Raising Children in Authentic Belonging

Nurturing attachment and authenticity in the parent-child relationship

by | Oct 23, 2019 | 1 comment

In our very first moments on earth, we seek connection. We spend our entire lives seeking or avoiding it depending on whether it feels safe or threatening. An important prerequisite for an emotionally healthy home is how safe each family member feels to rest in relationship with one another and grow into their most resilient self.

Our first and most intimate relationships create a blueprint. We are hardwired for connection so we will keep longing for it. We need to be connected to ourselves, trusted others, nature, and creativity. Without connection, without fulfilling attachment and true authenticity, we seek unhealthy substitutes and coping mechanisms. Without a connection to ourselves (authenticity) and others (attachment), we cannot thrive.

Dr. Gabor Mate describes “attachment” as “invited to exist.” and “authenticity” as “invited to be ourselves.” “Attachment is to be us and authenticity is to be you.” He goes on to explain that when people are faced with the choice of either attachment or authenticity in their relationships, most will go for attachment first, seeking approval and recognition from others instead of learning how to give it to themselves.

The parent-child relationship matters greatly. It has the potential to strengthen and harmonize or weaken and split the heart, body, spirit, and mind. Parenting with this in mind is an ongoing practice of protecting the authenticity of our child by nurturing the unconditional attachment between us. Through growing awareness and an intentional healing forward practice, we enhance authenticity and obtain safe attachments.

As we provide a haven for our children, we provide one for ourselves, and hopefully set the precedent for future relationships and environments. *Conscious* and *gentle* need to be more of a lifestyle than a parenting style. It’s the ongoing practice of self-regulation, understanding human needs through education and instinct whilst nurturing the attachment between and protecting the authenticity within our child and adult-self.

Education on individual and relational health is essential for progress since it affects us all from the day we are born and influences every area of our lives.  We ALL benefit from understanding needs, emotions, feelings, behavior and how they impact us and one another and the world around us. A young child’s greatest need is to feel attached to and accepted by their parent, or primary care-giver. A close second emotional need is to experience self-acceptance.

When a parent habitually removes affection or acceptance from a child as a means of coercing compliance, the child is forced into codependency or rebellion.  The child has to work for attachment, and forfeit authenticity, or fight for authenticity and forfeit attachment. No child should ever have to choose between love and self-love, or belonging and self-acceptance.

I speak about this so often because removing love and acceptance is a popular behavior modification technique used by loving parents. Devastatingly it is also used by harmful predators because it’s an effective way to manipulate a young child, or older person conditioned this way. No loving parent means to teach their child to confuse fear with love.

As parents, we want to strengthen our children against abuse, not make them victim to it. We want our children to rest in our love, trust us, and love and trust themselves! Punishment and conditional acceptance always break trust. Every child is unique with interests, temperaments, and needs. Respect, kindness, attachment, and unconditional love are essential to every child. Playing favorites, comparing and pitting children up against one another weakens trust and negatively impacts authenticity and attachment. Favorites corrode the core of the family.

To inspire healthy interdependence and sincere cooperation, parent’s affection and acceptance of their children needs to be unconditional.  Instead of using shame to coerce a child into compliance; which is fulfilling only your need; try to use empathy to connect a child into communicating; which will fulfill both your needs—for compassion, and ultimately, cooperation!

We can correct behavior without coercion, and cultivate cooperation through conscious connection and compassionate communication. That means loving and accepting your child through all ages, stages, and emotions. Children need to express their emotions or risk developing coping mechanisms like regression, suppression or aggression.

Understanding the role of emotions helps us to respond with compassion as opposed to fear. Children act out big emotions they’re unable to express or process alone, in an attempt to meet their basic human needs. Emotions drive behavior and behavior communicates the unmet need. When we help our child fulfill the need we empower them with life-enhancing skills. Emotions are not problems, they are messengers to help us solve problems.

Recognize that your child’s emotions and behavior do not equal their personality. Children need to feel all their emotions, without fear of rejection or pressure to protect a parent to mature into their healthiest true self. Emotions are human and they are temporary. The story we tell ourselves has longer-lasting meaning. That’s the focus. The story. Our inner world. Our connection to our self, others and the world around us.

When a child feels positively seen, heard, valued and understood, he will rise up to be who he believes he is. As we parent from a place of compassion and understanding we feel our hearts soften, our minds open and our bodies relax. We feel in harmony with ourselves and empowered to live out our true essence and values. Children feel this energy and are inspired by it. When we regulate ourselves, children feel safe to do the same.

The first way we teach children about attachment and authenticity is through love, respect and boundaries in our hearts and the relationship. We need to treat children the way we’d like to be treated. We teach boundaries by practicing our values. Boundaries help us to be simultaneously gentle and strong. Peaceful boundaries are when parents lead by example and empathetically guide children to understand and trust enough to cooperate. Setting clear boundaries and modeling empathetic behavior as you lead by example requires lots of practice, reflection, and self-regulation, but it’s the best way to foster mentally healthy individuals and relationships.

The practice of empathy and breath work has changed my life. Imagining how another living being feels, giving compassion and understanding free of judgment and full of observation, is mutually beneficial and empowering. Self-empathy is equally as healing and fortifying. We need both a sense of belonging and self-acceptance. We shouldn’t have to choose one or the other. When I choose compassion and understanding for others, I remember to practice this for myself too.

I’ve learned that if I feel unsafe in a relationship or situation I need to attune to myself and choose my truth. Values and boundaries are an important part of conscious living and growing in authenticity. We are modeling this concept for our children. So many mistakes are made when we are afraid to speak our truth because it risks the disapproval of others. That’s why a punishment-free home is the safest place to mature and find the truth. 

Conscious parenting, love, and living are courageous and contagious. It is learning to live in the ebb and flow of unpredictability and certainty. It is prioritizing and sacrificing. It is connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting. It is re-parenting and rewiring. It is learning better and trusting your intuition. Mostly it is letting go of control over others, and holding on to compassion. Conscious Love is an important practice to keep choosing, repeating and strengthening.  

Be gentle on yourself as you practice being gentle on your children. People are strengthened through compassion and understanding, regardless of gender or age.

About the author
Lelia Schott is a South African grateful mother of six children; four sons and two daughters; aged 22, 20, 18, 15, 8 and 5. She is also an independent child development researcher, certified coach and family consultant, speaker, founder and writer at the international advocacy and consulting group; Synergy:gentle parenting resources. Lelia calls herself a messenger, not an expert.
1 Comment
  1. Lelia Schott

    Oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing Ashley. 💗


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