dancing with childWe were having dinner with friends when I noticed how one of the toddlers, unsettled and whiny, settled down contentedly in the arms of his grandmother. This seemed magical to the adults who were watching, but when you recognize the collecting dance, you can understand how this magic works.

The collecting dance is an ancient dance of all cultures, connecting us with those we care about. We have always known it intuitively, never needing to be conscious of it – until now, that is.

This dance is a ritual that is part of the social graces of society. We intuitively connect with people by waiting for an invitation to exist in their presence and extending this same invitation in return. The first step begins with moving into a person’s space in a friendly way. Our intuition lets us know if we are being invited to come closer. Our next step is to collect this person’s eyes, and then we smile. When we receive a smile in return, we exchange courtesies that bring us both to nodding our heads in agreement. We now continue the dance by giving a touch of proximity, conveying the warmth we feel towards this person and the pleasure that comes with being in this person’s presence. The deep attachment instincts that exist in all of us are now engaged.

It is important to bring this dance to consciousness with regard to our children. We need to collect them through this dance many times throughout the day. We cannot guide, instruct, influence or take care of them without this dance. Long work hours and the demands of many responsibilities often distract us from collecting our children and keeping them close. Just as the quarks of the atom rush to attach to other quarks when they are separated from each other, so too, children rush to attach to friends, cellphones and ipods which compete with parents. If these competing attachments were helping our children grow up, they would not be so dangerous. But they are pulling children out of orbit with their parents, depriving them of the close, warm relationships which are so necessary for healthy maturation.

When we trust our children to other caregivers, we must make sure they know this dance. The daycare worker, the teacher, the principal, the counselor, all need to know how to collect our children. If we could implement one change in our classrooms that would make a significant difference in the atmosphere of our schools and in our children’s ability to concentrate, learn and grow, it would be to make sure that the adults know the importance of collectiing students everyday. Only then will they be able to direct, guide and take care of them.

This is an essential key to helping children grow up. The brilliant theorist and developmentalist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, has given us the language and words to describe this dance, for only when we have the words can we bring these things to consciousness.

© 2024 The Neufeld Institute