Hold on to your kids

by Dr Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

This is an interesting read about the impact of modern society on our kids and their future. The overall premise is that our kids need to "attach" to their parents and other caring adults in their environment, rather than to their peers. As the saying goes:

it takes a village to raise a child

The overall premise of the book is good in my opinion. For sure in our current society children are too "peer-orientated", as the book calls it. Interestingly the bulk of the book was written almost 20 years ago, so before the social media and internet revolution. The book adds a couple of chapters on this at the end, but doesn't add much in terms of how to deal with it, except to fight for the parent attachment of the kids.

I do have some problems with the book though. First of all the length. The first 150 odd pages are about the need for children to attach to their parents. It repeats the message over and over again, until you are quite fed up with it. But it also uses some spurious examples, with little in the way of peer reviewed references. In one case using the entirely fictional "Lord of the flies" as evidence of what happens with "peer-oriented" children. In fact the real world lord of the flies turned out quite different.

The next 100 pages then offer some solutions. These are helpful, but the issue is quite disheartening as you are essentially told to fight society. It doesn't reflect the reality of people's lives and I wonder whether the well meant advice really only works in specific, upper middle class environments. The book acknowledges the difficulties of today's parents, but offers solutions which might well not work in their environments.

In summary I liked the book and certainly agree with the issues of children's peer-orientation and lack attachment to their parents. I do feel though, that the book exaggerates both the impact and the possibilities to do anything about it, short of getting in a time machine and going back to some mythical 50s.

In addition, despite the importance of adult attachment, we should not also forget that not all adults have the best interests of the children under their care at heart. The slow trickle of stories (turning into a bit of an avalanche now) of children having been abused by adults who were supposed to care for them is testament that it is not automatically the case that children are better off around adults. Rather, children should have a healthy mix of adults looking out for them, as well kids looking out for them too.