Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: attachment theory

Book review: Hold On to Your Kids

Hold On to Your Kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers, by Gordon Neufeld, © 2004.

This book is for parents who feel their children are slipping away from them.  Doctor Neufeld is a child psychologist in Vancouver, B.C. who believes that parents need to be the strongest influence in the development of their children.

He teaches that parenting is the natural result of a close relationship between parent and child and that children have a natural predisposition to look to their parents for guidance and example.  The problem is that parents have been brainwashed into believing that parenting is a very complex set of skills and this teaching leaves most parents feeling inadequate.

“The reasoning behind parenting as a set of skills seemed logical enough, but in hindsight has been a dreadful mistake.  It has led to an artificial reliance on experts, robbed parents of their natural confidence, and often leaves them feeling dumb and inadequate.  We are quick to assume that our children don’t listen because we don’t know how to make them listen, that our children are not compliant because we have not learned the right tricks, that children are not respectful enough of authority because we the parents, have not taught them to be respectful.  We miss the essential point that what matters is not the skill of the parents but the relationship of the child to the adult who is assuming responsibility.”  (Page 55 in the Ballantine Books edition.)

Dr. Neufeld contends that the key to having happy and obedient children is to maintain the natural, instinctive attachment between child and parent.  When that is intact, the child will naturally wish to obey the parent’s commands.  Obedience is a matter of attachment, not coercion.

Parents have been led to believe that their children need to spend a lot of time with other children their own age in order to learn how to get along with others.  Dr. Neufeld points out the folly of this idea:

“The belief is that socializing — children spending time with one another — begets socialization: the capacity for skilful and mature relating to other human beings.  There is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity.  If socializing with peers led to getting along and to becoming responsible members of society, the more time a child spent with her peers, the better the relating would tend to be.  In actual fact, the more time children spend with one another, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civil society.  If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme — to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs — the flaw in thinking becomes obvious.  If socializing were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.”  (Pages 241-242).

There are numerous examples in the book of children who became emotionally estranged from their parents, looking to their peers for approval and direction and ignoring the attempts of their parents to establish some kind of respect and order in the home.  One of those examples is one of Dr. Neufeld’s own daughters (who is now a mother herself and an enthusiastic advocate of her father’s teachings).  He shows how to re-establish the attachment between child and parent from which true parental authority is derived.

Peer oriented children tend to stifle their feelings in order to appear “cool” and invulnerable.  They may become aggressive and hostile, because the peer-oriented culture is full of aggression and hostility.  It is only at home, with understanding parents, that a child can freely show his emotions, talk about his fears and struggles, and eventually become a mature and caring adult.

%d bloggers like this: