17 thoughts on “The Difference Between an Emotionally Neglectful Parent and an Emotionally Attuned One

  • August 12, 2018 at 11:49 am

    What a perfect time to share this ever so crucial information!
    Thank You So Much for sharing!
    I truly hope it reaches every person who’s in need if it!
    You started well, it reached me!
    I NEEDED IT & Will share!!

    • August 12, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      Thank you Jessie. I do believe that every person alive should know this. I will keep writing and talking about it. Thanks for helping me reach more people!

      • August 13, 2018 at 5:31 pm

        I think it should be taught in schools ..

      • August 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

        I couldn’t agree more. Schools are getting better at teaching kids about kindness, and also some curriculum about emotion. But we can certainly do far better. Thanks for your comment.

  • August 12, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for your work! I so wish I had known about CEN when I was a young mother. I loved my daughter, but was entirely unequipped to parent emotionally and that lack has been the root of the emotional distance between us.

    • August 12, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      Dear Rebecca, do not despair! It’s never too late to start enriching and repairing your emotional connection with her. See my new book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children for clear guidance on exactly how to do it. All my best wishes to you.

  • August 13, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Dr. Webb, your work and insight on CEN really speak to me. I know that as an adult I feel the pain and long-term consequences of CEN. I struggle with emotional regulation, as well as other things. I try hard to parent my children with more emotional intelligence than I was parented with. Do you recommend any kind of 12-step or recovery groups for adults who relate to and identify with this issue?

    • August 14, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Hi Mark, I’m glad you’re finding my work helpful in your life. And good for you for trying to be emotionally intelligent with your children! 12-step programs are typically substance-abuse related. A few people have told me that Al-Anon spoke to them and helped them learn more about boundaries and relationships. Keep up the good work you’re doing.

  • August 14, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    A very interesting article, and I agree with the message wholeheartedly. However, I disagree with aspects of your example. Telling a child they are required to do what an adult at school asks immediately and without question sets a dangerous precedent, not only does it leave them open to abuse, but also teaches them that they have no autonomy to use their own common sense. I believe it is much more important to teach children that adults CAN be wrong, and how to deal with that appropriately in the situation.
    I take particular issue with “If you do what Mrs. Simpson asks, you’ll never get in trouble”. Firstly, getting in trouble with a teacher should not be seen as something scary, but as an opportunity to learn. The child should always feel that they can stand up for what is right, with the full support of their parents. “Respect means cooperating with your teacher’s requests” is also problematic. Respect is always a two way street, regardless of age. If a teacher is asking for something that the child feels is wrong, there should be no rule of ‘respect’ forcing them to comply.
    Still, this article was an interesting and enjoyable read.

    • August 14, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Louise, in this example the parent is talking about what happened at school which involved her child being disrespectful to the teacher. All children should be educated about physical violation of boundaries or inappropriate requests from adults. But that would be a very separate conversation. The point I was making is that children need very clear directions about what to do differently. Complicating it with too many ifs would be confusing to the child. Thanks for your comment.

      • August 14, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        Hi Dr Webb,
        I agree that children need clear direction, which is why telling them immediate compliance without question is required of them is a bad idea. THAT would confuse the issue when talking about body safety. In your example it’s the teacher who requires more guidance (how would you feel in the child’s situation – would you take the ridiculous comment on the chin without feeling the least bit peeved?).
        I also find this whole concept you have of ‘disrespect’ to be odd. It was no less disrespectful of the teacher to snap at the child, and all he did was reply in the same tone. Children learn by example, and I would argue that in this situation the blame falls squarely on the teacher.

        Had I been the parent in this situation, I would have taken the opportunity to teach a lesson on empathy, and explained that just as he was feeling stressed about things happening around him, so was the teacher. After all, that’s the logical explanation for her lashing out like that. I’d teach understanding, so he could be calm in future situations without being told his feelings don’t matter. I would also be having a word with the teacher, as her response was inappropriate.
        Again, respect is not to be demanded from the adults in a child’s life, it’s to be modeled.

        Thanks for your reply, I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

      • August 15, 2018 at 9:16 am

        Dear Louise, you and I have a fundamental disagreement about the role of authority figures for children. In my opinion, it is easy for parents to go too far into allowing their children to be on the power level of adults, and this is not what children need. The power level is inherent in all relationships between adults and children and must be honored but respected, or the child will be afforded too much control over others and this sets him or her up for problems in adulthood. Thank you for raising these important questions.

      • August 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm

        Dear Jonice, could u explain please, what sort of problems children may face when they grow up if we give them too much control over others now?

  • August 19, 2018 at 1:26 am

    It’s so important to realize that the absence of a need being met can be such an elusive problem, because we’ve never had any contrast of actually having that need met. So, that trauma is often un-detected because we’ve never experienced anything else.

    I recall my first major relationship as a teenager, and how doting he was toward me. I had never had anyone prioritize my feelings like that before. So, I found myself unconsciously feigning sadness and anger just to get that need met that I never had met in childhood. It just felt so good to finally have it, that I became quite manipulative without realizing it. Luckily, I cycled through that phase after I realized what I was doing.

    But I never knew that I was lacking in that way, until I had the contrast of experiencing the fulfillment of that need.

    Currently, with my own children, I hope that I am being attuned enough with them to be sure that their needs are met. I often wonder if I’m leaving something out that I’m not even aware of.

  • August 19, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Louise, our concerns fall along the same lines in the suggestions made by the mother regarding the child’s need for immediate compliance to the teacher’s direction. I don’t believe that the child is capable of figuring out (quickly enough) in which instances he is to comply and in which he should stand his ground. Additionally, with the ability of abusers to manipulate the child (and even adults), it becomes even more difficult for the child or adult to decide whether the request is appropriate.
    I do agree, Dr. Webb, that the child needs to be taught respect for the teacher’s authority and could perhaps be taught to respond to the teacher’s instruction with appropriate recognition (tone of voice, time and place, specific request, etc) of the teacher/student positions.
    I am quite concerned that children are not being taught how to decline an authority figure’s demands or requests with skill and the ability to maintain one’s own self-integrity while also recognizing legitimate authority.

  • August 26, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Elementary school teachers can have as many 30 students in their class. I’m certain this teacher was doing everything possible to identify the issue of safety with the child’s pencil use, within a brief amount of time, before another students issue occured. Teachers do not have the ability to one on one counsel a student, while students are lining up to leave the classroom. I know, because I used to work in an inner city school in fourth grade.

    Children do need direct, explicit instruction when being taught about personal safety, in regards to why not to play with a pencil, or other academic instruction. Children need to follow brief instructions at that moment, otherwise how is she to maintain classroom management of 29 other students. The issue could be discussed further at another time to explain the emotional component more in depth.

    Most teachers have the best interests of their students, otherwise they would not be in this field.

    Thank you, Dr. Webb, for shining a bright light on the long term consequences of childhood emotional neglect. As a parent myself, who raised two children as a single mom, I did my best to make my children’s emotional health a priority, even though I had not received enough emotional support myself. It’s very difficult to provide emotional support when you never had received it yourself. But years of counseling as an adult have made a distinct difference in the adult lives of my own children.

    Thank you for solidifying the adult outcome to what we were lacking in our childhood.

  • September 26, 2018 at 11:41 am

    As a parent, i would have said they they could have been hurt and the teacher was in fact trying to protect max. And I would have told “max” that if his actions could hurt himself or others, he should have stopped. AND by demonstrating how he wasnt stupid, it backfired….


Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *