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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hold On To Your Kids

It seems we always have to explain the decisions we have made to acquaintances, friends, and family. Many label us as different or alternative or trying to be hip on another level when acknowledging our homebirth, our yearn to homeschool and our "attachment" lifestyle. While we love who we are and how we live our life, it is very encouraging to know that psychologists who work with families and children validate our ways. Yes, we love holding on to our kid. We are trying, as new parents do, to create a world for our son so that he can be himself and a happy human being.

Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Matter explains why it is so important for parents to attachment parent. The problem today is that kids are peer attached, which causes great problems in children's lack of self-control, self-sufficiency, self-direction, they are less teachable, they are prone to alienation, there has been an increase in bullying in schools and at worst murder of children by children. The authors are psychologists who work especially on aggression, violence and drug addictions.

Here are some enlightening excerpts for all my friends who are mothers and have no time to read yet another book:

Nature never intended children to be parented by just anybody. It takes a special kind of relationship for a child to be receptive to being parented. It is not enough to be related to the child, to assume the role of parent or even to love the child. It is not even enough to be trained in the skills of parenting. The special kind of relationship required is what developmentalists call an attachment relationship... If everything unfolds according to design, the attachment will evolve into an emotional closeness and finally a sense of psychological intimacy. Children who lack this kind of connection with those responsible for them are very difficult to parent or sometimes even to teach. Only the attachment relationship can provide the proper context for child rearing.

The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to the child... When a child is actively attaching to us, we become her home base from which to venture forth, her retreat to fall back to, her fountainhead of inspiration... The attachment relationship of child to parent needs to last at least as long as a child needs to be parented.

The chief and most damaging of the competing attachments that thwart and disempower parenting authority and parental love is the increasing bonding of our children with their peers. It is the thesis of this book that the disorder affecting the generations of young children and adolescents now heading toward adulthood is rooted in the lost orientation of children toward the nurturing adults in their lives. For the first time in history young human beings are turning for direction and instruction not from their mothers, fathers, teachers and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting rold - their own peers.

... children cannot be oriented to both adults and other children simultaneously.

"But aren't we meant to let go?"... "Aren't our children meant to become independent of us?" Absolutely, but only when our job is done and only in order for them to be themselves... Until they grow strong enough to hold on to themselves... Nothing less will do than to place the parent-child relationship back onto its natural foundation.

The Six Ways of Attaching:
1. senses
2. sameness
3. belonging and loyalty
4. significance
5. feeling
6. being known

Attachment voids, situations when the child's natural attachments are missing, are dangerous precisely because they are so indiscriminate... if the mother duck is not on hand when the duckling hatches, the young creature will form an attachment to the nearest moving object... Attachment programming is blind to such factors as dependability, responsibility, security, maturity and nurturance.

Because caring for the young is undervalued in our society, daycare is poorly funded. It is difficult for a non-relatiove to meet an individual child's attachment and orienting needs fully, especially if several other infants and toddlers are vying for that caregiver's attention... Children... have little option but to form attachment relationships with each other.

It is not the fact that both parents are working that is so damaging. The key problem is the complete lack of consideration we give attachment in creating alternatives and making our arrangements. There are no cultural customs in mainstream society... for daycare workers and preschool teachers to form connections with the parents and then, through friendly introductions, to cultivate a working attachment with the child.

Teacher training completely ignores attachment: thus educators learn about teaching subjects but not about the essential importance of connected relationships to the learning process of young human beings.

One of the most damaging assumptions of contemporary society is that children must be exposed to interaction with peers early so that they may learn the social skills of getting along with each other and fitting in... Most parents and educators are of the view that school serve a critical socialization function in rendering a child fit for society. Children who don't go to school are generally considered to be disadvantaged socially.

The belief that socializing begets socializing persists in the absence of any evidence to support it... In actual fact, the more children spend time with each other, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civil society. If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme - to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs - the flaw in thinking becomes obvious. If socializing were the key to socialization, gangs and street kids would be model citizens.

Compared with those in traditional school, home-schooled children consistently demonstrate more social maturity and are more likely to find their place in adult society.

Social integration means much more than simply fitting in or getting along; true social integration requires not only a mixing with others but a mixing without losing one's separateness or identity. This kind of socialization is rare, attachment-based socialization being far more common.

Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends but attachments...

A person must gain the capacity to reflect on her thoughts and feelings, a capacity that, again, is a fruit of maturation.

Aggression is one of the most common complaints raised by parents and teachers of peer-oriented children... The most prevalent... are not the physical altercations that are the grist of studies or statistics but the attacking gestures, words and actions that are the daily modes of interaction among peer-oriented kids.

The problem we now face with regard to education of our children is not something money can fix... The teachability of any particular student is the outcome of many factors... It also requires a connection with the teacher, an ability to benefit from being corrected, an inclination to pay attention, a sense of agency in learning, a willing to ask for help, aspirations to achieve, a desire to measure up to expectations and curiosity and the propensity toward work. All these... are rooted in or affected by attachment... Healthy attachment enhances each of these factors, but peer orientation undermines them. As peer orientation increases, the teachability of our students declines.

Peer orientation extinguishes curiousity, dulls the integrative mind, jeopardizes trial-and-error learning, makes students into attachment-based learners, even as it skews their attachments, renders studies irrelevant, robs students of their teachers.

It is widely believed, by the way, that to give in to a child's requests is to "spoil" the child. That fear contains no more than a grain of truth. Some parents compensate for the lack of attuned attention, connection and contact they are providing by making indiscriminate concessions to a child's demands. When we spoil something, we deny it the conditions it requires... The real spoiling of children is not in the indulging of demands or the giving of gifts but in the ignoring of their genuine needs.

Once we factor in attachment and vulnerability, we see the punishment creates an adversarial relationship and incurs emotional hardening. The use of contrived leverage - imposed sanctions, artificial consequences and withdrawal of privileges - is self-defeating. Such tactics insult the child... methods that employ punitive separation - ignoring a child in response to a tantrum, isolating the misbehaving child [time-outs] or withdrawing our affection when we disapprove - undermine a child's sense of security.

7 principles of natural discipline:
1. use connection, not separation, to bring a child in line
2. when problems occur, work the relationship, not the incident
3. when things aren't working for the child, draw out the tears instead of trying to teach a lesson
4. solicit good intentions instead of demanding good behaviour
5. draw out the tempering element instead of trying to stop impulsive behaviour
6. when dealing with an impulsive child, try scripting the desired behaviour instead of demanding maturity
7. when unable to change the child, try changing the child's world

Our challenge is to create the kind of attachment relationships with our children, and the kind of attachment village for them to live in, where peers can be included without parents being displaced.

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