BONDING IS NOT ENOUGH
A child development theory, called object relations, focuses on the parent/child bond. The big buzz word is “Attachment”. A good enough theory, bonding matters. At the same time, few theories are perfect, and this one has been widely misinterpreted and not just by parents.
The first and gravest misinterpretation came about when it was noticed that parents of children diagnosed with autism were observed avoiding eye contact, cuddling, or playing the usual games parents play with their little ones. The researchers focused mainly on the mothers and dubbed this kind of mothering “Ice Box Mothering. ” The parents were sent to long term analysis to cure them. THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE MOTHERS.
Autism is a disorder of the brain that makes the child super sensitive to various stimulation including eye contact. (Go to Dr. Temple Grandlin’s website or buy her book Thinking in Pictures for a fascinating account of a woman of enormous strength who happen to be autistic.) The mothers were sensitive to their children’s pain and what seemed like coldness was kindness and attunement to the child’s needs. The moms were very good moms.
Flash forward to this article. Kids suing mom for bad parenting Mom’s sins seemed to be not writing enough checks or sending care packages when the kids were in college. The judge threw the case out. Wise judge. You should also know the father was one of the lawyers representing the kids. Moreover, he was the one who raised the kids.
To me this represents how the importance of bonding has come to mean (for some) “Gimmie what I want when I want it.” A gross misinterpretation. Ironically, those words generally are used by theorists to describe the mindset of the two year old, what I call I call a “needy greedy” mindset. Teens do a momentary backward turn and become “need greedy” but mostly in wanting to do things their way.
WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?
Most parents should not worry about bonding, it happens naturally as good enough parents tend and care for babies lucky enough to be born without challenges. There is too much discussion and focus on bonding. One should worry more about teaching good manners and how to get along with other people. That is a much harder job and should start as soon as the child begins walking and understanding language.
Temple Grendlin says the best thing her mother did for her was teach her good manners. Mom also didn’t put up with temper tantrums. Moreover, when Temple was sent to her room, her Mom’s version of time out, she often had to stay there an hour. Would have many of today’s parent advisors shaking their heads and talking about abuse. That Mom is one of my heroines. It is hard enough to teach a normal child to be mannerly. Teaching a severely autistic child manners and to be praised by that child for doing so is gold medal parenting. And lets be clear about what I mean by manners. Manners are not about using the right fork although in some circles that will win approval. Manners are about respecting the rights of others.
As always it starts with modeling what you expect. How regularly do you think to say “Please” and “Thank You” or ask “May I?” when dealing with a child? The more those words are in your vocabulary, the more you will hear them from your child. Minding your manners teaches the younger ones you love to mind theirs.
Care and share. If you have ideas about how to keep caring, share them here. If you think another parent might find help in this post, share it. Meanwhile, thank you and as I tell myself over and over, “Stay Strong.”