Category Archives: 5. The Adolescent

From age 10 to age 18.

Trust Your Children More; Teach Them Less

By Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed., director of Connective Parenting, www.bonnieharris.com, reprinted with permission

The more stories I hear from parents, the more I know that trusting our children’s capabilities and detours is the path to connected relationships and success. Sometimes trusting our children goes against our standards of good parenting.810896_71237717 books

But who are we to know what our children should do with their lives; who are we to know what they need in order to get there? Our job is to remove the obstacles in their way of reaching their potential and accept and support who they are so they will have a firm foundation on which to launch into their futures.

A parent in my group put trust to the test. Her son didn’t like to read. He figured out a loophole in the school’s point system for reading. If he performed poorly, he would be put in the achievement bracket that required fewer points to get by. “He basically was reading See Spot Run books,” his mother told us. Her husband, who does not read, was furious and kept on him to no avail. She supported his decisions and left the process up to the school, although she did share her own experience of pleasure from reading. Allowing him to fail and trusting his reading capability, she maintained connection. With her trust, he discovered Harry Potter and everything changed.

When my daughter was little she begged to play the violin for a couple of years before I found a teacher. Practice turned grueling. When we reached the point where our relationship was at risk, I allowed her to stop. A year later, of her own accord, she took it up again. At 13, she bought herself a $1,700 violin. Today she is a professional composer. Who knew?

When we support and trust who our children are and know it is not up to us to find their gifts and talents, we learn that all they need is self-confidence to find their way.

Children resist with all their might when they think we are against them—when we criticize, blame, threaten, lecture—when they don’t trust that we understand and accept them. To find their way, they need to trust us to trust them.

We parent by the misconception that our job is to teach our children how to act and perform in the world, and if they don’t do it right (according to whom?) then they must be forced with some kind of manipulative, punitive tactic to get them on track. What track? Whose track? What if your child is meant to establish a new track or a track you don’t approve of? What if it’s a track that public schools don’t teach?

We are fraught with the anxiety of parenting, fearing our children will fail unless we teach them … What? How did you like your parents telling you what to do and when to do it? Did you ever think, They’re clueless, they don’t understand me, they don’t trust me?

What children need from us is our guidance and leadership. They need us to keep them safe and to make the big decisions they cannot be expected to make—to know that they should not be expected to act like a grown-up to know better, to understand tooth decay, to want them to do their homework, to hurry to get out the door in the morning.

We must trust that they want to be successful, that they want to please us, the most important people in their lives. They want to learn; they want to find their paths. It’s when we get in their way with our own agendas, our critical tones, and our disapproving eyes that they come to the conclusion there is nothing out there for them and that the most important people in their lives can’t be trusted.

Guidance and leadership does not mean engaging in power struggles to prove our rightness and put down their arguments. It does not mean punishing them, taking away their favorite things, isolating or grounding them—making them feel miserable and thinking that will motivate them to do better. Likewise, it does not mean manipulating them with bribes and rewards. Our intentions are well-placed; the methods we use to motivate are misguided and wrong. They send our children in the direction we most fear. They leave our children floundering in a world of unpredictability where they turn to their peers for guidance and leadership.

Practice trusting. Start by simply listening and truly hearing what they are trying to tell you, even and especially when you don’t like the noise they are making.

 

Summer Vacation: Freedom From or Freedom To?

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, the Center for Attachment Parenting in Israel, www.lifecenter.org.il and an international faculty member of the Neufeld Institute, Canada www.neufeldinstitute.com

“There’s nothing to do!  I’m bored!” is the battle-cry of children everywhere during summer vacation. Yet after weeks of counting the days for school to end, children are at a loss for what to do with their newly found freedom.180180_2234 bucket

When I asked a number of children what they were looking forward to during summer vacation, their answers were revealing. They all said freedom from …  a schedule, homework, boring lessons, tests, bullying from classmates and getting into trouble with teachers. Although they were looking forward to having some control over their time, their activities and who they chose to be with, they didn’t express any clear ideas about what they would do with the luxuriously long days that were about to stretch before them. When we respond to “I’m bored” by filling our children’s time with activities, we miss an important point. Children need times in their lives that are unstructured, when there is “nothing to do.” Continue reading

Three Simple Communication Tips for a Happier Vacation

By Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling, www.sunnybrookcounseling.com

If you are anything like me, it is so easy to overdo it on a vacation. I am known among my friends for squeezing all I can out of a day, and sometimes it’s just too much. On the last Disney trip we took, when I thought my daughter would remember all of the rides, the shows and the interviews with fantasy characters, her favorite memory was sitting on her daddy’s shoulders watching the fireworks in the rain. Yes, the pouring rain. I could have done that in my backyard.3ä illustration: Travel rest from work.

Nevertheless, we will return to Disney this year with Grandpa. I’ve determined to remember that there isn’t a perfect day, not even at Disney. Each day holds beautiful moments and frustrating moments, moments of glory and moments of defeat.  It is realizing that we live in this blend that keeps me in check, keeps me in reality, even at the Magic Kingdom. I have found that keeping the balance and digging for gratitude in each beautiful or frustrating moment makes all the difference. That, and a few key phrases like the following: Continue reading

The Opportunities of Summer Vacation

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

I love summer vacation. I remember picnics at the beach and playing in the sand. On very hot days my older sister and I would run through the sprinklers and make up our own original games. During the long summer evenings my father would play ball with us, and we’d all enjoy family dinners outside on the porch after nightfall when the heat of the day finally gave way to cool breezes. My granddaughter just told me that she has already begun to count the days when school is over. Like most children, she can’t wait for summer vacation to begin.526913_44076249 butterfly kite

But what is it like for parents? The approach of summer vacation is mixed with feelings of worry about how to fill the long hours, what to do about the constant complaint that “there’s nothing to do,” how to handle the endless bickering and fighting between siblings, and how to find adequate supervision for children while parents are working outside the home.

Since the most important influence on a child’s development is parental love and healthy parent-child interaction, summer vacation is an opportunity to make sure that children have large doses of loving connections with the adults who love them.  During the summer, children are free from the pressure of structured schedules, homework and extra lessons, and parents can seize this as an opportunity to create stronger attachments with their children and provide them with the kind of rest that frees a child’s vitality and creativity. Children also need freedom from the pressure of being in large groups with so many other children. Summer vacation is an ideal time to give them a large dose of attachment to home base and limit separation from home and loved ones. This allows the child’s sympathetic nervous system to come to rest, and the processes that lead to calm and creative endeavor can be restored.

It is frustrating to face the fact that our modern culture does not support the health and welfare of parents and children, and as a result, it has become more difficult to be with our children and help them grow up. Still, we have to move from thinking that children need to fit in with the needs of adults and instead think in terms of how to take care of children’s developmental needs, our primary responsibility. We need to ask ourselves a lot of questions.

  • If I need child care during the summer, is there a grandparent or other relative who can be with my children?

  • Is there a summer camp with groups small enough so that the counselors will interact with my child in a warm and caring way?

  • What kind of activities can I plan with my children that will give us opportunities to talk, laugh and enjoy being together? Examples may include cooking and baking together, arts and crafts projects, making decorations for the house, putting together family history and photo albums, making gifts for other family members, playing outside together, board games, becoming involved in the child’s interests, etc.

  • How can I turn mealtime into a festive family occasion?

  • When I’m at work and not with my child, how can I give him a sense of connection with me?

The primary answer we are looking for is how to create deeper attachment—deeper feelings of closeness, sameness, belonging, significance, love and being known.

When parents are empowered with the understanding of the significance of their role in their children’s lives, they can look forward to summer with more confidence and enthusiasm. The more parents find within themselves how they can be the answer to their children’s need for love, frequent loving interactions and deeper attachment, the more they can enjoy each day with their children. Parents will come up with their own unique answers that are most appropriate for their own families, so that they can be the parents their children need. Summer vacation has the potential to become a haven of nurturing, love and new growth for parents and children together.

You can also read Keeping a Schedule When There is No Schedule for some ideas about managing the endless free hours of summer.

Keeping a Schedule When There is No Schedule

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

One of the best things about summer vacation for children is that there is no fixed schedule. Kids don’t have to get up early to be in school on time. There is no homework that has to be handed in before a deadline. There are no school bells that compel children to change activity or location each hour. Summer vacation is a chance to breathe and enjoy the freedom from being forced to conform to someone else’s schedule and demands.1386821_77277854 garden clock

If they could have their way, children might spend summer vacation doing exactly as they please. Waking up in the morning at 11 a.m., staying in their pajamas until well past noon, eating breakfast cereal out of the box followed by a popsicle, sitting in front of a screen—computer, TV or iPad—with no time limit, coming inside from playing outside according to their own whim, and staying awake past midnight. In truth, some of us adults wouldn’t mind getting a break from our intense schedules and spending the summer this way, too!

The more mature a child is, the more he can see the value of keeping a sense of order and routine to his life. The more he can develop balance and the ability to overcome his feelings of “I don’t feel like it” with the tempering feelings of “I want to do what’s good for me and/or others,” the more he can take control of his life and create healthy habits and routines for himself. Since children lack maturity and the tempering feelings that come with more mature thinking, they depend on us to take responsibility for them. It’s up to us to create order for them, help them keep healthy daily habits, and give them a sense of routine, even during summer vacation. While the schedule does not have to be as intense as it is during the school year, we still want to take care of them in a way that’s in their best interest and give them a feeling of security from knowing that their parents are in charge and taking care of their needs.   Continue reading

You Are a Good Parent

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator, API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

There are many ways of raising children. Of course.

Photo: (c) Helene Souza
Photo: (c) Helene Souza

Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.

That said, there are certain parenting goals—and therefore, strategies—that can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, the wholesome and strong bond between a parent and a child, offers an advantage to a person by helping him handle stress more easily, from everyday garden-variety stress to major adversity. Essentially, secure attachment lends itself to good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also for physical health and overall well-being. Continue reading

An Attached Education: Can Attachment Parenting Enhance Learning?

By Rebecca English, PhD, education lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, www.rebeccamenglish.com

I speak to many parents who want to continue through the school years with the loving, child-led, engaged parenting that they practiced when their children were younger. I also speak to many teachers and soon-to-be-qualified teachers who yearn to develop strong attachments with their students and encourage them to be effective learners. What these two groups have in common is that they are focused on child-led learning.1107036_97836458 education

In their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner advocate for what they call an inquiry approach to learning. The authors argue that, rather than what they call lineal/mechanistic approaches to teaching and learning, a more effective approach to education is child-led and allows children freedom to learn in their own time, at their own pace. This approach, unlike many current practices of education, is one that considers children’s needs and supports children in developing a love of learning, which is surely a great gift to give them. Continue reading

Instill Creative Discipline During Screen-Free Week

By Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling and Music with Mommie,  www.stacyjagger.com

As a mother of two children and a newborn, I understand completely how media can become a crutch and a babysitter at times for our children, even for those of us who are mainstream TV-free, and who rely on educational programs, family-based movies and school-based computer enrichment activities. Our world has become more “virtual” than real, and it is sometimes necessary and healthy to take a break altogether to regroup, refocus and reconnect with our children, our spouses and ourselves.1187577_84255851 girl in spring

What better opportunity to experience this than Screen-Free Week? It’s a time to get back to the basics and reflect on why connection-based parenting is not only our parenting theory but the way we actually choose to live our lives.

Here are three thought-provoking, guilt-free ways to instill creative discipline in our families while reconnecting with our children during Screen-Free Week.

1.     Put the TV and computer in the closet for the whole week.

“What!? I can’t do that,” you may be thinking. Many of us won’t. Some of us will. But isn’t our reaction telling us about how much the media has power over us? It’s one measly week, a seven-day respite where the cell phone, computer and TV are not calling the shots. What in the world will we do?

There was a period in my life where I desperately needed to unplug. My husband and I did not have children yet, but we proactively and adventurously decided to pack up our belongings, put them in storage, and live in an 1850s cabin for 18 months, without even electricity. EIGHTEEN MONTHS?! Yes, 18 months. And the first day was the hardest. The first day I literally looked at my watch every five minutes and felt like it had been at least three hours. I didn’t think I would survive. I thought, “Oh dear God, what have I done? I surely made a terrible mistake.” As I sat on the rickety front porch I thought, “This is it. I have officially lost my mind.”

But as the minutes and the hours ticked by, my mind and heart began to slow down. I began taking in life in real time. And I began to realize that life in real time was slower than I had ever imagined.  Little things like the whistling wind, the green rustling leaves, the sounds of the cattle farm next door, and most of all the quieting of my mind began to take on a new meaning. And it wasn’t so bad after all. It was a rest I had never known but one that I had needed for some time, probably for most of my life.

I learned many lessons from my cabin adventure, and the one that stands out the most is that the busyness of life had robbed me of experiencing life itself, life that happens in the now. This was not something I was willing to surrender anymore.

So whether you choose to lock your media in the closet for one hour, one day or the whole week, I hope you will find an adventure and connecting presence in your “virtual-free” time and see that “busyness” and “life” are not one in the same.

A great tradition worthy of starting is a “Technology Turn-Off Time” each evening where we turn off our cell phones, televisions and computers, and just sit and read with our children, play a game or go for a walk. Twice a year, we could even have a “Technology Turn-Off Trip,” where we vacation away or staycation at home and remember to experience life without virtual means.

2.     Look your children in the eyes and feel your feelings.

In our media-saturated world, our computers, televisions and cell phones have taken the place of simple eye contact, even with those we love most. To gaze in your child’s eyes, using words or no words, is a healing and bonding experience at any age. It helps us to get in touch with our most primary emotions, many of which we have unfortunately left behind in order to survive our adult world.

A therapist friend explained the concept to me that the word “intimacy” is “into me see.” We teach this type of “into me see” early on with our children. What we don’t realize is that when we forget to bond with our children while feeling our feelings and empathizing with theirs, we are sending them an important message for the rest of their lives. We are saying, “This is too hard,” “I am too busy for you,” “I am not comfortable with this.” This message eventually matures into their adult relationships where it is no longer parent-child, but spouse-to-spouse.

We can use the “replacement principle” in this matter and, instead of sending those negative messages, forgive ourselves and take the time to bend down, look our children in the eyes, giving the message, “You are important,” “I like you,” “My time is well-spent with you,” “I want to know you.”

We are in essence saying to ourselves: I may not have received this when I was a child to the degree that I wanted or needed it, but I recognize the importance and choose to slow down, guard this bond, reconnect and repair from what is familiar to me. I can do this. I can slow down and be with myself and with my child, minute by minute. And when I fail, I can repair. I can humble myself and say I’m sorry, I was wrong. Please forgive me. Now let’s go have some fun!

3.     Experience nature.

One of my heroes is Richard Louv, and his wonderful book, The Last Child in the Woods, literally changed my life and way of thinking. What was in my heart, he put into words. What I knew to be true, he communicated brilliantly. Childhood completely separated from the natural world may be no childhood at all. There may be a forever void in children who are more comfortable plugged-in than unplugged. Children were made to be outside. Media is a wonderful tool that can enhance our lives. It is our job as parents to limit our children’s access to media, and to give them the tools to combat our culture’s message that unstructured time playing outside is a waste of time. It is just the opposite.

Time children spend in nature is a natural healer. It teaches them the circle of life, how long things actually take to grow, how to work together as a team. It really is a child’s first classroom for creativity, problem-solving and emotional and intellectual development. Connecting with nature goes hand-in-hand with connecting with people. Children learn the value of life, the value of a moment, and how moments pass quickly. Children need time to be children. Excessive media robs that from them.

So for this week, turn off the screens. Sit in the silence. Feel uncomfortable. And let it pass. Then watch the birds, the bees, the trees, and find the magic in the moment. With yourself. With your child. Experience life in real time, and then write about it. I would love to hear from you.

Feeding a Vegetarian with Love and Respect

By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, senior contributing editor to Attached Family magazine

When my friend, a mother of one, found out her nine-year-old daughter wanted to become a vegetarian, she didn’t know what to do. She and her husband had never considered a meal complete without chicken, beef or fish, so her initial worry was whether her daughter would be healthy. The worry was quickly replaced with wonderment at the person her daughter was becoming.803603_23406961 vegetables

Parents of adolescents and teens may find that their child’s growing awareness of the world and their part in it may lead them to choose vegetarianism. Some parents may worry that their child’s choice is a reflection of some mistake they have made, but parents should instead be proud that they have raised an empathetic child.

For my friend’s daughter, the shift occurred on a family trip to Mexico, while walking through an open market. When her daughter saw the meat hanging in the butcher’s stall, she decided then and there she would never eat meat again. She has been a vegetarian for two years and remains committed.

For parents who were raised on the idea that meat is essential to health for its vitamins, nutrients and protein, vegetarianism may seem like a nutritionally inferior way to eat. On the contrary, a vegetarian diet is often lower in fat, cholesterol and calories, and higher in fiber than a diet that includes meat. Eliminating meat, however, is not a sure path to health. A vegetarian who eats large amounts of potato chips, cookies and cheese will, of course, not reap the same benefits as one who focuses on wholesome, plant-based foods. Dr. William Sears encourages parents to ensure their vegetarian child does receive proper amounts of calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12, nutrients found in high concentrations in the meat and dairy the child may choose not to eat. Continue reading

Cultivating Attachment: Making It Easy For Your Kids to Talk to You

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

“Children should be seen and not heard” was a common attitude in generations past. Today we are more aware of the importance of making room for children’s ideas, thoughts and feelings, but children and adolescents are not always inclined to share these things with us. Even the simplest question such as “how was your day” evokes an answer such as “Okay” or “It doesn’t matter,” thus bringing the conversation to a close before it even begins1397790_83069154 flower 2

What makes some children talk openly with their parents, while others seem closed, shy or hesitant to talk? Understanding the polarity of attachment energy gives us an answer. Just as any power in the universe has an opposing force, so, too, does attachment. Just as a magnet has a north and south pole, so, too, does attachment have two opposing poles. Attachment energy is not neutral, meaning that a child will either be drawn to someone he is attached to or repelled by someone he is not attached to.

This polarity is first seen in children usually by the middle of their first year of life, when they begin to shy away from certain people. Any adult such as a grandparent, aunt or caregiver can care for the baby, but by the age of approximately 6 months, the baby may protest when those same people approach him. The attachment brain is now preparing the child to develop deeper attachment, a greater capacity for relationship, and so closes the door to people who interfere with the attachment that is already taking root. This demonstration of protest develops into shyness, which is a positive sign to see in children. It will take the child’s brain about five more years to make sure he has a deep enough relationship with his parents so that he can optimally function in a world that is quite alarming and wounding. Continue reading