Why parents need to matter more than peers with Gordon Neufeld


00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. And today we get to chat about the difference between the peer relationship and the parent or caregiver relationship. We get a lot of questions about this and really what comes up there's and really looking at how do we separate that relationship? What's different about the relationship with peers or other humans in the world than our parents or caregivers? How does it show up? How does it affect us as humans, and how does that matter? And what is our job as parents or caregivers in showing up for our tiny humans, in supporting them with certain skills or a relationship that really prepares them to go out into the world? Does it ever end? Is there a certain age where it ends? This was such a rich discussion that I got to have with Gordon Neufeld, and I am excited to share it with you because he and I don't agree on all things all the time. And I love that. I don't want to only talk to humans that I always agree with. And we have, in some ways, some different approaches. You'll hear a little bit of that kind of back and forth happen, and I'm really excited to get to share that with you today. I want to hear your takeaways, so please come connect over on Instagram and share them with me. Screenshot you tuning into this episode and tag me, and let's have a conversation. What jumps out at you? What do you want to dive further into? I love continuing the conversation over on the gram. All right, folks, let's dive in.


00:01:56    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:02:19    Alyssa

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Gordon Neufeld. He's a PhD in his Vancouver base. He's a developmental psychologist with over 50 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. His book, hold on to your kids why parents need to matter more than peers. You might remember I was chatting a little bit about his book with Gabor Mate in our interview, and he was like, you have to chat with Gordon. So I'm excited to get to dive into that today and chat really? I'm jazzed to chat about attachment and why you chose to go deep into attachment work, like, what inspired this book for you, and some questions that often come up in our village and in our community that I'd like to dive into. So. Hi, Gordon. Welcome. 


00:03:12    Dr. Neufeld

Well, nice to meet you, and thank you for inviting me. 


00:03:14    Alyssa

Yeah, I'm excited that you're pleased to be here. 


00:03:16    Dr. Neufeld



00:03:17    Alyssa

And I see you're a father of five. I'm one of five children. 


00:03:21    Dr. Neufeld

Oh, are you? 


00:03:22    Alyssa

Yeah. And a mom of one and a growing tiny human right now. 


00:03:27    Dr. Neufeld

Oh, lovely. Congratulations. 


00:03:29    Alyssa

Thank you! 


00:03:30    Dr. Neufeld

When are you due? 


00:03:32    Alyssa

This little one is due in December. 


00:03:35    Dr. Neufeld

Lovely. That's when I was born. That's a great month. Great month to be born. Yes. I have seven grandchildren. So it's interesting as each one gives a fresh new laboratory to study and so on. 


00:03:57    Alyssa

Sure. We get to learn so much from them. Well, I am curious what inspired this book Hold On to Your Kids? 


00:04:07    Dr. Neufeld

Well, I was very much brought up when learning theory was at its heyday, when it had thrown emotion under the bus, when you were not allowed to make any inferences and so on. And so it was a radical behaviorism, following very closely after Skinner and Watson and so on. And so that was my training. And then I had children. And like Maslow, it changed everything. He was also taught as a behaviorist, but that changed everything. And I could see that the main issue there was that I'm a gardener in gardening, everything will unfold as it should if the conditions are conducive and it's spontaneous. And I got introduced then to a relooking. The developmental approach had been thrown under the bus. Same with the new attachment theory. It just was coming out in the 1960s and so on. Just coming out. And I was teaching at university, and all these textbooks were coming to me, and the ones that came from Europe were filled with a developmental approach and with a new understanding that the roots of all development, like a plant, attaches to the Mother Earth. And it's the attachment in which all of the fruition, all of the development unfolds. And it made perfect sense in terms of I felt like I came home and to myself as a father, as a theorist, as a therapist and as a teacher. Finally, it all made sense. So I set out to write a book about attachment because I thought that the classical attachment theory had got stuck. It got stuck in typologies and so on and so on, and it wasn't really seeing the bottom line, that is, that attachment is the context in which all development occurs. That's where the conditions have to be conducive. And so I was trying to put that together, and as I looked closer and closer to it, I realized if you're studying the stars and all of a sudden you see that, oh, my goodness, there's an asteroid coming at Earth. And all of a sudden there was an urgency because I realized something. I realized that when I studied all of culture, all of indigenous culture and so on, attachment permeated it, but nobody talked about it because it's that which is right underneath our noses. It's that which we don't have to talk about, because it is us, right? Our quest for togetherness or drive togetherness is us. Then I realized that we were falling apart. And then the study began. When did this begin 1960s, when it was the first study given 1960s, it was dismissed because it was considered an artifact of the Second World War because so many kids did not have fathers, and so it was considered to be an artifact of that, peers replace fathers. And so that's when the term peer orientation that we revolve around our peers rather than the adults responsible for us. But then it was dismissed because of being alarmist. But when I looked at it, and specifically because I was in Provence when I was writing it. Now, Provence, we know it as a culture of food, but if you look closely, it's a culture of attachment. It is totally like you don't even eat with somebody that you're not attached to, and it's a culture of attachment, but nobody talks about that. They just talk about the food. And then I realized, no, I had to talk about what was happening and warn that adolescence now goes to the early 20s, which means that childhood extends twice as long as it used to 200 years ago. For as long as children are to be raised, they need to revolve around the adults responsible for them. And I avoided writing completely in all of my like, I went to science not because I didn't love art and literature, but because I could guarantee a top straight A in science, and they couldn't do that in literature. So I avoided every writing assignment in high school and university, and it all came back to bite me, because now I had something to write about. So I had a student in my classes who was a really eager student in my parenting classes, Gabor Mate. Our wives got us together, and so he helped me write it. That's what it was. I learned to write while I was writing it. So the last third of the book is completely mine, but for the first part, I had to learn to write. 


00:08:59    Alyssa

Oh, I love that. I'm so glad he came along and got you there. I think we're all better for it. So when we're looking at attachment, I agree. I think it's one of those things that once you see it, you cant unsee it, right? 


00:09:12    Dr. Neufeld

Well it's self evident, and that's the main feedback I get from it. It's been a long time. Now, the book is 20 years, well over 20 years since I wrote it, but it's now over. I think 32 languages is selling more than it ever did, and the first ten years altogether. But what I would get when I used to traipse about giving lectures on it was, oh, my goodness, now that I have the words and the language, I see it everywhere. It's self evident, and it's one of those things that we didn't have the language. We still don't have the language because that term peer oriented versus adult oriented is not in our working language. And so because it's not there, we don't see it. 


00:10:10    Alyssa

Sure. Well, and I think one of the things that we often find at Seed is that folks will come and in this parenting space, specifically, they want to know what to say or what to do. Right. And it's almost like, how do I check this box? Right? Like, what do I say? What do I do in this moment? 


00:10:28    Dr. Neufeld

Right. Yes. 


00:10:29    Alyssa

And it's harder to focus on connection and relationship than it is to say, like, okay, I said the right words that that person gave me as a script. 


00:10:39    Dr. Neufeld

Well, I'm sure, you know, Alyssa, that parenting was not actually a word, a construct. It wasn't something you do. It was someone you were. So it was all about parenthood. It was not about parenting. And parenting gets in the way of parenthood, because when you are thinking about what to do, your eyes go to follow a lead. When you're in a dependent mode, dancing to somebody else's tune, looking for the answers, what you fail to do is the most important thing out of all. You don't need answers to parenting. You don't need to know how. You need to be the answer to your children. Their answer to specialness importance mattering to all the togetherness needs. Those togetherness needs are relational needs. You can't meet them by yourself. They need to be met in relationship. And the parent is meant to extend the invitation to exist in one's presence, to be the answer to sameness belonging, to loyalty, to love, to significance, to emotional intimacy, to sharing all that is within one's heart. So all of these things are togetherness needs, and it is being the answer. Many individuals who have not read one book whatsoever, and this is where I have a huge problem with conscious parenting. They are a whole lot better at being able to provide the conditions that are conducive for their children to flourish than children who have read all kinds of books. I'll just give you a little story. I have a six month old now, a six month old grandchild, I should say. 


00:12:29    Alyssa

I had a feeling. 


00:12:29    Dr. Neufeld

Sure, the old guy. So I have a six month old grandchild. And she's bright. She's really bright. And my wife, her Nana is her favorite person in the world, apart from her parents. She's six months old. But because attachment is polarized, when you have somebody you deeply love, if there's any shy genes inside of you at all, you will resist contact and closeness with someone else. And that's a polarization of attachment, which most people don't know about. It's absolutely important. And so that explains shyness and stranger protest. Well, her brain naturally did it. If Nana is my favorite, then that old guy with a beard must be the enemy. 


00:13:20    Alyssa



00:13:22    Dr. Neufeld

She's bright. She's studied me, and it went in her head this way. Now, we'll get over this. But the point is, I can't change her diaper. I can't take care of her without traumatizing her. Now, think of the irony I warned my kids of this, that this was going to happen at five to six months of age you would have the first showing of stranger protests when it polarizes it came for her at four months so she's a bit precocious. I warn them about it. I am considered an expert in Canada in development and I've written a book that's a bestseller it's in 33 languages or so and I can't take care of my grandchild and the reason is that attachment is the delivery system for care. It is that I can't take of care of her because she is not attached to me in the right mode and so I can't take care of her. She would have to be detached to me in a dependent mode. And so that's the paradox, is that people have come to me for 50 years for advice on parenting, and the most important thing I've ever said to them is, you were never meant to parent somebody's whose heart you didn't have, and that includes children or adolescents, youth. You were never meant to parent. That gives you the natural power, the natural dance, the natural kind of thing. That's true for all mammals the only reason that we can have our way with horses and dogs not so much with cats, but horses and dogs is that they attach to us. That's the only reason. And if they don't attach to us, they don't listen to us it's so simple. The thing is we have made a huge mistake and this is where all American research is dreadful in social sciences because it takes the norm as a standard rather than what could be or should be as a standard. So if the standard is for kids to revolve around their peers then that's the norm and that is what is taught. Shyness is pathologized in the United States, shyness is pathologized, all of these things whereas around the rest of the world in people that are closer to their cultures of origin, it's a different thing and in Europe it is what could be. What is possible is the standard. What should have been is a standard. It's totally different research and so people say, well, it's evidence based. What research are you listening to? Like there's a lot of sciences out there and they have different assumptions for it to be evidence based is actually blind it says well, the person is religious yeah, but there's all kinds of religions that doesn't tell you anything and science is just the same. 


00:16:23    Alyssa

I think what I a couple of stories just like anecdotes personally just came up as you were chatting I think one thing that I've noticed is this shift maybe it's not a shift but in the States here is focus on a loss of the relationship part, right? And I think you hit it on the head of like when you're parenting it pulls you out of parenthood and I think we sometimes forget we're in relationship with somebody. It's not just a today thing or a tomorrow thing. I'm in relationship with you. And so my job as your parent isn't to mold you into something, it's to get to know you and to understand who you are as you. 


00:17:15    Dr. Neufeld

I would say that's a luxury. That part is a luxury. 


00:17:19    Alyssa



00:17:20    Dr. Neufeld

The fact is, Tarzan's mother probably did a better job than Tarzan's mother would do, if you know what I mean. His is that you could have a cross species attachment with better results and yes, it is good to have a sense of your child. It is good to know them from inside out. It is good to do all of this. But the bottom line of all development is if the conditions are conducive and those conditions are warmth, invitation to exist in one's presence, they are being able to bridge any separation that divides. If the conditions are conducive. If you think of a plant, if its roots are undisturbed, they are deep and they're continuous and nothing disturbs them. Culture can do a better job of parenting in indigenous cultures that were intact, they didn't require a book, any consciousness, they didn't have to understand we are getting way too far in North America, in our heads, way too far. And losing the forest for the trees. The fact is that conditions need to be conducive. Now, when I have been involved with high school teens, pregnant teens, high school mothers, often marginalized, at risk, the single most important factor there was to be able to do the matchmaking, to be able to get the parent. Like almost all programs will try to teach a mother how to take care of a baby with dreadful results. 


00:19:05    Alyssa



00:19:06    Dr. Neufeld

An attachment based program does one thing only, doesn't tell the mom how to change a diaper, when to feed, what to do. This you certainly don't go to Google. The main thing you do is you matchmake. You give feedback to the mother that they are the child's best bet. Look at when she looks at you, her eyes light up and so on and so on and attaching the baby to the mother. When that happens, the mother automatically seeks to take care of the child and provides the conditions that are necessary. Otherwise they're always giving the baby away to the experts and it doesn't matter. And that's why I said it doesn't matter how good an expert I am sure I am not the answer to somebody else's child and that includes every daycare expert and they're not the answer to somebody else's child. If that child attaches to them, then the child will be open to take care of. So no, the conditions to get to know your child is a luxury. It's more important to be able to step up to the plate. And culture has done a better job than all the books in the world. When culture was intact and it did the matchmaking of children to the adults responsible for them. If the child was being brought up by the village instead of by a parent or being brought up by grandparents, as in Canadian Indigenous heritage culture made sure that children were attached to the grandparents. Right. The culture did a better job of parenting the children than often we do in a very small nuclear family, reading all kinds of books and trying to get answers out of Google. 


00:20:56    Alyssa

Well, I think a couple of things. I think one, we I don't think are meant to raise these tiny humans by ourselves. I believe in the village, and I think we have gotten systemically away from that and now have conditions that aren't conducive of, like, financially. If you have to go back to work because you have no paid leave and you have to go back to work to put a roof over your head and food on your table. And you're then leaving your kid at six weeks, twelve weeks with somebody else. I think those are the conditions we've created here in the States. 


00:21:33    Dr. Neufeld

Yes, they are. And in Canada. But let's go back to the village itself and tease that apart. 


00:21:40    Alyssa

Yeah, let's do it. 


00:21:42    Dr. Neufeld

Let's tease that apart a little bit, because when, who was the was it Michelle Obama that made that phrase, it takes a village to raise a child? 


00:21:59    Alyssa

Hillary Clinton. 


00:22:00    Dr. Neufeld

Was it Hillary Clinton? I thought it was Michelle Obama. 


00:22:03    Alyssa

She has a book on it. 


00:22:06    Dr. Neufeld

Yeah, but I thought well, anyway, whatever it is, there's two ways of thinking about it. Is it takes a village means that mom shouldn't have to raise a child alone is generally the way it's thought. That's not true. All nature has mothers raising offspring alone. That's not true. What is true is that the mother needs to be supported. 


00:22:33    Alyssa



00:22:33    Dr. Neufeld

The village is more important to do this. Well, today's whole slew of experts and we farm out our children to be raised is not the village. The village is when the person who is primarily responsible for raising the child is supported. That is I use the word cascading care. We're all meant to be embedded in cascading care that we feel taken care of by someone and move it forward to take care of those who are responsible for us. And so that is the more important construct of village.


00:23:12    Alyssa

I agree. 


00:23:12    Dr. Neufeld

And I don't find that, I'm glad you agree, and I'm glad that that's the village you're talking about. I don't find that that is what people usually are talking about when they talk about the village of attachment. 


00:23:23    Alyssa

Interesting. I do think so. I think maybe it's just within my circle, but it's this idea of without intergenerational support, especially, for instance, my husband and I moved back to be closer to family, to have children for that. 


00:23:41    Dr. Neufeld

Good for you. 


00:23:41    Alyssa

Thank you. We left a city where now where we live, the jobs we had don't exist right there were sacrifices to then moving where we are. 


00:23:51    Dr. Neufeld

Good for you. That's exactly what needs to happen now. I'll tweak it a little bit is that your parents and parents in law is that the greater reality is that they are taking care of you. I am taking care of my adult children who take care of well, now they have adult children too who take care of those. And the Cascading care is what it is. And that is why in Indigenous and Canadian Indigenous culture, the grandparent is grandparent centric. The grandparent is key to the whole thing. And you know what has happened to grandparents in North America? They're in Arizona, they're in Florida, they're peer oriented. They would rather be with their cronies than stepping up to take responsibility for their family. So good on you for moving back to where you had a chance for Cascading care on your parents and your spouse's parents for being that, because that's exactly what needs to be knitted back together again. That's how we have a chance of putting Humpty Dumpty together again. And I would go one step further is not to mess too much with how the grandparents take care of children because books can ruin them. 


00:25:17    Alyssa

No, I agree. In fact, my husband and I had this conversation before we even had Sage, our oldest. And I was like, listen, they're going to do things that are just going to be not on par. Like what are our hard stops? Right? What are our hard stops of? Like, this is just a no for us. And outside of that, yeah, they're going to do things differently and great, great. That they're going to respond differently to certain things or have different practices and approaches. But what we have here and I'm I'm so grateful for. Like, when Sage was born, my mom lived with us for a little bit, and it was COVID times, and she was able to work remotely, and so she took care of a lot of the house, and I just got to be a mom and take care of myself. 


00:26:07    Dr. Neufeld

Good instincts. 


00:26:07    Alyssa

And then my mother in law, who lives a mile from us now, when she comes over, like last night, she was here for dinner, she did the dishes while we did bedtime and whatever. So that is what I feel so grateful for. And I think most people here in the States don't have, and I agree, when I envisioned the village, that's what I grew up with. We lived five houses down from my grandparents and that was the role that they played. It wasn't as much like parenting us as it was supporting my parents. 


00:26:36    Dr. Neufeld

Yes, and that's where it is. And again, the idea here is the attachment between the stories that you hear and that you see. My mother was 93 and she got involved for the last decade of her life in a cascading care program where an organization took grandparents with extra grandparent energy and connected them to take care of using mothers in very small nuclear families who had no support of their own so that they could take care of their children. The honor and dignity it brought to all of the individuals at her funeral, the numbers of surrogate grandchildren who came to honor her for their role in her family. My mother never wrote a book, never read a book on parenting, and I don't think she read mine. 


00:27:46    Alyssa

I love it. I'm wondering...


00:27:50    Dr. Neufeld

Do you see what I mean here? 


00:27:54    Alyssa

What about for folks who grew up in insecure attachments or in trauma spaces where whether it's addiction that played a role or whatever, it was in their space. So when they were kids and now they're parents and they're bringing their trauma. 


00:28:11    Dr. Neufeld

Obviously, I wrote a book, so I believe there's a place for a book. Obviously I do. And yes, because we've lost our culture, our only way is to become conscious. My mother had not lost her culture. She was in tune with how it should be, so she didn't need to become conscious. All I'm trying to point out is that, yes, consciousness is important, but let's keep it in perspective. Why do we need it? Is because we have lost our culture. Why do we need it? Because we have lost our ways. And let's be careful, though, that consciousness is meant to be an interim thing to create rituals. Rituals of collecting, rituals of bridging, rituals of what happens after you get home from school. Because you've had a moment of insight. You've heard something on Alyssa's podcast, and you have a moment of insight that you have to hold on. The title of my book. You have to hold on. So you have a moment of insight. You create a ritual. The ritual does the job. That is, attachment is way too deep, way too structured. Like, even with my plants, I know that their roots must be undisturbed. They must be attached to Mother Earth, and Mother Earth will take care of them very nicely. I am simply the gardener. However, I cannot depend upon me trying to see the unseen, their roots, to be able to know each of my plants. So I create a ritual. My ritual is very simple. I make sure that I water all of them every Sunday morning. It's very simple, taking your climate into concern. It's the ritual. So it doesn't matter how I feel on Sunday morning. It's time for my flora offspring to be fed and nurtured. These are the kinds of rituals you see that doesn't depend upon you thinking and being, getting up on the right side of the bed and what mood you are in or what book you have. They're the things that tend to what really counts. And what really counts, like a plant or like a human, is their attachments. In humans, we attach to each other. And so for us, to get our care across, our love across. They must be attached 


00:30:40    Dr. Neufeld

to us, not we attached to them. That's good, but not the absolute prerequisite. They must be attached to us. 


00:30:50    Alyssa

And I think the ritual part, then it becomes who you are. It becomes about a part of your practice. You don't need the conscious brain as much because your subconscious shifts, right? 


00:31:09    Dr. Neufeld

That's what ritual is for. 


00:31:09    Alyssa

That's right. And so I 100% agree with what you're saying, that if we're doing this in practice, right, maybe you didn't grow up with secure attachment, and now what you're bringing to parenthood, you're kick starting with a challenge in fostering attachment because it hasn't been modeled for you in your subconscious, and you start these rituals with these patterns. In an example, my husband, Sage was days old, within his first few weeks of life, and I had just nursed him and passed him off to Zach. And I was hopping in the shower, and he would have been potentially ready to go down for some sort of sleep. We'll call it a nap, those newborn days. And I got out of the shower, and Sage is, like, crying and crying, and he didn't cry a whole lot as a baby, and he's crying, and Zach came, and he's like, I don't know what to do. And he was flustered. And I took Sage, and I was like, why don't you take a break? Like, step away and take break and come back and calmed Sage and just connected. And I didn't know what he needed. I was just entering into this situation, too. And then later, I was chatting with Zach, my husband, and he was like, how did you know what to do? And I was like, oh, I didn't I just knew that we could figure it out and that I didn't have to have the answer in that moment for, what does he need right now? I was just going to let him know, like, we're going to figure this out, and we can try some different things to see. He ended up pooping. Like, great, that's what you needed. But what I needed to bring to the table was that trust and intuition and that gut, which for me comes from culture. I feel grateful to have been raised in this culture. 


00:32:53    Dr. Neufeld

It comes from culture, but it also comes from being in your alpha caring place, in your alpha caring when you're in charge of something, like, in the kitchen to care for your loved ones. And so you're to prepare food, food will give way to you. You don't have to read a recipe. You don't have to do all of those kinds of things. You'll be much more intelligent, much more caring, because you're in your alpha caring place. If you start reading recipes, if you start figuring out what to do, if you start doing this, you'll be in the dumbest part of your brain, the part that's dependent upon others to guide you. And you'll only be as good as your advice is. The fact is that we have it the same as all mammals do. When they're in their alpha caring place, when they're in their place of take charge. I've got this. You can lean on me, you can trust on me. Their brain is meant for this. It's meant to deliver care and they'll figure it out. And so it's not just in this case. It is already instinct based. It is already there. The mammals can raise their offspring if they haven't been interfered with too much. If they're domesticated, they lose their ways because they're dependent upon others. We are all domesticated here in the worst kind of way and the worst kind of way that colonization has exercised. We've lost our ways and that's part of no we can trust in something much deeper in us to deliver if we find that place. And that's why I ask parents simply step up. Be the answer to your child rather than trying to figure out what to do. Be the answer to your child in the place where you're delivering care. It will come to you that you need to hold on to them. It will come to you that you must bridge everything that divides. It will come to you that you must preserve their attachments to you. It will come to you that you must hold on to them when apart. It will come to you. Because we are creatures of togetherness. We have instincts about how to be able to take care of those who can't take care of themselves or can't hold on to us. And so there is something to lean on there that is so important. And that's why I like to think that my book, which it was terrible, publishers said, well, is this a parenting book? I said no, it's not a parenting book. They said well how do we advertise it? It's got to be a parenting book. No, it's a book about how children develop when conditions are conducive and it's the role of parents in that and the role of child's relationship. And finally they said no, it has to be a parenting book. And I said well I hope if it's a parenting book it will be one which doesn't speak to how to but what needs to be in place for parents to truly be the answers their children need. And it is that attachment of their children to them, they're adolescents to them, they're adult children to them that needs to be to be the parent, the teacher, the grandparent the child needs. 


00:36:24    Alyssa

Have you been scrolling the Internet? And there's all these tools for calming your child and how to regulate and whatever, and you try them and your child just gets amped up or that doesn't work. Or you find yourself in these cycles where it's like epic meltdown. Try to come back from it and you just feel like you're putting out fires all day long. If this is you, you aren't alone. And we collaborated with an Occupational Therapist to create our Sensory Profile quiz. This is going to help you learn about what helps your child regulate what's happening in their unique nervous system. We are all different and figuring out what you're sensitive to or what helps you regulate is the key for actually doing this work, for getting to a regulated state, for having tools, for calming down, for having tools for regulation. Head on over to www.seedquiz.com to take the quiz for free. You can take it as many times as you like for as many humans as you'd like, and we will deliver results right to your inbox to get you kick started on this journey. Seedquiz.com.  


00:37:43    Alyssa

Yeah. And I think the challenge that so many of us face is that we have listened to outside voices for so long and so many of us are coming into parenting with expectations around sleep or how to feed a kid that are all outside influences. That in the moment when you are. I almost feel like we need a shift in disconnection from that outside world in order to really reconnect with our internal guides because they get muddled, right? Like in that moment you're like, okay, what am I supposed to do? And that's all of the outside, right? What am I supposed to do is the outside. And it takes practice to get back to what happens next. Where are we going next? And it's a practice. I was even just thinking, my two year old left his own birthday party recently. He told me, Mama feeling overwhelmed. Go inside. We were outside and he was like, go inside, take a break, come back in a little bit. And I was like, great, buddy, go right ahead. And I'm a giant extrovert. I'm one of five kids. I love a group of people and can hang. And I was like, oh, I dig his confidence in leaving his own birthday party and that he had a safe space. He knew I can pop inside, I can unwind. He just went and he was reading a book by himself and then came back out. But he had that freedom and ability to go and do that. But inside for me, there were parts of me that were like, is he going to have skills for social settings? Is he going to whatever. And that's the external, right? That's the external influence coming in and being like he should X, Y and Z. He needs to be able to yada yada yada. And for me, it's that practice of like, no, he's doing exactly what his body needs right now. He feels safe and comfortable in this. 


00:39:44    Dr. Neufeld

Can I take it a step further? 


00:39:46    Alyssa

Go ahead. 


00:39:50    Dr. Neufeld

The danger in having articulate child is it puts them in the lead.


00:39:58    Alyssa

Help me understand. 


00:39:59    Dr. Neufeld



00:40:00    Alyssa

Help me understand. 


00:40:01    Dr. Neufeld

Okay. If it takes your child, say I'm being overwhelmed, I can't handle this. I need to take a break, I'm tapping out here. 


00:40:10    Alyssa

Sure, okay. 


00:40:14    Dr. Neufeld

Ordinarily a toddler, a shy toddler would just go and grab you behind the knees and so that you are at the forefront of this and would go and tuck in behind you. But your toddler is able to tell you that they're overwhelmed and need a break. The danger in that is you're taking your cues from your child as to what they need. Now that is not a danger in itself only so much as it puts your child in the need so they are taking care of themselves by orchestrating you or orchestrating around them. Now let me see if I can explain. It is important to read your child sure. But it is equally important not to give the lead away. If your child becomes responsible for knowing what they can handle, what they can't handle for taking a break and so on, they've lost a sense of being safe in your presence. They've lost a sense because now they have to orchestrate you, make sense to you, get your permission for them to do what is necessary. That is the upside down parenting I'm talking about is when the child is in the lead. When the child is in the lead their brain goes crazy with interpreting no, I don't need this, I don't need that, I need to take a break now and so on and so on their anxieties increase. All the child needs to do is feel safe in your presence. I felt safe in my father's presence not because he could read me, he couldn't read me. It was because he took the lead in being able to like to the degree when I was around him I felt safe and being around him would be the answer to it. Now there's no problem again with you reading your child but you've got to make it your own idea in that situation. It's just like breastfeeding after a child is nine months of age they get a sense of agency in their own being and the worst thing is for them to feel responsible for themselves because their brains aren't ready for that, not for a very long time. And it goes berserk trying to figure out that the anxiety increases, the monsters come under the bed, all kinds of things will happen when that happens so you read the cues and you take the lead. You make it your own idea. I was thinking that it was time for you to have a break. Yes, I think this is a great idea. Lets you and I go and just have a story or a little cuddle or whatever it is. You seize the lead so that it becomes your idea and he's depending upon you. You don't ever want to give that lead away. 


00:43:17    Alyssa

I have a question. Let's dance here. At what point? So he's going to have situations where there's no I'm not there, right? Where he's going to be in school, et cetera. At what point do you give reins to your kid to self advocate for those needs and say, oh, I know what this feels like inside, and I know how to at least ask for that need to be met, even if I'm not meeting my own need, but to advocate for that internal awareness. 


00:43:49    Dr. Neufeld

They'll get there. If they know you have their back, if they feel safe and taken care of, they'll get to the strength that they need to do this. That doesn't have to be taught, that's a matter of how strong their self is. Yes, there is no problem with that. But again, that's a natural fruit of spontaneous development when it comes to mother. That is the most important relationship, your primary attachment. Or it could be a father, but their primary attachment, it's a different story. That is where you need to make sure that you have the lead. The other attachments won't be as important if there are attachments whatsoever. And so for him to be able to take care of himself yes, but he must know that you have his back, but it is you having his back, being his answer, that will make him strong enough to do it, so he doesn't have to make things work in other relationships. So he won't be nice. 


00:44:49    Alyssa



00:44:51    Dr. Neufeld

You'll be harder to manage for other adults. 


00:44:54    Alyssa

My question is still, at what age do you expect that to happen? 


00:44:58    Dr. Neufeld

It's not an age, it's a strength that takes some children longer, first of all, you're not going to just cave to other adults. If you feel very safe with your primary attachment, there is a strength that comes from it because it's working. You're orienting, you are orienting around your mum and dad. You don't have to obey other adults. So what you're going to get is somebody that is not very socially appropriate. Teachers are going to have problems with them, they're going to talk back and they're going to say, no, I don't have to, no, I don't want to. And they're not going to be very easy to manage at school. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing. Sure, okay. They will have that strength automatically. You don't need to be loved by everybody. When you feel that your mother is your answer, your father is your answer, you don't need other people to be answers, so you don't need to cave in. Contrary to what people think, this doesn't make children socially fit in. It means they don't have to make it work with their peers. They can walk away and say, I don't want to play with you. They can come home and say, I don't like this teacher. I don't think they can do this. This is actually healthier. You were mentioning Gabor Mate, does this he has this book in his chapter four. His whole book on the myth of normal is about people being too nice. Well, guess when they start? But the fact is, the more it works with you, the less it needs to work with anybody else. And that is part of the growing pains. When they get mixed feelings, it will all straighten out naturally and spontaneously. It doesn't need to be taught. You don't need to give them the skills. You don't need to do this. It will take care of itself. It's important not to interfere with it because if we try and do it too soon, we only make nice, neurotic kids out of them. 


00:47:15    Alyssa

I agree. I'm in agreement with everything you just said. And I think what's missing is maybe the I don't know, maybe not what comes before. Right? How does Sage know I'm feeling overwhelmed in this? Because we have taken that lead for him at two years.  


00:47:35    Dr. Neufeld

How does he know that he is?


00:47:37    Alyssa

The like, oh, I'm feeling overwhelmed, do you need to take a break, situation. He has hidden behind me for example. 


00:47:47    Dr. Neufeld

You can read those cues easily. 


00:47:49    Alyssa

That's exactly it. 


00:47:50    Dr. Neufeld

Yeah, you can read those cues. So what you've said, oh, you're feeling overwhelmed right now, you need to take a break. All I'm doing is there's a quarter twist on this. I could tell, going back into your alpha caring position so that he doesn't become responsible for his own care. The problem with too many kids today who have very sensitive, caring, conscientious parents is their kids are in the lead. These kids are becoming anxious. They develop eating disorders. I have seen so many of these kids in my practice, and the fact is they lost the lead with their children. And this is the difficulty with there's no problem with reading the cues. It's important to do this, but don't give your lead away. If you think of this with your.. 


00:48:51    Alyssa

Do you mean independence? This is something that I feel like I've noticed is this focus, and again, at least here in the States on independence, that we're trying to build a skill set for kids so that they can go and be these independent humans. And what I'm hearing from you is the focus still on codependence or interdependence and the value of that and that independence and their ability to do this all on their own isn't the goal. 


00:49:18    Dr. Neufeld

Well, codependence and interdependence are dreadful terms. Independence is a doctrine that is totally false. The main needs of humans are togetherness needs. You depend upon your husband for a sense of specialness, to be invited into his existence, to be there. If you as an adult do this, if we do this, how in the world are we going to make our children independent? This is not what it is. If you mean by independence that they can get their own spoon into their own mouth, well, that's just simply a matter of that's not independence. And that doesn't have to be taught. They'll model all of those things properly. If the attachments are right, including going to the bathroom, all of that will be modeled. You don't have to have any consciousness around this at all. Yes. The doctrine of independence is getting away. When we try to make children responsible for themselves yes. That gets in the way when we do so, there's only two modes of attaching the dependent mode and the alpha mode. The alpha mode is to deliver care. The dependent mode is to receive care. This is true for adulthood. It is true no matter how old you are. And when we try to reduce the dependence of children on us, we reduce the attachment and we run the danger of putting them in the alpha mode. When children are in the alpha mode, they don't feel safe. It doesn't matter how secure your attachment is, you don't feel safe. 


00:51:00    Alyssa



00:51:00    Dr. Neufeld

And by the way, there is no such thing as secure attachment, because by the time a three year old understands that something bad can happen to Mummy, security is lost. We are existentially insecure. It's how we handle that insecurity. Again, this idea that one could be secure means that you would have to be dumb enough not to know that bad things can happen to those you love. That separation is there. So, again, it is just simply taking the responsibility. You can lean on me, you can trust in me, it's my job to take care of you. So what you do when you've got a precocious kid, or they've got more language, or you've done the reflection so he can say, Mommy, I'm being overwhelmed, is you move to be the answer. You move to trump, you move to trump the interaction. So it was your idea. You've got in mind what should happen. You move to do this so that you don't lose that alpha position, because when you've got a bright two year old and three year old, they will start orchestrating you. No, Mummy, you've got to hold me like this. It's three kisses you need to do. No, you got to put both hands on the steering wheel. And we are having the most bossy toddlers and preschoolers ever and they are developing all of the symptoms of being highly alarmed because they weren't meant to be. 


00:52:42    Alyssa

Because they're saying, Are you going to care for me? 


00:52:46    Dr. Neufeld

No, because it's not that, Are you going to care for me? It's because they're in charge. 


00:52:53    Alyssa

That's what I'm saying. Are you going to care for me or am I the one who has to be in charge? 


00:52:58    Dr. Neufeld



00:52:59    Alyssa

If you're in that dependent versus alpha. 


00:53:03    Dr. Neufeld

It's not a conscious thing that happens. It just is that when you're around a very strong, alpha, caring individual, you automatically, to dance with them, have to go into the dependent mode and the dance is there. You feel safe. Not because you are safe. In the Ukrainian war, if a child is in the context of the parents, the child feels safe not because the bombs won't drop, right? Because they're attached to the parents that they're there. It's just simply a matter of instinct. When the child feels safe, the brain calms down. Somebody knows what they're doing. I'm taken care of. When the whole brain calms down, it goes to they eat your food. They do these things now. They can go to where they are meant to be as dependents, to grow up, not as independent, self caring, precocious individuals who up and their parents. And so I'd have these hordes of conscious parents reading all kinds of books, making sure that they breastfed their child to four years of age or whatever it is, whatever it is, doing all of these things who had children, who were monsters. And so what I'm trying to say is we keep on walking down this way thinking that the more we know, the more we put our children in charge, the more we take the cues from them. No, we need to be what we were always meant to be. We don't need to know a lot, we don't need to have to think a lot. What we need to do is to step up, to be the answer, to be the answer. Not have the answers, to be the answer, to love, to significance, to loyalty, to be the answer when we do this. You could have a nine year old grandparent doing this with a toddler who knows nothing about parenting whatsoever. But the toddler is attached to granny. You can just see the wonderful fruit of it, the effects of it, and nature will take care of the rest. It doesn't have to be taught. It's not a skill set. Life is not a skill set. It's not a skill set. It unfolds, it's spontaneous. It always has. We're making too much of it these days because everything has to be from here rather than finding the heart of the matter. 


00:55:41    Alyssa

Yeah, I agree. I think we're speaking the same language here, Gordon. 


00:55:47    Dr. Neufeld



00:55:49    Alyssa

And I feel like I could go on with so many different things to dive into topic wise, but I want to be respectful of your time. I'm grateful for this conversation. I think it is a necessary dive into the shift into the internal and relearning how to find that voice and trust it and be in that Alpha space I think requires, like I said, some disconnection from the outside world from scrolling on Instagram, from listening to the podcast, which is maybe not what my producer is going to say, to say on my own podcast, but to disconnect a little so that we can internally connect. And we see this so much in our work. People often ask us for the script, what to say, what to do in the moment, and they don't love our answer when it's focused on connection. And it's a hard truth. 


00:56:46    Dr. Neufeld

It is. Maybe I could reframe your role. Or maybe you already have it there but the role of you as an influencer podcaster would be to matchmake children to their parents and parents to their children would be as a matchmaker to build confidence in the parent that the answer already lies within. Nature is taking care of their children. Nature is taking care of through them, through depending upon it. It is benign, it already has a plan, benevolent I mean, it already is there and that we can lean into it, we can trust in it and we can lean into it in terms of our children. Our primary role our primary role is to hold on to our kids through thick and thin through. Our primary role is to not let anything come in between that. They know that we are doing the work of attachment, so they don't have to if they don't have to do the work of attachment, then nature will grow them up. And it will grow them up. It has its own plan. Our job is to take care of those attachments and again, that doesn't mean everybody says parent child attachments. That's not that it's child parent attachments. We're so adult centric we don't even get what is what is essential. Our language does not allow us to even get to what it is that's required. 


00:58:18    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that's so true. I appreciate that. Thank you for hanging out with us. I so deeply appreciate you and this and you had a recent conference in April and I believe it is available for purchase post. 


00:58:36    Dr. Neufeld

Yes, it still is. The recordings, yes, it was on the wisdom of nature and my own keynote was on the wisdom of dependence. So if people want to go, hey, what is this all about, this doctrine of independence and what is he talking about? Yeah, that would be probably a good one to take because I try to go to where is it that we have taken a wrong turn in our society and it is about this doctrine of independence, the myth of independence. It is about we have taken a huge wrong turn for 400 years now we've thrown dependence under the bus and so it's time to bring it back is that you can invite a child to depend upon you. You can invite a child to lean on you, to trust in you. You can communicate to your child, look, I'll take care of you, you can relax. I'll take care of you, I'll take care of this. 


00:59:30    Alyssa

I love that so much. Folks can find it neufeldinstitute.org/conference, conference-2023. 


00:59:37    Dr. Neufeld

Well neufeldinstitute.org is enough and then the rest will unfold. 


00:59:43    Alyssa

You just made me think of my dad where when I found out I was pregnant with my current pregnancy, I said I was nervous that I would have twins and could I handle it. And my dad said, oh, I'll move in. He was like, I'll move in and help. And yeah, you've got this, we've got this. 


01:00:02    Dr. Neufeld

That's the kind of father, right? Yeah, that's the kind of father. Because what happens he's not telling you what to do. He is telling you got me. You got me, babe, I'm your best bet. Lean on me. And that's exactly the arrogant, wonderfully, arrogant attitude. If you got me, babe, I'm your best bet. I'll take care of this. That's the part that makes you relax. The dance is wonderful. It doesn't come from the head. It goes straight to the heart. It's how we were meant to dance in cascading care. And you are really fortunate, Alyssa, to have a parent who is so close to those instincts. And I'm thinking he didn't get there by listening to your podcast to turn this thing on your head, right? 


01:00:56    Alyssa



01:00:58    Dr. Neufeld

It doesn't mean the podcasts don't have a value. It's just let's keep them in context here. Let's keep in context. What is the way that makes the world go round, as in being embedded in cascading care? With somebody who can invite your existence and your dependence. And when that does oh, my goodness, do good things ever happen? 


01:01:20    Alyssa

I love it. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining me. 


01:01:23    Dr. Neufeld

Pleasure. All the best. 


01:01:24    Alyssa

Take care. 


01:01:28    Alyssa

I wanted to let you know that we have a special preorder bonus happening right now for the book. So if you snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, my book that's publishing with Harper Collins in October. If you go snag it right now at seedandsew.org/book, then come right back there after you purchase it and give me your name and email and your order number, and I will send you a guide to surviving summer. What does it really look like to navigate the schedule changes, the transitions, the sun changes, the back to school stuff as it comes up. We are here to help you navigate this season, and I have a complete guide for you. Head over to seedandsew.org/book to purchase Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, and then let me know so I can send you that bonus.


01:02:12    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans. 




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