Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hold on to Your Kids...a book review

I was checking emails and got sidetracked by this article. It is about a celebrity couple who is filing for divorce, celebrating with friends and each other at a party in honor of said divorce, and telling everyone that while they can't be together, they have very good feeling toward the other partner and want to work together for the children. Working together is very important for the children and that is very mature...or is it?

Last week I talked about this book, High Risk: Children Without a Conscience. I explained that while I believe it was ground-breaking when it was released, and still has an excellent overview of what attachment disorder is, there were some problems with it. My biggest complaints are two-fold. Holding Therapy, which is touted as the only way to get through to the child, is incorrect. And it can be dangerous for a parent to attempt alone. Second, it talks about attachment disorder as being relatively one speed...like, your child is only attachment disordered if he or she is a mini psychopath standing over you at night with a knife or sticking feces in your hamburger. Attachment disorder, we now know, have more of a continuum...degrees of attachment problems.

As some of you know, from my facebook posts and one crazy sessions when he fainted during our call, I had been engaging in telephone counseling with therapist and radio host, Dr. Greg Popcak. Dr. Popcak had many good things to say when he helped me with some problems I was having with our son. He steered me towards a book , Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. I initially was less than thrilled with the recommendation. I assumed it was another book on holding therapy from the name and knew I did not want to go there with my 6+ foot 16 year old son. But Dr. Popcak's discussions with me regarding attachment--building and saving the bond with my children--made a lot of sense, so I ordered the book and dove in. I was delighted and LOVED the book. I highly recommend it for anyone who has children, works with children, was once a child  himself. Yeah, I think everyone should read it. Why, you ask? I am so glad you did!!

The book defines a phenomenon that has not been named in today's society: Peer Culture. It is so spot on that it is almost frightening. The premise is that when children do not find their parents as reliable and dependable...they lose their authority with their children who then need to look elsewhere for someone to orient them; be their true north. That usually ends up being other children. The problem with that is other children do not have the emotional maturity to bond effectively with others, nor do they have the capacity to encourage other to become the individual they are meant to be. I realize, when writing that, it sounds ridiculously simplistic. It is. But it also explains some of the big problems of our times...precocious sexuality, though that is a tame name for what our children are exposed to on a daily basis, bullying which is becoming a huge problem at times leading to suicide, our peter pan boys who refuse to grow up, girls who pretend they are mature and then try and prove it by doing a grown up thing, like raising a child...and the circle continues. Many of the things that I rant against on a daily basis can be found here in the Peer Culture that we are raising our children in. Critics of the book raise two objections to it. 1. lack of remedies in the book. 2. lack of objective peer reviews in support of or even in opposition to his theories. I concur with both of those objections, but still recommend to book. First, it is obviously true. It can be seen clearly in society and in our own lives. There is something going on...Neufeld just explained it really well. Second, if it hasn't been defined before, it would be difficult for others to have studied it,  however, if we did reviews for peer cultured studies on some of the individual issues Neufeld raised in the book, I am sure that we would find support for the ideas. Neufeld just put it all together. I for one am grateful. Also, if I recognize now what the problem is, I can find solutions in my life for our children. Neufeld doesn't need to tell me what to do.

This book has caused me to take a long, hard look at my own life. I believe I used my own peer culture as my True North...now I need to examine my life and see how it has affected me. How I did not fall into the same problems as my Peers;  how it affected my siblings; most importantly, my children. It has caused me to look at how I am schooling my children. It has caused me to examine how casually my husband and I send the children to have play dates and stay overnight with friends. How we are actually encouraging the children to become independent from us before they have a chance to have a secure attachment. Most of the children in our home have only lived with us for 2 years. They do not have a strong bond and many of the things we do don't encourage a stronger bond. Their options are to look to immature peers as the source of their growth and development.

What are the things that I want to teach my kids that they won't get from their peers? Unconditional love...Responsibility for self and for others. Commitment and follow through. Family bonds and caring that is more than superficial. Maturity...self-actualization. I want my children to set goals and follow through on them. I want my children to try, risking failure. I want my children to be sure of themselves so that if someone laughs at them or disagrees with them, they will not blindly believe them or fail to believe in what they know is true. I want my children to have and be a good friend. I want them to practice that with their peers but know that they can be safe at home so that their peer interactions are not life and death. I want my child to become a responsible adult who will choose a friend to marry and be his or her best friend. And remain with that person forever. I want them to choose this person not based on what he looks like on the outside, but on what he is inside. I want them to stay together regardless of what life throws them, yes, and model to their own children what to be. Not just be mature enough not to fight and have a party celebrating their divorce. I want my children to love God and see him as the ultimate authority to trust. The arbiter of right and wrong...the true, true north.

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