I was fortunate enough to recently attend a series of workshops led by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, an internationally renowned expert on child development. I would highly recommend his book ‘Hold On to Your Kids’, (co-authored by Gabor Mate). As always with anything like this, the mind contracts and expands, doing mental somersaults, comparing and contrasting past knowledge with practical experience in an attempt to assimilate as much information as possible. The result is of course, massive brain exhaustion leading to generous amounts of time spent in the starfish position staring at the ceiling in a vain attempt for it to all land back into my lap in a tidy, simple format. I am still waiting . . .
However, I do have some reasonably coherent thoughts around the material which are just that – my thoughts, which should not be confused with Gordon Neufeld’s . . . I think it would be fair to say that I might be a tad presumptuous to claim understanding of his many years of work!
Firstly, it seems that we as parents need to be cautious about unnecessarily consulting professionals such as therapists and counsellors when the work needs to be done by us, with our kids, at home. This is not to undermine the work of wonderful professionals who do a sterling job with children who need extra input. What it does mean is, we can feel empowered that there is a considerable amount we can offer our children in the way of care as we gently guide them into adulthood - particularly if our basic motives are pure and sacrificial.
Secondly, we do a lot of overthinking these days around our children. There is a glut of parenting books out there and the message is clear regarding this: no parenting book will give us the answers, or a fool-proof plan for raising our children, because what works for one individual will not work for the other, just as one scenario cannot be compared with another. Sigh. Such a shame. Unfortunately, the more difficult road by far and the one which delivers the best results is the one which involves less perfection and the maintaining of rules at all costs. It sets realistic expectations, shows an ability to observe a child and how they are interpreting their surroundings, noting what is working and what’s not, learning from mistakes, and a readiness to see humour in as many situations as possible.
Well, that’s a relief . . . quite manageable really!
Before we become completely overwhelmed, there is hope! As Neufeld puts it in his book, ‘Just as relationship is at the heart of our current parenting and teaching difficulties, it is also at the heart of the solution’. There are a lot of mistakes which can be forgiven once genuinely apologised for. A child will know in their heart of hearts that they are loved even when it is by a flawed adult who has their own stuff going on, but is totally committed to stick with this child and get them through to adulthood knowing that whatever else goes down, they are in it together. End of story.
Even though our modern society tends to dull our natural parenting instincts, if we get back to the base line of relationship and start to observe more, and listen more to common sense and our gut feelings, rather than comparing ourselves with another who doesn’t know the whole story of our journey with our own children, then I think we might be on the right track.
“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice safe playpen.
When they’re finished, I climb out.”
– Erma Bombeck