Being With

Like most modern parents, Amy and I left the hospital with our son wanting to know “What do we do?” But our years of parenting and my work as a child psychologist have convinced me that there is a better question to ask. This much better question is “How shall I be with this person?” Because “What do I do?” is a one-way-street question, and it takes no account of the individual qualities, personality, and needs of the person we are in relationship with. If the answer to our “What do I do?” question is “use time-outs,” then that’s what we’ll do. And it will seem to work, or it won’t. If it doesn’t, we’ll move on to “What do I do now?” until the problem is solved, or we’ll give up. Hopefully the problem gets solved, but what happens when it doesn’t? Most likely we will feel like a failure, as will our child. 

In contrast, “How shall I be with this person?” is a two-way-street question. It forces us to look not only at our child but at ourselves. It forces us to look not only at our child but at ourselves, and this opens up a whole new world of possibilities. When we explore this question, we learn that any issue we are trying to address with our kid likely has as much to do with us as it does with our child. And the ideas and answers that arise from seriously considering this question will likely lead to an ongoing process of learning and discovery about our child, ourselves, and God. Instead of seeing failure when things don’t change, this question invites us to further exploration. 

This book explores the idea of being with our children rather than parenting at them. The six needs we’ll share come from a relationship-focused view of parenting and have been described and investigated over the last sixty years through the science of attachment, child development, and neuroscience. We will break open each of these needs from both a scientific perspective and a place of faith, explore what it looks like to meet those needs, and discuss what can get in the way.

From “The 6 Needs of Every Child: Empowering Parents and Kids Through the Science of Connection” by Amy and Jeffrey Olrick