Unschooling, Re-attachment and Spiritual Development

I think a lot of unschoolers are also re-attachers, and when you're re-attaching you simply cannot expect much at all from your children until you've regained their trust and affection and brought them to rest. To continue to expect everything of them that you did before when you were willing to coerce them into your will with force will never amount to a secure relationship. Dr. Neufeld explains this very clearly in his treatment of counterwill.

Children who have been coerced all their lives are usually in defensive detachment mode or hyper compliance mode, and don't want to do anything you want them to do, or will do anything you expect of them to the terrible detriment of their own development. Once you remove the coercion, they're going to go a little crazy for a while until you regain their trust. They have to be brought to rest first, like the new convert comes to rest in Christ in the life of grace before moving into the purgative way. Ideally, parents are already affirmed, mature, and at least on the cusp of the unitive way before they are trying to help their children through these phases of their own lives and relationships. But if you come to parenting more or less stuck in the purgative way, it's going to be hard to support your children through the life of grace, first of all, and especially through the purgative way, since you're still struggling through it yourself. But when you've gotten through that phase, at least on a certain level, then you can begin to really support and nurture your kids. This is why we've always emphasized on this list that before we can really collect our kids, we have to collect ourselves. Re-attachment begins when parents near the end of the purgative way and are now in a position to focus more of their attention on their children, going back to square one, to the life of grace and re-initiating the bonding process. Once there's a secure bond again you can move into phase two of re-building boundaries, structures and strictures, making expectations known, always taking resistance as a possible sign of insecurity and dealing with that before pushing ahead--the purgative way for the child. Probably most of us aren't going to have kids one might describe as having entered the unitive way until they're fully grown, fully mature physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Just based on my own observations, I think each phase has within it a miniature of all three (some authors note 4, 5 or 7) phases, and I'm sure if you looked at each healthy interaction as if under a microscope you'd find all these phases present, from the life of grace in the initial connection, to the purgative way, where expectations are made known and maybe even wrestled with, to the unitive way, where resonance is achieved, an understanding and agreement made. St Teresa notes a phase between the purgative and unitive ways which she calls the illuminative way, where there's a dawning of consciousness, an awareness or mindfulness of one's self with respect to the other, a moment of profound humility where you see a situation or a whole life from another point of view, an awakening. I personally believe that one's style of parenting corresponds to where one is in the spiritual life, those still in the purgative way on the more authoritarian side (possibly those in the life of grace a little more permissive), those in the illuminitave way I would consider in the re-attachment phase, and those in the unitive way enjoying already secure attachment on the parts of their children. (I hope I'm making sense.)

 If you skip the life of grace part of the relationship, or interaction, moving immediately into the purgative phase, there's going to be trouble, there's going to be counter-will, and resentment, and frustration. You have to build a bond of trust, make a secure connection first before entertaining expectations. And you'll never get to the unitive phase without the secure attachment forged during the phase of grace. That's why it's so important not to discount the principles that pertain to infancy, like feeding with love and respect, providing nurturing touch and consistent loving care, and providing safe sleep. When you don't invest in the secure bond provided through practicing these principles, you're going to have a very difficult time with responding with sensitivity and positive discipline! And you can forget about balance!

(There's so much more I could write concerning affirmation, or lack of it, and skipping the life of grace phase of the parent/child relationship. There's a wealth of information that could be applied to the re-attachment efforts of parents, gleaned from the work of Drs. Baars and Terruwe on healing the unaffirmed. I just don't want this post to get any longer!)

So, when some say "consider all the chores your own," or "don't expect instant obedience from your kids," or "let them direct their own education," etc. I think you might safely assume they're in re-attachment or the illuminative way moving towards the unitive (or I guess they might be in the life of grace moving toward the purgative way--who really knows for sure!); and those who are comfortable with asking more of their kids, or expecting more, but who are willing to work through resistance with respect and patience, not resorting to threats or force are at least nearing the unitive way. Of course, I'm over simplifying the whole mess, but I hope it makes some sense--that our personal development and the development of our relationships with ourselves, our neighbor, and with God follow a predictable course and that depending on where the two people are in these three areas the dynamics of a relationship will withstand more or less--that life and relationships are processes and that wherever you find yourself and your loved ones, don't worry, God isn't finished with us, yet! And worrying about it is counterproductive because it weakens faith--but even that is probably part of a process, as long as you don't get stuck.

I don't mean to make it seem like it doesn't really matter what you do, God is taking care of everything. I don't mean that at all, because what we do makes it more or less easy for us to submit ourselves to letting God take care of everything. But I do mean that unless we give up on love, and completely lose faith in Him, He will take better care of us than we could ever take of ourselves, and our children, even when we don't realize it, and the only thing holding us back is our own worrying.

 "And that's all I have to say about that!"~~Forest Gump

1 comment:

Domestic Church said...

A friend recently referred me to this blog. I've been reading all the articles and have watched the videos. All I can say is "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" What I specifically mean is thank you for articulating so wonderfully all the thoughts that have been going around in my head recently after having spent the past year reading several books on St. Therese and Fr. Lovasik's book on Kindness. May God bless you!

Catholic Attachment Parenting

A philosophy of parenting modeled after the self-donative love exemplified in the relationship between Mary and Jesus.

1 Jn 4:18

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."

Luke 1:17

"...to turn the hearts of the parents toward their children..."