We were at a gathering recently when another Mama asked me: “Does your daughter do what you ask?” While I was happy to say “yes”, there was a time when the answer would have been “no,” when power struggles and tantrums were a regular part of our day. The shift happened when I was connected to a parenting coach who, in turn, introduced me to the work of Gordon Neufeld and his book, “Hold On to Your Kids.”
The gist of the book is that children have an attachment need that is, ideally, filled by a mature adult who the child looks to, to learn how to behave until s/he has matured into adulthood. It is up to the adult to maintain this attachment bond and when it is broken the child will look to the next closest person to fill that attachment need. This is often a peer, who is not yet mature themselves, and the result is children basically raising each other, which is like the blind leading the blind. The results of this phenomenon are evident in pop culture, early sexuality, and bullying to name a few. A child with a healthy attachment to a mature adult will always look to that adult to learn how to behave and will grow into maturity without falling into the traps of our failing society.
I had a strong attachment bond with my daughter as she was still quite young but I could see where letting the connection fade made it harder for her to abide my requests. The other important piece I was missing was with the amount of control I gave her. In my desire to ‘give her the world,’ I gave her too much freedom and choice for a young child, and I did not take on the Alpha role in the relationship. I would tell her “No,” and then give in a few minutes later, or I would give her so many options that she would get overwhelmed and fall apart. In effect, I gave her too much control and I made her world too big for her to handle.
With this new information, and the help of the parenting coach, I found my firm voice and started following through with my words, while setting boundaries. I also started to create more intimate moments to strengthen our bond, and I began ‘collecting’ my daughter after any time of separation (even sleep) to reestablish our attachment. Now, I feel that our bond is stronger than ever, and she feels safe and secure in the small world I am holding for her. She is thriving and our relationship is functioning better than ever.
Hold on to your kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gábor Máté. This book restores parents to their natural intuition, confronting such relationship devastating devices as time-outs and using what children care about against them. Offering effective strategies for preserving and restoring the child-to-parent relationship, this book provides refreshing natural alternatives to today’s contrived methods of behavior control.
You can check it out at amazon.com.
Image Credit: Emma Whitney Photography