“Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter Four

The book we are currently going through chapter by chapter is Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate’s “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.”

We have done Chapters 1,2 and 3 so far if you need to catch up:

Chapter Three: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/09/25/hold-on-to-your-kids-chapter-two-2/

Chapter Two:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/09/26/more-about-chapter-two-of-hold-on-to-your-kids/  and here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/08/29/hold-on-to-your-kids-chapter-two/

Chapter One:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/08/04/hold-on-to-your-kids-chapter-one/

This chapter is really interesting,and I think a thought-provoking one for many parents today as it addresses the power and authority involved in parenting.  The opening scenario is about a seven-year-old where the parents have very little control.  The authors point out:

“Too often the children are blamed for being difficult or the parents for being inept or their parenting techniques for being inadequate.  It is generally unrecognized by parents and professionals that the root of the problem is not parental ineptitude but parental impotence in the strictest meaning of that word:  lacking sufficient power.

The absent quality is power, not love or knowledge or commitment or skill.  Our predecessors had much more power than parents today.  In getting children to heed, our grandparents wielded more power than our parents could exercise over us or we seem to have over our children.  If the trend continues, our children will be in great difficulty  when their turn comes at parenting.  The power to parent is slipping away.”

The authors take GREAT PAINS to point out that power is not to be confused with FORCE or ABUSE but that is it simply the spontaneous authority to parent that comes from a connected relationship with the child.  “The power to parent arises when things are in their natural order, and it arises without effort, without posturing, and without pushing.  It is when we lack power that we are likely to resort to force.  The more power a parent commands, the less force is required in day-to-day parenting.  On the other hand, the less power we possess, the more impelled we are to raise our voices, harshen  our demeanor, utter threats, and seek some leverage to make our children comply with our demands.”

As parents, the authors note, we need to do three things:

1. Command our children’s attention – Carrie’s note:  I think this is directly related to so many parents revolving everything and anything around the  child, and putting the child in an equal relationship with the parent as opposed to considering the needs of the whole family and that the parent-child relationship is one of dignity and respect but not equality as we hopefully do have more experience with which to guide and protect our children, especially our small children.   Small children do not need to be privy to every adult conversation and happening!

2.  Solicit their good intentions – Carrie’s note:  we need to attribute positive intent to our children’s actions, even the more challenging behaviors, and most of all to be calm ourselves and help the child solve their problems and challenges.  We must uplift our children and lead them forward.

3.  To evoke their deference and secure cooperation – Carrie’s note:  We must model what we want to see, we must work together as family and figure out what our vision for our family and our family’s values are.  Without you and your partner getting very clear as to what is most important and demonstrating how the family can work together, the child will not know how.  Reverence and respect and dignity are an important part of securing cooperation, but so is setting boundaries between the world of the child and the world of the adult.  The move from your precious child being “part” of you – a nursing, co-sleeping symbiotic being attached in a sling to a three or four year old with a will and ideas of their own is often a hard shift for many first-time attached parents because there were very few boundaries erected in the beginning and now the boundaries need to be in place for the family to function.  Not in a mean way, but in a logical way!  Children have a need for you to lead and guide them.  They need boundaries to push against that will not fall or crumple. 

Most of all, these things can be done in LOVE if you have an attached, connected relationship with your child; the kind of relationship where your child is part of a larger structure of the family.  The authors point out that the “power to execute our parental responsibilities lies not in the neediness of our children but in their looking to us to be the answer to their needs.  We cannot truly take care of a child  who does not count on us to be taken care of, or who depends on us only for food, clothing, shelter, and other material concerns.  We cannot emotionally support a child  who is not leaning on us for his psychological needs.  It is frustrating to direct a child who does not welcome our guidance, irksome and self-defeating to assist one who is not seeking our help.”

Dependency needs of children do not vanish – they only can shift from parents to someone else:  a peer group.  What looks like a shift to independence is actually just a shift in dependence.  “Since humans have a lengthy period of dependence, attachments must be transferable from one person to another, from parents to relatives and neighbors and tribal or village elders.  All of these, in turn, are meant to play their role in bringing the child to full maturity.”  In other words, children are meant to be able to attach to other responsible adults, but in our society this has too often turned into children transferring their dependence into peers. 

This brings up a question from me to all of you with children is what are you doing to foster a community of responsible adults that you can trust your children with?  This is important, and becomes increasingly important as your children grow older. This is not about dependence of a child just on its mother, but on a responsible community. This, of course, does not negate that the strongest and most critical  attachment  is of a child to its family (not just to an attached mother).

One of the last points I would like to pull from this chapter is that the authors point out that parenting is not a set of skills to be learned and that we must as a society stop thinking of parenting in this way.  “The reasoning behind parenting as a set of skills seemed logical enough, but in hindsight has been a dreadful mistake. It has led to an artificial reliance on experts, robbed parents of their natural confidence, and often leaves them feeling dumb and inadequate…..We miss the essential point that what matters is not the skill of the parents but the relationship of the child to the adult who is assuming responsibility.”

There is more in this chapter, but I will stop there.  Those of you following along with the book, what did you think of this chapter?

Many blessings,


9 thoughts on ““Hold On To Your Kids”–Chapter Four

  1. I have not read the book yet. I had a response to the power that previous generations had that seems to have disappeared. I agree that it is not the force that made them have power. I think it was that the parents were the center of the home, not the tv. We spent more time together as a family, more social outings, more seasonal rituals. Children were dependent on their parents for everything, including entertainment. (Or they went outside.) Anyway, those are my thoughts. Does the book address this issue?

  2. Here is that for many dreadful word ‘community’. I think this is one major reason why children seek their peers to lean onto, because we as adults, especially Waldorf homeschoolers are having a difficulty in creating an adult community for ourselves. A lot of us are living kind of isolated, therefore the children have difficulty in finding other trustworthy adults, as mentioned in the book, and seek stronger bonds with peers that go through the same experience.

  3. This book and blog post seems out of step with the other posts on your blog.

    Consider Power vs Authority. We take power and exercise it. Power is often (usually) exercised for the benefit of the powerful. Authority is granted. When we are granted authority we must also be responsible. You have to work to earn that authority. Authority is probably harder to earn than power is to take but it should create a more stable relationship because both sides are willing.

    How should a parent earn authority? Surely through the methods throughout your blog: connection; compassion; consistency; leadership and responsibility.

  4. I just finished the book a few days ago, so I needed to go back and re-read sections of chapter 4 to comment.

    There were times in the book when I found myself not necessarily agreeing with Neufeld’s theory, but chapter 4 talks about parental power. And I do agree that parents have none without attachment.

    I can always tell when the attachment with one of my children has been strained. It’s easy to see the results in their behavior and that leaves me knowing that I need to work on our relationship/attachment. Generally, that means (for us) more one-on-one time. And the investment of time in that relationship is not always easy. Much as we live fairly simply and try our best not to be always running, time is still at a premium. But I know I must make it a priority for the well-being of my children and family.

    What is most concerning about this book, is that those who would benefit most from its contents would never consider picking it up and reading it. I suspect most of your readers are already somewhat attuned to the importance of the attachment theory. But it is nice to find like-minded parents. 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing this!

    I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and it was totally changed my views on how I parent.

    I find this post in particular, eye opening in a way. I do believe our parenting relationship has to be based on love and on trust, rather than on force.

  6. I have to say that as I think of my own growing up experience, this post, Carrie, makes perfect sense (though I have not read the book). It also encourages me as a parent to build stronger relationships with my children (obviously!) AND with adults who are not only my peers but also those who have more years and wisdom than I do.
    I must say that sometimes it is a challenge to discern when it is important to leave the home and build these adult relationships both for myself and my children, and when it is most important to stay at home! While some of this community-building can happen within one’s home, it surely can’t ALL happen there!

  7. I know this post is old, but I’m reading this book and I’ve just finished Chapter 4. I am rather uncomfortable with Neufeld’s ideas. I don’t think parents in past generations had power in the sense that Neufeld is talking about. I think children obeyed their parents out of fear of corporal punishment, other strict punishments, and withdrawal of affection. It is my understanding that overall there is less violence in families these days. Parental power (as Neufeld defines it) is lacking in many modern families for many reasons, but no need to idealize the past!

    • Hi Breathe 16,
      I will have to go back and look at this chapter again – thank you for your thoughts and insight.
      Blessings and joy,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.