Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 5th Grade :)

Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part IV

on August 6, 2012

I have been reading like a fiend!!! I hope you have been doing some reading as well! Although I finished the book Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers quite awhile ago, I want to go back and finish up my review on this book because I think the next batch of information will be helpful to you. Some of you have told me that you are thinking about reading this book now and I am so pleased that my reviews have done their job. : D Hopefully after reading the last 3 reviews on Hold Onto Your Kids, you are convinced of the necessary attached parent-child relationship. Now its time to get to the ‘discipline that does not divide’ part, and what I think is the BEST part of the book, the practical ideas for keeping your children close.

Discipline Methods Need to Preserve Attachment

In our quick fix culture with its focus on short term results, the be-all and the end-all is the behavior itself. If we gain compliance, even if only temporarily, we deem the method successful. Time outs, tough love, 1-2-3 Magic, withdrawl of privileges, according to author Gordon Neufeld, are tactics that can strain the relationship. Yes, children need discipline, but developmentally safe and attachment friendly discipline (Neufeld outlines his seven principles of natural discipline in the book). The current trend in parenting literature is to offer parenting strategies or skills. This is far too definitive and limiting on a task as complex and subtle as parenting. They insult the intelligence of the parent and the child. Relationships don’t lend themselves to strategies. Neufeld believes the fad of timeouts as a means of behavior control makes more problems than it solves. It is effective because it triggers the child’s worst fear–abandonment. Separation would have little impact if closeness was not important to the child. Separation techniques used the relationship against the child. After time out, a well attached child will promise to be good, but only to restore the relationship, not out of genuine understanding or contrition.

So we must consider whether the way we do timeouts really do teach a child a lesson or make him consider the error of his ways. The high cost of playing the separation card is insecurity. Under such conditions the child experiences no release, no rest from the drive to attach, and , therefore, no freedom for the emergence of his individuality and independence, The child will be very “good”, but will also be devoid of emergent energy. The ultimate consequences of that separation technique attacks a young child at his most vulnerable point–his need to stay attached to his parents. Sooner or later the child may protect himself against the pain of being wounded in this way and he will shut down emotionally, or resist contact with the parent.  A child defending himself against the vulnerability of separation may hide under the bed or in the closet and rebuff overtures by the parents for reconciliation. Or in anticipation of trouble, she may run to her room or demand to be left alone. In one way or another, the experience of separation will trigger a child’s instinct to detach from us.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Neufelds reasoning in the area of discipline because I believe that the Bible is correct in its teaching that children need punishment. What I did take away from Neufeld’s ideas is that I should be drawing Faith and Noah to myself as much as possible when they are acting out before going the separation route. Noah flips out when I try to give him time outs and I find them to be really hard to do with him anyway. I really dislike the effectiveness of timeouts. Timeouts have become time-ins with God here– Bible in hand and prayers of forgiveness on lips. These time-ins go much better. I have noticed that whenever I draw closer in relationship to Noah as opposed to coming down on him harder when he is going through a rough period, things always smooth out.

So I think it is true that connecting, rather than isolating, should be our main go to discipline method. Yah, brother blew up at his sister, but don’t feel like you need to whip out a quick fix discipline strategy. Connect, go on a walk, do an activity together, and then really talk it over together. Discipline is not mere short term compliance, it is a teaching of the heart that really sinks in. A failure to collect a child (bring him emotionally back to you) should be a reminder to us to back off a preoccupation with conduct and to focus our effort and attention on building the relationship. Another similar point Neufeld made helped me–If the force of discipline you are applying is greater than the strength of your attachment relationship, the discipline will backfire. Discipline can only be as effective as the relationship is strong.

Enjoy Your Child

So many things about our culture suck the enjoyment right out of parenting, and yet, our enjoyment of our child is key to feeding our child’s attachment to us. Neufeld believes that “….if we saw the situation clearly, we would realize that in our culture it’s a knock-out-drag-out, no-holds-barred, no-quarter-given, winner-take-all and loser-gets-nuthin’, devil-take-the hindmost struggle for our kids hearts and minds!” Christians know this very well already as we spiritually battle against the “prince of the air”, satan and the demons who rule and dwell in the atmosphere and cultures of the earth (Ephesians 2:2). In today’s culture we have less margin for error than parents ever had before.

How shall we collect or reclaim our children, draw them under our wing, and make sure they want to belong to us and not another? The good news is our God given natures tell us exactly how to do this. Its like a courtship dance. With infants, the antics we go through to secure their attention and their smile is hilarious and obvious. This same idea of wooing and relationship building with an older child needs to be present, usually just less obvious. Smile, use a warm tone, let there be a twinkle in your eye, value her simply for her with no other agendas. Too often, the older children become, the more likely we are to get in their faces only when something goes wrong.When we look at how we speak to our older child, it is usually to get her to do something, teach her something, or somehow change her behavior. How often is it about just being together and enjoying her?

“My Kids Drive Me Crazy!”

A highly insecure child can be exhaustingly demanding of time and attention. “Let me have a break,” is our plea, not more engagement. The conundrum is that attention given at the request of the child is never satisfactory: it leaves an uncertainty that the parent is only responding to demands, not voluntarily giving of herself to the child. The demands only escalate. The solution is to seize the moment when the child is not making a demand. Or express greater enthusiasm than the child expects: “Oh, that’s a great idea. I was wondering how we could spend some time together! I am so glad you thought of that.” Take the child by surprise, make him feel that he is the one receiving the invitation. This is one of my favorite concepts of the book: “The more breaks we take, the less attached children are to us. The irony is that they become more difficult to parent–and therefore the more breaks we need from them!” This to me is one of the saddest conundrums I hear everywhere from parents today: I need regular breaks from my kids in order to enjoy them more.

Collect Your Children; Bring Them to You

As our culture erodes, the structures and rituals that protect family life and the sacredness of the parent-child relationship are also gradually eroded. What are some structures and rituals I can put back into my family to protect our relationships? How do I keep my children under my wing, and wanting to belong with me?

1. Make greetings a priority and a must, just like in Provencal culture. A greeting should collect the eyes, a smile, and a nod. To ignore this step is a costly mistake. We do this with friends and family, whenever Daddy gets home from work, and even when mommy returns from an errand.

2. Give connection before direction (and discipline). Sit down and reestablish a connection with your child (taking just a few seconds to a minute) he is while playing, reading, watching tv, or doing homework before asking him to do something else. “Hi! What are you playing? That looks fun!……Ok buddy, lets get to the table for dinner.” If the attachment is strong, this shouldn’t take long.

3. Properly collect your child in the morning after sleep and this will start the day right. Early morning is cuddle and devotion time here at our house, and it always sets the right tone for the day. Holding a child and eliciting smiles first thing is a most fruitful family custom.

4. Spontaneity, surprise, and initiative are vital to collection. Things that are expected can not collect a child. Birthday gifts or expected rewards are more associated with the situation or event, not with the relationship. Its about conveying spontaneous delight in the child’s very being–not when he is asking for anything, but when he is not.

5. Invite dependance. We push and pull our children in a thousand little ways to grow up, hurrying them along to dress themselves, feed themselves, entertain themselves, solve their own problems–we champion independence. Unwittingly we push their natural need for dependence off of us, and it then transfers to their peers. Can you imagine the effect on wooing another adult in courtship with the message, “Don’t expect me to help you with anything I think you could or  should be able to do yourself”? Yikes. No we are full of let me help you with that, let me give you a hand. This was a lesson for me concerning my tendancy to push my children too much: “Its time you learned to button your own buttons now Noah!”….before he is even really ready. Our job is to look after and not resist our children’s dependance needs, and when we do, nature is free to take care of its job of promoting maturity. Just like the most basic principles of growth in the garden–don’t pull your little plant up to make it mature, or you can endanger his attachment roots and fruitfulness, and cause him to transplant into peer orientation.

6. Act as a child’s compass point. We fail to act as a guide to those who depend on us if we don’t orient them to the world. Older children still need to know what is going to happen, where we will be, what they will be doing, who this person is, what something means, and who they are (their identity). “This is what we are doing today,” “This is where I will be,” “What I have in mind for this evening is, “I would like you to meet so and so,” “Let me show you how this works,” “This is who to ask if you need help,” “You are the kind of girl who….,” “You have a real gift in….,” “I can see you are going to go far with….”

7. Create structures and restrictions. Structures that restrict what would take our children away from us allow us to collect our children. Have rules and restrictions for tv, computer, telephone, video games, and extracurricular activities. The demand for sleepovers and playdates can get out of hand and so restrictions should be placed on peer contact. Structures work preventatively, and so if they are later imposed by force, it can be damaging to the relationship. Determine what your standards are and put structures in place while you still have the power to do so. I encouraged you all in a past post about Holiness to set your standards high because its easier to lower them later than to raise them.

8. Protect Family Outings and Holidays in order to collect your children. This means friends don’t always need to come on your outings, nor should holidays be a way for adults to get a break from kids (by grouping children with children or even going separate ways on holidays).

9. Family Sit-Down Meals are one of the best ways to regularly collect your child. Don’t let anything encroach on this time. We sit down for dinner all together every night and then try not hop up right afterwards.

Parenting is Sacred

Confidence, patience, faith, and warmth–just to name a few traits–are a prerequisite to successfully achieving an attachment relationship with a child. Perhaps this book makes you feel frustrated wondering how can I possibly be all this to my child?? I believe we need Almighty God, designer of relationships, to infuse his supernatural strength into us to do what we can not do naturally on our own. Make sure your relationship with Jesus is strong so He can fill you up with what you need. Then watch how your relationship with Jesus gives you a strong relationship with your child, and see the gift of that strong parent-child relationship translate into a beautiful relationship between your child and his Heavenly Father. There is no greater gift than to lay down one’s life.

Finally, reach out to the hearts of other parents in your community and join with me in fighting against the erosion of the sacred parent-child relationship. Share knowledge that changes your life. And may God protect our families.

Lord God, Master of Relationships, hold onto us so that we can hold onto our children

Sweet Summertime Family Bonding

Our Hugest Sunflower Ever!

Noah Counting Up Our Corn Harvest

……which ended up in the garbage because it was so tough.

Faithy Pigging Out on Plums Off the Orchard Floor at a U-Pick Farm

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