Children are increasingly forming attachments that compete with their parents, with the result that the proper context for parenting is less and less available to us. The chief and most damaging of these attachments is the increasing bonding of our children with their peers. For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling, and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers, and other responsible adults, but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role – their own peers. The term that seems to fit more than any other for this phenomenon is peer orientation. We may not be able to reverse the forces driving peer orientation, but there is much we can do in our homes and in our classrooms to keep ourselves from being prematurely replaced. Because culture no longer leads our children in the right direction towards genuine independence and maturity, parents and other child rearing adults matter more than ever before.
"Do you have the nagging feeling that you and your child are growing apart? Do you want to read something challenging and thought-provoking? Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate will have you reading, rereading, reflecting, and probably debating with anyone who will listen. This isn't an easy read, but layered in dense writing, thick research, and references to Nietzsche, is a message. The main message the authors want parents to hear is that it takes attachment, attention, and a loving approach to ensure our children stay connected to us as the years go by. The neediness and vulnerability of infancy doesn't end at weaning or when children start school, but rather changes and requires equal responsiveness from parents."La Leche League International
"In their parenting book Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers, author and physician Gabor Mate and psychologist Gordon Neufeld collaborate to address one of the most pervasive problems that parents experience today. They connect the deterioration of the attachment relationship between parent and child with everything from inattentiveness in children, impulsive and disruptive behavior to all kinds of psychological disorders and even the rise in bullying and youth suicide." KamloopsParents
To parent perfectly is a mirage. There is no ideal parent and no ideal child. The Conscious Parent underscores the challenges that are a natural part of raising a child, fully understanding that, as parents, each of us tries the best we can with the resources we have. Thus, the objective
Entitlement is the best name we know for the attitude of children who think they can have, should have, and deserve whatever they want, whatever their friends have, and that they should have it now, and not have to earn it or give up anything for it. And it goes beyond
Over the past two generations, parenthood has gone through radical readjustments. As children went from helping on the farm to being the focus of relentless cosseting, they shifted from being our “employees” to our “bosses!” Even the most organized people have little to do to prepare themselves for having children. They
Children come into the world burning to learn and genetically programmed with extraordinary capacities for learning. Within their first four years or so they absorb an unfathomable amount of information and skills without any instruction. They learn to understand and speak the language of the culture into which they are born,
For a child to be open to being parented by an adult, he must be actively attaching to that adult, wanting contact and closeness with him/her.
When a child seeks contact and closeness with us, we become empowered as a nurturer, a comforter, a guide, a model, a teacher, or a coach.
Because culture no longer leads our children in the right direction towards genuine independence and maturity, parents and other child rearing adults matter more than ever before.
When children become so attached to their peers that they would rather be with them and be like them, those peers, whether singly or as a group, become those children working compass point. They will look to their peers for cues on how to act, what to wear, how to look, what to say, and what to do.
The basic human resistance to coercion is usually tempered, if not preempted, by attachment. This, too, we know from our own experience: when we’re in love, hardly any expectation by our loved one seems unreasonable.
A child who wants to be close to us will likely receive our expectations as an opportunity to measure up. Cues about how to be and what to do help a child find favor in the parent’s eyes.
By undermining a child’s attachment with parents, peer orientation turns the counterwill instinct against the very people the child should be looking to for guidance and direction.
Power means the spontaneous authority to parent. That spontaneous authority flows not from coercion or force but from an appropriately aligned relationship with the child.
The power we have lost is the power to command our children’s attention, to solicit their good intentions, to evoke their deference and secure their cooperation. Without these four abilities, all we have left is coercion or bribery.
Our power to parent rests not in how dependent our child is, but in how much our child depends specifically on us. 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.
While aggression is not always related to peer orientation, the more peer-oriented the child, the more likely aggression will be part of the picture.
A child pursuing closeness with one person will likely resist anyone he perceives as competing with that person.
Attachment and orientation are inextricably intertwined. Humans and other creatures automatically orient themselves by seeking cues from those to whom they are attached.
A child’s alienated stance toward his parents does not represent a character flaw, ingrained rudeness, or behavior problems. It is what we see when attachment instincts have become misdirected.
Peer-oriented students are loyal to their peers, not the teacher. The teacher is no longer perceived as a model, an authority, or a source of inspiration.
We cannot get to independence by resisting dependence. Only when the dependence needs are met does the request for true independence begin.
Disrupting children’s attachment roots only causes them to transplant themselves into other relationships. Our refusal to invite them to depend on us drives them into the arms of each other.
Faced with the challenge of the peer culture, we need to keep our children’s attachments to us strong and to make these attachments last for as long as our children need to be parented.
Parent with attachment in mind. This means not allowing anything to separate the child from us, at least not psychologically.
Although many children need an invitation, asking them what they think and feel seldom works. Sometimes the trick is in finding the right kind of structure: regular outings together, shared tasks, etc.
We all need someone to substitute for us from time to time, and most of us need to share our parenting responsibilities with others. Selecting these substitutes carefully and fostering our child’s attachment to these adults should be our priority.
When pushing away from parents, as maturing adolescents tend to do, having an alternative adult to turn to can keep the adolescent from turning to peers.
Use connection, not separation, to bring a child into line. The basic parenting practice that derives from this shift in thinking is what we call “connection before direction.” The idea is to collect the child in order to give guidance and provide direction.
When problems occur, work the relationship, not the incident. If we are at the receiving end of insults, “I hate you,” or even physical aggression, the immediate challenge is to survive the attack without inflicting damage on the relationship. Focusing on the frustration instead of taking the attack personally will often help: “You’re upset with me,” “You’re really frustrated.”
When things are not working for the child, draw out the tears instead of trying to teach a lesson. Represent to the child a “wall of futility.” “Your sister said no,” “There isn’t enough.” These realities need to be presented firmly so they do not become the issue. The second step is to come alongside the child’s experience of frustration and to provide comfort and help the child to find the tears beneath the frustration. We can say things like “It’s so hard when things don’t work.”
Solicit good intentions instead of demanding good behavior. It isn’t enough for children to know what we want. The intention to comply must be their own. Instead of “I want you to...,” elicit a declaration of intention or at least a nod affirming it: “Can I count on you to...?”
Draw out the mixed feelings instead of trying to stop impulsive behavior. Our job is to help bring the conflicting feelings and thoughts that exist in the child into his consciousness.
When dealing with an impulsive child, try scripting the desired behavior instead of demanding maturity. To script a child’s behavior is to provide the cues for what to do and how to do it.
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