Flatlander Faith

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Tag Archives: Gordon Neufeld

When the schools fail, what are parents to do?

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The leaders of the public school system claim that only they have the tools and the understanding to prepare children for life in the modern world. It should be clear by now, to anyone who is not sleep-walking through life, that the schools have done a proper botch-up job of all things wherein they claim to be the experts.

Is it time for parents to rethink their own place and responsibility? The responsibilities of parents are the same as they always have been. We have allowed the public school system to usurp some of those responsibilities and thought we were doing what was best for our children.

A child’s first heroes are Mom and Dad. Young minds are hardwired to learn from their parents. That affords a precious opportunity for parents to establish a foundation for their child’s life. The opportunity slips away if we are intimidated by the confusing jumble of psychological opinions about how best to raise a child. If we squander that opportunity, our children will suffer the consequences throughout life, unless they can grasp hold of that foundation from some other source.

The public school movement has for years spread the propaganda that children can only learn how to get along with others by being together with their peers, children of their own age. How has that worked out? Honestly, does anyone see evidence of children learning consideration for others from children their own age?

Gordon Neufeld, a child psychologist in Vancouver, B. C., believes children must learn social skills from their parents. “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 were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.”

That brings us back to parents as the best placed people to teach their children respect and consideration for others. To parents who fear they are not qualified for such responsibility, Neufeld says: “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.”

Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist who died thirty years ago, considered the ecological concerns that were being increasingly talked about and applied them to the family. He wrote that we should be concerned about raising children in the ecological setting that was most natural and helpful to their growth and development. That was a home with a mother and father. I believe we can safely ignore those psychologists who say anything different.

-Gordon Neufeld quotes are from Hold on to Your Kids – Why Parents Should Matter More Than Peers, © 2004 by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté.

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.

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