My teacher, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, speaks alot about the imperative for parents to be their children’s “best bet.” In a series of posts over the next few days, I’d like to explore this concept.
What Does it Mean to be our Children’s “Best Bet?”
Being our children’s best bet means that in times of trouble, worry, sadness, or confusion our children feel comfortable, safe and relieved at the idea of sharing those burdens with us; they feel confident that we will take on their problems and help them to figure them out or move through them. “Your problems are my problems,” could be considered a mantra of this “best bet” stance.
Whether it be troubles with friends, fears of the dark or worries about something they heard on the news, when we are our children’s best bet, they can bring these feelings to us and we will be with them. This doesn’t mean that we “solve” all these feelings – in fact, attempts to rush in to solve things can often make our children feel more alone – it does mean that we take on issues that are too big for them to handle alone (for example, young children’s fears of the dark) and for the others, we come alongside their feelings, so they are not facing them alone.
How do we Become our Child’s “Best Bet”?
The answer to this is the foundation of my work with parents: we cultivate strong attachment. Before we as parents can address behavior “problems”, attention issues, sibling rivalry or anything else, our children’s attachment to us must be strong. Notice that I don’t say that our attachment to our children must be strong — we often feel a strong connection; our attention here needs to be focused on the other direction: the strength of our children’s attachment to us.
There are many ways to strengthen our children’s attachment to us; the avenues can and should change based on their age, temperament and developmental stage. When children are very young (two and three), pointing out the ways we are the same as them (“we both love avocados!”) is a strong way to cultivate attachment. For a twelve-year-old who loves basketball, spending time shooting hoops with them (even when you would never, on your own time, pick up a basketball)* can be a strong connector; giving them the clear message that: “What you are interested in matters to me.” While the ways we cultivate attachment shifts over time, what remains constant is that the work of attachment and connection need our daily vigorous attention, intuition and creativity.
When our children feel strongly attached to us; they know that we are their best bet. Our work, as parents, is to keep that attachment strong and warm.
Want to explore attachment and relationship more deeply? Register for Discipline: A New Paradigm where we will dive deep into these ideas and more.
*This I write as someone who has spent more time shooting baskets with my son than I ever would have dreamed of. My “shot” is getting “pretty good,” according to my son!