Monday, June 27, 2011

Collecting about Collecting

One of the key concepts from Neufeld's work is the idea of collecting children.  Not as in acquiring a large houseful of them, which I am also enthusiastic about, but gathering their attention and goodwill.

Collecting my children is something I'm confident I don't do often enough or well enough, and I see the negative results of this everyday. I've made it my goal to learn everything I can about collecting over the summer.  Maybe I'll become the world expert on it someday. I'm going to try to gather some of what I know and my thoughts about collecting here on my blog as I go along.

Here is my take on why we collect our children based on the Neufeld material.  I'm pretty sure I'm missing some key components, but here is my initial understanding:

Humans are creatures of attachment, and nobody wants to do anything for someone they're not attached to (sort of a built in safety valve to prevent coercion).  When we are given direction or instruction by someone we don't perceive as connected to us, we're likely to feel manipuated, resist and exhibit what Neufeld calls counterwill - either not doing or even doing the opposite of what is requested.

Secondly, if children aren't focused on us, they aren't focused on us. Especially when children are young and do not have mixed feelings (the brain develops the capacity for mixed feelings somewhere between 5-9 years old), they are unable to focus on more than one thing at time.  From van Gulden, the more important something is the harder it will be for any of us to focus on two things at once - try talking to my husband when he's concentrating on an interesting book. Its not that he's ignoring me but that his brain is so focused on the story coming from his eyes that it isn't relaying the information coming from his ears. And he's in his 40s, so consider the implications of trying to talk to a 10 year old reading an exciting comic book.  All this to say if we haven't collected our children's attention, they aren't focused on us and we'll get no further. Period.

Collecting a la Neufeld includes, at its core, the idea of warmth.  I can get my children's attention by coming into the room like thunder and demanding their attention, but I'm not likely to garner any goodwill (or cooperation) in the process.  When I come in and gather their attention in a friendly way, I increase our connection, demonstrate caring and increase the likelihood of cooperation.

How to collect-
(Neufeld actually does a lovely version of this on some of the videos which is the best way to get a sense of it, but here it is from my notes.)
- Get into their face in a friendly way, try to get their eyes (but don't ask or tell them to look at you). With older kids we need to intercept their attention by sharing in what they are attending to.
- Get a smile - say something pleasant or funny.  If no smile, then no connection, yet.
- Get a nod, agreement to something you say.
Don't proceed further until you have both the smile and the nod.

Neufeld's advice is to always collect before we direct - have our children's attention and hearts before we ask them to do something for us.  The times I do remember to get friendly with kids, find the smiles and the nods, things go much more smoothly.  Yes, it takes longer on the front end but I'm sure at the end of the day it is a big time and goodwill saver.

Interestingly, it isn't just children we collect - we all collect people every day.  In speaking more generally, Neufeld calls it the human courting instinct.  I've also seen it referred to as the dance of attachment several places. I notice people do this all the time at the bank, the grocery store, the quick hellos on the phone before a logistical conversation. Sometimes I think of it as social flirting, not really sexual or just heterosexually aimed, but a way to endear ourselves to the people we need before we make our requests of them.

1 comment:

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Thanks for this, Sarah, particularly the steps of collecting. That helps! This was actually a key concept mentioned time and again in the positive discipline class I took last year -- and I do it sometimes but surely not enough. And sometimes quite the opposite! Yipes!