Let’s play a little game called “Name That Job.” See if you can identify the job requirements described below:
Name That Job
- Applicants must be able to adjust rapidly and think quickly on your feet.
- Must be skilled at managing emotional, irrational, demanding and/or immature individuals.
- 24-hour on-call, 7 days per week.
- Requires frequent clean-up of biological waste.
- Involves long stretches of tedious work combined with unexpected shocks.
- Painful self-examination and endless personal growth will be required to do the job well.
- Job duties will change drastically as customer’s needs develop and evolve.
- A mandatory lifetime commitment is necessary.
- Complex combinations of social, emotional, physical and psychological skills are essential.
Most likely few folks would apply for the job above. Yet most people do end up purposely taking it on.
Welcome to parenthood.
The complex demands of parenting are so off-the-charts that it’s no wonder that virtually all parents find themselves exhausted and confused. And, at some point, longing to find a secret sauce for parenting.
That’s why I think that every single parent on earth absolutely must watch The Still Faced Parent Videos. Preferably before they have a child.
But before you watch the video, I want you to know a few very important things to put it into perspective. So please bear with me.
I sometimes laugh inwardly when I hear the phrase “attachment theory.” That’s because, as a psychology nerd, I know that even though its moniker includes the word “theory,” it is anything but. It is a well-proven fact that all therapists know and that all laypeople, especially parents, really should be educated about.
Attachment theory describes how the type and quality of a child’s attachment to its parents determine important elements of that child’s personality and functioning once the child grows up.
Is the child securely attached to a parent who is loving, caring and predictable? Or insecurely attached to a parent who is varied, uncaring or unpredictable?
Very specific aspects of attachment have been observed to transfer from infancy to adulthood. For example, one study showed that a mother who makes poor eye contact with her infant raises a child who struggles to make eye contact with others as an adult.
Childhood Emotional Neglect
A natural part of attachment theory involves emotion. The way parents treat their child’s emotions determines how that child will treat her emotions as an adult. Parents who notice, validate and respond to their child’s feelings are setting her up to notice what she’s feeling, accept her feelings as valid, and use her own feelings to motivate and connect her as an adult.
And the opposite is also true. When parents do not pay enough attention to what their child is feeling as they raise him, and do not accept his feelings as valid, they inadvertently teach their child that his feelings are irrelevant or a sign of weakness. That child will then grow up to ignore his own feelings, and to believe, on some fundamental level, that his feelings do not matter, and thus he, as a person, does not matter.
In my work as a psychologist, I have seen Childhood Emotional Neglect, which I call CEN, in so very many lovely, well-meaning people that I have made it my mission to try to educate every single man, woman, and child, but especially every parent, about it.
Nothing demonstrates the effect on a child of the lack of emotional attention from a parent better than the Still Faced Parent Video.
The Still Faced Parent
In the Still Faced Parent video, you get to see how it affects a child when her parent’s emotional attunement is suddenly withdrawn from her. In the video, you will watch a parent interact with a child in a loving, attentive and emotionally attuned way. The infant laughs and squeals in delight, showing the kind of pure joy that warms one’s heart to watch. This is an example of an emotionally attuned parent with a secure attachment to the child.
Keep watching, however, and as part of the experiment, the parent turns away from the child for a moment, and then turns back with a “still face.” Meaning the parent’s face is like a blank wall, looking at the child but completely unresponsive.
As you watch the video you will see the child become ever more distressed, and begin to attempt to re-engage the parent ever more desperately.
You will see the infant go into extreme distress. And once you see this video, it will change you.
In today’s world, we have a tendency to view our feelings as a weakness. When we make decisions, deal with interpersonal conflicts, or solve problems, for example, we often try to “keep emotion out of it.”
We often belittle those who show their feelings and try our best to hide our own. Yet, when you watch the Still Faced Video, you will see how very important emotion is to humanity. You will see, in its purest form, how children need emotional attunement and attention from their parents in much the same way that they require enough food and water to thrive.
The Secret Sauce
When you watch the Still Faced video, you will be watching a very extreme example of Childhood Emotional Neglect. If a parent continually did this to a child, it would likely result in critical impairments of the child as an adult, like, for example, severe personality disorder or psychotic disorders among other lifetime dysfunction.
Childhood Emotional Neglect usually does not happen in this way. Instead, it often happens in a watered down, much more overall neutral way, only occasionally, if ever, reaching the extremes shown in the video. Instead, the emotionally neglectful parent may simply under-respond to his child’s feelings, seeming to not notice that she is having them. In some families, emotions are never named or talked about, conflict is avoided, and meaningful topics are seldom discussed.
But given the effect you see on the child of the Still Faced parent, I ask you to consider how it might affect you as a child to grow up constantly exposed to the less extreme version that I call Childhood Emotional Neglect.
If you have, or ever will, take on the hardest job in the world, you will likely, at some point, find yourself longing for a secret sauce. In my opinion, once you have watched the Still Faced Video, you will have the basics of the closest thing to it: Pay attention to your child’s feelings, treat them as important and valid, and respond to them in a loving and caring way. Begin this at birth, and continue it through adolescence and adulthood.
And by the way, it is never too late to start.
Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.
To learn much more about how to validate and respond to the emotions of your child of any age, see the book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.