Hold On to Your Kids

Book Cover
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I just finished reading Hold On to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate, one of my many xmas gifts. I discovered this book through Freedomain Radio episode where Stefan Molynuex interviewed Dr. Gabor Mate. Serendipitously, I noticed an hour-long interview with Dr. Mate on Democacy Now. These other resources may help you decide if the book will be worthwhile for you.

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.