Making Noise

September 16, 2011 at 6:59 am (Attachment Parenting)

I have the opportunity this weekend to attend a professional training with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, author of one of my favorite parenting books, Hold On to Your Kids.  Last night’s presentation was called “Raising Resilient Kids: helping children thrive in stressful times.”  It was excellent and engaging and struck a personal chord with me.

One thing Dr. Neufeld said that said was that when it comes to emotional expression, kids who are making the most “noise” turn out to be the ones who are the most well-adjusted.  He said we often confuse “upset and crying” as “not resilient enough,” and we think we need to toughen kids up with stricter parenting or harsher discipline.  When actually, the opposite is true.

Kids who are expressing their feelings are changing their brains to be more adaptive to futile situations.  The brain will develop a plasticity to be able to work around emotional adversity.  It’s when they don’t let those tears of frustration and anger flow that kids begin to put up walls to protect themselves;  they’re defended, as opposed to resilient.

Well, that was good to hear!  I guess when JJ grows up, he will be THE most resilient person in the world.  Because right now at age 5, he is absolutely a kid who makes the most noise when met with futility.  JJ lets everyone know just how upset he is, and doesn’t hold anything back.

Trying to make something work that does’t?  Grunts, growls, tears and yelling

Trying to avoid failing?  Anger, frustration, and more tears

Not being the best or winning at everything?  Oh, this always ends in screaming and sobbing

Not getting his way?  Tears for sure

But he only fully expresses himself with me and John, never with his teachers.  He might be having a terrible time at Kidsworld, frustrated with other kids or games they’re playing that day, but the teachers never know it.  When I pick him up, the emotions start pouring out even as he begins his walk over to me.  Because our secure relationship allows him to feel safe enough to do this.

So the tears are not, in fact, evidence of spoiled behavior; they’re the very things that are making him strong.

Futility was met in a game of mini-golf.


  1. change5553 said,

    Kelly, Ii think there is another aspect to what you describe–especially since you say he doesn’t express so much emotion with his teachers. I call this a sign of excellent parenting. You have created an atmosphere where he feels safe to express his frustration and emotions–and then expresses the skills he has learned in public. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂 Jane

    • Kelly said,

      I appreciate hearing that. It gets hard sometimes to be on the reciving end of so many strong emotions at home, but it is becoming clear that the behavioral skills ARE getting there. Thanks, Jane!

  2. ginger said,

    oh my, thank you a million times over for just reframing what I’ve worried about for years.

    • Kelly said,

      Ginger, I think it’s a common fear of all paents with emotional children…will this ever change? Will they ever be able to control themselves? I am confident the answer is YES! Yes they will, and as long as we give them room to grow into their emotions, they’ll be the most well-adjusted of us all! 🙂

  3. Aria Baker said,

    Another great post, Kelly. This topic has been front and center for us for a couple of years.

    • Kelly said,

      Thanks Aria! I think it will continue to be for us, too…

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