The influence of attachment on family values
When our girl was about three years old, she was of a very independent spirit.
She was a happy little girl; however, she didn’t need us, as it seemed.
When we went for a walk, she walked in front or behind us. She never came for a cuddle and showed herself pretty “though” and defensive in the ordinary day-to-day interactions.
I thought she simply was like that. That, contrary to her brother, she didn’t need us as much and that her independent behavior was simply part of her personality.
Benny, on the other hand, saw things more clearly.
He told me:
“I believe that any child needs closeness and cuddling, the feeling of truly belonging, this attachment to its parent. Let’s see what will happen if we start to really invest in our beloved girl.”
That’s what he did. He showered her with quality times, little gifts and cuddling. On every occasion he told her how much he loved her and how precious she was to us. I did my part, but Benny was very proactive and intentional about it.
A few months later we had a different girl.
She became affectionate, present and vulnerable in our daily interaction. Suddenly it mattered to her, how close she felt to us as her parents. She came for cuddles and showed herself distressed and vulnerable in times she felt distant toward her family.
We did everything we could to be this safe place for her where her openness was validated and cherished.
Fast forward 5 years, our girl is still very close to us.
She loves to be together as a family and is a present and active part of our interactions, vulnerable and sensitive to any conflict or felt disappointment from our side.
At the time we didn’t know the signification behind all that. All we believed was that every child longs to be closely attached to their parents – even if it doesn’t appear that way.
Today I would like to talk about attachment, but first I would like to do some adjustment to the common meaning of it.
Attachment – and with it, “attachment parenting” – , is a controversial word for many parents.
Some parents are literally fleeing when they hear this word.
Simply because it was undermined with a lot of pressure, overwhelming expectations and rules to follow if you want to be a “good” parent – in order to satisfy the concept “attachment parenting”.
Here I am not talking about that kind theory of attachment.
Rather, I am talking about every human need to love and to be loved.
I am talking about every human need to belong and to be valuable and to be important to someone.
This God-given need – and the art of life of being attached in a healthy way.
Digging into the subject of co-dependency (in other words: relationship addiction, emotional dependency) and the whole reality that goes with that subject, like staying in toxic and abusing relationships, I realize always more how universal this need is.
Why would any of us stay in a destructive relationship? Why do girls that have been rescued from their “loverboys” tend to go back to this hell? Why are people following gurus everyone can tell from the outside that they are deceptive and arrogant people? Why are teens or young children following the cues of their friends (who are as immature and needy as they are) instead of their parents?
Well, here we come back to the subject of attachment.
In this article I wrote how..
“It was God that created us with a need to love and to be loved.
It is a legitimate need that must be met from cradle to grave.
If children are deprived of love – if that primal need for love is not met – they carry the scars for life.
Meeting the need to be loved is critically important even when babies are too young to exercise abstract understanding. You cannot merely tell a baby “I love you” as you stroll past the crib. You must convey love in nonverbal ways the infant innately understands. Cuddling, cooing, and talking to the baby are as important as warmth and food. (…) Infants can literally die if deprived of love.”
Because of this need to love and to be loved, attachment is far more than a parenting style.
It lies at the core of every human being – but as such it is also far removed from consciousness.
You will never hear your child telling you:
Mommy, Daddy, I want to be attached to you!
However, the sense of being attached gives the child a sense of orientation, like an inner compass.
Neufeld explains in his book “Hold on to your kids”:
“The first business of attachment is to create a compass point out of the person attached to. As long as the child can find himself in relation to this compass point, he will not feel lost. Instincts activated in the child impel him to keep that working compass point ever close. Attachment enables children to hitch a ride with adults who are, at least in the mind of a child, assumed to be more capable of orienting themselves and finding their way. What children fear more than anything, including physical harm, is getting lost. To them, being lost means losing contact with their compass point. Orienting voids, situations where we find nothing or no one to orient by, are absolutely intolerable to the human brain. Even adults who are relatively self-orienting can feel a bit lost when not in contact with the person in their lives who functions as their working compass point.”
Reading those lines a few years ago, I started to understand the force that pulls human beings (and not only children, but also adults with that unsatisfied need of attachment) back into destructive relationship, blinds them for “obvious” signs of manipulation and keeps them with friends that are not good for them.
It is this need of attachment, this need to belong, this need to orient: to have a sense of who they are, of what is real, why things happen, what is good, what things mean.
I remember how I felt when I left home at age 16; my parents were glad that I, the defiant and rebel teenager left home. I knew I had to stand on my own. From my parents I had learned that I am worth nothing, that this world is dangerous, filled with people you can’t trust. That there was a God that was watching you with rigidity. So here I was, alone in this big world, completely disoriented and lost, feeling ashamed of being me, yet longing for attachment and worth.
I did pretty well… except that I developed a very strong co-dependence to the few people I thought they were safe and could give me attachment, significance and love.
I thank God that those were all “good” people with no bad intentions. When I hear about the “lover boy scam” I shudder by the thought what would have happened to me with someone like that.
But back to attachment:
If we want to protect and guide our children; if we want them to receive our love, to be open and vulnerable towards us; we must invest in this relationship.
In today’s society, we can’t take this attachment for granted. Like I mentioned in the last article, culture and values aren’t naturally transmitted vertically anymore; the inner compass of our children can’t have two north; if we aren’t their north, there will be another north in their lives. The competition is on the horizontal level, through philosophies brought to our children through social media, music, television, publicity etc.
This is why we must be conscious about this need of attachment and intentional about it.
Gordon Neufeld explains us, how there are six different stages of attachment; a baby doesn’t need to be attached the same way as your child that goes to school.
I wrote on
“How we can support a child to get to that point of maturity which becomes the base of a solid and healthy attachment – from the child to us, his primary caregivers.
By ensuring that each of these avenues of connection is strong with our children, we fuel their natural inclination to follow our lead and cooperate with us.
The purpose of this process is to have children who want to be with you, share their lives with you and follow your cues. “
In that article I share the six stages of attachment with you; I share what they are, and in part two of this article I wrote how to repair the missing stages. (Yes, this is possible!)
My hope is that this short article gives you a better understanding on the principle of „attachment“. In the next three articles I will build on this by explaining what I learned during a online webinar with Dr.Gordon Neufeld, lately. We will talk about why our children tend to react strongly to everyday life and what we can do to support them, to calm them down and build on that attachment rather than tearing it down.