Kids need to orient towards a parent.
It is how nature made us. If that orientation is broken or weak, your children will orient elsewhere.
It’s just like a parent-less baby duck or goose bonds with a human, or a doll or a cat or a dog, imprinting and following them around as if they were its mother. You don’t want that.
Video games, drugs, risky behaviours, poor choices in friends and an over-reliance on peer groups are some of the ways a teen will make up for a lack of connection with a parent or parents or family.
What the heck do peers know? In general: not much. It’s scary how little.
Orientation is often the issue when kids go off the rails. And, after age 14, it becomes more difficult to maintain parental orientation as time goes by. Can you reclaim orientation? Yes, indeed you can. Why? Because teens want desperately to be rescued from themselves. Desperately.
So the heart of parenting is connection. It’s worth repeating. It keeps it simple. The key question to ask your self is this: Is what I’m doing going to increase connection… or weaken it?
If it increases connection, you are probably doing what nature intended. If it weakens or severs connection, that is wholly unnatural. Unnatural, I say. It goes against the natural order of things.
Ask yourself this question often; make it part of your approach.
To me it’s ALL about connection. Focus on connection right from the start. When parents realize it’s really this simple, many aha! moments ensue from its simplicity. Connection is surface simple but vast and deep in practice.
To connect, you need time. Not “quality time” so much as just time spent in connection. Safe, secure, predictable. The need to belong is universal. It’s largely what drives us in life.
From connection, the child will feel “valued”. Feeling like you matter to someone or a group of people is at the heart of attachment–our primary psychological need.
Connection’s opposite is loneliness. We do a lot of messed up things out of loneliness. How many of us have been in a group of people in our lives… and felt lonely? It sucks.
Imagine a child or teen feeling lonely while in your house? As part of your family? Happens all the time.
From connection and time and a sense of value, you can coach a child or teen to anything. What you want to teach them is self-discipline.
I don’t mean bootcamp discipline. Rather, the ability to delay gratification. It is the single best predictor of a successful life.
Intelligence helps a person live well but the advantage stops at just above average. No. It’s self-discipline that counts.
Know any intelligent losers? Of course you do. We all know plenty.
Know any self-disciplined losers? Doesn’t happen. In fact, the two are opposites.
We could talk about how feminism is ruining the cultures of the western world. Dare me. Or how the banking system uses interest to create scarcity and competition; its unrelenting need for growth forcing more parents into work to earn for their families. Double dare me.
But in the end, it misses what’s important. It’ll be the rare person who gets to 80 and says they wished they worked more or took up yet another cause.
Very few get a diagnosis of terminal cancer with months to live and wished they had a Ferrari.
No. Time and again, in the end people wish they’d spent more time with their friends and families, especially their children. Connecting with loved ones, folks.
So just focus on connection. If you get that right, most of everything else takes care of itself. By putting connection first, everything seems to fall into place. It’s nature’s way.
Here’s a pithy quote:
As long as we feel safely held in the hearts and minds of the people who love us, we will climb mountains and cross deserts and stay up all night to finish projects. Children and adults will do anything for people they trust and whose opinion they value. — Bessel Van der Kolk
Find it early, find it late, you must find love.
We must all find love, and it starts with family of origin. Ideally, it’s where we learn how to love and be loved. This must be part of your legacy to your children.
Connection is your key.