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Updated on November 27, 2012


This is the second in a series of blogs addressing the topic, What Happened to Respect and Appreciation. These blogs correspond to six foster parent training classes that I am facilitating at San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9 a. m. to Noon, starting January 11 and ending January 28, 2011. If you live nearby and want to attend the classes, email me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 What happened to Good Ol’ Authority?
Friday, January 14, 2011 What Are Our Needs For Respect and Appreciation About?
Tuesday, January 18 The Relationship Between Foster Parent and Foster Child.
Friday, January 21 Firmly Holding The Child Responsible and Accountable
Tuesday, January 25 So what About Discipline?
Friday, January 28 What Do I Want For Their Children?

PLEASE NOTE. Although the target population, so to speak, are foster parents, the wisdom here is for all of us who are parents and or caregivers of any kind.

BIG FOLKS GIVE to the little people BIG FOLKS GET from each other.


Check out the following blogs

A little review from Part One.

There is no question. We, as adults, have needs for respect and appreciation that seem to be deeply-rooted in our souls. Where did these needs come from? Why do we have such a difficult time getting these needs met in adult relationships, and why in the world do we even attempt to get them met in our relationships with children?

As a start, from the very, very beginning, our brain is designed to initiate contact with those big heads that pop over the side of the crib or basinet. When we initiate contact with them, and the big head responds in kind, ten thousand neurons fire simultaneously and begin to set up patterns of attachment.

So the big head looks over the crib and intelligently, knowingly waits. We look at the big head and smile and utter, “goo goo goo.” When the big head responds in kind, so the big head smiles back and says, “goo goo goo,” we, as a little person, begin to feel emotions associated with being understood and being felt (perhaps, even respected, revered, and appreciated! Wow, wouldn’t that be something?). This interaction between infant and parents or caregivers carries the infant to the experiences of both loving and being loved by the time the infant is nine months old. Yes, by nine months old. Pretty frightening, and yes, it doesn’t always happen, probably doesn’t happen most of the time, and so we begin our life, from early on, with significant wounds that shape the rest of our lives. Doesn’t mean we are helpless victims, nor does it mean we have to blame anyone or parent bash, it simply means we need to be aware of where, in our lives, we deserve healing, and why most of our relationships are screwed up in some way or another! Either we are codependent to a fault or cold and distant or cut off and controlling! Or maybe you are all of those!

It has only been recently that we have actually understood the neurobiology of attachment. Prior to our understanding of attachment, infants were considered blank slates with little or nothing to offer let alone initiate. They were there only to receive. So, as a receiver, at some point, you were expected to appreciate and respect the folks who are giving you everything as well as what it was they gave you, for better or worse. Honor your father and mother, no matter what!

M-m-m. So here we go, the beginnings of this respect and appreciation “thing.” In fact, most of us probably picked up intuitively, on an emotional level, very early on, that we might not be loved (not much positive energy or attention) if we didn’t show mommy and daddy respect and appreciation. They were always asking us, “So, what do you say....What is the magic word?” Do you remember that?

Now if these questions weren’t bad enough, there were other things said to us that perhaps we did not comprehend verbally, but our bodies understood and FELT the message. And our bodies responded to these messages with FEAR. And note this. Perhaps those messages were symptoms of the big person’s need for respect and appreciation.

“What is wrong with you? Why are you crying, I just fed you.....changed you....spent an hour reading you a’re not spoiled are you?....I am going to paddle your bottom if you do not stop are too God, you’re just a baby and look at you, you want every second of my time.....what’s it going to be like when you are two years....three years....grown up?”

The attachment issues become even more complex, when, for whatever reason, the parents’ or caregivers’ need for love outweigh the infant’s. You can recognize this happening when there are subtle and not so subtle messages to the child that they will receive love only as long as they respect and appreciate the wishes of the big people. Parents continue to give such outlandish messages even to teenagers, perhaps especially to teenagers.

It is so traumatizing to me as a therapist, when it all enfolds in front of me. A teenager, not only devastated by life, (you know how it happens, I get into drugs, I get pregnant or get someone else pregnant, I fail school, or I succeed in school and don’t do drugs, but I make one big mistake, like getting pregnant), and now floundering, sitting here on the therapist couch like I am on trial, and the only support from the two most important adults in my life is, “How could you do this to us after all we have done for you? You certainly can’t expect us to support you now.”

Perhaps you have said this yourself to your teenagers and still don’t get it, how bassackwards the statement is. Read the poem FOOTPRINTS if you don’t get it. Don’t argue with the poem. Read it, and ask yourself: Am I willing to walk alongside my child and carry my child when needed? I am not talking adult children here. I am not suggesting enabling. I am suggesting being parents and caregivers up to that moment it is obvious that your “job” is complete.

Unfortunately, when our early experiences, as an infant and a toddler revolve around our parents’ needs for love and respect and appreciation, our soul’s innate movement toward self love, self respect and self appreciation get sidetracked or neurologically short circuited. In the matrix of respect and appreciation in the traditio
nal sense, there is no room to learn anything about self love or spirituality. We learn that so-called love ONLY comes from the outside, particularly from the big people, those who are above us. We also learn that those above us will not love, respect or appreciate us. We exist only to make them feel loved, respected and appreciated--powerful. So then as we get older and physically stronger, we become desperate for love, respect and appreciation and learn, in turn, to subjugate as many people as possible. We become closet bullies or just plain bullies. The resultant spiritual bankruptcy leaves us with either no experience of God’s love or God’s love looks like the love the big people give us–scary, fearful, and totally conditional. .

So stop and think about this stuff. Why is it that we need other people to respect and appreciate us? Why isn’t it enough that we give that to ourselves? The problem is we don’t give it to ourselves. The commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself” is a frightening commandment for our neighbors. Yes, it is frightening for our neighbors because they see how we love ourselves (well, the way we do NOT love ourselves) and they don’t want to be loved that way. I know because they’ve sent me emails about both you and myself!!

As adults, we can NOW begin to love, respect, and appreciate ourselves. It may seem like a tall order, but it really isn’t. It is a choice we make, a choice to live our day-to-day life in a manner that will make it very clear to others that we do respect, appreciate, and love ourselves.

Yes, we can choose to stop yelling at everyone. We can choose to stop biting our fingernails. We can choose to stop drinking, overeating, sexing, gambling, avoiding going to the doctor or dentist. We can choose to begin looking at the absence of adult relationships in our lives, or why we are afraid of intimacy and or sexuality in relationships. We can choose to look at all those adult relationships where there is hurt and decide how we might go about getting healing for ourselves. We can choose to begin holding ourselves accountable for our finances, for our cluttered house or office, our lack of exercise, our lack of desire to really live.

Yes, there are a lot of choices we can make to fill our need for respect and appreciation and love. None of these choices include getting children to respect and appreciate us.

So, the big question. Where in your adult life do you experience love? Are there friends or family into whose faces you can literally gaze and see that those folks really really love you? If not, would you like that to change? And if not. Why not? You obviously have been really hurt.

Why is any of this important? What does it have to do with respect and appreciation?

Well, the more you not only intellectually know you are loved, but actually experience being loved on a very visceral (gut) level, the less vulnerable you will be to so-called disrespect and a lack of appreciation. In fact, you will stop interpreting other people’s behavior, especially children’s, as disrespectful or as showing a lack of appreciation.

You will see other people’s disconcerting behavior as about them and not about you. You will see the behavior as a peek into what is hurting in their life. You will gradually no longer have a respect and appreciation button and consequently adults and children will stop trying to push it! Not because they are changing, but because you don’t have the button any longer! Wow! What a concept!

So here is the really cool outcome of this journey. From now on, when you feel disrespected or unappreciated by a child, know that there is something going on in your adult relationships. And whatever that is, it is leaving you feeling powerless, out of control, and unloved. For whatever reason, you think there is nothing you can do about this predicament in your adult relationships, so then you desperately turn to your relationships with children. Children become our last chance, our last outpost, so to speak, to experience respect and appreciation. And it doesn’t take rocket science to know that children are so screwed up just trying to grow up and make it, that they are the last place, the least reliable place on the planet to get any of our needs met. Right?

I mean, come on, think about it. When you’re out of money, are you going to turn to your minor kids? When you are lost and not sure how to find your way back home, whether we are talking actually being lost or even metaphorically, (So I am lost spiritually or emotionally or psychologically) are we going to turn to children? I hope not! At these moments, we want to turn to someone wiser, more mature, more reliable than a child.

So let’s have some fun here. Let’s identify situations in the last week, the last month, the last year, where you experienced disrespect and a lack of appreciation from kids. List them all.
Now make a list of the adult relationships in your life where you feel out of control, empty, unloved, disrespected, and unappreciated. OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!

Can you see how this works? I hope so. So now, the only challenge left is to make amends if we need to and to stop trying to get kids to respect and appreciate us. They don’t even have it to give to us most of the time. And then we need to begin working on those adult relationships so that you can experience love, respect and appreciation in your adult relationships.

Instead of demanding that children respect and appreciate you, demand that adults respect and appreciate you. Or live your life in such a way that others will almost automatically love, respect, and appreciate you.


If you are attending class in person, we will spend the rest of class looking at your real life scenarios for brain storming and problem solving.




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    • vrbmft profile imageAUTHOR

      Vernon Bradley 

      7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Hi, Sandiesue. Yeah! There they are. Sort of amazing that you can see them, given that they are comaflouge!! Thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting. Glad you are home again.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Did I see those pants in that picture, or did I just imagine it.


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