Committed and responsible parents are frustrated. Our cues are not being taken, our directives are ineffective, and it appears our children would rather be elsewhere than at home. Despite our loving care kids seem highly stressed. Parents and other elders no longer appear to be the natural mooring point for the young, as used to be the case with human beings and is still the case with all other species living in their natural habitats. Senior generations, the parents and grandparents of the baby boomer group, look at us with incomprehension. "We didn't need how-to manuals on parenting in our days, we just did it," they say, with some mixture of truth and misunderstanding.
This state of affairs is ironic, given that more is known about child development than ever before. More courses and books are available on child rearing, and we can offer our children more things to do and explore. We probably live in a more child-centred universe than our predecessors did.
So what has changed? The problem, in a word, is context. Parenting is not something we can engage in with just any child, no matter how well intentioned, skilled or compassionate we may be. Parenting requires a context to be effective. A child must be receptive to our parenting for us to be successful in our nurturing, comforting, guiding and directing. Children do not automatically grant us the authority to parent them just because we are adults, or just because we love them or know what is good for them or have their best interests at heart. Those who parent other people's children are often confronted by this fact, be they step-parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, daycare providers or teachers. Less obviously but of great importance is the fact that even with one's own children the natural parenting authority can become lost if the context for it becomes eroded.
Excerpted from Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Mate, M.D. Copyright © 2004 by Gordon Neufeld Ph.D. and Gabor Maté M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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