It can feel sometimes like the world has gone mad. Public discourse is filled with anger and confusion; people sit together in crowded spaces staring at their own flickering screens, isolated by the technology intended to connect them. And throughout the world, parents look for answers: How do I raise healthy, happy children in this complex world? How can I guide their behavior without punishing or spoiling them? Is it possible to build strong relationships in a fractured world?
The answer is yes—but it takes thoughtfulness and commitment. And the foundation is both simpler and more complicated than you might think. When parents are asked what they believe is most essential to raising capable, healthy children, most of them offer the obvious answer: love. But as it turns out, some of the things parents do in the name of loving their children are not helpful or effective. Children need more than love alone.
Imagine an infant lying contentedly in her crib. She may be watching her hands or gazing with fascination at her own feet when she suddenly becomes aware of a need. She may be hungry, or wet, or lonely, or tired. Whatever the cause, she cries to let her caregivers know that she needs them. And those caregivers usually rush to pick her up and soothe her. Especially when parents are new to the job, it may take several bumbling efforts before the cause of the baby’s distress is discovered and resolved. Eventually, however, the baby goes back to resting contentedly and her parents breathe a sigh of relief—until next time.
How many times in a day do you think this little scenario unfolds? Dozens, even hundreds of times—and each time, a baby learns more about trust and about the family she is now part of. If this cycle continues consistently throughout her childhood, she will develop what researchers refer to as “secure attachment”, what Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs called a “sense of belonging and significance” more than 100 years ago, and what in Positive Discipline is simply called “connection” (www.positivediscipline.org). This sense of being wanted and cared for unconditionally sets the stage for everything children will learn in life. Continue reading