My posting has slowed over the past month as I've enjoyed putting more time toward writing and revising my book. I did want to share with you another great parenting discovery, though. Thanks to Stacy of MamaOm, I just finished reading Hold On to Your Kids by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate. The book makes a compelling case against the peer-oriented culture which has grown to dominate over the past few decades, especially as it pertains to parents losing their hold on kids as the primary nurturing and guiding force until they reach maturity. It goes as far as to claim that true maturity isn't actually occurring among those who are taking their cues solely from their fellow immature peers. It's the blind leading the blind, with disastrous results.
In today's culture which places a high value on peer interaction along with less time available for families to spend together, it's more difficult for parents to remain the primary orienting force in their children's lives. Children are encouraged to socialize with other children early and often. High student: teacher ratios in daycares and schools encourage attachment to peers instead of teachers. The extended family of loving adults that used to be the norm in children's lives is now the exception, and our mobile society creates isolation instead of community. Add to this mix the effects of media which perpetuates the culture of cool, and the result is that it's simply much, much harder to parent today than it was a few decades ago, and it's far easier for children to turn to each other to meet their attachment needs.
So … what does all this mean to me, the mother of a three-year-old sensitive child? Actually, the implications are pretty direct. As a sensitive child, Lucas absorbs everyone's energy. He mimics everything and everyone. It already appears that he's very susceptible to influence by his peers, coming home from preschool with new behaviors and mannerisms all the time, to my enormous frustration. He's also sensitive to even the most subtle withdrawal of my affection, and this drives him to attach more quickly to others who will fill the void. If he's around his peers when we've been having a rough time with our mother-son relationship, any authority and influence I may have had disappears and all hell breaks loose. If this keeps up, I'll lose him completely by middle school.
As you already know if you are a regular reader, I've struggled with how to handle these difficulties. Mainstream parenting philosophy dictates that firmer boundaries and punitive measures are necessary to nip negative behavior in the bud. Attachment theory suggests the opposite. I've waffled between the two, leaning toward attachment and then chickening out in the face of parental and societal pressure. Intuition always leads me back to attachment, though. And when I doubt myself, I end up with a book like this one to give me the support I need.
The following is a quote from the book that seemed to sum up the prescription for me:
- Playing more with him and watching him play, especially when he hasn't asked.
- "Spending time" at bedtime, (laying next to him until he falls asleep) even if it's inconvenient for me.
- Satisfying his need for closeness – saying yes unless there is a really good reason to say no – even if it means going with him every time he needs to go to the bathroom or find a sock or wash his hands.
- Allowing our daily "quiet time" to be spent in the same room together.
- Being unconditionally loving in my tone and words. Reaffirm that I love him no matter what.
- Do what it takes to manage my own frustration in healthy ways (exercise, meditate, sleep, etc.) so I don't take it out on him.
This book was just the right wake-up call to get me back on track - again.