Season 1, Episode 50

How to Hold on to Your kids with Dr. Gordon Neufeld

In this episode, we are honored to host Dr. Gordon Neufeld, an internationally renowned expert in child development and attachment theory. Dr. Neufeld takes us on a profound journey into the realm of attachment, emphasizing its pivotal role in shaping children’s lives. He elucidates attachment’s essence as the bedrock of human relationships and growth, highlighting its influence on emotional, psychological, and social dimensions of development.

Throughout the discussion, we emphasize the crucial role parents hold in nurturing these connections, underscoring the essential components for their thriving – encompassing love, warmth, and an unwavering sense of belonging. Dr. Neufeld also explores the often unexplored aspect of allowing children to embrace sadness and emotions healthily, offering a fresh perspective on fostering emotional intelligence in youngsters.

Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, or simply intrigued by the intricate dynamics of child development, this episode guarantees invaluable insights that will resonate deeply with you.

 

Key Topics:

  • Significance of attachment in child development.
  • Providing Love and Belonging.
  • Importance of allowing children to experience sadness and emotions as a vital part of their development journey.
  • Secure Environments for Flourishing.
  • Creating safe spaces that enable emotional growth, leading to well-rounded and resilient individuals.

Watch the Episode

Read This Episode Transcript

Lorne Brown:

By listening to the Conscious Fertility Podcast, you agree to not use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Consult your own physician or healthcare provider for any medical issues that you may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guest or contributors to the podcast. Welcome to Conscious Fertility, the show that listens to all of your fertility questions so that you can move from fear and suffering to peace of mind and joy. My name is Lorne Brown. I’m a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and a clinical hypnotherapist. I’m on a mission to explore all the paths to peak fertility and joyful living. It’s time to learn how to be and receive so that you can create life on purpose.

Today on the Conscious Fertility Podcast I have with us Dr. Gordon Neufeld. I’m going to actually share a bit of his, his history. It is quite impressive and I think it’s nice to know who you’re listening to. You’re doing that right in front of me, Lord. Yeah. Well, but I’m going to give you a little intro. I got to let you know how I kind of come to know you as well because you teach so much. You’ve written a book, hold onto your kids, your YouTube videos that I get to listen to. I just feel like I know you really well and I want to share you with my listeners because you may not be aware of this, but on the Conscious Fertility Podcast, I often refer to your work in attachment theory. And so it’s really nice to have you here to really talk about it and correct probably some of my misunderstandings of it as well since I have you here.

And so I got to read this quote because we were introduced. I like to give gratitude to people when they bring people together and help you along the way. And for me, one of my teachers is Gila Gallub. Many of you have listened to her. She’s got episode 10 and somewhere in episode 40 something, she’s been on the podcast in one of her emails, I’m part of her conscious circle. In one of her emails it says, we are organisms of attachment who are all raised by behaviorists and who have turned into behaviorists. If you really want to have a better life and make a better world, learn about attachment from the most brilliant teacher, Gordon Neufeld. So that was an email, Gil. Well, I hope I can live up to that where we have Yes. And to share with you when I started the podcast, and this will kind of get us into our conversation, the podcast is called the Conscious Fertility Podcast.

So a lot of the people that are drawn here are looking to grow their family, maybe their first child, maybe more children. However, the feedback we have is a lot of people who are not wanting or trying to grow their family are listening to this because of the struggles or suffering they have in this conscious discussion seems to give them hope and the tools seem to help bring more peace. And I think this is what the attachment theory does. And one of your students who’s come into her own with her prolific writing, Vanessa Pointe, and so I know she went through your institute, she’s trained with you and learned from you. And she once said, which is what kind of motivated part of the podcast, I think it was her, maybe she’s quoting you. She said that if in one generation if we’re able to attach to our children, then the cutting would stop, the suicide would stop, the addictions would stop.

And I thought that was quite profound that attachment has that kind of ability to do that in one generation. And so it’s really important that we have you here to have this discussion. And we’re going to start off with talking about what do we mean by attachment? Some people probably think you got to carry your baby everywhere you go. And I think that’s not what you’re talking about. So we’re going to talk to Dr. Gordon Neufeld all about this because I think for our listeners, you’re going to see as this unfolds this interview, the importance of it and why you want to know more about it and get to his institute to learn more about it. But a little background. So before he retired, you’re now retired.

Gordon Neufeld:

Well, from private practice anyway, yes, private

Lorne Brown:

Practice. Yeah, you’re definitely not retired, busier. You’re working harder now

Gordon Neufeld:

Than you ever been. I have busier than I ever have been. Yes, the

Lorne Brown:

Teaching and I know your book Hold Onto Your Kids, which you co-wrote with Dr. Gabor Matee has had a resurge in. It’s really people are really seeking that book out again too. Congratulations on that book. But you have accumulated more than 40 years of experience as a clinical psychologist with children and youth and those responsible for them and your foremost authority on child development. And you continue to be an international speaker even in your retirement years, as we mentioned, you wrote the book, hold Onto Your Kids and you’ve devoted, I think part of the last two decades to creating courses for parents, teachers and those professionals that help the children. And I want everybody to know that the courses are primarily offered through the Newfeld Institute, and that’s an online educational institute. It’s worldwide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. And Dr. Neufeld life work has been to help adults provide the conditions for children to flourish. And he’s also himself a father five and a grandfather to seven, I believe.

Gordon Neufeld:

Yes.

Lorne Brown:

So you got the theory down and you’re also living it in flesh.

Gordon Neufeld:

Yes, yes. A wonderful live kind of, not lab experience, but certainly a place to make sure that you stay grounded in practice.

Lorne Brown:

When I was drawn to your work, when I got introduced to it, I have to own up to something I understood through this attachment work that we were all raised by behaviorists, and I want you to go into this instead of developmentalists. And when I started reading your book and listening to your material, my confession is I think I was trying to use your material to get my kids to behave a certain way.

Gordon Neufeld:

Well,

Lorne Brown:

So I think I was still a behaviorist.

Gordon Neufeld:

That’s it. Yes. That’s it. We don’t even realize how absolutely entrenched it is. It’s just embedded in our psyche the idea of outcomes and having to shape outcomes and strive for outcomes and that our behavior is instrumental for that. And that’s the essence of behaviorism.

Lorne Brown:

So can you share the difference like what you’re sharing in teaching about a developmentalist, that kind of parenting or a support person versus behaviors and that statement that I shared in one generation. So if you’re not attaching to your kids, if we are raised by behaviorists, then we grow up with addictive behaviors or we grow up with extreme anxiety not feeling safe suicide gangs. So how is it that, what is this attachment theory and why is it that it can have such a profound effect on the

Gordon Neufeld:

Individual? That statement? I don’t recognize that statement. I would probably say it more in right relationship because we simply are attached and the attachments can be as equally destructive as they can be fulfilling and nurturing. And so it would be right relationships that is absolutely key to it. A developmentalist or the developmental approach has at its essence a belief and the trust in the spontaneous unfolding of human potential if conditions are conducive. And so there’s a life force that is yearning towards potential. It’s always the alternate to conventional approach. The conventional approach always is more cynical. If you look at the physical health for instance, those that believe that healing is natural to the body and if you find a way that you can support that healing, the body will have its own solutions to most of the problems. And the developmentalist is the same in a sense to conventional. In conventional, you have to push, you have to push and shove, you have to shape, you have to sculpt.

For instance, if you give independence, an inch will take, I mean dependence an inch that will take a mile. The whole thing is to be able to train your children to be independent and self-sufficient. That’s the main doctrine of the self-sufficiency model, which started 400 years ago, formalized by John Locke. And it’s been the darling of those that are educated ever since because from the idea of the educated is that you take matters into your own hands. You don’t believe in this kind of unfolding of human nature. And so the developmentalist says, just as the acorn becomes the oak tree, if conditions are conducive as the seed flourishes into the tree or the flower, so will our human personalities to become all that we could be and were meant to be if conditions were conducive. So what are those conditions? Well, they’re similar to a plant.

A plant has to be attached through its roots to mother earth, so to speak. Well, if it isn’t, there’s death. It won’t thrive. There’s sickness. And that is exactly the equivalent for humans is they must be attached to those that are responsible for them and in the nurturing kind of way. So it’s all about this relationship, but just like the plants, the roots are invisible. They can’t be seen. All you see is the result of it. And in humans it’s invisible. It isn’t seen it’s context. And so science has a great difficulty with this. Science has always stuttered when it thinks about love. And so it has great difficulty with actually being able to find the terminology. And what Dr. John Bowlby did now, oh my goodness in the 19, 1940s and fifties was he came up with a word attachment. It’s not a very intuitive word and you certainly can’t look it up to find out anything about it because it’s basically what you send with your email.

And so we’d be better to think of it simply as a science of relationship. It’s about relationship. The electrons are attached to the proton. That’s what gives us the atom, which is the building block. The moon is attached to the earth. The main force of attachment is gravity. There’s also fusion. Attachment is us. If one part of us gets detached, it dies. Our brain is simply an organism of attachment that serves attachment. Every cell needs to be attached or it dies. Attachment is fundamental, but it’s really the science of relationship and everything starts, ends in relationship. And the pandemic just brought that home to us.

Lorne Brown:

I think it’s an interesting point. The science of attachment or relationship is a science. It’s not just some psychological theory. This is in the fabric of the universe and that’s why this theory holds so well in the family unit.

Gordon Neufeld:

It is Einstein was the primary attachment theorists. Most chemists are attachment theorists without knowing it, all particle physicists are attachment theorists. It’s just simply how it works. And when you understand that what is different about the developmentalist is that all development proceeds from attachments that are working. And so there isn’t anything more important. The condition for the unfolding of potential is the attachment to those responsible where there is nurturance.

Lorne Brown:

And that’s the key here is this nurturance. And why I think having you on the Conscious Fertility podcast is so amazing for me and my listeners is many of the people here are about to become parents. That’s what their goal is.

Gordon Neufeld:

Yes. And if I can just delude you, what you’re dealing with is all about attachment. It’s about the ache and the sperm and the attaching and that attaching to the womb and it’s attaching. It’s all attachment, right? If you don’t have attachment, you don’t have it in the umbilical cord. I mean it’s all for those who say, well, I don’t know about attachment. Well, you wouldn’t be born if it wasn’t for attachment. If your A spurred the dot or your parents did not attach, you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t attached to the womb. So it’s just saying that what happens physically, what happens also is recapitulated in the psychological realm

Lorne Brown:

And knowing this material and then learning to practice this material that you share as a parent, you want your child to be independent, mature. You want them to be good citizens of the world. And I think what you’re sharing is a roadmap to give you the best chance of your child maturing and becoming independent.

Gordon Neufeld:

Absolutely. But the more you try to make your child independent, the worse it gets.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. This is what I wanted to

Gordon Neufeld:

Talk about. That’s the irony. That’s the paradox.

Lorne Brown:

And we can give a real example like you talked about independence. So you have a young toddler and he’s like, pick me up mummy. And you want your child to be independent so you don’t pick them up or your child doesn’t want to sleep alone and you decide this child’s going to sleep alone. They need to sleep alone. Can you talk of that from the attachment or the right relationship? How do you see that then in the development of your child not picking up your child when it’s seeking you or when your child’s looking for you to sleep with and you’re not sleep with them? How do you discuss this with parents? Because this is a real topic. Do I sleep with my child? How independent do they need to be at age three?

Gordon Neufeld:

This comes down to how much you trust that nature is benevolent, that it will take care of things and that you do your job at nature will do its job. There’s nothing we could do to create life. There’s nothing we can do to make anybody independent. The more we push it, the more insecure a child becomes. So our job, just like a plant’s growth and maturation and fruition is dependent upon the attachment needs being taken care of. That’s fundamental as a gardener. It’s all what I do is I take care of the attachment needs of my plants As a father, I take care of the attachment needs of my children. Although the youngest is now 32 and it goes to or 33 and it goes to 55, it still is true and they take care of the attachment needs of their children or the grandchildren.

And so it’s taking care of that all growth emanates from. So it’s a matter of trust. If you do not trust that nature has a plan. If you don’t trust that is very capable. In fact it’s the only one who can execute this plan, then you panic as a parent and you push and push and push and push. This is the best news ever that it will unfold. If conditions are conducive, the number one thing is simply take care of the attachment needs and you do the work of attachment. If your child does the work, then that work doesn’t go into growth, it grows into attachment. And so that’s the one place where a child needs rest. Just like all growth physically emanates from rest. Even a young child, they physically grow at night not during the day. And so all growth emanates from rest.

What is the equivalent psychologically to take care of the needs for contact and closeness, for love, for affection, for the invitation to exist in one’s presence, for a sense of sameness, for approval. These are the relational needs. And these needs never go away just because I am 76, I think now they’re no different that when I was a kid they never go away. And relational needs are by definition something you cannot take care of yourself. You can’t give yourself an invitation to exist. Oh, you can, but it doesn’t count like the one you experienced from another because it’s a relational needs that we have. And so these are lifelong needs just like a plant. No matter how old a cedar tree is, it doesn’t mean it no longer needs its roots. That’s not the deal. It never goes away. That’s just the way it works. When relational needs are satisfied, all the nurturance grows into growth and bears fruit. So it gives us a very clear role. And when you’re into the issue of fertility, you’re big time into issue of how to get something to attach to another and how to get the attachment, the conditions conducive so that the potential is realized.

Lorne Brown:

As we’re talking, I have a question, and I don’t know if you have an answer, but I have to ask because I’m curious to your thoughts around this and it’s how come there is such an through the lens of attachment theory, how come there is such a strong desire to have a child? The individuals I see, they love this child and it hasn’t even been born yet and they know they want this child. And I’m just wondering through your vast experience, do you have a sense of, because you talked about the roots, they’re invisible, you can’t see it. So I was just wondering if you had that question, does that trigger anything in your mind?

Gordon Neufeld:

That’s our potential and we always year towards our potential. And so given that theoretically humans are capable of procreation would mean that we would lean into it unless there were things that happened that got in the way, some fears, some alarms, some concerns, and so on and so on. So it is a natural state always of the unfolding of potential. We should be yearning into what we are capable of, what our brain is capable of, what we’re in every which way, our competencies. We should always be yearning into that. And I can’t think of a better yearning to have. It’s so important because if you come to limitations into fufu utilities, you need to feel those fufu utilities and have the sadness for there to be life after disappointment. Otherwise you’re stuck at a huge disappointment. But you need to be free to yearn to even realize that this will be unfulfilled. And this is certainly a better case than all the parents who didn’t want children, they just wanted sex and have children. Of course, by default, that doesn’t really set the stage for being able to create the home that children need.

Lorne Brown:

The question, I have two questions from what you shared. So we only have an hour, but as you talk, I feel like I could be with you for days. One is I want to talk later about sadness because some of the people we see do not end up having a child of their own through their own eggs anyhow, or they end up not having children. And I remember in one of your talks how transforming sadness is and so many people try to move away from it. I think there’s a healing component that you can share with that. The first question I want, so I wanted to park that the first question when Gila and I were geeking out that I was going to talk to you, we thought a really good question was how do you go about attaching to your child right from the beginning? Because some of the people listening are pregnant right now or have newborns or will be pregnant in the next short while if all goes well for

Gordon Neufeld:

Them. Well, there’s two answers to that question. First of all, the unexpected, it’s not our child attachment to the child, it’s their attachment to us. And the child will automatically attach even in the womb unless something is impeding it and something getting in the way. And so as long as we’re there and taking care of the child and the invitation to exist, our delight in them is coming from us and we’re somewhat playful in our interaction with the child. Playfulness is highly engaging. And so when we are playful, when we have a child’s attention, this is a huge engagement and attaching instrument for the child. In fact, most of us married those that we were most playful when we were with or they were most playful when we were with that as playfulness figures into this. So attachment will take care of itself if we’re there.

If we raise to the occasion of believing we’re the child’s best bet, we don’t have to be highly educated. We don’t have to read a bunch of books, they can get in the way. What we need to do is show up with that twinkle in our eye, a bit of playfulness there, and with an invitation to exist in our presence, the rest kind of just happens. And so it again unfolds as attachment does through the universe. It just happens. The second thing about, well, what if I want to enhance it a bit? Well, how is the fetus attaching before birth? Well, the fetus is first of all attached to the umbilical cord. That’s obvious. But how are they attaching in a way that can survive the birth? And that’s basically through music, because music is the first language of all. We mastered notes. We even spoke in notes in music before we did in linguistic coding and music goes to the deepest part of the brain, orchestrates the brain, and it actually forms the very first memory.

That’s why in Alzheimer’s, it’s the last memory and it’s the first memory. So if the simplest thing and the most traditional thing, create your own lullaby for the fetus, make it their own a special lullaby, sing it to them two, three times a day. When you do this, when you’re relaxed, when you’re rocking, just sing at this, continue on when they’re born, you will find all of a sudden it has transformative effects and this sense of fusion that they will have with you when there is this continuity. It’s actually very simple. Most traditions had it. We’ve lost it because we’ve come way too much of the head and we’ve lost our culture of attachment. But that’s a simple way to be able to enhance attachment that’s actually been quite researched and evidence-based.

Lorne Brown:

So you shared, be present, show up. So if you’re with your child and you’re playing on your phone, that’s not showing up, that’s not being present.

Gordon Neufeld:

That’s a huge impediment to that twinkle in your eye. The invitation to exist to the dance attachment is a dance. We’re meant to dance. You don’t dance by holding your instruction book in front of you. You don’t dance with a digital device in your hands. The dance is a dance and oh my goodness, if you dance the way you feel like dancing to that infant, to that toddler with the twinkle in your eye, the invitation to exist in your presence, everything pretty well

Lorne Brown:

Unfolds. And that twinkle your eye delight. Again, I’m going to put myself, I’m going to be vulnerable and I’m going to tell you some of my parenting. My child, I have 19 and seven year old, but I was talked into, so this is 18 plus years ago, I was talked into not co-sleeping, your kid has to sleep by himself.

Gordon Neufeld:

That’s that self-sufficiency

Lorne Brown:

Doctrine.

Gordon Neufeld:

You got to wean ’em right from the start. We

Lorne Brown:

You wean ’em. That’s right. You got to get them potty trained because you don’t want, you’re going to daycare because your kid may get married and go down the island and diapers,

Gordon Neufeld:

If you don’t get him sleeping in their own bed, they’ll be in your bed forever and

Lorne Brown:

Ever. Here’s the part that I want to say thank you and I think I did it okay with it, but you can tell me what you think he would when he was older and leaving his bed, he would come and wake us up many times a night. He didn’t want to sleep alone. It used to really upset me. I was tired. Most of the individuals aren’t happy. And then I hear something from Dr. Gordon Neufeld via Gila and listening to one of your courses that they need to see the sparkle in your eye, the delight in your eyes. And I realized because I had the look when my child looked at me and I was angry for him waking up, you could see the shift in his face, the fear, the loss of invitation. You could just see how I was not his best bet and how he did not feel safe, but yet, but he had nobody else to turn to.

So he still had the cup to be. And then it took one listen to be their best bet to see the delight in their eye. And the next night, I didn’t have the foresight to put him back in my bed, by the way, so put him in his own bed. But when he came crawling in my bed and he woke me up, I went, Hey buddy, what’s going on? And it was just a different, and he told me how he was and then I said, daddy will be with you. And I took him back to his bed and I said, I’ll lay with you. And I had that playful tone and I stayed there until he fell asleep. And then I went back to my bed and I was exhausted, but I realized I’m his best bet and I got to fake it and I’m going to show up and pretend. So I wasn’t excited to see him. Just so you know, Gord, when he showed up at three in the morning, no, but he saw and it shifted. You could see how it put him at. You used the word at rest.

Gordon Neufeld:

Absolutely. That’s exactly what they need to sense. They need to sense that you’ve got this, that you are the answer, that you know you’re the answer, that you are generous with your contact and closeness. The more generous you are, the less it is they need. And so the answer is when a child is secure in it and knows that mom and dad are there, we didn’t so much co-sleep with our children as we had those wonderful baby monitors where they knew that it was right at our desk. And so all it was that mom and our job was to be generous in response. Oh, you’re having a difficulty going to sleep. I’ve got a song in me. I’d love to sing. I’ve got a misogyny. I’d love to give more generosity than is needed. And it was the place where they could go back to sleep.

So there’s many ways of doing this, but you’re absolutely right. You turn the energy around, you realize that you are the answer. Children are not for parents, parents are for children. And sometimes we got to bluff it. Sometimes we’ve got to enter into our alpha role as we always do with alpha. We can’t go saying, oh, I really didn’t know if we wanted another child and you were an accident and it took us a long time to get over your birth. Doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. We must come across as their answer with generosity and the work is far less. And that’s like if you’re going to have the baby sleeping in their own bed or the toddler, you must appear generous in your response because if you test it, well, I’ll wait to see how much a fuss they’re going to make and the greater the fuss, the more you give in because you can see now that I better give in otherwise it’s going to have hell to bake. All that is happening as the child is becoming more alarmed and more insecure. It never enables them to find that rest that they need to truly go back to sleep.

Lorne Brown:

And this rest, this feeling of safety. So the alarms off. It seems like many children now our children are teenagers. There’s a lot of anxiety. Covid made it worse. How do you see that through the lens of attachment? Because you use the words often in the materials. I get to watch of yours that when you’re in that right relationship, right, there’s this attachment. But when you’re not, there’s a separation. Yes. And I think of some of the children because you define it, that attachment is this pursuit and preservation of proximity to be with. And I think of in the school systems, when a child is behaving in a way we don’t want it to behave, trying to get attention. I’m assuming they’re trying to get that proximity maybe just not in a healthy way, and then we put them in the corner, we tell them to leave.

Gordon Neufeld:

Although anxiety takes on a life of its own. But at the root of anxiety, since togetherness is our main drive, not even survival, it’s togetherness. Because as mammals, we don’t have a survival instinct. This is where many Darwin got it wrong. Even Freud got it wrong was because later it was, oh my goodness, we’d be incapable of suicide. We’d be incapable of all kinds of things if it was survival. No, no, no. It’s togetherness because the way nature takes care of us is by binding us together so that we will take care of each other. And so our need is to survive. Our drive is for togetherness. So if togetherness is our preeminent drive, then separation is our primary alarm and that actually makes sense of how the brain works. And so we get alarmed now whether we feel that alarm or we can feel it correctly.

Many are alarmed and don’t feel it at all. They are agitated, restless, they can’t concentrate, they can’t attend. But you asked them, do you feel alarmed? No. Are you scared? No. The adrenaline seekers, they actually just feel their adrenaline when they should be feeling alarmed. And so they do the things that put them into harm’s way. I wish we didn’t even have the construct of anxiety because anxiety appears as if it comes from obsessions with our wrong thinking. But why would a child be afraid of a monster under the bed is because they’re already alarmed. The monster comes second. We know that monsters don’t exist, so we confront them on their irrationality. That’s the way most therapists will confront somebody on their irrationality. The fact is, is the alarm came first. And so when we change the language around this to I’m alarmed, I’m feeling alarmed, the child is alarmed. We come back to our own intuition. What is the alarm? Almost always it is not about the spiders or the dark. It is about what is the dark? I can’t see it’s separation from those that I’m attached to. It is at its core a separation issue.

Lorne Brown:

And again, quotes from you, but provide more proximity than is being pursued. Yes. Can you explain that? And I want to share a little scenario. It’s related to that quote from you, but you talked about being the presence or show up and again through learning from your attachment work, sometimes my children would be in the room where my wife and I were, but they didn’t want to interact with us. It just needed to be there. And parents are like, usually you want to push them out, go play somewhere else. But that is part of that unconscious right relationship being in the room with you. Can you explain a bit of that and then explain about that idea that give more than they’re even pursuing?

Gordon Neufeld:

Well, the easiest way to think about it, if you have a friend or know somebody, or you have a child just who really is quite needy for physical affection and wants a hug, and when they hug you, they don’t let go right away. Well, how do you answer that? Do you answer it by pushing them away? Do you answer it by saying it’s enough? No. The challenge is to hug them harder and longer than they’re hugging you. That’s the only way to be able to release ’em. Now, this is true in every arena of attachment, love, affection, sameness, significance, belonging, a sense of being known from inside out, understanding it’s true wherever it is. The key to release is not to hold, to withhold it is to provide generously that that allows them to let go and in the security that you are doing the work of the attachment, which is important for our children.

So that’s where the idea of generosity providing more than is pursuit. Our invitation is greater than then is needed. You have a child who’s very demanding for attention. The challenge is to get to it first, to provide more so that they can rest in the attention that is given rather than continually pursuit. So it’s the exact opposite of all the behavioral approaches, including Adlerian and Ryker and Watson and all of these behavioral approaches, which all go by the idea that if you give it an inch, it will take a mile. Don’t, don’t indulge it. Whereas a developmental approach his to give more than is required. And you can release someone from the hunt for togetherness, the hunt for contact, the hunt for love, the hunt for affection. And that is the main thing of parenting is not to be afraid of just going in and being crazy in love with them and enjoying them and giving them that invitation of the playfulness and let nature do its work. You don’t have to push and pull. You don’t have to push the river. The river will go on its own accord. It has its own rules. And when attachment is fulfilled, it automatically leads to the spontaneous unfolding of potential.

Lorne Brown:

And there’s got to be a balance to this though. I think of some of the, and so I don’t think you’re saying this, there is parenting where they don’t want the kid to feel any pain, and so the kid gets everything and they don’t let, and yeah, the kid, it looks almost as if the kid’s, the parent, I don’t even see the alpha in the parent. So do you find that sometimes this developmental approach can get misunderstood where

Gordon Neufeld:

All the time, yeah, it gets misunderstood as avoiding upset in the child. It has nothing to do with that. You must not if there’s a no in you and being a responsible parent, there’s lots of nos in us usually every day to some kinds of things. And no, this isn’t in your best interest. This isn’t in your best. I would be irresponsible as a parent to say yes here, no, you need to go to sleep now. No, this, I’m not letting you have this dessert before. I’m satisfied. You’ve had the rest of what you need to do. It’s very important. We are way too afraid of children being upset and upset is a natural part of life. The upset though doesn’t do its work and the child has gone all the way to the sadness and sadness. You can feel the demand go out of the upset in an upset the child is basically holding the parent hostage.

I’m not going to be satisfied unless you listen to me, unless you do what I ask, unless you meet this demand. When sadness comes, it’s because the brain has registered the futility of that way. And sadness is simply felt futility. The brain gets it. Oh, I’m not going to get my way here. Daddy’s in charge, mommy’s in charge. They’ve said no. And that’s at the very root of adaptation. So it is equally true that children need to feel fulfilled in their relational needs. They also need to feel the futility, not just foiling. That’s not enough. You can foil a child because you believe it’s not in their interest. They actually have to feel the futility of it. And many of us are trying to talk them out of it, justify ourself why couldn’t say that or reason with them or all kinds of other things. And in actual fact, their brain just needs to feel the futility and they need to come up with something that they feel is unmovable.

Lorne Brown:

So you don’t see it that you have to shut down their feelings. If they’re feeling frustrated, if they’re expressing emotion, you’re not saying they shouldn’t because some don’t want them to feel pain. And if they’re upset, they try to shut down the upsetness. The developmental approach is not about

Gordon Neufeld:

That. No, not about that at all. It’s about a parent being a parent and being responsible as a parent. But you need to give the frustration, the upset, the anger room. If you give the anger room, it turns into frustration. The frustration room, it turns into feelings of futility. If you don’t give, you need to give it lots of room to talk them out of it, to bribe them out of it, to say, well, okay, I have to no second story tonight, but tomorrow I’ll read you three stories. No, no, no, no, no, no. Now you’re going to have a child who negotiates all the time. Something has to work. So as important it is for a child to feel fulfilled in their relational needs, it’s important for a child to feel the futility of the basic things of life like time. There is no more time.

That’s a basic futility that we’re all up against. That’s our mortality. Everything is in that, and it’s important. Some parents are afraid, well, my child will lose their confidence. They have to believe that all things are possible. Well, my goodness, no. That is a real pain. When a child believes that all things are possible, if they could only figure out a way, they need to know what is futile. They can’t change reality. They can’t change the rules of reality. They can’t change the laws of reality, and they can’t change who their parents are. They can’t change who their siblings are. They can’t send them back to their womb. So there’s nothing really left to do, but have sadness at the end of the day. And if they don’t have sadness, they’ll get stuck. So sadness is the most important emotion they can have other than fulfillment, sadness is the other.

Lorne Brown:

So this is because we think, oh, we shouldn’t feel sad. We give people medications, they feel sad, right?

Gordon Neufeld:

We misconstrue it as depression.

Lorne Brown:

And so finding our tears, and I want to share with the audience, Dr. Gordon Neufeld has an excellent talk and he has many talks on his institute website, but he actually has a free talk called the traffic Circle or something of that idea where he talks about that whole idea of adaptation and going through this circle and reaching your tears for that human potential that we talked about. So I just wanted to share that with people that this is a short little discussion, but there’s a good hour plus talk for a free resource on his website that I really invite you to listen to make more sense of that. So you’re sharing that sadness is part of that process of that development of our child. Because when we look at behaviorists versus developmentalists, the developmentalists is on that the attachment, right? Relationship process. It’s a lot of work as a parent. And if your intention is for your kid to be easy and behave a certain way, then that may not mean that your child’s going to reach their full potential, one way of your child being afraid of you not having attachment. So they bury everything. They don’t express anything. That’s kind of how we were raised. I think you shared that even though it’s been so many decades still, most of the literature is on behaviorism.

Gordon Neufeld:

Yes. And you’re sharing that behavior is more important. Conduct is more important than feelings. And feelings are the only thing that make us human and humane all comes down to feelings.

Lorne Brown:

So if I get this right, just because when I first started this work, I was like, what have I done? This is a lot of work. My kid had to have feelings. I couldn’t shut them down. They’re screaming in the grocery store. This is a lot of work. But if your focus is that you want your child to mature and one day be able to leave the nest, leave your home and reach their full potential, then this is the approach that you’re sharing. Yes. If you want your child to sleep by themselves and not say peep and not be a problem, but maybe as we shared some people end up going on addictions, join gangs to find that relationship, they use their peers to fulfill themselves, then that’s a different approach. So you’re sharing that. I want to focus on the goal here is that we enjoy our children and they get to reach their human potential. And you’re saying the developmental approach, this right, relationship attachment approach is how you create the environment for your child to reach the right potential,

Gordon Neufeld:

The full potential. Absolutely. And that sadness is a part of it. They need sadness is all about how the brain does endings before or before new beginnings. It’s all about the winter that comes before the spring. It’s all about the mythology of crucifixion before resurrection. Everything about something must die to give new life. That’s the way nature works. All living things. The yin yang symbol, they die to give life. I mean, what is soil? Dead organisms? Everything is this way. Well, that starts out right from the very beginning with us. You see, the brain can’t think its way through. When you have a toddler, you know that for sure, a two-year-old. You know that for sure. It doesn’t matter what you say to them, there is no rationality there. Why? Because the brain at its core needs to feel its way through. So when it comes to what should be a dead end, you can’t get through this way.

This is not going to work this way. This is when it comes to a dead end. It has to be felt. But that takes a bit of time. It needs to be felt that futility. And that’s why your work, your work in conscious fertility is all about endings before new beginnings. If you want to give birth, new birth, rebirth after disappointment, after even fruition, what is the way? What is the key to all therapy? What is the key to all new beginnings is being able to have one sadness about that which cannot work, has not worked, will not work. That’s the only way the brain can do it. Then it releases its energy, we move on. And so this is the part that basically should be there. If you have a gifted toddler, they figure out ways of escaping, feelings of futility they’ve got, their brain goes into all kinds of ways they can escape it.

So it’s difficult. It’s like having Houdinis when you have gifted children to be able to stay with your no or that won’t work long enough, putting the invitation to feel sad in your voice, in the tone of your voice and so on. And so it is there just like your invitation to exist in their presence, the invitation to feel sad when it should, and it’s the parent who is patient with it and believing in the fruit of this process that really creates the conditions. It takes patients to do this, but oh my goodness, when it starts coming, like you mentioned about the grocery store, the parent often would ask me, well, what should I do in the grocery store? Well survive, first of all in the grocery store, distract, because you’ve got to get out of there. You’re in a social situation. Everybody’s going to weigh into this.

You’ve got to say for the audience in front of you, oh, we’ll handle this when we get home. So they leave you alone, and then you’ve got to do your homework at home. This child is not responding to the tone in your voice where you say no. And so they don’t feel the appropriate sadness. There’s a lot of homework to do, and I literally mean at home in the privacy of when it is that if you decide the seatbelt is going to be that kind of a thing, then you got to build in an extra 10, 15 minutes until you get to the letting go, sadness, until that part is done. But somewhere along the line, this sadness needs to be there. And that’s a paradox. We’ve lost our dance with children, our joy in them to nurture them. And we’ve lost our being agents, double agents of futility as well as an angel of comfort when we do this, not to be afraid of it, not to be afraid of it, allowing nature to do its work. When we provide those conditions, we provide the ultimate, the optimal conditions for growth to occur.

Lorne Brown:

I’m going to ask you about model. I have a couple of questions from the patients I work with that ask some questions. So grocery store was one of them. I have another one as well. But in the grocery store, one, there’s this idea, and again, I remember Gila has a sign on her wall, and it definitely influenced by you because she shares it, she studied with you for it’s been studying your material for over 30 years. And it says to be seen, to be heard equals to be loved. And I get this as part of the attachment. So in that scenario, if my myself’s having a bit of a temper tantrum is to help give them words and let them know I get them that, yeah, I get you’re really frustrated to get into with them. And yes,

Gordon Neufeld:

But not in the grocery store, right? In the grocery store is enough simply to say, oh, I see this isn’t working for you. It’s simply enough to say that. And then blinds, I forgot I had, will you hold this for me? Will I, and you just distract them. So you play your trick. But tricks aren’t the way you raise children. It’s the way you survive a social situation in which you’re going to have a lot of

Lorne Brown:

Off. I’m glad to know that there are sometimes break glass, a case of emergency in your approach to that case. And then the other one, that’s a common one that I think people are curious what your thoughts are on this is what about a child that bites? How do you read into that? What is going on for this child? And then you’re saying, we’re not behaviors, but that’s socially unacceptable and we don’t want our child biting. And so I’ve heard where parents don’t do anything like it’s what their kid wants to do. And so again, that’s where I think sometimes we’re going in the parenting style where there’s no alpha, no mama bear, and the child is ruling the roost here, and there’s an issue, the child’s biting. So to me, this sounds like there’s some frustration going on.

Gordon Neufeld:

Oh, of course.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. I’d love to hear how you would coach a parent around a child that’s biting.

Gordon Neufeld:

Well, first of all, a couple of levels. First of all, some empathy. Most of us feel like biting somebody’s head off when we’re frustrated with them, we’re thwarted with them. Good point. That’s not just a kid. If we’re psychologically, we do it psychologically. If you’re physically, you do it physically. It is just instinctive. When you’re frustrated, you want to take an ounce of somebody’s flesh, you want to draw blood. That’s

Lorne Brown:

Not, you made a great point because you were thinking there’s something wrong with the child. But you’re right, the difference between me and the child is I’m holding back what I really want to do. Yes,

Gordon Neufeld:

Exactly. And you have the capability of doing that because you have mixed feelings. They don’t have that capability. So first of all, always it’s important to read the child, make sense of the child. You said it, they’re frustrated. Something’s not working for the child. Now when it’s not working, they instinctively move to bite their younger sibling, this, that the parent or so on and so on. Well, first of all, they should have something else to bite or another way that could be expressed. And so if they’re a biter, then give them something to bite. My goodness, that is not going to result in getting punished or getting, but what’s at the bottom of it? Well, why is the child attacking when they’re frustrated is because they haven’t felt the futility of getting their own way. And so biters are short on sadness. That would be true for the adult who feels like biting another person’s head off when they’re like, you can go for two or three years with this vengeance against a boss or something like that.

You wait for your time, you dream of it at night. You have the perfect comeback. You want to be able to put down why you’re not feeling the futility of being able to get your way in this or get justice in this world. There’s a lack of sadness. So ultimately, what’s the homework? The homework is that it’s up to us to be able to hold a child in a place of frustration where we can, where it’s possible, where we have, until they can find the sadness about what isn’t working. I’ve never seen where a child does this that they turn out to be a biter. Now, all that said and done, my own grandson was a biter and he bit his mother. When his mother would come back, we would take care of the grandson. Mother would come back and he would probably, she would hug him and he would probably bite her in the deck. And it wasn’t going very well for him, and it wasn’t going very well for the mother. So I needed to get a safe way for this frustration to get out. So I scripted in a tantrum for him, and it really worked well. He was really to me, so I was doing gardening and he was a toddler. He was following me. He had his own pruners, and I pretended I couldn’t prune something. And so I started hopping up and down like a tantrum. Papa gets so bad,

Gordon Neufeld:

I get so frustrated when I can’t do, this is not working for me. I feel like yelling. I get screaming,

Gordon Neufeld:

And I jumped up and down. Well, he was mesmerized. It looked like so much fun. Well, in two weeks he was having wonderful tantrums and his mother wasn’t getting bit. So sometimes you’ve got to find, okay, what is another way I can do this? By time that wasn’t the ultimate answer. The answer was he needed to feel some of the sadness about not being able to keep his mother home. He wanted his mother dearly. Mother was the answer to life. Single parent had to work and wasn’t able to keep mommy home and he needed to have his sadness when mommy left about this. And that was the bottom answer.

Lorne Brown:

Again, I want to just remind our listeners to check out Gordon Neufeld Institute because there’s just so much material you keep adding and adding these recorded lectures on there. So there are self-paced lectures, there’s lectures where you’re doing it with groups, and then there’s some free resources there. So as I hear you share this information, we’re not even on the tip of the iceberg, everybody that we’re talking about from the material I’ve gone through, and I really invite you to check that out. I know with our time, we’re almost there and I want to just have one more question then or one or two. Are you good?

Gordon Neufeld:

I’m good, yes.

Lorne Brown:

So one is, a lot of this work I believe is inner work as adults. We have these wounded inner child and a lot of the people I work with to be able to do this kind of what I call conscious parenting, right? Relationship attachment, parenting. We have to kind of grow ourselves up. We got to kind of attach to ourselves. So it takes work your own inner work. And I bring this up because you talked about the sadness or the frustration for the biter. Do you subscribe to the idea then that some of the stuff that’s going on for the child, because I’m thinking you got to find out what’s going on. They’re going to be looking for what’s happening in the daycare, what’s happening there. I sense that children pick up what’s between the parents or even behind the parents, meaning that even if you’re the relationship is really bad, but you’re trying to pretend it’s all good in front of the child, I think their autonomic nervous system can pick up stuff that we’re just not obvious to that could be impacting them. Do you subscribe to that idea?

Gordon Neufeld:

Well, it isn’t that you can’t do it, but you need to be pretty mature, pretty mature to be able to contain your own aloneness, loneliness, your disappointment, your frustration, and your sadness not to have it show for the child. And you’re right in the sense that the child is mostly affected by what isn’t, rather than by what is. That is parents who don’t delight in each other, whose eyes don’t twinkle when they come into each other’s presence, who aren’t dancing well with each other and don’t really want to be with each other. It’s that lack that really affects the child. That lack probably affects more than anything else. And so parents can be circumscribed to discipline to avoid any conscious conflict, but there is something else that is missing. All that said and done, yes, there is impact there, but for parents who are more or less trapped or they have made decisions, very difficult decisions to go into a marriage that’s less fulfilling, there is a silver lining as the child is far more conscious of how you feel about them than how you feel about the other. And so if

Lorne Brown:

You, that’s a key point I want to highlight. I don’t want this to pass over, is that it’s not like even if your relationship’s not great or there’s divorce because 50 plus percent get divorced, if you do your work and you show up in that relationship for your child, then you can help your child reach the potential even though your relationship with your partner is gone or not

Gordon Neufeld:

Good. Absolutely. Even though you might have profound aloneness there and profound sadness. In fact, the more you have it, the less it leaks over into the child relationship, then the child relationship can be independent of it. And it only takes one attachment womb where the child is celebrated, enjoyed, invited, where the work of connection is done, where the child, the parent is patient enough to allow frustration to come into sadness. It really only takes one wound for the child to have the conditions that are needed to reach the potential. It doesn’t need a lot of working relationships. And that’s the good news. That’s the good news because a lot of us don’t, there’s all kinds of tragedies that are there, many of which we’re not in full control over. But if we keep the frustration of our marriage from being visited upon our children, that’s probably the most significant thing.

Lorne Brown:

And we’re not sharing here that you stuff your emotions and not do your own work. Just when you’re with the child, show up, be the alpha parent.

Gordon Neufeld:

Exactly. Because

Lorne Brown:

In the work I do and in Chinese medicine, when you resist your feelings, that creates stagnation. That creates resistance.

Gordon Neufeld:

Exactly.

Lorne Brown:

And when you allow them, accept them, as you said, find most tears, be with the sadness. So my listeners know about my notice, accept approach when you can really be with your feelings and acceptance, the resistance lowers and then flow and receptivity happens.

Gordon Neufeld:

Exactly.

Lorne Brown:

So it’s phenomenal. We understand,

Gordon Neufeld:

And again, going to the very root, you’re trusting. You’re trusting. You’re trusting just so you would in the natural healing process. You’re trusting in the natural growth process, the natural spontaneous process of the unfolding of our potential is that it’s there. Ours is to provide conditions that are conducive. What are the main ones? A generous invitation to exist in our presence and letting our children feel sadness when sadness really is appropriate response.

Lorne Brown:

This has been such a pleasure for me. I hope our listeners take up the invitation to go to your website. We’ll put that in the show notes, but it is the neufeld institute.org. Also, you can follow Gordon on Facebook, facebook.com/neufeld Institute and on Instagram Neufeld Institute as well. They’re going to be in the show notes. Also, remember, he has a book, which you can find on the Newfield Institute website as well. The book is called Hold Onto Your Kids. There’s so many free resources. And Gordon, I’ll share with you the link and stuff to the podcast and YouTube video if you choose to put this up as well on your website so you can share this information. I know we’re going to have a part two. This is great. You know what, I almost want to get you and Gila together on here, have this talk, and I’ve met and started interviewing and connecting with people that have studied with you. So I want to let you know that what you have done has influenced so many of those professionals that are going out there to the teachers and working with the children and working with the parents. And so thank you. Just to let you know all that, although you’re retired from seeing people clinically in practice, I’m glad to see that you’re still a prolific speaker and going out

Gordon Neufeld:

There and presenting. Well, it’s wonderful. It’s the material. I am simply the mouthpiece this way for nature as a developmental process. But thank you for those affirming words.

Lorne Brown:

Thank you.

Speaker:

If you’re looking for support to grow your family contact ACU Balance Wellness Center at ACU Balance. They help you reach peak fertility potential through their integrative approach using low level laser therapy, fertility, acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine. Download the ACU Balance Fertility Diet and Dr. Brown’s video for mastering manifestation and clearing subconscious blocks. Go to ACU balance ca. That’s a C balance ca.

Lorne Brown:

Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Conscious Fertility, the show that helps you receive life on purpose. Please take a moment to subscribe to the show and join the community of women and men on their path to peak fertility and choosing to live consciously on purpose. I would love to continue this conversation with you, so please direct message me on Instagram at Lorne Brown Official. That’s Instagram, Lorne Brown official, or you can visit my websites, Lorne brown.com and accu balance.ca. Until the next episode, stay curious and for a few moments, bring your awareness to your heart center and breathe.

 

Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s Bio

Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s Bio

Before he retired, Dr. Gordon Neufeld had accumulated more than 40 years of experience as a clinical psychologist with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld continues to be an international speaker, a best-selling author (Hold On to Your Kids) and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he has devoted the best part of the last two decades to creating courses for parents, teachers and helping professionals. These courses are offered primarily through the Neufeld Institute – an online educational institute and world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld’s life’s work has been to help adults provide the conditions for children to flourish. He is a father of five and a grandfather to seven.

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Lorne Brown
Gordon Neufeld

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