This’ll be short, but I can’t NOT emphasize with you one essential suggestion from the book written by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, upon which I focused in the last episode, and it has to do with strongly establishing ourselves (parents and/or teachers) as the primary attachment relationship for the children in our lives … in our care.
I feel the strong need to emphasize this for you because we must not assume, as parents and teachers could assume in the past, that an easy natural bond between young ones and ourselves will endure, no matter how solid are our good intentions, because there is waaaay too much ‘competition’ from the cultural chaos of our times.
The book, as I told you in the previous episode, provides several practical, do-able, and realistic suggestions, but - just quickly - I want to share this specific one from chapter 14:
Get in each child’s face - or space - in a FRIENDLY WAY, for the specific purpose of making good eye contact and evoking a smile and maybe even a nod… with, and this is SO IMPORTANT … no agenda… except to build the relationship. Neufeld and Maté write, “The primary goal in all our connections with children ought to be the relationship itself, not conduct or behavior corrections.”
Remember that little statistic I shared with you in the previous episode … the one about the research that points to the fact that between the ages of 11 and 17 months, the average toddler experiences a behavior correction every 9 minutes. Those are NOT the times when the relationship is being built… yes, they may very well be necessary (or they may not), but that’s a topic for another episode … what we need to clearly understand is that after our children and students move past the adorable stages into more and more of their own natural tendencies, expressing more and more of their own personalities, we (myself most definitely included, I’m so sorry to share), have had the unfortunate tendency to take the relationship for granted … Why do we take the relationship for granted?
Are we lazy? Are we selfish? Are we crazy? None of those blaming explanations help. I think it’s more that we KNOW how much we love and care for the kids in our lives, now, and we sense that we must add more attention to overseeing their safety and education … but de-emphasizing the relationship and the importance of constantly nurturing the connection and bond in constructive and happy ways is showing up in disastrous ways for today’s youth. (I really hope you’ll read the book to see all the ways in which the use of that overly dramatic word, disastrous, is appropriate here.)
Okay … here are some To-Do’s for parents and teachers to experiment with and make your own. As you listen to these, please be open to the fact that life is in the details … life is made up of details … and we have to get back to honoring and valuing the details of our relationships with the children in our care:
GREETINGS … you can take them for granted, or you can end each separation with gladness, enthusiasm, and all of your attention. Doesn’t have to last a long time, that re-setting of your togetherness, but it does have to be fully present … no more taking for granted the relationship, •after every night’s sleep, •after a day or a weekend when you were both apart. Instead, get eye contact, express a warm greeting with your words, with your genuine smile. Teachers who understand and practice this one element of relationship-building enjoy a classroom with much more willing students … it does make good sense, yes?!!!
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