“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,


10 thoughts on ““Hold On To Your Kids”–Collecting Our Children

  1. After having read the beginning of this book, I was so excited to read the last portion. But to be honest, I felt a bit let down. I understand the authors’ hesitation in presenting something that looked like an instruction manual on how to reconnect with your child. But at the same time I’m so eager to connect with my difficult six-year old that I just wanted someone to give me a road map. I feel like eliciting a nod and a smile from her after she’s been away is just not going to cut it. Nothing seems to give her the kind of contentment I’d like to see her have and I was so hopeful to find some new idea to help her. Seeing you comments on the final section was very helpful though and I think maybe there are some things I can draw from those.

  2. Good point Michelle! A nod or a smile probably is not going to do the trick to a child that you feel so very distant from; and you are right, you do need a plan for those situations. How about taking a piece of paper and writing down what happens when you/your child leaves and what you do before and after? What rituals do you have as a family around meals, bedtime that occur daily? What do you do on the weekends in terms of spending time together? How much physical contact and words of affirmation does this child get every day? Perhaps by going back to the posts on this blog regarding the love languages of children (just use the little search engine box, it should come up), that will help generate some ideas for you. I think I will write a post on this!
    Hope that helps you get started; it is never too late to connect!
    Many blessings,

  3. Just back from hearing Gabor Mate speaking on this topic this evening to parents of high school students. He was excellent. This attachment parenting was an entirely concept to a lot of people with questions like what about obedience and discipline.
    Anyway I just wanted to say thank for the summary and discussion of the book. With a toddler I didn’t get around to reading all of it. I really enjoyed reading what you and everyone else had to say and I learnt a lot.

  4. Thanks for pointing me to the posts on love languages. They gave me some good ideas. I just feel like we need something really drastic with this child. She will not let us hug or touch her, she is constantly biting her hands, the smallest set back or no sends her into a tizzy. It could be that she has just turned six, I know that that is a tough time. Anyway, thanks again for all your posts, they really help me recommit daily to loving this child unconditionally.

  5. I am relieved to have had a glimpse into this chapter. Thank you. I am still reading the chapter on Bullies and am very eager to get to the part that has practical ideas. My family is very much living this dance of attachment/peer orientation. My teenage son (16) went through a period where he was definitely peer oriented this past summer and fall. He was impossible to connect with, extremely rude and aggressive, failing school and getting into all kinds of trouble. After being put under legal curfew, I have had a chance to reattach to him through some of the ideas the authors talk about and through rhythm in our home and having regular family meals. He is much much closer to me now, like we used to be. He is respecting my rules (more) and is affectionate and polite. He even talks my ear off occasionally and shows me his favourite videos and music. BUT his step father (my partner) does not understand this concept. He has been with our family for 8 years now, but he is of an old school idea that more “discipline” (punishment and pushing away) will help him improve in school. I see him destroying their relationship instead of collecting one. I don’t know how to make him realize what is happening but I see the difference in how my son relates to me and in how he relates to his step father. My question is: is one parent with a strong attachment enough? How much damage can the lack of attachment by one member of the family have on his life?

    • Cathy,
      I don’t know as there is a good anwer to your question; I am sure this varies depending upon the individual child. However, I think I would view this “problem” as an opportunity to get on the same page…Perhaps you could find an attachment-oriented counselor through the Imago therapy association that would help you work with connection, boundaries and getting together. I always think of counseling as the “check up” – no different than going to a physician for an annual physical. 🙂
      Hope that helps, maybe mothers can chime in here with their experiences.
      Many blessings,

  6. Pingback: Collecting And Connecting To A Challenging Child « The Parenting Passageway

  7. Thanks for this Carrie. I was talking to a friend a few days ago who did the two Neufeld Intensives. We were specifically comparing Waldorf and Neufeld and we hit on the rhythms of the day/week and how the developmental reason a rhythm works so well to keep the kids calm and happy is that we are continually collecting them after the expansion!!! 🙂

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