Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Hold on to Your Kids"

A long time ago - oh, I don’t know, several years, I guess - I stopped reading parenting books. After all, I’d read scores of them. I figured, what was the point? Either I agreed with what they said (so why waste my time?) or what they were touting didn’t mesh with my parenting strategies (so why waste my time?). My kids were older and I was pretty comfortable with what had become my parenting style - nothing I read was likely to shake things up.

Then I decided to become an API leader. As part of that process, I had to read three books, all of which had been published since I stopped reading: Hold On to Your Kids(Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate), Attached at the Heart(Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker), and Nonviolent Communication(Marshall Rosenberg).

So far I’ve finished only one of them, Hold on to Your Kids, and - as much as I hate to admit it - I’m delighted that I was required to read it.

Hold on to Your Kids is not just another parenting book. It’s not just another attachment parenting book. It gives good, solid evidence why staying close to our children and being their “compass point” is so much better than following society’s present-day norm of allowing peers to be our children’s guide. Over the past few generations, our “norm” has flip-flopped so that now we have an entirely skewed vision of what is, indeed, normal and healthy.

Over the last not-so-many years, our society has seen a shift in who should be the center of our children’s lives. Not that long ago, parents or other guiding adults were the anchors that kept our kids centered. But in recent times, that anchor has shifted to the peer group, and that has caused all sorts of problems. The authors explain not only what the problems are but also why they occur, and they give ways to solve the problems and bring our children back to us.

Absolutely missing in peer relationships are unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other. When we compare peer relationships with parent relationships for what is missing, parents come out looking like saints. The results [of having peers be the guiding force] spell disaster for many children.

Although I would have heartily agreed with the book’s premise before reading it, I would not have had any solid basis on which to place that opinion. So I was thrilled to see the authors give specific reasons why my ideas are right. hehe

Bear with me while I give a long quote, because it ties right into homeschooling and the inevitable “socialization” question:

The belief is that socializing - children spending time with one another - begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. There is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity. If socializing with peers led to getting along and to becoming responsible members of society, the more time a child spent with her peers, the better the relating would tend to be. In actual fact, the more children spend time with one another, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civil society. If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme - to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs - the flaw in thinking becomes obvious. If socializing were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.

The book is definitely worth reading, even though it’s sometimes like wading through a bog. I wish it had been written in a more approachable tone and edited back a bit (there’s quite a bit of repetition), but it’s worth slogging through nonetheless. (Maybe “slogging” is too strong a word.) The information is important enough that in a perfect world it would be accessible to a whole bunch of people, but with its depth it probably loses a goodly number of readers. Too bad.

This is a book that you can leave on your bedside table and pick up when you can read a page or two at a time. No need to sit down and digest the whole thing at once. But I do think it’s worth the effort.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like "Parent/Teen Breakthrough."


  1. I believe I remember reading that book once. Although, I found the book to have great content I didn't find it very reader friendly either.

  2. Thanks for the book suggestion. Wow - I haven't read a parenting book in YEARS!

  3. It's unfortunate when a great message gets bogged down by unwieldy style (unlike your blog posts:-)). Sounds like a worthy read, though -- although perhaps preaching to the choir!
    Just out of curiosity, I'd be interested in hearing the arguments of people who actually believe that kids benefit more from time spent with peers than with their parents or other trusted adults. Could be pretty wild and wacky!