Book review- “Hold on to your kids- Why parents need to matter more than peers

I read a TON of books on various subjects including parenting for both professional and personal reasons. But very rarely does a book grab my attention the way that this book has. As the name itself suggests, this book is about parenting but it differs from the other books I have read on this topic in a very important way. It brought to my notice a phenomenon many of our children (especially in the urban areas) are facing today but mostly goes unnoticed and under the radar by their parents. It is the phenomenon of "peer orientation".

Before I delve briefly on what "peer orientation" is about I would like to highlight a few of the other points that the authors make in this book. Parental influence has always been well established over generations and is considered indisputable and irreplaceable, but sadly that is no longer true in many ways in today's world. The problems that our children face today has reached epic proportions both in terms of mental and physical health. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety, lack of self control, bullying, suicide, loss of resiliency, stress have increased exponentially. If these issues had not been there and our children were well adjusted, settled and positively grounded and content we would not need to worry much, but that is not the case in many societies across the globe. Parents have as much love, concern and good intentions for their children as did the preceding generations and there is a lot of parenting literature to help them. Inspite of this, something has shifted fundamentally and this book should serve as a wake-up call for you are much as it did for me.

As the authors have pointed out, the entire context in which parenting takes place has changed. As a result, the role of the parent is being undermined by forces that most parents are not aware of and are not ready to deal with. The critically important attachment relationship between parents and their children which is at the foundation of parenting is in danger. The authors put forward powerful reasons why this is so and show in this book why the main and the most damaging reason is the competing attachments that children today are developing with their peers.

The authors call this "peer orientation". This competing attachment is undermining parental authority and also diminishing the attachment that the child needs to have with the parent as long as the child needs to be parented.

The book brings about a few critical points about "peer orientation"  and some of the important ones are

  • children like any other warm blooded mammals have a natural instinct for orientation; they need to be guided and nurtured by someone
  • children cannot be oriented both towards adults and their peers at the same time; they must necessarily CHOOSE between the two
  • even though this phenomenon is now becoming "normal", it is not "natural" or "healthy" and has negative consequences in the long run

We need to become conscious of this need for attachment that all humans have (adults and children). This is what creates communities, families and keeps us all connected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally and physically with each other. This connection could be taken for granted in many ways in the preceding generations. But that no longer holds true for us today.

The book describes in details the six different ways of attaching- senses, sameness, belonging and loyalty, significance, feeling and being known. If these bonds of attachment are strong and development is healthy, these facets are interwoven closely into a strong bond and children will find ways of staying close and holding on even when physically apart from their parents. However, peer oriented children live in a world filled with severely limited and superficial attachments driven by the least vulnerable way of attaching- sameness. This explains their need to resemble one another in look, behaviour, thoughts, tastes and values.

The other disturbing revelation for me was the false independence that a peer oriented child portrays and which seems to be a good thing. On the contrary, they are still dependent but now they depend on their peers for guidance - a set of people who are NOT truly dependable, mature, appropriate, responsible or compassionate. 

Many parents do intuitively know and sense that something is just not right with their relationship with their children but may not know what is exactly wrong. Beneath many parent's anger and frustration of failing to connect and parent their children lies a sense of hurt and betrayal. This intuitive feeling is usually ignored and pushed under the carpet by relegating this to "normal teenage issues" or some other such cause. This works for many parents till it stops working at all. In an extreme situation, this can end with a teen committing suicide as she is unable cope with or has problems getting along with her peers. Usually though, this plays out in the forms of rude behaviour, name calling, increased aggression, bullying, precocious sexuality all of which are discussed in details in this book.

Collecting and reclaiming our children

The good news is, however, that this book also discusses in details how to "reclaim our children". For those children who are not very far down the roads with peers can be "collected" and the attachment relationship can be strengthened in four simple ways- get in the child's face or space in a friendly way, provide something for the child to hold on to, invite independence and act as the child's compass point.

For those children who are too insulated by peer attachments will need additional efforts which are explained in the chapters towards the end of the book-

Preserve the ties that empower

Discipline that does not divide

Don't court the competition

Recreate the attachment village

The last chapter also deals with the role that technology plays in our children's lives and in the parent- child relationship. I am very wary not about the digital revolution per se but about the negative impact it has on children who are too young to handle it. Timing is everything and it is as true in the case of digital gadgets or video games as it is in the case of alcohol or sex with regards to children.

I love this quote from the last chapter

"We want children to be fulfilled with what they truly need before they have access to that which would spoil their appetite for what they truly need"

I hope this book review has opened your eyes to the issues that you may be facing yourself with your children or some other family you know may be facing. Let this serve as a wake up call for you (as it has for me) and also give you HOPE that there is a lot that can be done to undo the damage. We need to be aware of this if we are to raise children who mature into compassionate, genuinely independent, resilient adults who go on to lead purposeful lives and contribute to society.

I had written about raising children who are resilient in my earlier post "To Raise Resilient Kids, Be a Resilient Parent" and you can read it HERE. I had also conducted a Facebook live on this very topic which you can watch HERE.

I have an upcoming free webinar next Thursday, 29th November at 1 pm on "Mindful strengths parenting"  for which you can register on my Facebook page "Nourish Heal Connect".

Webinar- "Mindful strengths parenting"

Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and like many other things needs practice before we can get better at it. At the same time, strengths based parenting can provide our children with 2 vital psychological tools- optimism and resilience. Infact, helping our children connect to their strengths during difficult times is one of the most important things we can do for them. I will be touching on "peer orientation" briefly in this webinar as it very relevant for us as parents to be aware of.
 
Date: Thursday, 29th November

Time: 1 pm

Venue: "Nourish Heal Connect"

 

 

Book review-The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

The book “The Power of Meaning” by Emily Esfahani Smith stands out for me as a powerful guide to finding meaning in our lives. It gives a different perspective to what we know about happiness. Social scientists are now proving what philosophers have known all along; that the pursuit of happiness actually makes people unhappy. Emily Esfahani Smith identifies four pillars upon which meaning rests: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling and Transcendence.

The book talks about how social scientists are now showing that the more effort we put into building something, the more we value it. We knew and learned this as children while trying out new sports and hobbies but we tend to forget this lesson as adults- “only by facing challenges head on can we truly find meaning in our lives”.

The author gives an insight to what determines a life lived purposefully through a few examples but they highlight the same thing. Each of us have different strengths, abilities, insights and talents and we will need to be aware of these and have knowledge about ourselves to live a life filled with purpose. She goes on to show that those of us who have a purpose in life, contribute towards the goal that we set for ourselves, ultimately lead lives which are more satisfying and meaningful. She shows that by reaching out and helping others helps us connect to something bigger than ourselves and ultimately makes us feel as if we are connected to everyone and makes us a part of a bigger whole.

Through stories and examples, she gives a roadmap to those who want to craft a meaningful life. At the end, love is the tie that binds all the points she makes in this book as we learn how to find meaning in our everyday lives and in the mundane.

 

 

 

Health and healing

What would it feel like to be truly alive and healthy? How is that most of come to lose sight of what it means to be “healthy”? It is very different from being “cured”. Many health conditions do not have any cure or a person might be so far gone that treatment is not possible. But that does not mean that a person cannot find a way to heal themselves and indeed many of them do. There are some beautiful books on this subject and my favourite is “The four things that matter most”  by Dr Ira Byock. I have written a synopsis of the book here.

Book review – Kitchen table wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen

Book review – Kitchen table wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen

Rachel Naomi Remen is an amazing doctor but more importantly a healer who has touched many lives and healed countless of people through her work and writings. Her own suffering from a then incurable and painful Crohn’s disease taught her much more than her medical degree had ever done. Her grandfather, a rabbi, had a huge influence on her even though he died when she was only seven years old and contributed much to what she became later on. Over time she also learned through her experiences what life is really about even in the face of great difficulties and pain. Through her close proximity to death due to her own health and that of her patients she realised she had a choice when it came to closing off from life to deal with her pain or to embrace it all and live fully. She has written books like Kitchen Table Wisdom and My grandfather’s blessings.

This book is a celebration of life and our connection to others through their stories of love, joy and happiness, pain, suffering, freedom and letting go, the  mysteries of life and especially death.

Kitchen table wisdom is collection of different stories about healing and love, resilience, strength in the face of pain and suffering. Telling each other stories around the kitchen table is how wisdom used to get passed along from one generation to another and through families and friends. In our modern hectic pace of life we have lost a lot of what used to be our way of life and of connecting with others and. This book is a celebration of life and our connection to others through their stories of love, joy and happiness, pain, suffering, freedom and letting go, the wonder as well as the mysteries of life and death.

Book review of “Four things that matter most” by Dr Ira Byock

 

This one of my all time favourite books in the “life and living” category is “The Four Things That Matter Most. While this book has been written by a physician, Dr. Ira Byock, dealing with terminally ill patients, this book is first and foremost a book about living. This book’s main tenets are 4 important phrases-

Saying these Four to friends and families has been life altering for many even at the last stages of their lives. The Four Things That Matter Most have helped people heal their relationships with their families, friends and even with themselves. Others have found closure in relationships which were bitter and possibly beyond redemption, releasing them from the burden of carrying a grudge and anger for the rest of their lives. Badly broken relationships due to past lies, separation and divorce, betrayal, broken promises and even abuse have been mended or healed with some people even coming closer than ever before.

The act of forgiving others (and even ourselves) is one of the hardest things to do and often the one that is most required

The act of forgiving others (and even ourselves) is one of the hardest things to do and often the one that we require to practice the most. It is a choice that a person has to make consciously for their own sake rather than the person being forgiven. This lessons learned from this chapter I keep close to my heart.

In the end this book is about a celebration of the bonds that we have with others. It helps us forgive, appreciate, love and celebrate one another and live a complete and fulfilling life.