Category Archives: Kids are for Life! with Shoshana Hayman

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

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

The Roots of Learning Self-Control

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

I was looking forward to a pleasant afternoon on the playground with my grandchildren, only to find all too soon I had to play the part of guard, referee and advocate. There were several other children occupying the swings and slides, and the scenarios that unfolded were to be expected—young children pushing each other, shouting at each other, throwing sand at each other, sticking their tongues out at each other and calling each other names. After watching over the 2-year-old on the steps to the slide so he wouldn’t get pushed down by a rambunctious 3-year-old, it was time to put an end to the sand throwing that was taking place among the 5- and 6-year-olds.  Shoshana

In order for children to be patient, courteous and considerate of each other, they need to be flexible, recover easily from disappointment and adapt quickly to new situations. For example, the child who thought he’d have the slide to himself now has to share it with three other children, and when he runs to the swings, he discovers that they are all occupied by children who got there before him. Besides adaptability, children also need to remember that they care about others at the same time that they are trying to fulfill their own desires. These are the same abilities we adults need in our own relationships. When you think of how difficult it can be sometimes for adults in marriage or in work relationships, you can get a picture of how much more difficult it is for children who are not yet fully developed and mature.

Deep instincts and impulses drive young children’s behavior. When they can’t have something they want, when they don’t win, when someone doesn’t want to play with them, when they are not big or strong enough, when they can’t fix something, when they can’t stop time, when they have to wait, and when things aren’t going as they had planned, they are filled with frustration. This frustration drives them to be impulsive, aggressive and attacking. Their reactions are extreme and untempered. Just like an accident, the impulse to attack simply “happens to them.”  If all goes well developmentally, when children reach the age of 7 or 8, they will begin to have more self-control and consideration for others when they play.   Continue reading

The “Tree Daddy”: A Parenting Metaphor

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

The rain poured down relentlessly, with winds blowing so hard that trees were being pulled from their roots and blown over. My husband watched from our window, paying close attention to the row of young fruit trees that we had planted the previous summer. As the wind whipped the mango tree, pulling its branches sideways, my husband put on his coat, found some heavy rope, and headed out into the rain to secure the trees by tying their trunks to the adjacent fence. When he came back into the house, wet and cold from the rain, I half-jokingly told him he was a good “tree daddy.”Shoshana

The idea of “tree daddy” popped into my mind as I thought about how he had protected those young, tender fruit trees.  He had planted them so lovingly in the summertime, and it remained in his consciousness to keep an eye on them to make sure they had the best chance possible to grow into big, strong trees that would bear sweet fruit one day in the future. He does not have to constantly push and pull at the branches of the trees to make them grow; he does not have to give them commands how to grow. He believes the fruit will some day come, and he simply has to make the sure that the trees have the right conditions for growth and protection from anything that could hurt them.

As parents, this is what we provide for our children. We believe in their potential for growth. Deep inside them are the seeds for becoming truly mature. They will develop the flexibility and resilience needed to withstand the harshness of the world. They have the capacity for being considerate and caring towards others while feeling secure in their own values. Their own aspirations and goals in life will take shape over time, together with the courage and resourcefulness needed to realize these goals. They can become responsible and self-directed so that they can create a life of meaning and fulfillment for themselves.

When we believe this to be true, we have but to protect this development. Just as the “tree daddy” keeps it in his consciousness to watch over the trees so they will be safe and protected, so too, we need to protect and shield our children from too much vulnerability until they can hold on to themselves in the world. We don’t need to push and pull at our children’s growth. Each child will develop in his own time at his own rate, and little by little we will see the fruits of this growth—the fine human character traits that we long to see in them.

What must be protected and shielded in our children is their hearts. Children are the most sensitive and vulnerable of all creatures. In order to not only survive in the world but also to truly blossom and flourish, children need soft hearts. They need their emotions to move them towards caring, consideration, caution and carefulness. Without these emotions, children lose the feelings and perceptions needed for their development as human beings. They fail to become adaptive and able to overcome adversity. They lose their sense of self and purpose in life and along with this their capacity to feel fulfillment. Life is seen through their eyes as being black and white, as they cannot see the dissonance in life and the many dimensions that color and characterize the events in our lives. Continue reading

When Siblings Hurt Each Other

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

It’s sometimes said that parents shouldn’t get involved when siblings fight, but rather let them work it out themselves. Sometimes children do settle their differences. But more often than not, they are mean and hurtful to each other. Siblings are a source of great frustration to each other. Each one is a constant reminder to the other that parents, food, clothing, toys and space must be shared. Older siblings resent younger ones because they think that the younger ones get more attention. Younger siblings resent older ones because they are more capable and get more privileges. Just about anything can ignite an aggressive attack and lots of tears.  Shoshana

Parents do need to intervene and protect children from the insults, aggression and bullying that they inflict on each other. Children depend on their parents to protect them from getting hurt. Part of parental responsibility is to give children the secure feeling that the parent is in charge and will not let the people they love the most hurt each other.

We so much want our children to respect and care about each other. For this to happen, a child needs three things from us.

1. Parents must stay in the lead. The parent-child relationship must be hierarchical, with the child dependent on the parent.  The child needs to feel cared for, nurtured and significant in the eyes of her parent. When a child is generously cared for, she develops within herself the capacity to care for others.

When a parent is busy taking care of younger children, the older child is often expected to be responsible and do the things for herself that she knows how to do.  It’s important for us to remember that even though she’s older, she still needs affection, to feel cared for and nurtured, and to feel that she matters and brings delight to her parents.  Even when she can dress herself or in other ways take care of herself, she still needs the comforting feeling of mom or dad occasionally doing these things for her. When she is filled daily with these expressions of love, she will more naturally have caring feelings towards her younger brother or sister. Continue reading

True Sharing Can’t Be Taught

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

When educational television tries to teach young children to share, it’s helpful for parents to know how the desire to share really develops in children.

My two granddaughters, five and three years old, recently watched a program that talked about sharing. No sooner did the show end, when the girls had a fight over a game they didn’t want to share. Oops! So much for the half-hour lesson on sharing! If I hadn’t learned from Gordon Neufeld, PhD, how children develop the capacity and desire to share, I would have been very frustrated, wondering why the girls weren’t implementing what they had just “learned” five minutes ago from the colorful and engaging television program.

Sharing isn’t something that is learned. True sharing comes from feelings of caring, together with the ability to think about the “yes” and “no” feelings of sharing. In other words, when you care about someone, you will want to share with him.

Ah, but that is not enough! There may be reasons why you don’t want to share at this particular time, and now you must weigh these considerations and decide if you will share, when you will share, and how much you will share. There are sophisticated emotions and thoughts, contradicting each other, that must mix together in the brain during this process: “On the one hand, I’d like to give it to him. On the other hand, I haven’t finished using it myself. Oh, but what if he breaks it? Now I remember I promised my little brother I’d let him use it first!”

In fact, a child’s brain is not even ready for this task of taking all of these things into consideration before the age of five years old, and then, like a muscle, this part of the brain must be exercised so the growing child can take into consideration many things at once. This is called integrative thinking – a level of maturity that takes time to develop, and requires of parents to be patient and trust in the process.

Efforts in creating programs to teach sharing to preschoolers may be doing more harm than good. We are setting up an expectation that children are capable of mature behavior that is not realistic for their age. This creates frustration for parents, which they may dump onto their children. We put pressure on children to make them share by telling them it “makes Mommy happy,” “you’re the big girl now and you should know better,” or “if you want people to share with you…” without realizing that this hijacks the child’s own budding spirit of wanting to share with others. Now, he may be sharing, not because he cares and wants to, but rather because he wants to gain approval. This kind of sharing turns the quality of giving to others into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one. The child’s own ability to decide if he can indeed share and still respect his own limits has now been compromised.

It’s important to remember that when we expect a child to share before he is developmentally ready, we may be inhibiting his true spirit of caring. Instead of sharing because he cares, he now shares because he wants to gain approval, thus turning sharing into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one.  We can be assured that if we are caring toward our children and guide them in a spirit of caring, their own spirit of caring will develop, and as they mature and develop integrative thinking, we will see the fruits: caring that comes naturally and spontaneously from their hearts.

How Independence and Maturity Develops

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

A father of an 18-year-old boy recently consulted with me because, among other things, his son had totaled the family’s car. As any parent would be, this father was very worried about his son’s poor judgment, impulsiveness, and lack of consciousness. How could he give him responsibility if his son could not handle it?

As our children get older, we expect them to be able to handle more responsibility and become more independent. We intuitively know whether or not we can count on them to cooperate with us and be able to make commitments in order to achieve a goal. They should also be able to sense danger and exercise caution accordingly. In addition, they should experience the feelings of caring that are needed to temper their reactions and impulses. True independence also requires of them to be able to consider different sides of a situation, different points of view, and different contexts in order to make mature decisions. We also hope that they will be conscious of the values needed to guide them through life.

As children get older and develop these abilities, we naturally and spontaneously live together cooperatively.  It doesn’t even occur to us to ask questions about how much independence to give a child, because we can see that he is moved by consideration and a growing desire to take more responsibility. He is developing the character traits of a mature person. Continue reading

Attachment Parenting Beyond Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Cosleeping

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

It’s not so much that pediatrician and author William Sears, MD, has remade motherhood, as TIME magazine suggested, but rather that he has revived within mothers their own ageless intuition. He has helped women restore their own confidence in themselves as mothers, which has allowed them to live their motherhood out loud. But putting the focus on breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing have unfortunately reduced Attachment Parenting to these three practices alone. These are not the heart and soul of Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting is a concept much greater than physical closeness. A mature parent-child attachment means that the parent and child are connected at the heart: The child can share what is within his heart with his parent; the child seeks his parent’s advice and guidance and shares values. The relationship exists securely even without physical proximity. It takes years for a relationship to mature to this stage. It unfolds slowly as the parent takes the lead in providing what is needed for the relationship to develop and deepen.

In the beginning, the relationship is characterized by a drive to seek and maintain physical closeness. But physical proximity through the senses is only the first stage of this attachment relationship, and during the first year of life, it is the only way that babies can attach. Breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing certainly stimulate the senses and keep babies physically close to their primary caregiver – Mama – but they are not the only ways that a parent can provide for the child’s attachment needs. If attachment through the senses and physical closeness remain the only way of attaching, the relationship will be shallow, insecure, and prevent the child from becoming his own person. Continue reading

Comparing Children

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

Comparing seems to be part of human nature. We compare ourselves to others. We compare our children to each other and to other children. We compare our spouses to others. Comparing the heart rate or blood sugar levels of a given number of people might be beneficial in determining the range in which people maintain good health – and perhaps we can even say that by comparing children’s abilities and establishing a range of “normal,” we can determine which children have difficulties and how to help them – but comparing ourselves with others, and in particular our children to other children, can have very damaging effects if it’s done in a shameful way — whether or not we actually verbalize it.

One of the most common reasons we compare children is to motivate them: “Look how nicely your sister is sitting and doing her homework. Why can’t you organize yourself the way she does?” or “You should learn a lesson from your brother. He always helps out when he’s asked.” When we compare siblings in this way, we are conveying a message that one child is worth more in our eyes. The less favored child, rather than feeling motivated to emulate his sibling, feels resentment toward him or her, while the more favored child might feel sorry for his or her sibling as well as pressure to maintain his or her status. The damage is threefold: We have inadvertently put a condition on our own relationship with our children, we have harmed the relationship between them, and we have further locked them into their respective behaviors.

Another way we compare children is by judging and grading them. We set up a standard of comparison and then see where a child fits into this standard: “This child is my good eater. He eats everything. But the others are so picky!” or “This is my responsible child. But my other daughter, well, I can never count on her for anything.” or “This child is my astronaut. I have to nag him about everything.” When we judge children and grade them in this way, we fail to see that they are capable of developing many different abilities that can grow with our help, support, and belief in them. Continue reading