Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
By: Gordon Neufeld
After attending the two workshops which I previously wrote about in my blog, I decided to read Neufeld’s book.
I could sit here and write paragraphs on why student/teacher relationship is important. I could sit here and write on why students need to feel that sense of attachment in order to flourish, but I did that enough in my last two blog posts. In this blog post I am going to simply type out my favourite words from Neufeld’s book, so you as the reader can create your own sense of curiosity.
The primary culprit is assumed to be peer rejection: shunning, exclusion, shaming, taunting, mocking, bullying. The conclusion reached by some experts is that peer acceptance is absolutely necessary for a child’s emotional health and well-being, and that there is nothing worse than not being liked by peers. It is assumed that peer rejection is an automatic sentence to lifelong self-doubt. Many parents today live in fear of their children’s not having friends, not being esteemed by their peers.
“The primary culprit is assumed to be peer rejection: shunning, exclusion, shaming, taunting, mocking, bullying. The conclusion reached by some experts is that peer acceptance is absolutely necessary for a child’s emotional health and well-being, and that there is nothing worse than not being liked by peers. It is assumed that peer rejection is an automatic sentence to lifelong self-doubt. Many parents today live in fear of their children’s not having friends, not being esteemed by their peers.
This way of thinking fails to consider two fundamental questions: What renders a child so vulnerable in the first place? And why is this vulnerability increasing? It is absolutely true that children snub, ignore, shun, shame, taunt, and mock. Children have always done these things when not sufficiently supervised by the adults in charge. But it is attachment, not the insensitive behavior or language of peers, that creates vulnerability. The current focus on the impact of peer rejection and peer acceptance has completely overlooked the role of attachment.
If the child is attached primarily to the parents, it is parental acceptance that is vital to emotional health and well-being, and not being liked by parents is the devastating blow to self-esteem. The capacity of children to be inhumane has probably not changed, but, as research shows, the wounding of our children by one another is increasing. If many kids are damaged these days by the insensitivity of their peers, it is not necessarily because children today are more cruel than in the past, but because peer orientation has made them more susceptible to one anothers taunts and emotional assaults.” Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
“Children do not experience our intentions, no matter how heartfelt. They experience what we manifest in tone and behavior.” Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
When a child becomes so attached to her peers that she would rather be with them and be like them, those peers, whether singly or as a group, become that child’s working compass point. It will be her peers with whom she will seek closeness. She will look to her peers for cues on how to act, what to wear, how to look, what to say, and what to do. Her peers will become the arbiters of what is good, what is happening, what is important, and even of how she defines herself.” Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
“After day care and kindergarten, our children enter school. They will now live most of each day in the company of peers, in an environment where adults have less and less primacy. If there were a deliberate intention to create peer orientation, schools as currently run would surely be our best instrument.
Assigned to large classes with overwhelmed teachers in charge, children find connection with one another. Rules and regulations tend to keep them out of the classroom before classes begin, ensuring that they are on their own without much adult contact.
They spend recess and lunchtime in one another’s company. 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. Unlike a few decades ago, today’s teachers do not mingle with their students in the halls or on the playground and are discouraged from interacting with them in a more personal manner. In contrast to more traditional societies, the vast majority of students in North America do not go home to spend lunchtime with their parents.
In today’s society, attachment voids abound. A gaping attachment void has been created by the loss of the extended family. Children often lack close relationships with older generations — the people who, for much of human history, were often better able than parents themselves to offer the unconditional loving acceptance that is the bedrock of emotional security. The reassuring, consistent presence of grandparents and aunts and uncles, the protective embrace of the multigenerational family, is something few children nowadays are able to enjoy.
Owing to geographic dislocations and frequent moves, and to the increasing peer orientation of adults themselves, today’s children are much less likely to enjoy the company of elders committed to their welfare and development. That lack goes beyond the family and characterizes virtually all social relationships. Generally missing are attachments with adults who assume some responsibility for the child.
One example of an endangered species is the family physician, a person who knew generations of a family and who was a stable and emotionally present figure in its members’ lives, whether in times of crisis or times of celebration. The faceless and inconstantly available doctor at the walk-in clinic is hardly a substitute. In the same way, the neighborhood shopkeeper, tradesman, and artisan have long been replaced by generic businesses with no local ties and no personal connections with the communities in which they function.” Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
What I hope for you to get out of this blog post is interest. Interest into who Gordon Neufeld is and what he does. Neufeld Institute is a resource I have linked here for you to inquiry about, and to explore the courses he offers in Vancouver, BC and through online programs.
Workshop By: Gordon Neufeld. PhD.
What is flourishing? According to Dr. Neufeld flourishing is all that we can be. ‘Flourishing’ cannot be taught though because it is natural and emotion. In the dictionary flourish is defines as, “to grow well or luxuriantly; to thrive; to grow and develop in a healthy way”.
For our students to flourish they need to show potential. Children need to be able to handle adversity and adapt to change. Children need to be able to function separately and independently. Children need to do togetherness’ and separateness’ simultaneously, and as teachers we need to remember that diplomacy mearns nothing without integrity.
In order for children to flourish they need to be adaptive, emergent, and integrative. This means learning from mistakes, taking a sense of agency, responsibility, and curiousity. Children need to learn from dissonance. What needs to happen at home? Children need to have a sense of rest and relief from work and attachment. The children need the ability to FEEL tender emotion. Children need suffieicent freedom and space for true PLAY.
What can we do in school? Attachment.
- Reverse Shyness: Children are shy around those they don’t trust or know which creates a barrier.
- Counterwill: All of us have an instinct if someone tells us something. With children we need to collect trust before interaction of those who are not attached to us.
- Cultivating Connections: When we collect trust we can bridge connections and matchmake with the children.
Workshop from: Gordon Neufled, PhD.
At the PSA Super-conference that I attended in Vancouver,BC Dr. Neufeld explored the idea of optimal functioning in and outside the classroom. Neufeld started his presentation defining resilience: the capacity to return to optimal functioning or to thrive under duress. The children in our classrooms are the children who are facing this duress. Children today are performing at school in a stressful environment and there is no rest to the end of their days, and no sense of attachment; instead they turn to their peers.
In order to function properly children need three things: Play, Rest, and Feeling. Play and Depression are opposites in the brain, and how do we know when our children bounce back from depression? They play. When children find play they find rest. Play is where the emotion comes out and takes care of us. Without play emotion takes over us. It is important that our children feel their emotions. Feeling is the feedback to emotions. When the brain has no option it will cut back on those feelings.
When children are living in stressful environments their brains are always performing optically and not functioning optically. For example: When you go up on stage to present your brain turns to performance mode and you forget how scared you are to present and you don’t feel the emotion until you get off stage. Children are attending school and when they return home at the end of the day they don’t have that sense of relief.
Typical stress responses from children are:
More emotion: primal emotions activate solutions to stressful situations.
Less Feeling – Some feelings that are most likely to be inhibited from this behaviour are:
- feelings of woundedness (hurt, feelings, anguish, pain)
- feelings of dependence (emptiness, neediness, missing, loneliness, insecurity)
- feelings of shyness and timidity
- feelings of embarrassment including blushing
- feelings of shame (that something is wrong with me)
- feelings of futility (sadness, disappointment, grief, sorrow)
- feelings of alarm (apprehension, unsafe, anxiety and fear)
- feelings of caring (compassion, empathy, devotion, concern, provide for, meet needs of, treasure, invested in)
- feelings of responsibility (feel badly, remorse, make things work for, take the lead concerning, make things better for)
If children can’t feel it’s like prison. Their loss of empathy is turning into a loss for caring.
Lastly, Less Rest and Play: When children are stressed their systems are switched to work mode and they don’t get the pure play they need. Since attachment serves survival, what distresses them most is facing separation.
Every classroom has a child who may be facing trauma, loss, separation and that can be a very distressing experience. Students could also be dealing with a bad home life, or a sense of belonging. School is stress for students. With this feeling of separation comes a demand for attachment rises. Children go to school which creates a seperation from adult figures. Student who do not feel a sense of attachment from their teachers then look to peers. Because students are forced to learn and come to school, the students start to show up only because their friends are there; not because they are excited to learn.
Children are starting to revolve around each other instead of by elders. This isn’t okay because the earlier the separation from elders the more premature the children is. Peer-relationships should not revolve around each other. This creates a youth culture. The culture comes from what is popular. Our children are looking at each other for cues. Planets don’t revolve around other planets they revolve around the sun. Siblings do not revolve around other siblings they revolve around their parents. One would think, “When my student gets home from school they are away from peers”. This is incorrect information because the internet is giving children a no end of the day feeling!
If children are not feeling they are expressing. This behaviour leads children to engage in higher risk activities. According to Dr.Neufeld, “children who don’t express their feelings will create high adrenaline. 1/5 girls cut/burn in their lives”. This lack of alarm is driving our children’s behaviour which then turns into frustration and impulsive actions.
Performance suffers when facing separation and this is why teachers need to make sure they build teacher-student relationships; especially for those students who do not have it at home. Lost of restfulness and playfulness is a vicious cycle. Loss of feeling (from wounding situations) creates a loss of empathy (stuck, and no alarm PTSD) which leads to more wounding (peer orientation/separation), and creates even more isolation.
This emotional hardening is pushing our children to:
- no longer talk about distress/hurt. When we ask our children, “How was your day”? we get a response like, “good”…
- no longer reads rejection.
- no longer given sadness.
- no longer feels need/dependent.
- no longer visibly affected by loss.
- better able to function or perform.
What children need to bounce back?
Children need to feel SAD enough (when up against that which one cannot change). Children need to feel SAFE enough (from wounding and separation; having a safe place to cry). Children need to feel STRONG enough (confidence in the face of adversity and discomfort). This will create an overall safe relationship for our children.
When children get let down they tend to fix themselves by climbing right back up the way they got let down. Instead of working up the let down path they need to work towards the bouncing back path. We cannot teach children resilience its emotion. The pivotal turning point in resilience is SADNESS. Create this sense of relationship and attachment in the classroom. Let kids play. Not the play on the playground or the play from video games when you feel stimulation, but the play you have from music, choir, drama, theatre. Schools, through providing emotional playgrounds can harness the powerful nature of emotion.