Meditate on this idea. You’re a father of two boys. The time you spend now building your relationships with them is enjoyable in the moment and clearly the right thing to do, but it also means you are helping creating superior happiness for them far in the future, when they are perhaps 75 years old. Their joy amplifies and radiates. This is how we bring peace to the world.
Vaillant concludes that a loving childhood is one of the best predictors of mid and late-life riches: “We found that contentment in the late seventies was not even suggestively associated with parental social class or even the man’s own income. What it was significantly associated with was warmth of childhood environment, and it was very significantly associated with a man’s closeness to his father.”
It’s nearly December, which means it’s time to start listening to The Cinnamon Bear with my sons. I discovered this old radio show several years ago on the Get Rich Slowly blog. It’s a 26-part story first broadcast in 1937. Each part is about 15 minutes long, and it was designed to be heard six days a week. We tend to listen to it seven nights a week at bed time, sometimes listening to two episodes to catch up. The idea is to finish up the story on xmas eve.
The style of the story is similar to The Wizard of Oz. A brother and sister are transported to a magical land, led by their animated teddy bear, Paddy O’Cinnamon. And in the end, it all seems to be a dream. The sense of life of this story is unmatched in modern fiction. It doesn’t merely lack cynicism, it portrays the world as benevolent and all people as good by nature.
Since the content is public domain, it’s easy to get a copy. Of course, you can pay a small fee to get a physical CD, but you likely have a way to play MP3s out loud for your kids. There are links to the episodes on the GRS blog, or on RadioLovers.com. There’s even a site dedicated to The Cinnamon Bear.
Check out the list and you’ll find one of your heroes and perhaps a villain or two. That suggests to me that studying philosophy helps you become powerful. You will learn fundamental truths, levers to move the world. While I too studied philosophy in college, intensely but outside of university classes, I passionately wish I’d focussed on it earlier. Philosophy should be a core subject of education from the beginning.
The main premise of this book is that in North America, we and our kids are suffering from a lack of attachment between each other. We push our kids away from us to attach with their peers. Unfortunately, other kids are not healthy resources for kids to reach maturity. The authors compare parent attachment to peer attachment. They show how when kids attach to each other, they are in a constant state of insecurity which makes it hard for them to learn and grow.
The book spends a great deal of time up front in making the case for attachment. It demonstrates how lack of attachment leads to problems for parents and children we seem to be hearing more about. Many of the ideas in this book jive with what I’ve learned over the years about psychology, so it read as a bit too verbose to me. For anyone new to these ideas, the book probably covers the ground well.
The techniques offered to foster attachment with your kids are general and seem fairly simple. I appreciated how the authors stated clearly that you should never rely on a book, even this one, as a cookbook. They offer principles and leave it to the parent to apply the principles appropriately.
Generally, the advice of the book is for parents to “collect” their children after any absence, including being at school or even being asleep. They suggest four steps. First, get into the child’s space. That just mean being physically close, although I can hardly resist wrapping my arms around my kids if I sit next to them. Second, offer something for the child to hold on to.This can be something such as a kind observation. Demonstrate your awareness of the child and he can hold onto that knowledge. Third, invite dependence. Said another way, this means offering help. Fourth, act as a compass point. That is, be an anchor your child can use to understand where they are and where they should be.
For example, suppose your child is camped out on the couch, hypnotized by the TV. You may sit down next to him and put your arm around him. You then say something like, “you’re really into this show about Egypt. Perhaps we can visit the ancient history museum this weekend. Anyway, mom said dinner would be ready soon. We’ll have to turn off the TV.” Compare this to yelling from the kitchen the moment dinner is on the table.
I have been trying to keep the ideas of the book in mind as I interact with my sons the past two weeks. It’s been easier during this time without work as a distraction. I am always striving to be a better father, so I hope to keep up the momentum. I recommend this book to any parent, even if you feel your relationship with your child is perfect. The principles in this book apply to anyone who cares for children, such as teachers. The path to a more peaceful world requires more kindness and understanding of children. This book helps point the way to a better world.