Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Parenting Styles and Politics

Once I was on a plane – a domestic flight I believe – perhaps between Joburg and Cape Town. For some reason the plane was delayed. A toddler who sat next to her young mother became more and more distressed and began (or continued, she may have already boarded the plane crying) to sob and shriek very loudly...even ear piercingly. The shrieks and wailing continued as the mother tried, unsuccessfully, to calm her. Other passengers stared, and a succession of cabin crew offered advice. A dummy was tried, food, the mother held the child tightly and rocked her, but the shrieks just grew louder and louder. The mother, sensing the agitation and hostility of other passengers, and her own helplessness, seemed to me worthy of tremendous compassion.

My natural impulse was to empathise with mother and child, to give them some space, to see if there was anything that could be done to reduce their mutual distress. But not all the passengers, disturbed by the uncontained and persistent shrieking, saw it that way. “Giver her a warm klap” offered one. “She needs a good hiding....I’ll sort her out” said another. These comments evoked my own issues, and in my own timid way I semi-audibly mumbled “can’t you see she’s inconsolable, she needs help not threats.” In my psychologised mind the child was shrieking for all of us, and the disgruntled passengers were responding with however they as shrieking uncontained frightened or uncomfortable children had been dealt with: heard, soothed, contained or beaten into silence.

The real difference in politics – as in everything else – is not between left and right or fundamentalists vs secularists but between those who are conscious about their own process and projections and those who are unconscious about them.

Imagine if there were mandatory ante-natal courses where young parents, instead of been taught all the technical stuff about breastfeeding and latching and nappy changing (not that those are not important) were taught the basics of surviving post natal depression, and how they could advantage their child by facilitating secure attachment, ie, a course training new parents to be effective "interactive psychobiological regulators" through physical contact (touch, feeding and cuddles), eye contact, and vocal tone (comforing sounds and lullabies), play, stimulation (arousal) and rest and disengagement, all in an intuitive rythm and dance between mother and child, and father and child. Yes a lot of input up front, and costly, but a stitch in time saves nine...and (as Mr Indivar Bilenko points out) lives.


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