My daughter recently told my husband and I that she was chilling with some friends one Sunday night. The conversation turned when one of them said, “Does anyone actually like themselves?” The other friend chimed in and said, “No!?” My daughter said she looked at both of them, not believing what she heard. She said she couldn’t believe that is how they really felt, but she could feel they meant it, the way people joke about their weaknesses. She asked them why and they continued their discussion.
When I heard this, it distressed me. I was so saddened by the thought of all the negativity they were experiencing. I don’t know where that dislike came from–comparison? Social-media? No positive role models? Despair? Our current culture is a minefield for all of that. What can we do as parents? How do we safeguard our children from this despondancy? There are no simple answers, but the more I learn about attachment between parent and child, the more urgency I feel to let other parents know about it. I feel it is so critical that if you only get one thing from this blog, that parent/child attachment is what our children most want, that this bond will protect them from much of society’s ills, I would be so happy. This is foundational stuff that can help us avoid many problems with our children.
From one of the authors, Gabor Mate’, M.D., of Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, a book I wrote about on in this post:
“These essential brain circuits for in a (child’s) brain’s physiology development require the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available , attuned parental care-givers.’
“You have a society that destroys the village of many emotionally available adults, that separates children from the parents for most of the time, owing to economic pressures. A society that stresses the parents inordinately, so even if they are with their children, they are stressed and distracted.’
“What can you expect in a society like that? We expect all kind of disfunction, maldevelopment and bad behaviors.”
Dr. Gabor finishes with:
“We are not talking about behavior problems, we are talking about relationship problems.”
We recently rewatched the documentary about Mr. Fred Rogers and the movie with Tom Hanks, playing Mr. Rogers, called It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. Over and over Mr. Rogers shows us how to attach to people. He shows how important listening is, how important feelings are, and to validate those feelings. His staff had a schedule for him, but he would often ignore their time frame and take the time to connect with one small child. The documentary showed how children’s shows in the 1940’s were silly and slapstick, and it disgusted Mr. Rogers. He wanted to honor the wonder children feel and explain the world to them. I could feel my 20-year-old son being restless next to me, as we were watching because….Mr. Rogers…talked…so…slow. Initially, the reaction from my adult children was disbelief with how slow and simple his approach was. The next day, however, my son told me how much he liked the movie. Mr. Rogers hits the nail on the head when he sings:
It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you I like.
Here is just his voice singing:
I also LOVE what he said at the end, that by just being a human being, we are “very, very fancy!”
Can we show our children that we like and love them?