A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On To Your Kids) and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has created over 40 courses for parents and educators and they are available at the neufeldinstitute.org

473: Keeping a Secure Attachment

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

There’s no more important factor in parenting than attachment.

Learn all about attachment and the six stages of attachment that our children go through, as well as the problem of “peer orientation.” Hunter talks to a foremost authority on child development, Dr. Gordon Neufeld about why we need to hold on to our kids. 

Keeping a Secure Attachment - Dr. Gordon Neufeld [473]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Dr Gordon Neufeld: I got the first really books on attachment theory and what it did is totally make sense of what I was experiencing with my own kids.

[00:00:15] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 473. Today we're talking about keeping a secure attachment Neufeld.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. I'm Mindful Parenting. We know that you cannot give what you do not have and when you've calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course at Mindful Parenting. And I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids.

Hello, dear listener. Oh, my goodness. I am so glad you're here today. I am so excited about this conversation and this guest. But listen, before we dive in, if you've gotten any value from this podcast, it makes a really big difference to the podcast, to the whole team, um, to getting the word out if you just help the show grow by telling one friend about it.

So please tell a friend about it. You can make a big difference, and I really appreciate it. In just a minute, I'm going to be sitting down with Dr. Gordon Neufeld. He is a foremost authority on child development. He is an international speaker, a bestselling author of the book we're going to talk about, Hold On to Your Kids.

Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, which he wrote with Dr. Gabor Maté, who will be coming on the podcast in a few episodes. And he is a leading interpreter of the whole developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has created over 40 courses for parents and educators, and they're all available at www. cdc.

gov. NewfeldInstitute. org. It was such an honor to talk to Dr. Neufeld. His contribution to developmental psychology is amazing. And there is no more important factor in parenting than attachment. And in this episode, you are going to learn all about attachment and the six stages of attachment that our children go through.

as well as the problem of peer orientation. So, I talked to Dr. Gordon Neufeld about why we need to hold on to our kids and we dive into it. I know you're going to love this episode. You may even want to re listen, so hold on to your horses and join me at the table as I talk to Dr. Gordon Neufeld.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, I am so pleased to have you here on the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Welcome.

[00:03:11] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Pleased to be

[00:03:12] Hunter: here. Well, I love to start all, most of my interviews kind of looking at ourselves because, you know, our, these generational patterns are a big theme of what we talk about on the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

So I wanted to ask you about how you were raised and what your childhood was like.

[00:03:29] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Well, when you're a kid, you don't really know how you're raised, but I always knew I preferred my parents and my home to anybody else. I, I, my memories have play, play, play, play, play. I, I just had a lot of free range play. I now see the huge value in, had a kind of a Tom Sawyer like existence, so to speak, uh, Uh, when I got to be a therapist, I realized that I had had a shame free childhood, which is pretty special when you think of it.

Incredibly rare. The, the parenting was very gentle. Uh, my parents actually had a bit of a harsher experience and they were committed to doing something completely different with, uh, with me. So I'm glad about that. I, uh, you know, I was a sensitive child, so the gentleness probably, uh, was, uh, very important.

My dad had this idea that, uh, you know, once I could talk, I needed to be involved in everything. And so we had, uh, We had discussions around the table all the time that, uh, you know, the decisions that were to be made for the next day. So I got a lot of practice with, uh, you know, developing a sense of agency and, and so on. So I, I, uh, I have good memories.

[00:04:58] Hunter: Wow. That sounds very rare and idyllic. 

[00:05:03] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Um, I didn't know how rare it was really, because as, as a kid, you take things for granted. Yeah.

[00:05:08] Hunter: Yeah, I remember. I mean, I had like a lot of free range too. I biked all over my town miles and miles and miles. I would just go wherever I wanted.

And, um, but you know, and, but I, we had our fair share of difficulties in our, our house, but I also remember going to other people's houses and being like, there's like kind of a scary tone in this place and I'm not sure. So if you want to, we can go over it.

[00:05:35] Dr Gordon Neufeld: I think one of the greatest influences that I had now looking back is that my parents were absolutely crazy about each other.

And, uh, that for granted, but I lived in the wake of that, of two people who absolutely adored each other. And I took comfort in that because, uh, my, uh, my mother was not particularly irrational. And, uh, And I never understood her logic, and my father didn't either, and he absolutely delighted in her despite the fact that she often did not make any sense.

So I took comfort in that, that well, if he could do it, I could do it. And, uh, you know, just to experience her from the heart, not the, not the sentences she put together because, uh, that, that was going down a rabbit hole.

[00:06:28] Hunter: That's so funny. All right, so how did, what led you to become so interested in attachment theory?

[00:06:35] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Well, for some reason I, I had this yearning to see, to see, To make sense of things, I, I had a very big curiosity, very early curiosity, and, uh, And I wanted to make sense of things. Um, and I was so disappointed in my schooling, my graduate work and so on, is that it didn't really lead me to make sense of things.

And, uh, and I had my own children and at the same time, my own first two daughters, um, They're in their fifties now. And at that time I was teaching at university, developmental psych, uh, intro psych, psychology of adjustment. And I got the first really books on attachment theory. And what it did is totally make sense of what I was experiencing with my own kids.

And because attachment is, is a context, a relationship is a context. Like, I, I was, uh, I came at psychology from natural science, and so I'd already been an attachment theorist for eons because, of course, magnetism is an attachment, gravity is attachment, I knew Einstein is an attachment theorist. So I came from the other side, so to speak.

I, where my major was chemistry and the chemistry is all about valences and about elements attaching to each other. So attachment was nothing new, but it was the invisible bond. Gravity was the invisible thing, you know, that the earth takes care of its inhabitants by keeping them close. Which is what the purpose of attachment is.

So it blew me away when I realized that the soft sciences, I didn't consider them sciences of a whole, of course, you know, they're softer than that. But when, when they started talking about attachment, I knew, oh, of course, because this is a recapitulation. Whatever happens in physics must also happen in psychology.

Whatever happens in chemistry must also happen in psychology. So it's I, I was an attachment theorist from, uh, from natural science. And then it made sense because it is all about what you don't see. There's more than meets the eye. And physicists had already gone there. That, you know, what the only, it's, uh, the story is what you can't see.

It's in what binds us together. And so, when you had this theory of togetherness that began to emerge for, uh, for animals and that, as that had replaced, survival theory was already very tired when I went to graduate school and it had been debunked, nothing had taken its place. And then it was, oh my goodness, yes, the way nature takes care of us is through the drive for togetherness.

Our survival lies in taking care of each other. It made perfect sense. My problem with, uh, classic attachment theory and most attachment theories is they don't get what Bowlby was really saying. They don't really get the fact we, we don't have survival instincts. Maslow, for instance, got it all wrong. And it's not survival is not the bottom.

It is attachment that is the bottom. It's all about togetherness and, and, uh, and togetherness is where our survival lies. So it's, it's a different route into attachment theory. It's not from, uh, from the soft sciences, it's from chemistry and physics.

[00:10:28] Hunter: Fascinating. I love the way you're thinking about it in this way of.

of all the, of these things holding together, you know, and in some ways like the humans, I've been lately really thinking about us as like, you know, we're, we are basically these multicellular organisms, right? Like with all these different parts that we are holding on together, right? Like almost just like individually in ourselves.

And then we are then of course, like in the family and then the community and in the world, and then. So on and so on, and, and now you're now expanding my way of think of course, then into nature and physics and all of those things.

[00:11:01] Dr Gordon Neufeld: You, you've got it here. You see the, the brain is, is an, an organ of connectivity.

That's it. Ha. Every neuron is connected to every other neuron in, in intricate patterns, in integrate ways. Because it's the most connected, it is able to govern the, the, the, this collection of cells that we call the body and, and so on. And it's all about that. You know, people will say, well, I don't know about attachment.

Well, say, well, try taking off your arm and you'll find out what happens. You know, it's like, come on. I, you are made up of molecules of atoms. Uh, the, the, it's, uh, it, this is the first. Rule. This is the first principle. This is the first law of particles of all living and non living things. And you're trying to communicate to me right now, which is attachment behavior.

You're trying to connect, you're trying to do this. And so it's huge. It's huge. Uh, people in their reductionistic thinking try to get it to something, you know, that was about baby bonding or whatever it is. No, no, it's, it's, it's huge. It's, it's the universe.

[00:12:19] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

I love that. Okay. But now I want you to bring it back down to baby bonding. For the parent, for people who, you know, you, you've, of course, you've taught about this, like attachment is our primary drive and context for living. Um, and the science shows us there's no more important factor than attachment. And just for the people who are unclear when it comes to the terms of parent and child, because we know of course attachment can happen in, uh, it happens in all other relationships too.

But when it comes to parents. and Children. What does attachment mean as it pertains to that relationship?

[00:13:05] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Well, first of all, we got to reverse it. Um, I taught a course at university for many years. In fact, it was designed for me. It's called parent child relations. And I said, it's child relations, but they said, that's not proper English.

I said, well, that's too bad because then there's a problem with English. You know, is, is that, no, you have to have the most dominant. I said, well, it's a bottom up arrangement. It, it, it, it, uh, if your baby is not attached to you, doesn't latch onto you. If the fetus is not attached to you, it will never grow.

It's a bottom up arrangement. Yes, it's very good and parents love their children, but that's not the point. The, the primary point is, is we can't take care of those who are not attached to us. The earth couldn't take care of those who were not attached to it. This is the, this is the bottom line. So whatever, so the whole idea of hold on to your kids is that you're preserving the attachment that enables you to take care of your child.

That's what you're doing. Is you're preserving that connection because that is everything. And so the, the brain, the first, uh, problem with humans. Is that, uh, is, is that we have mobility, we're, we're, we're animated, we're animals, we, we move. So animals have a problem in that they can't just keep in sight, in sound, in smell.

There has to be something else. Like, so the question the brain is trying to answer is how to, how to hold close when apart. How to stay near when apart. Because survival lies in nearness, in nineness. And so, well, first of all, it's through the sense, is through being in sight, and smell, and touch, and, uh, and in sound, and hearing, and, but by the second year of life, it already goes, well, if we can't be, if, if, uh, it's, if we can't be with, then at least we can be like.

And by the third year, well, if we can't be like, at least we can belong to, that is, be part of, or on the same side of, uh, as, well, that's certain, that runs out. And then it goes to, well, if we can't be on the same side as, and, uh, you know, part of, then at least we matter to, because people hold close that which they hold dear.

And so by the fourth year of life, it should unfold. And then it goes, hey, wait. We're creatures of emotion. So the five year old is all about giving his heart to whomever he's attached to. I love you, bubby. I'll stay with you forever. I'm going to marry you. I'm going to marry this. And so it's emotional.

Now, when we're grownups, we talk about that as love and intimacy and all of those kinds of things. And that's what makes our heart go round. And now we're in the realm of poetry and now in the realm of literature and all of our, you know, songs and so on. Well, that's all about this, but what is it about?

It's about a way that the brain is developing attachment so that, so that relationship survives being apart and the relationship is actually the place where we get forever. Your mom is your mom, dead or alive. Your dad is your dad, dead or alive, for better or for worse. Oh my goodness, we've got permanence.

Well, that's what the brain is all about, is trying to establish permanence. And so, uh, and then finally that in the sixth year of life, if everything happens as it should, then the six year old wants to, wants there to be nothing in between, to have no secrets in between. And so shares all that is within his heart to whomever he's given his heart.

Tragedy is, is that children's attachments these days are not developing. So they're not able to hold on when apart. Now, when a child is stuck in samesies and sameness, Then it occurs to them that they belong with those that they look the same as, talk the same as, that is, others children. But other children can't take care of them.

It's a non viable attachment. And so, um, um, uh, North American society has taken a terrible turn. Peer relationship, peer attachments are non viable. They don't serve an evolutionary purpose. And yet, we have put them up there as primary because the adults in today's society are peer oriented. They think they belong with those of the same age that are like them.

No, no, you belong in cascading care groupings. Parents and children and grandparents and ancestors. These are the natural bottom up villages that a child is meant to be raised in. It's quite simple and self evident once you see it. And you see what the brain is trying to do. The brain is trying to help you, help hold close when apart.

Hence the title of the book, Hold On To Your Kids. We're just an extension of what the brain is trying to do is preserve that connection because everything grows out of that connection.

[00:18:13] Hunter: And you're describing, you know, that, you know, it's funny because you talked about Maslow had it wrong, but like, Survival is dependent on our, all these attachments, right?

Life's just upside down. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:18:25] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Life's just upside down. It's, it's attachment is first and, and survival is the result. There is no reflex in the, in the baby for survival. There's more than 35 reflexes to hold on, to cling, latching. Rooting, all of these things are attachment reflexes. If the baby attaches, it increases their ability of, of the adult responsible to hold on to them, to take care of them, to do this.

And so the baby isn't about survival. Baby is about attachment. They're a creature of attachment. We are never any different. It's just our attachment should develop into different ways of holding on. When, uh, when we're, uh, uh, when we can't be with.

[00:19:13] Hunter: I love how you describe it and you're describing your six stages of attachment.

Yes. You're, you're known for when you talk about, um, I love it when you talk about proximity, like the senses and that sense proximity and sight and smell and sound and touch. And it made me think of, um, when my daughter was a baby, um, I got her a little like, uh, it was like almost like a, a flat, Soft thing with a sheep head.

And I took that and I stuffed it in my shirt and I wore it around for three days. Just stuffed in my shirt. And then I gave smells on it all year.

[00:19:52] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Yeah.

[00:19:55] Hunter: Good for you. And then I gave it to her at night, like hoping. Yeah. You know, in her, in her, in her crib at night with this flat sheet. And it's funny because the flat sheet became so important.

She couldn't say flat sheet, so she called it half. And half is, she's 17, she's still got half up on a shelf. She's a, my father even did a wood carving of half because half was carried around for so many years. And it just was like such an exemplar of that, like that sense of touch and, and, and, and Yeah.

[00:20:27] Dr Gordon Neufeld: And I was like, exactly right, because you couldn't be everywhere at the same time. You couldn't be near to her. You created an extension of you with your smells, with something that was so cuddly that she wanted to do that could take the place of you when apart. And this is the whole purpose of a transitional object.

I mean, this, this is, Every mother should be so wise or intuitive to be able to, to do this. Uh, but it, it is a smell, of course, is, is one of the dominant ways of connecting. Same with sound. Uh, one of my faculty members at the Neufeld Institute. Uh, she has got a gorgeous voice, and so when she put the baby to bed, she would start singing, but she would continue singing, you know, throughout the house, wherever she was, and it was her way of keeping it sound when you can't be in sight, and it worked perfectly.

[00:21:31] Hunter: Oh,

[00:21:32] Dr Gordon Neufeld: that should always be the question. The first question for the baby is, if not in sight, Then, can we do in smell? Can we do in sound? Can we do in touch? If not in touch and not in sight, like, what have we got left? We're always working the senses. However, with, as the, as, as we get to the first year, Oh, you got mommy's nose.

Oh, you got mommy's eyes. Then you work the likeness because you can be like, and that's a way of holding close when you're not with. And so you start doing, you know, uh, the same Z's kind of thing. And then, and so you just walk it up because you're doing the same thing. The, what the, uh, the brain is trying to do, walk it up to be able to, so that closeness is a forever thing.

[00:22:19] Hunter: So I have a question about attachment in that, you know, of course, now we don't, we live in these smaller family groups, it's often just one or two parents and a child, which is a recipe for insanity, right? And, um, and you know, parents feel so much pressure to get it right and to just always be there and to always be on and they, you know, parents go to the edge of burnout with this.

And I, you know, it's, I see that a lot. And But I'm wondering about attachment because there's, you know, there's some perceptions that it can, you know, it has to be on this, like, one person or just two people. Can kids can, can they attach to multiple caregivers? And what is, what, tell, tell us about that because I think that sometimes when we talk about attachment, Listeners think, you know, this, Oh my God, this has to be me.

And then if they add more pressure on themselves.

[00:23:16] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Yeah, that's, that's, uh, that the children were never raised, uh, this way traditionally, uh, uh, and in indigenous grandparents, We're far more important than parents. Parents have a lot of work to do. The grandparents have slowed down a little bit. And, and in all indigenous cultures, they're grandparent centric.

Uh, and it's probably the way it should be. Uh, But we've, we, uh, grandparents have become too peer oriented and so they're, they're moving to places like Arizona and Florida where they are with each other and out of the context. Like now when they become most useful in raising of children, they're no longer sweating the small stuff.

They understand that things happen. They can, you know, uh, hopefully get over their own neuroses to sweeten up a little bit. And when they become more and more useful, uh, they, they start going off there, you know, to be with their cronies, their peers. It's dreadful. It's absolutely dreadful. I, one of the most thrilling things for me now, uh, you know, after five kids and, uh, six grandkids is grandkid number seven.

We are, my wife and I are actually committed to two days of, of care. She just turned a year and a half yesterday, Odessa. And it is. Absolutely thrilling. We leave at 7. 15 in the morning, pick her up, bring her back to our place, have her for the day. But we get to be part of it because her parents are at the prime of their life in terms of their work life, right?

And so that is our meaning, our fulfillment, our evolutionary destiny. And so, the bottom line to your question is the more attachments a child has, the better as long as they don't compete with each other, as long as they're complementary. Problem is competitive attachments. So you want to be able to utilize the attachment to the pets.

Uh, to the stuffies, you want to utilize attachments to whatever you have, uh, because they'll all serve a purpose. Oh my goodness. If you've got a cooperative cat, I can take care of bedtime or a dog, you know, you want to use all your attachments, but they need to be compatible. That's a problem with attaching to their peers.

is it pulls them out of orbit from around the adults responsible because these generally are incompatible. By incompatible it means you can't be close to both at the same time and that is a problem. Uh, the, the greatest problem we've had traditionally is with twins. It's because with twins, if you let them, uh, preoccupy each other's time, What they do is because they go through this phase of likeness as a toddler, they start clinging to each other, orbiting around each other, developing language around each other, and it takes it out of orbit from the adults responsible for them.

And so you can't do anything with them because you don't have the dominance of their attachment to you. And so The, the twins has been this traditional problem is what you do with them. And the first rule is you must never treat them as a unit. You don't say, come on guys, come on, well, come on, you know, this because you clump them together, is that you have to conquer and divide.

Well, if that's true for, for twins, then how much more is it true for, for so called friends? Is that make sure that you don't, because it's very dangerous. We put them together when they think they belong with those that they look like, smell like, or dress like, talk like. That pulls them out of orbit from the ones around them and they, and they suffer from a lack of care.

And because the care comes through, it's, you know, it's just, Odessa is very attached to me. And so she literally, I mean, she loves to be in my arms. But she does all the work. She holds on to me, so, you know, my body is a bit older, it's not as strong as it used to be, but that's okay because she can, you know, she does all the work of holding on to me, so I just have to provide a little bit.

You know, when you have a child who's resisting being carried. They're way much more than they were, but yeah, it's just metaphorical. Do you follow me?

[00:27:48] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. I see what you mean.

[00:27:50] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Well, it's, it's, it's, it's completely metaphorical. Try to take care of a parent in a dependent place who's not depending upon you and you know the problem.

And so the bottom rule is, is, uh, is dependents need to depend upon the adults responsible for them to enable those adults to take care of them properly.

[00:28:17] Hunter: So this, the problem with peer orientation that you and Dr. Gabor Monte describe, um, it seems like to me, from my perspective, I was born in 1978. Grew up in the 80s.

I mean, You Everyone at that point expected me to have a teen rebellion, and actually my relationship with my dad wasn't so great, and I really did. Um, but it seemed like culturally, at least as far as I could tell, that was already a sort of accepted standard.

[00:28:54] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Yes, it's a myth. It's an urban myth, really.

[00:28:56] Hunter: When were, when are we not peer oriented? How do, how did this, I mean, do you, I don't know, have you explored, like, how does this? Star and kind of why have we gotten so parent oriented?

[00:29:08] Dr Gordon Neufeld: The American culture is a homogenization, uh, homogenizing culture.

[00:29:12] Hunter: Hmm.

[00:29:13] Dr Gordon Neufeld: And, and North American is, and the school was part of that homogenization.

So grade ones belong with grade ones, grade twos with this, and adolescents with adolescents. It's a great culture of conformity. We like to think it's a question of individuality. It isn't. It's one of the most conforming cultures in the world. And those forces of conformity, uh, individualism is just a thing of the mind.

It's not, it's, it, it, it's not really the factor. Try to be a bit different. As a high school student and you realize the pressures of conformity and in this culture are horrendous. The idea of what, how you wear, how you dress, how you talk, whatever it is, it is huge. Um, the, the, the idea of rebellion is, is this idea in, in, in North American culture that whatever is normal is natural.

It's not. It's not. What was meant to replace parents was never Pierce in all of developmental psychology. And it's, it's been at least a science for 150 years. What is always meant to replace parents. Is personhood, is a sense of self that is strong enough to be able to interact with one's peers without losing oneself.

[00:30:38] Hunter: Hmm.

[00:30:39] Dr Gordon Neufeld: To be able to, uh, and a strong and, uh, where the attachment with the adult figures in one life is strong enough to be able to sustain, uh, relationships with others. So always adolescence has not, it's, it's never been about peers. It's always been from an understanding of the developmental template and blueprint about becoming.

Enough of your own self that you could, you could hold on to yourself when with others and you could stay attached to those, uh, who take care of you because adolescence now goes on to the early twenties. It used to only end about 13, 14, 15 years of age, right? We've got, uh, this has only happened in the last 200 years.

So we've got a huge. Blip here now where, uh, where, uh, society has become too complex, uh, to enter into at 13 or 14 years of age. So the real issue of adolescence is not rebellion. The real issue of adolescence, and this goes along with a development, is is you're supposed to be capable of mixed feelings starting about 14 or 15 years of age, which is a prefrontal cortex kind of thing.

That allows you to be able to stay close to your parents and be yourself at the same time. Now that's one of the greatest Things to figure out as a young adolescent. How do you stay close and be yourself? You'll want to know that because when you get married, you want to know how to do that. How to stay close and be yourself at the same time.

It's going to be your main challenge for all of life. And that is the most significant challenge of a young adolescent from a developmental point of view. It has been for hundreds of years. That hasn't changed. It's how do you be close and separate simultaneously. So, the meta principle of all development is called the orthogenetic principle.

And, first of all, you're all about togetherness. And if togetherness is sufficiently satisfied, The fruit of that togetherness is a bit of separateness. And if the separateness is sufficiently, uh, realized, then the final movement is togetherness without a loss of separateness. And separateness without a loss of togetherness.

Prefrontal cortex develops starting about 5, 6 years and 7 years of age to support the final movement which takes some time to do but should come to a head in adolescence. It's a beautiful template, but it becomes a challenge of all of life. What's a challenge of marriage? Togetherness without a loss of separateness.

Separateness without a loss of togetherness. Marriage. You're hard pressed to find any of your tripping over that doesn't come into that basic, basic.

[00:33:48] Hunter: No, that's beautiful. Togetherness without a loss of separateness and separate. I love that. Um, that's really, really beautiful. So in hold onto your kids, talking about this idea that we are, it's a problem that we're becoming, you know, that kids are peer attached, we should be, you You know, letting them, letting them go and saying this is normal and meant to be, that they should hate me.

And, um, and you say that challenging behaviors are not behavior problems, but a relationship problem.

[00:34:29] Dr Gordon Neufeld: They're basically relational problems in the sense that the greatest threat, if, if, if togetherness is, and there's no doubt about that, uh, togetherness is our preeminent need, then separate separation, facing separation is our greatest threat.

It turns out the emotions that are most problematic, uh, in us, they don't start out problematic. They're there to solve a problem. Like evolution is always trying to extend the reach. Attachment is an instinct based drive. But now instincts, uh, you know, that's in our brainstem. Now we have this layer of emotion and emotion is there to serve the instincts.

And so now we have the biggest emotions, alarm. Which is to move us to caution when facing separation. From that, we get all of our anxiety problems, all, most of our attention problems, and so on, when it gets stuck, when it's not able to do its job. We get frustration is when something doesn't work. The most important thing to work is contact and closeness.

And we get intensified pursuit, which is about becoming close. So these are the emotions. These are the most furious emotions that we're meant to fix. A hole in the fabric of our togetherness. But these emotions, they, they have a best before date of about one day or two days. Like they're meant to be immediate solutions.

to the biggest problem of how to stay close when apart. So the whole brain, it needs years to develop its relational solution. But in the meantime, uh, when, uh, when the, the, the infant faces separation, They get highly frustrated, highly alarmed, and intense pursuit.

[00:36:14] Hunter: Mm hmm. Or the toddler clinging to their leg.

[00:36:18] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Toddler, the high school student, whatever it is. When they're, when they revolve around each other, they're facing this all the time. So peer oriented kids have the highest level of alarm based problems. agitation, adrenaline based, anxiety based problems, have the highest level of eating problems, have the highest level of aggression problems.

Why? Because they're chocked full of these emotions that can't fix the problem. And the problem can't be fixed because, because it's a non viable, non viable, non caring relationship. Not that, not that peer, peers can't save a child from a bad parent. Bad set of parents. Yes. Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. I'm, I'm not talking about the exception.

I'm talking about the rule here that generally speaking, adults are a better bet for a child than the child's peers. That doesn't, it isn't always true. Yeah. Okay. That is the way it was meant to be. 

[00:37:22] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

[00:37:30] Dr Gordon Neufeld: All of our human troubles, Mm-Hmm. stem, basically from these emotions that are getting stuck. They're either alarm based, frustration based, pursuit based, or all three. And when you put them together, you've pretty well described every, every troubling problem. And so where do they come from? Facing separation that is unbearable.

Well, that's their root.

[00:37:59] Hunter: So, just correct me if I understand this correctly, um, when kids are becoming peer oriented at whatever age, rather than adult attached, they're, they're feeling a lot of separation from their adults, they're starting to just orient towards peers, they may even feel pressure from that from their parents and society itself.

[00:38:31] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Um, they're trying to attach to their peers and it's generally less safe than attaching to parents because parents are, are, are, of course, immature and, and these are the roots of, uh, like they're, they're the roots of all anxiety based problems, all agitation based problems. Uh, most of attention based problems, these are the roots.

Why? Because alarm grabs attention. And when it grabs attention, you can't concentrate on other kinds of things. Uh, when it's really bad, like the kids I worked with in prison, they had shifty eyes. Like, they couldn't actually attend to anything for anything more than a few seconds. Uh, they, they had no ability to concentrate on anything.

They were all diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. And they were all diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, the kids I worked with. But here's the problem is that, is the, one of the attachment instincts is, is to resist, uh, coercion if the attachment instincts are not engaged. And so it doesn't feel right to do the bidding of anybody that you're not attached to.

Well, what happens when you fall out of attachment with your parents? There's no instinct to be good for them. Now we call that a discipline problem. That's not a discipline problem. That's a relational problem.

[00:39:38] Hunter: Yeah.

[00:39:38] Dr Gordon Neufeld: It's a relational problem. And, and because the instinct to be good, and that includes your pets, is a direct derivative of Of, of the nature of the attachment to you.

Your dog doesn't feel like being good for your neighbor. And there's good reason that your child should not feel like being good for the kindergarten teacher and for good reason, unless they're attached to them. Like we look at pets and we get it. We look at our children and for some reason we don't get it.

Wait, they've got the same limbic system, the same, their brains are no different in, in how they're structured and, and what the template is. It's just that we've got bigger brains. So we've got 10 times the trouble, 100 times the trouble as well.

[00:40:27] Hunter: So I'm picturing like a, you know, a family, That very naturally, you know, it's very normal nowadays for many parents to, like, say, give an eight year old a cell phone because they, in the name of safety, because they want to be able to know where that child is and call that child.

That same child then may be doing, you know, um, soccer six days a week and may be on a traveling team. They may have a very busy life. All these kind of things. These, when you're talking about this idea of being separated, Being inattentive. I'm imagining that things, you know, I want to sort of ground this in real life behaviors and actions and the way these things can affect, like, I'm imagining some of these things like the early use of, like, cell phones and things like that are, are It's probably exacerbating this problem of peer orientation.

[00:41:23] Dr Gordon Neufeld: There's a wrong way to go. We give them these instruments for good reasons. So they can learn at school so that we can, we, so they can connect with us. Then they use them. As soon as they learn to use them, they'll start using them to connect with their peers and we'll, we'll lose them or screen time. So no, you know, you don't introduce alcohol.

Why? Because it will be abused. As long as you're in charge, it's okay. But unfortunately we don't have that much control in American society. If you were in French society, you could do it because they have protocols around. And so, yes, their children have alcohol, but it's, it's watered down, it's diluted, and they have all kinds of cultural kinds of things around.

We don't have this. So, you know, you, you don't introduce, uh, uh, sex because they'll use it to find connection. And, and it will be upside down rather than to have connection before they do it. So there's a lot of things we don't do and the digital devices should be part of it. Is that no, why? Because yes, in any given thing, but so you say, well, what would you do?

Well, yes, you could put a baggage tag on them. Most of us who travel have baggage tags. Now, you know, when you got separated from your bag, but that's all wrong. It's the top down, it's bottom up. How do I preserve? My child's sense of connection with me went apart. If I think that way, I get to reinvent and rediscover the ancient rituals of attachment, which are how to hold on when apart.

Lovers used to do this. Eons before we got the cell phone. So how did you do it? Give something of yourself, of your own to wear, you know, carry a lock of your hair in their locket, a picture of you. We used to have a thousand ways of being able to help those that we care for. Hold on to us when apart.

That's all we need to start thinking of. As soon as you start using digital devices, you've gone down a track. That is going to go wrong, terribly wrong. There's a timing for this, just like there's a timing for cookies. It's after you've eaten. There's a timing for sex. It's after you've matured enough to be able to handle the crazy, crazy experience of fusion that's involved in sex, you know, about alcohol.

After you've been able to figure out the protocols to not lose your ability to, you know, to do this. There's reason. This digital devices are far more important than cookies and sex and, and, uh, and, um, uh, and alcohol combined. Uh, and, uh, we should, uh, uh, We, we should have been able to figure this out. The problem is, is, uh, you know, it used to take at least 200 years, uh, for people to figure out an introduction of a, of a new plant or something like that, how to be able to handle it so you weren't poisoned.

We didn't have 200 years. We, we had, we, we didn't even have, you know, 10 years. And so this has gone crazy, but. This is, this is not good. And so even more important that we figure out hold to, how to hold on to our kids, how to preserve their connection to us.

[00:44:50] Hunter: For the listener who's listening to this and maybe feeling like, Oh my gosh, my child is peer oriented.

My child is not attached. They're in a really difficult and troubled place with their child. Say they have, uh, uh, you know, an 11, 12, 13 year old, and they're really starting to see this and it's bringing home.

[00:45:17] Dr Gordon Neufeld: That's why I wrote the book.

[00:45:19] Hunter: Read the book, people. Hold on to your kids. 

[00:45:23] Dr Gordon Neufeld: And that's why I invited Gabber to help me rewrite it so that it, because he was more, he had more words than I did and was practicing making it consumerable. And so, yeah, my, my manuscript was, was twice as long as what finally got accepted.

Uh, and, uh, and then he helped, uh, he helped rewrite it for me, but that's why the book is, is because that's, is one of the biggest, uh, issues. And so, um, the good thing about it is when you know. When you know that that's the most important thing that you can do, that we are our children's best bet, including our teenagers, that, that when we know it, but to be able to be able to take care of them, we need them to latch on, we, we, we need them to be attached to us.

Uh, and, uh, and so the good news is that given its relationship, it's never too late. Uh, but we need to know that that's important and then, you know, there are very, very basic ways of being able to, uh, engage the attachment instincts of collecting our children, of collecting our babies, of collecting our adolescents, of collecting our, our parents.

Our partners of bridging anything that divides. Don't let anything come in between. Bridge the night. Bridge the behavior problems. Bridge anything that would separate matchmake to those who are helping you take care of the child. These are the three basic attachment rituals. Uh, one of my faculty, uh, Uh, Dr.

Deborah McNamara has, has wrote a book about the, uh, about, um, the gathering and eating rituals, uh, to be able to, uh, eat in the context of having gathered first and in the context of connection. I think it's a signature book. It needs to be there. We need to bring food and attachment back. We need to bring sex and relationship back.

We need to bring these things that have been apart. We need to bring them back together again. But these are the rituals of connection that, that are there. The most important ones, uh, that I talk about in the book, Collecting, Bridging, and Matchmaking.

[00:47:42] Hunter: Yeah. And for the listener, you know, I, I said this also talking to, uh, Gabor Mate, but you know, I think that sometimes if you're listening, if you have a young child, you may feel like, I don't know, is that even possible to have attached teenagers who don't rebel against you?

And, and I worried about that enormously because of course I had a, I had a very unattached relationship with my father as a teenager, but my daughter's. Uh, that was, that's been the sort of, in some ways, the great work of my life to overcome that temper of mine, but they are, they are individuals. They do their own thing.

They have their own life, and we, are connected. We dinner together, we get along, we snuggle. It's not all peaches and rosy, I'm saying, but if we, you know, every day we hug several times a day and connect. It's not either or, it's this and. Yes, yes.

[00:48:37] Dr Gordon Neufeld: It's this and. And I've had, I've had five kids taken through adolescence.

My youngest now is, is uh, uh, My goodness, uh, 30, 30, uh, 33 years of age, uh, child, uh, seven grandkids, but, but three grandkids that are adult, uh, grandkids. And so all of them, uh, the, the attachments, there's two important invitations to give to a child. There couldn't be any more important invitation. One is the invitation to, uh, to be in our presence.

That is the bottom invitation of connection, to be close. Our eyes should twinkle, they should light up. There should be this invitation to be in one's presence. It should be there every day. It should be there for the greeting and the warning as this invitation to exist in one's presence. And that is the invitation of connection, of proximity.

With, and with it goes, I will take care of you. I will take care of you. That's the dance, right? The second invitation is that if the first invitation is, is made good, then it, the result is a person becomes their own own person. Their own be. So the second invitation is, uh, is to be. All that they were meant to be, to be their own person, to be a separate being with their own thoughts and ideas.

It's not either or, it's a this and. And if it's a this and from us, it enables them for it to be a this and for them as well. Is that the invitation is for a sense of closeness. That is second to none. And an invitation to separateness, to a separateness of being that is separate to none, that is second to none.

And those, those basically parenting. It goes to those two invitations and to make good on them. That's what it's about. And it never changes. You could, the parent can be 90 years of age and the child in their 60s or 70s, it never changes.

[00:50:52] Hunter: Yeah. And, and put away the clean dishes too. I love that. That's beautiful.

[00:51:00] Dr Gordon Neufeld: In the context of relationships, see what happens if you collect.

[00:51:04] Dr Gordon Neufeld: If you get the eyes, the smile, and the nod, get a couple of nods, say, you know, two or three nods, and you've got this. While the child is nodding, you say, and could you give me a hand with the dishes, please? Would you mind putting this?

They're already nodding. Because you've got the instincts in them to make it work. We parent cold. We think that our role is significant. Our role is not significant. What was significant is the rituals of collecting and bridging. They activate the, uh, the attachment instincts. No more than you saying to your partner, you know, when you wake up in the morning.

Uh, you remember now your chores, take out the garbage, do this, do that, don't do this, and this, and this, and there'll be a little F U that goes on in there. Yeah, definitely. And these are adults, right? Well, we think we can get away with that with our kids because, after all, I'm your parent. Uh, that's not the way it works.

The way it works is you've got to activate the relationship, you've got to collect them, you get their eyes, a smile and a nod, you activate, you engage that. Inside of the attachment is where their instincts are to be good for you, to make things work for you. Parenting will go a lot easier if you work inside the relationship rather than parent hold.

[00:52:22] Hunter: Oh, amen. That's beautiful. Um, so the book that is being re released, uh, wonderful book is called Hold On To Your Kids, Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers. You can find it anywhere books are sold. Um, you can find, uh, Dr. Neufeld at neufeldinstitute. org. And I'm just wondering if there's any final thoughts that you want to leave the listener with as we wrap up.

[00:52:52] Dr Gordon Neufeld: Probably, I just, I think parenting and parents are in a crisis of confidence these days. I think if you can start from the place is, I am my child's best bet. I just don't feel like it right now. I am my child's best bet. It's not so much I know or what I do. It's being the answer, not having the answers.

It's being the answer to my child's relational needs.

If I am the answer to the invitation to exist in one's presence, to a sense of significance, to a sense of, of closeness, the rest will unfold. The dance will begin to write itself. It will become a dance that's fulfilling for both, an interaction. Don't overthink it. Don't overthink it. If you think, what should I do, you've already started wrong.

You, you start from the place is I got to show up here. I'm my child's best bet. They have huge relational needs that their best bet is for them, for them to look to me for that. I am their answer. I don't, I may not have any answers, but I am their answer. And you start from that place and the rest will start, um, start straightening out.

But, you know, it's. Yeah, I, it was hugely difficult because I know parents read far too many books these days. And the more books they read, the more they, they, they lose what is necessary to do the job. And then I was going to write one more book on parenting. You know, you don't read a book to learn to dance.

You've got to find it inside of you by showing up. And by, by that interaction, in this case, it's just simply is, wow, I am my child's best bet. Now dance with that today. Just dance with that today. And you'll find that something starts coming from within you.

[00:55:08] Hunter: I think that's such a hopeful message. Um, thank you so very much for taking the time to come on the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

It has really been an honor. And a pleasure, um, I think that your work, obviously, you know, it resonates all around the world and it makes such an impact on people. And I just want to thank you for dedicating your life to that work and also just thank you for coming and talking to us here today. I really, really appreciate it.

[00:55:35] Dr Gordon Neufeld: My pleasure, Hunter.

[00:55:41] Hunter: You know, I was reflecting on this conversation with Dr. Neufeld after the fact and just thinking about how this piece about wanting to, to be attuned to our kids, you know, how it really does require of us that we are attuned to ourselves, right? That we Uh, have that security in ourselves. We have that peace in ourselves.

We, you know, that, that whole co regulation piece, how they feel, all of those things. So, yeah, it just made me feel like, um, just good about, you know, doing this work, you know, from the perspective that I have of somebody who was really bad at it and wasn't so attuned and was really, really reactive. I don't know.

So, I don't know. I just, I just want to say, like, if you are You feel like, oh my God, like, this is so beautiful and I want this, but I'm, you know, I'm, I don't know, I got a temper, insecurities or things like that. Like there's, it's, you know, I feel like if I could just, if I could work with the crazy temper I had, you can too, and you don't have to be perfect.

And anyway, that's just my message to you. I hope you got a lot out of this episode. I'll You know, the whole attachment, uh, secure attachment thing is so important and I'm so glad we got to dive into it with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, who's like, he's like the, the top of the developmental psychology game as far as it goes with this.

So it was such an honor. Um, I hope you share this episode with one friend as we ask you to, so please do. And of course, make sure you're subscribed and listen to all the episodes with all the amazing guests we have. And, or, you know, don't listen to all of them. There's actually like way too many. Don't listen to all of them.

It's too much. You can't do it. Maybe just like a little bit over time, but don't push yourself. Just relax. Just listen to some of them. But, uh, but yeah, I, I hope it's supported you in your parenting and in yourself, learn it, your learning and your family, and I hope it waters the good seeds in your family.

So, wishing you peace and ease, health, and all those good things, uh, this week. And I thank you so much for being here, being a supporter and a listener of the Mindful Parenting podcast. And, yeah, I'll be back to talk to you again with some more awesome guests and things next week. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening.


I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling alone. If you're feeling like you're yelling all the time, or you're like, why isn't this working, I would say definitely do it.

It's so, so worth it. It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

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