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Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers

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A psychologist with a reputation for penetrating to the heart of complex parenting issues joins forces with a physician and bestselling author to tackle one of the most disturbing and misunderstood trends of our time — peers replacing parents in the lives of our children.

Dr. Neufeld has dubbed this phenomenon peer orientation, which refers to the tendency of children and youth to look to their peers for direction: for a sense of right and wrong, for values, identity and codes ...

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Overview

A psychologist with a reputation for penetrating to the heart of complex parenting issues joins forces with a physician and bestselling author to tackle one of the most disturbing and misunderstood trends of our time — peers replacing parents in the lives of our children.

Dr. Neufeld has dubbed this phenomenon peer orientation, which refers to the tendency of children and youth to look to their peers for direction: for a sense of right and wrong, for values, identity and codes of behaviour. But peer orientation undermines family cohesion, poisons the school atmosphere, and fosters an aggressively hostile and sexualized youth culture. It provides a powerful explanation for schoolyard bullying and youth violence; its effects are painfully evident in the context of teenage gangs and criminal activity, in tragedies such as in Littleton, Colorado; Tabor, Alberta and Victoria, B.C. It is an escalating trend that has never been adequately described or contested until Hold On to Your Kids. Once understood, it becomes self-evident — as do the solutions.

Hold On to Your Kids will restore parenting to its natural intuitive basis and the parent-child relationship to its rightful preeminence. The concepts, principles and practical advice contained in Hold On to Your Kids will empower parents to satisfy their children’s inborn need to find direction by turning towards a source of authority, contact and warmth.

Something has changed. One can sense it, one can feel it, just not find the words for it. Children are not quite the same as we remember being. They seem less likely to take their cues from adults, less inclined to please those in charge, less afraid of getting into trouble. Parenting, too, seems to have changed. Our parents seemed more confident, more certain of themselves and had more impact on us, for better or for worse. For many, parenting does not feel natural. Adults through the ages have complained about children being less respectful of their elders and more difficult to manage than preceding generations, but could it be that this time it is for real? — from Hold On to Your Kids

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hold on to Your Kids blows in from Canada like a Blue Northern, bringing us genuinely new ideas and fresh perspectives on parenting. The authors integrate psychology, anthropology, neurology and their own personal and professional experiences as they examine the 'context' of parenting today. This is a worthy book with practical implications for mom and dad."
—Dr. Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and The Shelter of Each Other

"Hold on to Your Kids is visionary book that goes beyond the usual explanations to illuminate a crisis of unrecognized proportions. The authors show us how we are losing contact with our children and how this loss undermines their development and threatens the very fabric of sociey. Most importantly they offer, through concrete examples and clear suggestions, practical help for parents to fulfill their instinctual roles. A brilliant and well written book, one to be taken seriously, very seriously."
—Peter A. Levine Ph.D., International teacher and author of the best selling books: Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma and It Won’t Hurt Forever, Guiding Your Child through Trauma

"The thoughts and perspectives presented by the authors are informative — even inspirational — for those who choose to dedicate their lives and energy to students."
Bulletin of the National Association of Secondary School Principals

"With original insights on parent-child attachments and how parents can restore them, this is a book for revitalizing families and rekindling the song in their children’s hearts."
—Raffi, children’s troubadour, founder of Child Honoring Society Institute

"With simple ideas and steps, this book is directed not only to parents, but to all those — educators, social workers, counselors — whose lives and work bring them into contact with children."
Quill & Quire

"Though this is Neufeld's personal theory, Maté (Scattered Minds, When the Body Says No) has expressed his colleague's ideas in precise and hard-hitting prose that makes complex ideas accessible without dumbing them down. The result is a book that grabs hard, with the potential to hit many parents where they live."
The Edmonton Journal

"[M]ay serve as a loud wake-up call for mothers and fathers….this one offers what many of the others do not — that rare commodity known as common sense."
Winnipeg Free Press

"With the benefit of 30 years of research and experience, Neufeld has crafted a coherent, compelling theory of child development that will cause an immediate frisson of recognition and acceptance in its readers. His approach has the power to change, if not save, the lives of our children."
National Post

"The authors present doable strategies to help parents help their kids. If their advice is taken to heart, there’s hope there will be more warmth and security all round."
The Georgia Straight

Praise for Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté, M.D.
"Rare and refreshing. . . . Here you will find family stories, an accessible description of brain development and sound information. You will also find hope."
The Globe and Mail

"An utterly sensible and deeply moving book written for a general audience."
The Vancouver Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780676974720
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada
  • Publication date: 5/10/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Vancouver. He has spent much of his professional life creating coherent theories for understanding child development. He is nationally recognized for his work on aggression and violence among children and youth and appears regularly on radio and television, both in Vancouver and nationally.

Gabor Maté, M.D., is the bestselling author of When the Body Says No and Scattered Minds. His by-line is often seen in the Globe and Mail, for articles and commentary ranging from health to politics. He has worked in family practice, palliative care and psychotherapy. He is presently staff physician at a clinic in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where his patients are people with drug addictions, HIV and related problems.

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Read an Excerpt

PART ONE: The Phenomenon of Peer Orientation

Chapter One: In Our Own Backyard

Something has changed. We can sense it, can feel it, just not find the words for it. Children are not quite the same as we remember being. They seem less likely to take their cues from adults, less inclined to please those in charge, less afraid of getting into trouble. Parenting, too, seems to have changed. Our parents were more confident, more certain of themselves and had more impact on us, for better — or, sometimes, for worse. For many today, parenting does not feel natural. Through the ages adults have complained about children being less respectful of their elders and more difficult to manage than preceding generations, but could it be that this time it is for real?

Today’s parents love their children as much as parents ever have, but the love doesn’ t always get through. We have just as much to teach them as parents ever did, but they seem less interested in following our direction. We can sense our children’s potential but do not feel empowered to guide them toward fulfilling it. Sometimes they live and act as if they have been seduced away from us by some siren song we do not hear. We fear, if only vaguely, that the world has become less safe for them and that we are powerless to protect them. The gap opening up between children and adults can seem unbridgeable at times.

We struggle to live up to our image of what parenting ought to be like. Not achieving the results we want, we plead with our children, we cajole, bribe, reward or punish. We hear ourselves address them in tones that seem harsh even to us and foreign to our true nature. We sense ourselves grow cold in moments of crisis, precisely when we would wish to summon our unconditional love. We feel hurt as parents, and rejected. We blame — ourselves for failing at the parenting task, or our children for being recalcitrant, or television for distracting them, or the school system for not being strict enough. When our impotence becomes unbearable we reach for simplistic, authoritarian formulas consistent with the do-it-yourself/quick-fix ethos of our era.

The very importance of parenting to the development and maturation of young human beings has come under question. “Do Parents Matter?” was the title of a cover article in Newsweek magazine in 1998. “Parenting has been oversold,” argued a book1 that received international attention that year. “You have been led to believe that you have more of an influence on your child’s personality than you really do.”

The question of parental influence would not be of great moment if things were going well with our young. They are not — and many of us feel that instinctively, even if we cannot explain exactly how and why. That our children do not seem to listen to us or to embrace our traditions and culture as their own would, perhaps, be acceptable in itself — if we felt that they were truly self-sufficient, self-directed and grounded in themselves, if they had a positive sense of who they are and if they possessed a clear sense of direction and purpose in life. We see that for so many children and young adults those qualities are lacking. In homes, in schools, in community after community developing young human beings have lost their moorings. Many lack self-control and are increasingly prone to alienation, drug use, violence and a general aimlessness. They are less teachable and more difficult to manage than their counterparts of even a few decades ago. Many have lost their ability to adapt, to learn from negative experience and to mature. The crisis of the young has manifested itself ominously in the growing problem of bullying in the schools and, at its most extreme, in the murder of children by children, whether in British Columbia or New York, Quebec or Colorado.

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.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

PART ONE
The Phenomenon of Peer Orientation
1 — In Our Own Backyard
2 — A Matter of Attachment
3 — An Attachment Affair
4 — Why We’ve Come Undone

PART TWO
The Legacy of Peer Orientation (Why We Must Hold On)
5 — The Power to Parent Is Slipping Away
6 — Help Turned to Hinderance
7 — Obedience Turned to Resistance
8 — The Dangerous Flight from Vulnerability
9 — Stuck in Immaturity
10 — A Faulty Assumption
11 — The Flatlining of Culture
12 — A Legacy of Aggression
13 — Bullies Begotten
14 — A Sexual Turn
15 — Unteachable Students

PART THREE
How to Hold On to Our Children
16 — Collecting Our Children
17 — Don’t Court the Competition
18 — Preserve the Ties That Empower
19 — Discipline That Does Not Divide
20 — Create a Village of Attachment

Endnotes
Index

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