Not everyone grows up as they get older. The construct of psychological immaturity is not new, but only recently has developmental science advanced to the point where the idea of developmental arrest can be spelled out and employed as a powerful explanatory tool for problems in learning and behaving. Once kids are stuck, the usual ways of dealing with behaviour – including sanctions, consequences, and time-outs – actually make things worse. This flagship course, organized around the constructs of maturation and stuckness, provides a grounding in the conceptual foundations of Dr. Neufeld’s formulation of the attachment-based developmental approach.
The task of turning children into adults has never been more daunting. An adolescent is neither child nor adult – and therein lies much of the difficulty, turbulence, confusion, and challenge. They need us, yet need to not need us. We are their best bet, yet their instincts are to resist us.
There are many indications that aggression is escalating among our children and youth – between the more violating acts of aggression that capture media attention, and also the ground swell of attacking energy that erupts in our kids’ interaction, music, language, play, games, and fantasies – not to mention the alarming increase in suicide and suicidal ideation among children.
Anxiety in children is reaching epidemic proportions, as one of the most common diagnoses in children. Anxiety takes many forms, including obsessions, compulsions, phobias, and panic. Various hand-me-down strategies attempt to address this age-old problem. But anxiety begs for an explanation in order to arrive at a solution that addresses the roots, not just manages the symptoms.
There are many kinds of attention problems – most rooted in emotional and developmental dynamics. Many professionals diagnosing attention problems are experts at describing the symptoms, but come up short on explanations – without the foundational understanding of how the attention system develops, what can go wrong, and why. Knowing the nature of the problem is key to managing the symptoms and addressing the root cause.
Counterwill is the instinctive reaction of resistance to being controlled – so universal at certain stages of development that it has given rise to terms like ‘terrible twos’ and ‘rebellious teens.’ This resistance can come out as opposition, negativity, laziness, noncompliance, disrespect, lack of motivation, belligerence, incorrigibility, resistance to learning, and even antisocial attitudes and actions.
A growing number of children and youth are presenting as demanding, prescriptive, bossy, and controlling. Alpha children are more challenging to parent and predisposed to a number of problems including anxiety, aggression, oppositionality, and eating problems. An understanding of the alpha dynamic opens the doors to change in the family, classroom, and society.
Despites civilization’s advances, the human mean streak is not going away. Dr. Neufeld dissects the bully syndrome to expose its deep instinctive roots in attachment and emotion, revealing in the process why this behaviour is so immune to conventional means of intervention. The key to the bully’s unmaking is to first understand how bullies are made.
Teaching is getting harder, not easier – even though teachers have never been more educated, technology so advanced, curriculum so refined, and pedagogy so honed. Although these factors are important, the true problem in learning lies elsewhere – in the teachability of our students. The answer to the waning teachability of students is not to teach harder, but to teach differently, harnessing the most powerful motivating force of all: attachment.