Children and Kids articles catalog
 

 

Our Children`s Needs - by Robert Elias Najemy

A human being is pretty much formed and programmed in his or her concepts about himself or herself and the surrounding world by the age of eight. Most of the work, which is done today by psychologists and psychiatrists, is to solve the problems and fill the gaps left by the experiences of those earlier years. Wouldn?t it be better to pay more attention to how we bring up our children so that they can be stronger, more able, happier, more in harmony with themselves and their environment? The future of the world depends on our children. The quality of our children and their ability to create a better world depends on us, but not in the way most may think. Let us consider here how we can help our children and ourselves to find harmony, health and happiness.

SEEDS DO NOT LEARN TO GROW

Seeds grow into beautiful plants and huge almost immortal trees with no education or training whatsoever. What they are to become and how they are to become that, are already printed in their consciousness and chromosomes. The same is true for all the animals, plants and insects upon the earth. Is man the only exception? Are we so unintelligent that we cannot understand what we must become and how we must become that? Are we so far behind the plants and animals in this matter? Or have we destroyed this contact with our inner consciousness, our inner voice that could guide us on our way?

Adults in their well meaning way, with an exaggerated concern for their children, and an underestimation of the divine potential which lies within those small beings, inadvertently destroy that small inner voice, as they try to mould their children into what they believe their child should become. This is also true of the educational system as a whole. Thus the question, concerning how we can help our children, becomes, more accurately, how can we help ourselves out of our mistaken concepts and anxiety about the future and lack of confidence in ourselves, our children and mankind so as not to become obstacles to the child?s natural development?

Our emphasis should not be so much on how we can teach but on how we can learn and grow maturer emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Then the "real parent", the divine within each child, will take over for us and for our children. We cannot help our children find the voice within them if we have not found our own. We cannot help our children to be healthy if we have not created health for ourselves. We cannot help them have self-confidence unless we ourselves have it. Their self-respect depends on our self-respect, their inner peace on ours, and their self-mastery on our self-mastery.

Learning through example is much more effective for children than learning through words. When the person who gives advice is not an example of those words, then not only do those words have no power, but they create a feeling of resentment and rejection towards the hypocrisy which is so obvious. All children are idealists. They expect there to be a consistency between thoughts, words and actions. When there is not, they feel insecure, they do not know what to believe. Consistency gives a child a feeling of security and respect.

WHAT ARE THEIR NEEDS?

This list of children?s needs will by no means be complete. These are some of the obvious needs that come to mind at this moment. When I asked a small group of children to think about the basic needs of children, one child shocked me with the most simple answers. She said, ?The first need of children is PARENTS?. How simple, how obvious, and yet today how fragile is that assurance that the child will have the same two parents from its birth until adulthood. ?The second need of children?, she said, ?is to have a good relationship with your parents?. This 11 year-old child was telling me what took so many psychologists so many years to understand and verify.

In working with adults with various emotional problems, most difficulties seem to originate from the lack of affirmation of love and acceptance during their childhood. When this base of love and acceptance is missing, then we have lot of work to do in our adult life in order to regain that self-love and self-acceptance. When this base of love is there as a child, then we can proceed on to other needs and activities. When it is not there, then whatever we will do in our lives will have as a major motive, proving our ability and our self-worth.

SECURITY

Children need to feel secure. Few feel secure when there are conflicts occurring around them. Few can relax inwardly when others around them are shouting, accusing, criticizing and hating each other. To a small child, tension between parents, or between parents and the child or other children, constitute a deep chasm of insecurity.

When the conflict is between the parents, it is often worse for the child. The child has not yet learned to feel separate itself from the parents. It feels identification with both parents. Thus when they are in conflict, it feels that the conflict is taking place between two parts of its own being. It might even begin hating itself as a result.

Children cannot feel secure if the parents do not feel secure. If we are constantly worrying and have anxiety about money, health and the future, then our children will automatically be programmed to feel insecure about these aspects of life. This insecurity will remain with them and they will waste large portions of time, energy and thought throughout their life, trying in vain to find ?security? by controlling these external circumstances. As adults, it is possible that this inner programming that we are not secure may never be appeased.

Thus the most effective way to offer a security base to our children is not to be found in providing them with a large inheritance but rather to establish an inner feeling of security within ourselves. If we believe in ourselves and in our ability to cope with all of life?s situations, the child will feel the same. As we feel more secure, we will have less moments of conflict with others and our home will be in general more peaceful and more supportive for the child.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

We all know that a child needs love and want to be able to love our children unconditionally; but it is not so easy. We are human beings with needs, feelings, expectations, attachments, fears and conditionings which prevent us from being able to accept tour children independently of their behavior. Having children is an excellent opportunity in life to develop unconditional love. We are more inclined to forgive, overlook and to continue loving when we feel that this is our child.

What do we mean by unconditional love? We mean that our feelings of love and acceptance for our children do not change or fluctuate depending on what they do or say, or what they decide to do with their lives. It is not necessary to love and accept tour children?s behavior. We must make a distinction between our children?s being, soul or consciousness and their behavior. We can reject a certain behavior, and explain so to them, without rejecting their being or self. "I love you but I am disturbed by this particular behavior."

Our children need to know that we accept and love them regardless of what they may do, but also that certain forms of behavior are not acceptable to us. We should, however, investigate for ourselves why this behavior is not acceptable. Is it because it will be potentially harmful to the child, to someone else, or to ourselves? Or is it simply because we are programmed that it should not be done? Or does the behavior conflict with our expectations based on our personal needs and dreams for the child? Or are we afraid of what the others will think about our child and subsequently about us?

We must be very clear about why we are rejecting a certain behavior. Our rejection can come out of a place of real love and concern for the child, if, in fact, we are not simply protecting our own interests. As long as a certain behavior does no real harm to anyone, it is best to allow the child to pursue it. Something within them, some need is guiding them to explore that kind of activity. They have something to learn through doing that.

This does not mean that there are not moments where control or even natural or logical consequences may be necessary. But we need to be sure that the reasons are valid and have to do with real issues of safety or morality and not because we are disappointed with the their grades or selection of hobbies, interests or friends.

In order to love our children unconditionally, we will need to start loving ourselves unconditionally. We will have to let go of all the prerequisites we have put on our own self-love. We will need to love ourselves even though we are not perfect, even though we make mistakes, even when others do not love and accept us. The more we free our self-love from the various prerequisites, the more our love for our children and others will become unconditional.

AFFIRMATION

Everyone likes a pat on the back, recognition, strokes, praise or affirmation of his or her ability, goodness and worthiness. Our children have not yet formed images of themselves and need these positive inputs even more than adults. Children are not sure if they are able or not. They are small in such a large world. They are learning and thus making many mistakes as they try to learn how to do things correctly. In our attempt to help our children we often tend to point out their mistakes more frequently than their successes. The mistakes are what are more obvious and thus we feel the need to point them out. The successes are taken for granted. We over-emphasize what our children do wrong. This undermines their sense of ability, and they start to doubt whether they can really succeed. Thus they become preoccupied, worrying about whether they will be able to do it, and whether they will be criticized. Thus little energy is left for focusing on what they are actually doing so that they can do it correctly and succeed. Then, if our children?s performance suffers, we become even more critical. This creates a vicious circle in which our children?s sense of ability, success and worthiness is completely undermined.

Later in life we seek incessantly to prove that we are okay, a success, by attempting to gain money, fame and respect from others. But it is a losing battle because inside us we are programmed to believe that we are not okay, not able. Although we may become very successful, we will likely be unable to satiate our need to prove our ability over and over.

On the other hand, we may simply perpetuate the belief that we are failures and create continual failure in life, by undermining our success in relationships and at work and perhaps our sense of self-worth through alcohol, drugs, tranquilizers or other means.

To be continued.

If you are interested in improving your communication with your children, you can receive a free email course with 16 messages concerning how we can do so. Send in an email to the following address to get one message each week on More Effective Communication with Children for 16 weeks. communicatingchildren@GetResponse.com



Robert Elias Najemy is the author of over 600 articles, 400 lecture cassettes on Human Harmony and 20 books; sold over 100,000 copies. His book The Psychology of Happiness is available at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0971011605/holisticharmo-20 and http://www.HolisticHarmony.com/psychofhappiness.html. You can download FREE articles and e-books and get guidance at http://www.HolisticHarmony.com

The Nurture Assumption and Adolescent Addiction - by Shelly Marshall

 

(Judith Rich Harris is a former writer of college textbooks on child development. One day she had an epiphany and realized that what she was writing about didn`t jive with her or her neighbors experiences of raising children. She stopped writing textbooks and began studying why children turn out the way they do. Her conclusions have shocked professionals and parents alike. An award winning author in psychology, Mrs. Harris?s book, The Nurture Assumption, is a must for anyone who works or lives with adolescents.)

Interviewer: Mrs. Harris, you have been described as "the terrible grandmother from New Jersey" -- the one who has taken on the academic establishment and has been ferociously attacked by some of its members. The dust from the controversy you stirred up has not yet settled, and people are still livid about your Group Socialization theory, as presented in your book The Nurture Assumption. Could you briefly explain the main point of GS theory and also explain the uproar?

Judith Harris: Most of the uproar is directed not against GS theory itself, but against my assertion that parents have no important long-term effects on their child`s personality, intelligence, or mental health. I don`t consider that to be my original idea -- it`s been floating around in the back rooms of psychology for years and is supported by plenty of evidence -- but it`s the point that gets most of the attention.

Group Socialization theory, on the other hand, is my own contribution. It`s my attempt to answer the question, "Well, if it isn`t the parents, what is it?" It is clear that the environment does affect a child`s personality, intelligence, and mental health -- the question is, how does it do it? Our species has a long evolutionary history of living in groups. I believe that human children are predisposed to identify with a group and to become accepted members of that group. My theory isn`t about "peer pressure," because pressure is seldom required. Children want to be like the other members of their group. This is how cultural norms are transmitted: children identify with a group of others they perceive as being like themselves and take on the norms of that group.

I: Most people believe that parents with good parenting skills influence their kids to behave properly, regardless of what their peers do. If it isn`t the parents, where do the good kids come from?

JH: The existence of "bad" teenage groups, and the influence they have on their members, is widely recognized and understood. What isn`t recognized or understood is that the "good" groups are having just as important an effect on their members. Many psychologists think of "peer pressure" as a source of problems and believe that it only affects kids whose parents are not doing an adequate job of rearing them. They don`t notice that the "good" kids have peer groups that are just as influential. The attitudes and behaviors found in the "good" groups tend to be those that the parents approve of, so the parents assume it is their influence that`s causing the kids to have those behaviors and attitudes.

I: Many people would say that water seeks its own level and that kids seek out peers with similar behaviors and attitudes. They believe it is the parents who determine the kid`s behaviors and attitudes and that therefore it is the parents who ultimately determine which peer group their kid will join.

JH: The evidence against that point of view is that a child who switches peer groups -- for example, from a group of kids who are opposed to doing well in school to a group of academic achievers -- will have a change of attitude. The parents` ideas haven`t changed, and the child still has the same IQ, but all of a sudden academic achievement is something to be sought after and admired instead of scorned.

I: So what a parent teaches a child at home isn`t what is causing them to act good or bad out in society?

JH: That`s right. An important element of GS theory is the idea that behaviors learned in one context are not automatically dragged along to other contexts. Behaviors that children learn at home often turn out to be useless or inappropriate outside the home. When that happens, the kids quickly drop what they learned at home and acquire new behaviors. It is true that some kids are nice wherever they go, and some are troublemakers both at home and in school, but that doesn`t mean they transferred what they learned at home to the schoolyard. I have found evidence that when there is a carryover of behavior from one context to another it is due to a genetic predisposition. Children who were born with a tendency to be impulsive or aggressive are likely to get into trouble wherever they go.

I: The problem is that many professionals tell parents that if they do X, Y, and Z, their kids will not be at risk for substance abuse or delinquency. Then, if the kids get into trouble anyway, people assume that the parents must have done something wrong. I would think that your theory of group socialization would make parents happy. But parents seem to balk as much as many experts do.

JH: My impression is that the parents who don`t like what I`m saying either have very young children whom they are still hoping to influence, or have older children who have turned out very well and for whom they`d like to take the credit! The ones who thank me for what I am saying are the parents who did their best but who nonetheless have a kid who`s giving them a lot of grief. (Usually it`s just one kid -- their other kids are doing fine.)

I: In today?s society, we have been quick to blame parents for whatever is wrong with us. I find this particularly noticeable in adolescent treatment programs. Although therapists don`t overtly say, "Your parents made you an addict," they do say that getting the whole family in therapy is necessary to heal the `dysfunctional family system?that the teenager surely must have come from. What is your take on this?

JH: I have great sympathy for the parents of these teenagers. The reason they are blamed, I believe, is that there really is a tendency for "dysfunctional" kids to come from families with "dysfunctional" parents. What is overlooked here is the genetic connection between the parents and the kids: the fact children inherit many of their characteristics from their biological parents. If you eliminate the genetic connection -- for example, by looking at adopted children -- the correlation disappears.

I: What can you suggest to parents who want to protect their kids from substance abuse?

JH: The biggest power parents have is to determine where their kids will grow up and where they will go to school. Problems like substance abuse, school dropout, and teenage pregnancy vary in prevalence from one neighborhood to another. Whether a given child succumbs to one of these temptations depends very much on where he or she lives and goes to school. But parents already know this -- that`s why they try so hard to buy a house in a "nice neighborhood"!

I. All this reminds me of Dave Barry`s piece about smoking, which you quoted in your book:

Arguments against smoking: It`s a repulsive addiction that slowly but surely turns you into a gasping, gray-skinned, tumor-ridden invalid, hacking up brownish gobs of toxic waste from your one remaining lung.

Arguments for Smoking: Other teenagers are doing it.

Case closed! Let`s light up!

Any parting comments?

J.H: Dave Barry is right. The evidence shows that the tendency for parents who smoke to have children who smoke is explained by the fact that the tendency to become addicted to nicotine is heritable. Researchers who controlled for genetic effects found that only one environmental factor determines whether or not a kid will become a smoker: whether or not his peers smoke.

I: Thank you Judy. Your message has startling implications for prevention, treatment, and parenting.

In conclusion I want to add, that if Harris has correctly interpreted the data she has looked at, parents can do little to offset the effects of peers, which means that changing the family will not change the teenager`s behavior -- we must reach this teenager in other ways. For those who want to know what she is really saying about GS and don`t have time to read the book, read a minister`s apology to her, at:

http://www.uurockford.org/S98-21.htm

As the minister points out, no one has the right to disagree with Ms. Harris until they have given her a chance to explain the evidence and reasoning that back up her conclusions.



Shelly Marshall has dedicated over thirty years to working with young addicts in recovery. Her books `Day by Day` and `Young, Sober, & Free` are classics in the adolescent recovery field. Her latest book `Hour to Hour` is a tremendous aid to those in their first 30 days of absitinece. In her search for more effective methods of treating the adolescent addict, Shelly has traveled throughout the country working in the field and conducting research. She has seen the problem from every conceivable angle. She is herself a recovering alcoholic/addict, the sister of alcoholic brothers, the daughter of alcoholic parents, the mother of a teenage drug abuser, she has a degree in Drugs/Alcohol, and has even seen addiction from the side of law enforcement as a deputy sheriff for 4 years in Idaho. Today an International speaker and workshop leader, you can cantact her at daybyday@erols.com http://www.day-by-day.org or call 888 447 1683

Children articles index