  We fail to distinguish between peer relationships formed under the  conscious and benign guidance of adults and peer contacts occurring in attachment voids.”

The authors have a list in this chapter to help parents avoid the problem of peer orientation:

1.  “Don’t be fooled by the first fruits of peer orientation” – ie, it is wonderful to have children entertain each other, and the authors point out that a child who is used to peers will go to school and learn more easily at first because they are used to other children and not anxious about being with other children, away from family  but how later on, the negative effects of peer orientation really kicks in.  “In the first days of school in kindergarten, a peer-oriented child would appear smarter, more confident and better able to benefit from the school experience.  The parent-oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would, by contrast, appear to be less adept and capable – at least until he can form a good attachment to the teacher…..In the long term, of course, the positive effects on learning of reduced anxiety and disorientation will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation.  Thus follows the research evidence that early advantages of preschool education are not sustainable over time.”

Carrie’s note – I don’t think anyone in the mainstream media of the US are aware of the research studies regarding preschool!  Do you?

I also want to throw a note in here:  I see some homeschooled families who really isolate themselves in the Early Years.  Being home does not mean not interacting with neighbors, it does not preclude being involved with your place of worship, your extended family, etc.  It does mean around the age of five, if you have not before, there should be short playdates that are STRUCTURED.  It does mean that by age 7, most children can operate in a small group setting without falling apart, even the boys that could not do this before.  Social skills do have value! 

If you have a very socially anxious child, I think this is a great thing to work on in the six year old kindergarten year, starting small, being steady and fully present and structuring things.  The world needs to open up a bit around six if it has not already. 

Friendships become increasingly important headed into the nine year change and I feel parents who have not worked on this at all, ie, no social opportunieis for their children at all, are doing their children a disservice.

And again, this is all my opinion so take what resonates with you for your family.

2.  “Shyness is not the problem we think it is” – “Adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers.”  Psychological maturity is what eventually tempers shyness.

Carrie’s note:  Again, though, I think there is a difference between shyness and anxiety.

3. “The stress of day care in the absence of attachment. “

4.  “Getting along with others does not arise from peer contact.” -   “Many parents seek playgroups for their toddlers.  By the preschool age, arranging peer contacts for our children has often become an obsession. …The belief is that socializing – children spending time with one another- begets socialization:  the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings.  There is no evidence to support such an assumption despite its popularity.”

A very interesting section.

5.  “It is not friends that children need.” -  “Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends, just attachments.”

6.  “Peers are not the answer to boredom.”  Also a good section. 

The authors are careful to point out at the end of the chapter that their intent is not to tell parents that children should not have friends, but that parents should view play time with children as fun, and that’s it and that we should connect with our children after every peer interaction.  They go on with sections regarding peers not being the answer to eccentricity, and how peers cannot be relied upon to sustain a child’s self esteem, and how peers are NOT the same as siblings and how a more appropriate substitution for siblings in the case of an only child are not peers, but cousins.  A very interesting section!

Did you like this chapter?  Thoughts?

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter 16

This is entitled, “Discipline That Does Not Divide” and starts off by stating that “Imposing order on a child’s behavior is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.  How do we control a child who can’t control himself?  How do we get a child to do something she does not want to do?  How do we stop a child from attacking a sibling?  How do we handle a child who resists our directions?”

The authors go on to state that behavioral approaches with artificial consequences, imposed sanctions, and withdrawal of privileges are adversarial and there are other effective ways of changing a child’s behavior.  After all, discipline itself is about teaching, self-control, rules not just punishment. 

The authors say we must start with ourselves as parents.  “Our ability to manage a child effectively is very much an outcome of our capacity to manage ourselves.”  I agree with this, and have talked extensively about this on this blog.  However, I wish the authors had also pointed out right here that children are developmentally immature and children do pull out things that parents do not demonstrate.  They do say several paragraphs later that “It is not our children’s fault that they are born uncivilized, immature; that their impulses rule them or that they fall short of our expectations.  The discipline for parents is to work only in the context of connection.”  So I guess they do sort of mention what I had hoped, but I wish they had provided some good examples so parents don’t feel like failures in modeling behaviors when their children do things that children just do!

The authors go on to list seven principles of natural discipline that the authors outline in this chapter:

1.  Use connection, not separation, to bring a child into line.  You all know how much I hate time-out, so this section is right up my alley.  Connect before you correct.  Breathe before you connect would be what I would add here.  Take a moment and pull yourself together before you react.  Smile

2. When problems occur, work the relationship, not the incident.  This section addresses what I call “dog training”  as applied to children:  ie, if we don’t correct the behavior immediately, right now, then our children will obviously grow up to be Great Delinquents In Life.

I think this is true, that a sideways approach can work but again, I wish there more examples for parents here of what needs to be handled right away and directly and what could use a sideways approach.  I also think this section could be mistaken for “you don’t need to do anything”.  Understanding developmental phases is really important, but boundaries are still there whether the behavior is associated with development or not.  What development gives you is the right tools to use in conjunction with connection and your own inner work as a parent.

3.  When Things Aren’t working for the child, draw out the tears instead of trying to teach a lesson.  They don’t mean to draw tears by doing something to the child, but how it is necessary to present things firmly and to not justify, explain, reason it all away and sometimes that makes the child upset and causes tears.  “Your sister said no.”  “I can’t let you do that.”  This may very well draw tears, but you still have to be lovingly firm.  Boundaries! 

Not sure I really liked the wording of this section, but I guess it does underscore the important place that sadness and anger does have and how it is not beneficial to shield our children from being sad or angry by over-explaining and not enforcing any boundaries at all.

4.  Solicit good intentions instead of demanding good behavior.  Provide something for the child to hang on to that gets them going in the direction you want – ask for their help, redirect, garner cooperation, with older children share your own values.  For an older child (I would say over twelve for some of these statements), they have such statements in this section as the parent saying, “I’m always proud of myself when I can feel frustrated without insulting anyone.  I think you’re old enough to try it now.  What do you think?  Are you willing to work on it?”  This section is thought- provoking and worth a read.

5.  Draw out the mixed feelings instead of trying to stop impulsive behavior.  “Trying to stop impulsive behavior is like standing in front of a freight train and commanding it to stop.  When a child’s behavior is driven by instinct and emotion, there is little chance of imposing order through confrontation and barking commands.”  Isn’t that truth?  The authors talk about neuropyschologists who have uncovered that much of a child’s responses are driven by instinct and emotion, not from conscious decision making.  (Which is what I have said time and time again in this space!  See the back post on defiance, it is ever popular!)  The authors talk about how to use mixed feelings to bring order out.  Again, I think this tactic is  for much older children.

6.  When dealing with an impulsive child, try scripting the desired behavior instead of demanding maturity.  “Children who have trouble with self-control also lack the ability to recognize the impact of their behavior or to anticipate consequences.  They are incapable of thinking twice before acting or of appreciating how their actions affect other people.”    We help our children by providing cues with models.  “Many kinds of behavior can be scripted:  fairness, helping, sharing, co-operation, conversation, gentleness, consideration, getting along.”

7.  When unable to change the child, try changing the child’s world.  The authors give some great examples, but also provide the caution that some parents use this technique to extreme lengths and remind us that this should never be used to the exclusion of the other six discipline methods mentioned.

Lastly, the authors point out that “the use of structure and routine is a powerful way of imposing order on a child’s world, and thus on the child’s behavior.” This was a traditional function of culture that is being eroded away.

Structures need to be created for meals and for bedtimes, for separations and reunions, for hygiene and putting things away, for family interaction and closeness, for practice and for homework, for emergent self-directed play and for creative solitude.  Good structures do not draw attention to themselves or the underlying agenda, they minimize bossing and coercion.”  Sounds like what Waldorf education says about the use of rhythm to me….

Interesting chapter!  Thoughts, comments from those of you reading along?

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids” — Chapter 15

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!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids”–Collecting Our Children

So we are up to Chapter 14, “Collecting Our Children”.  Are you excited to get here?  I am!  Connection (to our inner selves and our child)  plus boundaries (along with the tools to help the child meet the boundary)  is what makes discipline hum.  This was actually a very exciting post to write because I think it will really help you put all the pieces of parenting together!

The authors start this chapter by saying, “At the very top of our agenda we must place the task of collecting our children – of drawing them under our wing, making them want to belong to us and with us.  We can no longer assume, as parents in older days could, that a strong early bond between ourselves and our children will endure for as long as we need it.  No matter how great our love or how well intentioned our parenting, under present circumstances we have less margin for error than parents ever had before.  We face too much competition.”

So, the question becomes how we collect our children DAILY and REPEATEDLY.  This fits in so well with Waldorf parenting due to our extensive use of rhythm in parenting.

The authors outline the four steps of the attachment dance:

1.  Get in the child’s face or space in a friendly way.  Evoke smiles, look into their eyes.  With children who are older sometimes the only contact a parent has with these children is when something is going wrong:  it is cited in this book that the average toddler experiences a prohibition every nine minutes to direct them somewhere else.  Then, as children grow past the toddler stage, parents are with children less and less to just be together, to just spend time together and the majority of time is spent on correcting behavior. 

We must collect our children after any separation.   Separation includes not only school or when a parent goes to work, but after a child is occupied in something such as play or reading or homework or spending time with a screen or upon waking up!  How this is done will vary family to family, but start by greeting your children after they have been gone from you, connect with them.  Connect also with the children of your friends and the children in your neighborhood. 

My thought is also that  de-cluttering how many activities your family is involved in outside the home and holding  dear such daily rituals as cooking and eating together will also provide a strong basis for attachment rituals.

2.  Provide something for the child to hold on to emotionally from you – warmth (hmm, another Waldorf principle!  Imagine that!), emotional warmth, attention, interest, listening, a hug or a kiss, a pat on the back or a rub on the head.  Whatever suits that child! The child must know that she is wanted, special, significant, valued, appreciated, missed, and enjoyed.  For children to fully receive this invitation – to believe it and to be able to hold on to it even when we are not with them physically – it needs to be genuine and unconditional.”

Carrie’s  note here:  This is very important even if you don’t feel like it because your child is in a difficult developmental stage.  Connect with this child, love this child.  Guide this child and hold those boundaries because you are the mature adult with life experience.  If you have the attitude that you are going to raise this child to be a good human being, no matter what, then you will be committed to doing this!  There are many posts on this blog about this. 

The authors write:  “We cannot cultivate connection by indulging a child’s demands, whether for affection, for recognition, or for significance.  Although we can damage the relationship by withholding from a child when he is expressing a genuine need, meeting needs on demand must not be  mistaken for enriching the relationship……This step in the dance is not a response to the child.  It is the act of conceiving a relationship, many times over.”

For children who are insecurely attached, the authors note that this can be exhausting to parents and that “the condundrum is that attention given at the request of the child is never satisfactory:  it leaves an uncertainty that the parent is only responding to demands, not voluntarily giving of himself to the child.  The demands only escalate, without the emotional need underlying them ever being filled.  The solution is to seize the moment, to invite contact exactly when the child is not demanding it. “  I think this is especially effective in situations with blended families with step- children.

3.  Invite dependence.  The authors look at the process of courtship, where one is continually offering help with a polite and happy attitude.  “Can you imagine the effect on wooing if we conveyed the message “Don’t expect me to help you with anything I think you could or should be able to do yourself?”

Dependence begets independence in the right season.  To push separation of a child evokes panic and clinging.

I think one thing the authors do not point out here, though, is looking at this through the lens of normal developmental behavior and what typically comes when, when children are experimenting subconsciously with power and what are developmental wants and what are developmental needs.  Some parents need to have their children become more dependent upon them and need to learn to  respect the older child’s cues for not separating and such, but I also see some parents where the child is ready to separate and needs this, but the parent fails to recognize that the child needs support to try and do things apart from the parent.  I think depending upon the age of the child this can be a fine line and one that a mindful parent must navigate in a very conscious way for the older child.

4.  Act as the child’s compass point.  We must guide our children.  The authors write, “Things have changed too much for us to act as their guides.  It does not take children long to know more than we do about the world of computers and the Internet, about their games and their toys. ….Despite the fact that our world has changed – or, more correctly, because of that fact – it is more important than ever to summon up our confidence and assume our position as the working compass point in our children’s lives.”

The authors, on page 191, have a list of phrases that may help orient a child, such as “Let me show you how this works”  “This is who you need to ask for help”  “You have a special way of…..”  “  You have what it takes to…”

These are the ways I see this step in real life:  showing your child REAL work and how to do things through imitation at first (birth through age 7) and then helping them accomplish real work on their own; finding their strengths and building up their confidence in those areas and using that to help them tackle areas that are more challenging for them; grounding your child in a spiritual life of DOING; orienting them to how you perceive the world through your actions and how you treat family members and people outside of your family.  By being an upright human being yourself – if your personal life is not aligned with how you would want your child to act, then you better change it and show them what being a moral human being means.  There is no disconnect in raising children.

Most of all, the child’s compass points includes boundaries in a loving way with the right tools for the right time.  For all ages, controlling your own anger and using your own maturity to be adult enough to guide the child is imperative.  For all ages, showing the child HOW to make restitution is so important, it is key.  For the under –7 child you have imitation, using your gentle hands to help, singing, rhythm, distraction, stories for a sideways approach, painting pictures with your words and using movement to help you help that child.  For children five and a half or six, you can add more pointed phrases about what needs to happen or not.  For seven and eight year olds, a brief explanation with still much protection from being overstimulated.  For those past the nine year change, a sincere connection, talking, problem-solving.

I hope this chapter really helps you, as a parent, put the pieces of connection and boundaries together to make guiding your child in a gentle and loving manner, a mature manner where you are the adult, a reality. 

All of this is in the striving; we are not all perfect, we have ALL had times as  a parent where we second-guess ourselves or wonder if we are doing the right thing, if we are “messing” our child up for life; yes, we have ALL been there!  But have confidence and joy in your parenting; with connection and boundaries for yourself and your family you will raise a healthy adult!!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapters 12 and 13

We are going to tackle these two chapters today so that we will then be ready to jump into Part Four of this book which details the whole HOW as parents we can hold onto our children or RECLAIM our children if we feel that connection has been lost.

So, Chapter 12 is entitled “A Sexual Turn” and starts by discussing that the age of first sexual activity is becoming younger and younger.  In 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control, 6.5 percent of ninth-grade girls and 15 percent of ninth-grade boys  reported having sex before the age of thirteen.  The authors also discuss the general debasement of sexual activity and the difference between the use of sex as a primitive tool of attachment and having sexual intercourse as an expression of genuine love and intimacy.  The authors point out that even in a very short period of time a teenager’s ties with the family can weaken, for example if parents are suffering with depression or preoccupation with their careers, because that is how very vulnerable our children are today.  Children today are using sex as a way to attach to peers, how sexuality in children leads to hardened emotional states with little vulnerability. 

Chapter 13, “Unteachable Students”  documents the disruption children attaching to peers causes in the classroom with academics going downhill.  The authors write:  “The reading abilities of schoolchildren appear to have declined, despite the heavy emphasis many schools have placed on literary skills in recent years.  Our teachers have never been better trained than today, our curriculum never as developed, and our technology as sophisticated.  What has changed?  Once more we return to the pivotal influence of attachment.  The shift in attachment patterns of our children has had profoundly negative implications for education.”

The authors state that four elements are of import for a child to have a teachable mind:  a natural curiosity, an integrative mind, an ability to benefit from correction, and a relationship with the teacher.  Peer attachment undermines that as curiosity is considered “uncool” and the academic subjects being studied at school have no importance in being connected with peers so therefore become unworthy of time or energy on the part of the child.

For those of you reading along, any thoughts on these chapters?  I am looking forward to delving into Part Four!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapters Ten and Eleven

Chapter Ten takes a look at the epidemic of childhood aggression and its etiology.  The authors start this chapter by pointing out not only the number of rising incidents of violence, the fear adults have in confronting gangs of children or teenagers that was unheard of in the past and the violence of teenagers against each other.  They also point out that aggression is not only limited to attacking each other, but  also includes attacking oneself through self-deprecating remarks, self-hostility, self-harm and suicidal thoughts and impulses.

The key to these unlocking the reason behind these behaviors, the authors contend, is to understand the frustration of unmet attachment needs.  “There  are many triggers for frustration, but because what matters most to children- as to many adults- is attachment, the greatest source of frustration is attachments that do not work:  loss of contact, thwarted connection, too much separation, feeling spurned, losing a loved one, a lack of belonging or of being understood.”  When peers replace parents, frustrations mount even higher for a variety of reasons discussed within the chapter.

On page 133 the authors write that despite frustration,  “it is not a given that frustration must lead to aggression” (which, by the way, I am so glad the authors put that in there because that was exactly what I was thinking!)  They go on to say, “The healthy response to frustration is to attempt to change things.  If that proves impossible, we can accept how things are and adapt creatively to a situation that cannot be changed.  If such adaptation doesn’t occur, the impulses to attack can still be kept in check by tempering thoughts and feelings – in other words, by mature self-regulation.” 

A part of this chapter is subtitled “How Peer Orientation Foments Aggression” and cites three ways peer orientation contributes to aggression. Overall, peer orientation seems to dilute a child’s natural apprehensiveness and caution.  Emotional self-numbing is a goal of many peer oriented children and combined with the intake of alcohol can lead to aggression. 

Chapter Eleven is entitled “The Making of Bullies and Victims” and begins with the thought that whilst bullying has always been around, it has recently reached epic proportions in that a quarter of all US middle-school children (grades 6,7,8 for my foreign readers)were either perpetrators or victims of bullying.

The authors cite the lack of adult attachment for these children and note bullying can be reproduced in animal studies where the generational hierarchy is destroyed.  One of the studies the authors cite involve a group of monkeys in which they are separated from adults and raised by each other with the result being self-destructive and aggressive behavior.

The authors distinguish that some children are “psychologically set” to become bullies before peer orientation sets in.  They look at situations that may foster a child’s longing and drive to be dominant over peers in the absence of attachment, including:

  • The child was hurt or abused whilst in a dependent role.
  • The parent has failed to give the child a secure sense that there is a “competent, benign, powerful” adult in charge.
  • The parents has failed to attach to the child.
  • The parent puts the child in charge and in the lead and “looking to them for cues how to parent.”
  • The parent does everything possible to make everything work for the child in order to avoid upsetting the child.
  • The parents gives many choices and explanations “when what the child really needs is to be allowed to express his frustration  at having some of his desires disappointed by reality, to be given latitude to rail against something that won’t give.”
  • Parents are not present for children due to being preoccupied with stress.
  • Parents are too passive, too needy or too uncertain to “assert  their dominance” and the children move into the position of being dominant.

The authors also have an intriguing section in this chapter on “The Unmaking Of A Bully” in which they assert that “the bully’s only hope is to attach to some adult who in turn is willing to assume the responsibility for nurturing the bully’s emotional needs.” 

I will stop there but encourage those of you reading along with me to leave a comment as to what you thought about these two chapters…

Many blessings,

Carrie