Marriage and Parenting Self-Help Advice from an Expert - Listening to your children

Written by Harville Hendrix

Some parents, while physically present, are insensitive to their children's signals of distress.listening to your children Their responses may be delayed or inappropriate to the situation, or they may initially ignore their children and then become excessively indulgent.

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According to Bowlby and Ainsworth, such children become "anxious and insecure." Uncertain that their parents will be available if called upon, they turn into "clingy and whiny" children who are uncomfortable about going to school, and often do not do well in class.

Some are prone to tics or frequent stomach aches; others get more than their fair share of colds and flus. Some are impulsive and easily frustrated; others are tense and constantly seeking attention, either by crying or by entertaining their parents.

These children share another striking feature: the absence of communication. They do not readily share their feelings or experiences with their parents. And when they do talk, they change subjects frequently, too anxious to concentrate on any topic for a significant period of time.

When these children are away from their parents, they constantly ask about them; when they are with their parents, they frequently check to see if they are accessible.

If you've recognized some of the latter signs in your children, you may be wondering if you can reverse what's already been started. Yes, but the earlier you get started the better.

During a child's first six years, the images of world and self are flexible and can be changed. Between ages 7 and 10, a child will respond to improved conditions in the environment.

Once adolescence begins, however, change is more difficult because the child is well accustomed to a stressful environment and the child's behavior is more rigid. Changes in adolescence require radical alterations at home, an endeavor that may call for professional help, yet is certainly worth the effort.

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Photographer: Dennis Cox

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