The Importance of Parental Attachment for ADD ADHD Children

Dr Mate explains the importance of the parental relationship with ADD ADHD children.

“3 Steps To Conquering ADD” rejects the idea that ADD ADHD children simply need to be medicated. It is not that simple. There are many actions that can be taken that do not involve “pill popping”

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Amy, in 1998, there was a book that was the New York Times’ Best Book of the Year and it nearly won the Pulitzer Prize. It was called The Nurture Assumption, and in it this researcher argues parents don’t make any difference anymore, to the extent that Newsweek actually had a cover article that year entitled “Do Parents Matter?”. Now, if you want to get the full stupidity of that question, you have to imagine a veterinarian magazine asking, “Does a mother calf make a difference?” or “Does the mother bear matter?” But the research showed that children are being more influenced now- in their tastes, in their attitudes, in their behaviors- by peers than by parents. This poor researcher concluded that this is somehow natural. And what she mistook was the norm in North America- she actually thought that was natural and healthy. In fact, it isn’t.

So our book Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers is not just about showing why it is true that children are being more influenced more by other kids these days than by their parents, but also just what an aberration that is, and what a distortion it is of normal human development. Because normal human development demands- as normal mammalian development demands- the presence of nurturing parents. Even birds. Birds do not develop properly unless the mother and father bird are there. Bears, cats, rats, mice, although most of all human beings, because human beings are the least mature and most dependent for the longest period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the importance of attachment?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Attachment is the drive to be close to somebody and attachment is a power force in human relationships. In fact, it is the most powerful force there is. Even as adults we are in attachment relationships. When people we want to be close to are lost to us or they are threatened somehow, we did very disoriented and upset. Now, for children and babies and adolescents, that is an absolute necessity, because the more immature you are, the more you need your attachments. It is like a force of gravity that pulls two bodies together. Now, when the attachment goes in the wrong direction- instead of to the adults, but to the peer group- childhood development is completely distorted, development is stopped in its tracks, and parenting and teaching become extremely difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: You co-wrote this book and you both found in your experience, Hold Onto Your Kids, that your kids were becoming increasingly secretive and unreachable.

GABOR MATÉ: Well, that’s the thing. You see now, if your spouse or partner- adult spouse or partner- came home from work and didn’t give you the time of day, and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time, and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn’t say that you have a behavioral problem, you should try tough love. They would say that you have a have a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavior problem, and we try to control the behaviors. In fact, what they’re showing us is that- as my children showed me- I had a relationship problem with them. They hadn’t connected enough with me and too connected to their peer group. So that’s why they wanted to spend all of their time with their peer group. And now we’ve given kids the technology to do that. So that the terrible downside of the Internet is that now kids are spending time with each other-

AMY GOODMAN: Not even and the presence of each other!

DR. GABOR MATÈ: That’s exactly the point. Because, you see, that’s an attachment dynamic. One of the basic ways that people attach to each other is to want to be with the people that you want to connect with. So that when kids spend time with each other, it’s not a behavior problem, but a sign that their relationships have been skewed toward the peer group. And that’s why it’s so difficult to peel them off their computers, because their desperation is to connect with the people they are trying to attach to. And that’s no longer us, as the adults, as the parents in their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you change this dynamic?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Well, first we have to recognize it’s manifestations. So, we have to recognize that whenever the child does not look adults in the eye anymore, when the child wants to always be on Skype or the cellphone, or twittering or emailing, or MSM messenger. We recognize that when the child becomes oppositional to adults, we tend to think that is a normal childhood phenomenon. It’s normal only to a certain degree.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they have to rebel in order to separate later.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: No. They have to separate, but they don’t have to rebel. In other words, separation, individuation, is a normal human developmental stage. You have to become a separate, individual person. But it doesn’t mean you have to reject and be hostile to the values of the adults. As a matter of fact, in traditional societies, children would become adults by been initiated into the adult group by elders. Like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Or the initiation rituals of tribal cultures around the world. Now kids are initiated by other kids. And now you have the gang phenomena. So that the teenage gang phenomena is actually a misplaced initiation and orientation ritual, where kids are now rebelling against adult values. But it’s not because they’re bad kids, but because they have become disconnected from adults.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in your book about the phenomenon of peer-orientation and the legacy of it, why we must hold on. We only have a few minutes right now, but can you talk about both? Especially how parents break this cycle. And not only parents, but elders in the community.

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Well, first of all, what the problem reflects is the loss of the community and the neighborhood. We have to recreate that. So, the schools have to become not just places of pedagogy, but places of emotional connection. The teachers should be in the emotional connection game before they attempt to be in the pedagogy game.

Kindergartens: studies in the States have shown that children in the kindergartens have higher stress hormone levels than those kids at home. Except in those day cares where there is a decent adult-to-child relationship. Parents should not encourage sleep-overs and play-dates all the time. Kids have already spent all their time with together all week in the absence of the parents, because both parents have to work, especially in this economy.

AMY GOODMAN: But isn’t it good, isn’t it different when the kids are at home, so that the parents are there and they can see the friends, they can interact with the friends?

DR. GABOR MATÈ: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the kids having friends. It’s a question of do they do it under parental leadership or do they do it in separation from the parents?

Then we have to learn how to teach kids discipline without punishing them. Because punishment drives the kid further away from the parent. In North America, the whole way that we raise kids, the context is wrong and the methods that people are taught are wrong. And no wonder then, that we’re having such a huge problem with our children and adolescents.

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