Ep. 56 – Rachel Cram – Social Development: Perils Of Parenting On Pride Rock
- The 5 components of Whole Child Development.
- Social development is how our relational ability grows and changes across our lifetime.
- How to consider our response when our child is hit, hurt or maligned.
Social development starts at home and continues when our kids start school.
Do you remember the scene from Lion King where Rafiki stands on Pride Rock, holding Simba for all to see? As parents, we can relate! We want to hold our children up for all to adore and admire.
However, when we all arrive at schools with our little Simbas in tow, socialization becomes complicated with all our kids who ‘Just can’t wait to be King!’
The parental plan when our child is hit, hurt or not invited to a birthday party, sets the stage for their social development; their perceptions of who they are and how they relate to others.
We’re talking about all this, this week on family360!
Join us now, for our first episode of Season Three!
Rachel CramRachel Cram is the founding director of Wind & Tide, an Education Community with over 40 campus locations across the Greater Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada.
Rachel started her educational journey as an elementary school teacher working with children with disabilities, and she moved into early childhood education, realizing the importance of the earliest years of life for child growth and development.
Now in their 35th year, Wind & Tide serves over 3000 children annually with a mission to help communities provide optimal family support and care.
Rachel continues to guide Wind and Tide as well as lending her voice as host of family360 podcast.
Ep. 56 – Social Development: Perils Of Parenting On Pride Rock
Rachel Cram – Are you nervous?
Roy Salmond – Not really, because I love to ask questions and you know that, but the only nervousness I would have is trying to hit the bar that you always hit in terms of interviewing. You’re so wonderful at that. So I just hope I can live up to that expectation.
Rachel Cram – You will. Ok.
Roy Salmond – So one of the things I think would be great to start with is that you ask every guest in every interview a certain question, and it’s from Aristotle where Aristotle says, “Show me a child at seven and I will show you the adult.” And I’m going to ask you, is there an event or a memory in your life when you were a child that you can point to as having formed and shaped the person that you are today?
Rachel Cram – Yeah. You know, it’s kind of fun because I got to think
Roy Salmond – I’m quite sure this is not a surprise to you.
Rachel Cram – No, it’s not a surprise. And there’s so many stories I could tell. As often our guests say that.
The one I’m going to choose is that I am the oldest of four girls. There’s a lot of studies on birth order and how that affects people. And I think because we were all girls and we were all close in age, we kind of fall into our birth order identities, at least certainly myself as the oldest, I kind of fall into that typical oldest child role.
Roy Salmond – What was the age difference there?
Rachel Cram – So when I was six, my younger sister was born. So I was six, the next one was four, the next one was two, the next one was a baby. That’s kind of how it lined up. And of course, when you’re little, that’s a big difference from baby to six. But now when we’re adults…
Roy Salmond – You’re probably all good friends.
Rachel Cram – Oh, absolutely. We don’t really think of who’s the oldest and who’s the youngest. Although interestingly, I still think we do sometimes tend to fall into those birth orders, too, which can be a little complicated.
There are so many things I remember about being the oldest, but certainly when I was six and there was a baby born, my mom and dad did often rely on me to be a helper, to tie up shoes, to help get coats on as we went out the door. As I got a bit older, I remember I used to wash my younger sister’s hair in the tub, change diapers. And that so worked for me because I loved being nurturant.
And I remember every night after dinner, my parents would like to sit and chat for a bit, and I kind of felt the expectation on me was to entertain my sisters until they were done chatting. And so we had all these fun games that we played, I remember playing them for hours. We had one called ‘dogs,’ where I was the dog owner and they were all dogs.
Rachel Cram – Oh, that would keep them going for a while.
Rachel Cram – It did. We had another one called ‘Dying Witches,’ where I was the witch who was taking care of the dying witches. And two of my sisters were the witches who were dying, and the other one was the one that would go and find medicine. Things like Shreddies and Cheerios.
Roy Salmond – Smarties and things like that?
Rachel Cram – Never smarties. I never had that good of a medicine. But, we would have all these games. So I definitely look back at that time of my life and feel that was very formative, of course, in my nurturing skills and my care. But I also remember there were many times where my sisters would turn to me and say to me, “You’re not the boss of the world you know.”
Roy Salmond – Because you were probably used to organizing everything.
Rachel Cram – I was.
Roy Salmond – And they started to resent it maybe a little?
Rachel Cram – Definitely at times, I think. And that phrase still sticks with me now. There are some times where that phrase is a reminder and a call to monitor myself. But there’s also times when that phrase is a real gift, to go, “Yeah, I’m not the boss of the world. I don’t have to be in charge of everything.”
Roy Salmond – Well, you’re talking about how this formed you in terms of your nurturing capabilities, but this probably also formed you in being the leader that you have become in your company. When you lead all your employees, there is what about one hundred and sixty head or seventy of them? You have to be nurturing and caring, but you have to also spearhead the drive and the vision.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. And I do look back on those early years and think, my whole life really, I have played a role like that. So it is amazing. I think Aristotle’s quote in many ways is very profound and accurate because those early years do really set up the trajectory for who we become because of what we practice and experience.
Roy Salmond – Who we grow into.
Rachel Cram – Mm hmm.
Roy Salmond – Now we started this podcast on the topic that you’re actually going to talk about today.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, social development.
Roy Salmond – That’s right. And it’s because you were doing some writing for your company on this subject.
Rachel Cram – And I was hating it
Roy Salmond – And you were hating it. We met for lunch and what were you complaining about?
Rachel Cram – Well, I wanted to put together something for our archives at Wind and Tide, of what we have built our community of care upon, and it just was not flowing.
Roy Salmond – And that surprised me because every time I ask you a question, out comes all this information that is fascinating and well thought out. So I said to you, “Maybe you should do a podcast.”
Rachel Cram – And I said, “What’s a podcast?”
Roy Salmond – And I explained it to you and we started. The whole idea was just to have like three or four episodes.
Rachel Cram – For our staff and families on social development. But then what I quickly realized was that I knew all these fantastic speakers, specialists in the field, that I could interview to hear what they had to say.
Roy Salmond – Well, how did you know all these specialists and speakers?
Rachel Cram – Because for 25 years, we ran a program through Wind and Tide and we would bring in speakers and our families would come and listen. And we had stopped doing that because the size of our company grew to a point where it was just too difficult to…
Roy Salmond – maintain.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, and we knew that eventually maybe we would do something online, but I really didn’t know what that was. So when you explained what a podcast was, that’s when the penny dropped and I thought, “This is where we could bring in our connection to all these specialists.”
Roy Salmond – And also the light bulb went on that this could benefit people far beyond Wind and Tide staff and families; that everybody needed to hear this information. And that’s what we ran with.
Rachel Cram – And here we are now. Season three.
Roy Salmond – Yes. Season three
Rachel Cram – And finally, now talking about social development in children, which I was trying to write on, right at that time.
Roy Salmond – So, here we go. Let’s start at the beginning. Why is this so important for educators and parents to ponder and explore?
Rachel Cram – Well, social development is actually a part of a larger construct called whole child development. And we used the hand as a representation for whole child development, with five different components.
So your thumb we look at as spiritual development, your pointer finger as cognitive development, your middle finger as physical development, your ring finger as emotional development and your baby finger as social development.
And all of those fingers work together to create the ‘whole child.’ It’s like when you use your hand to open a doorknob or to play an instrument, you need all of those fingers to make it work. And so whole child development is saying that we need all those components: the spiritual, the cognitive, the physical, the emotional and the social to help us flourish in life.
Roy Salmond – And you’ve created ‘working definitions’ for each of these components to inform and guide how your staff nurtures child growth and development in each of those 5 areas.
Rachel Cram – That’s right.
Roy Salmond – So you have a definition for social development. Let’s hear it.
Rachel Cram – OK. Social development, the way our relational ability grows and changes across our lifetime. We facilitate social development through the emerging, wondrous understanding that,
a) everyone belongs.
b) we treat others as we would wish to be treated.
c) joy comes through giving to others.
Roy Salmond – Well, that’s quite a comprehensive definition. I like that at the beginning, you talked about social development taking place over the arc of our lifetime.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. Never stops.
Roy Salmond – It never stops. We never stop learning.
Rachel Cram – We are never socially developed. Always emerging. Yeah. And I wrote this definition for us as a staff so that we would know what’s the backdrop behind our relational responses and care with children. And this is equally helpful for parents as well. If we have a backdrop behind what we want for our children socially, it really helps us make decisions in those simple, spontaneous, but also significant moments that will shape our child’s social understanding and capacity.
Roy Salmond – Now you had a lot of rich ideas in that definition. Let’s break that down and extrapolate a little bit more out of them.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, I’ll break that down for you. So I use the phrase “we facilitate social development through the emerging wondrous understanding,” and then I have my three points. Those three words were important because emerging is what you just said; that this is never something that is done. It evolves over our lifetime. That’s what development is about. And so as teachers and as parents as well, we want to know that we’re not looking at the finished product at any one point in time.
So when we’re looking at our child, when they’re five, when they’re fifteen, when they’re 20, they’re social development, as with all those other areas of development, the spiritual, the cognitive, it’s always emerging. You’re never looking at a finished product.
Roy Salmond – It makes me think of an old Bob Dylan line. “He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” This ‘emerging’ is always about learning and growing as a human being.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s about. Go Bob. That’s a very fitting quote actually because we’re always “being born” into new social capacities, and it does keep us “busy” because there’s so much social sorting out to do.
Roy Salmond – It’s really quite hard to figure it all out.
Rachel Cram – It is. Even as adults, every new stage of life requires the adaptation of new social learning.
Roy Salmond – And some stages are inevitably trickier than others. We’ve had several guests speak on the social implications of being a preschooler for example, and being a parent of a preschooler also has its unique social challenges and implications as well.
Rachel Cram -Yeah, as does being a parent of teenagers, and adult children. We can feel very disoriented at times.
Roy Salmond – We can. We’re always busy being born.
Ok, what’s the next word in you definition for social development?
Rachel Cram – Ok. The next word is wondrous. It’s not about putting something into a box. It’s not about having
Roy Salmond – It’s not a schematic.
Rachel Cram – Exactly. Social development is wondrous. It is always open for curiosity, for exploration,
Roy Salmond – For surprise,
Rachel Cram – For surprise. And that’s the backdrop we want as we are nurturing social development with children, as parents or as teachers. We want it to be wondrous. We’re not looking to inject a formula. We are looking for the social and relational uniqueness of each child and where their exploration is going to take them. And it really is wondrous. Watching this emerge is one of the amazing joys of being a parent, and amazing joys of being a teacher.
Roy Salmond – Okay, so we’ve got emerging, wondrous. What was the third? The third word that you wanted to say?
Rachel Cram – The third word is understanding. And I’ll tell you how I visualize this word. I picture a person standing on their own life stage. And under their stand are all the beliefs and systems they’ve accumulated so far. And so as they speak and live from that particular stage, we can see what is underneath their stand, what’s under their stand.
Roy Salmond – What is their foundation.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, what’s their foundation. So social development wondrously emerges from what’s under our stand as we go forward in life. And that’s what led to the next three points. As a community of care, we nurture our students to stand on three key social beliefs, and the first one is a) everyone belongs.
Roy Salmond – Tell me more about that.
Rachel Cram – Well, we know that 90 percent of our values and our attitudes and our beliefs are shaped before we’re six years old. And so during those early years.
Roy Salmond – Which is a scary thought.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, well, it’s interesting you say that. Why is that “scary”?
Roy Salmond – Well, maybe scary is a little overdoing it. That’s not what I want to sound like. But a sobering thought is maybe more what I’m wanting to say?
Rachel Cram – Why is it sobering then?
Roy Salmond – Well, are you starting to interview me now, Rachel?
Rachel Cram – Oh, I’ll watch myself. Just give me the answer to this one question.
Roy Salmond – Yeah. Just remember your place here.
Rachel Cram – I will.
Roy Salmond – Well, when my kids were in that formative stage, you know, under 6 years old, and I was a new Dad and I had no idea what I was doing; we both didn’t you know. It’s all new to us. It’s a big task with limited prep time.
Rachel Cram – It is. And this is why there is advocation for ‘parenting’ to become a course offered in high school.
Roy Salmond – And that makes so much sense.
Rachel Cram – Because ready or not, when we have our first child, we jump directly into their most formative years.
Roy Salmond – And that’s a big responsibility. So, you were talking about belonging. That everyone belongs.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. Thanks for getting us back on track. And so we want children at that early age, to know that they can be friends with everybody. Children have an incredible capacity for acceptance. And if we can really nurture that during those years and celebrate that kind of belonging, it’s significant.
Roy Salmond – What inhibits acceptance and belonging in children?
Rachel Cram – That is an excellent question. Do you mind if we?
Roy Salmond – Save it for later?
Rachel Cram – I know I’m maybe starting to control the interview.
Roy Salmond – What a surprise.
Rachel Cram – Can we do that a little bit later into the interview?
Roy Salmond – Sure.
Rachel Cram – Can we go through the three points right now that “Everyone belongs,” and the next one is, “That we treat others as we would wish to be treated.”
Am I treating you as you’d wish to be treated right now? As I take over your interviewing role?
Roy Salmond – We’re a team. We’re a team. So, no worries. So let’s dig into that point.
Rachel Cram – OK, so, I’m just going to back up a bit so you can hear the whole flow. So we facilitate social development through the emerging, wondrous understanding that: a) everyone belongs. b) we treat others as we wish to be treated. And that’s called the golden rule. And it’s a principle that’s in every world religion. All cultures have that understanding that we are stronger together when we treat other people as we wish to be treated. And children can absolutely grasp that even when they’re three and four years old.
Roy Salmond – You find young children already have a sense of how they wish to be treated?
Rachel Cram – Not in a way they can necessarily verbalize, but instinctually, for sure. From birth, children literally cry out for what they need; to be seen, heard, known and to matter. That’s what we all want. And there’s more I can say on that, but let’s leave that for a few moments as well.
Roy Salmond – OK.
Rachel Cram – And then the last one?
Roy Salmond – Yep, that joy. You had that everyone belongs and that we treat others as we would wish to be treated. What’s the third?
Rachel Cram – c) joy comes through giving to others. And children know that, whether it’s spontaneous overflows of affection, encouragement, pictures that they draw you, beautiful flowers and rocks that they find, children love to give and they love to give out of their hearts, and they do it because it makes them happy. And that’s amazing.
Roy Salmond – I think everybody knows that innately. It even helps us forget our own troubles when we give. Emptying yourself in a sense.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. Well, said.
Roy Salmond – Thank you.
Musical Interlude #1
Roy Salmond – Listen, I want to go back to your point about wonder; that social development is not a schematic. It’s not a plan. If it is not that, why do you have a definition?
Rachel Cram – I’m really glad you asked that because the definition that we use at Wind and Tide, we use it because we want a unified backdrop for how we move forward and respond in the daily drama of nurturing children.
Roy Salmond – Is it more like a guide?
Rachel Cram – Yeah, it is a guide for what we use, and it’s certainly not what everybody needs to use. But it’s an example, I wanted to hold that up as an example, not a schematic. Because in a classroom situation, there are days for a child when your block tower gets knocked over. Or when your Play-Doh creation gets squished, or
Roy Salmond – You get painted on.
Rachel Cram – You get painted on. Yeah. Or when your friend gets invited home for a playdate after school and you’re not invited on that playdate. And as staff, if we have a constant backdrop, which is what that definition serves as, to what we hold as socially important for the kids in our care, then it gives us an orientation towards response.
Roy Salmond – So, it’s directions and parameters. Is that correct?
Rachel Cram – Yeah, well, I often think of it actually, even as a marinade. It’s not a it’s not a measuring stick, it’s a marinade because a child’s voyage into social development is going to start somewhere and it’s going to start in a marinade of the parents or the caregivers, whether they know they’ve got one or not. And of course, a child can wash off that marinade later on in their life, but there will be parts of it that will have seeped into their skin in those early years, and that will influence how they go on to relate to others.
Roy Salmond – When does this marinade start? When do children start soaking in it?
Rachel Cram – It could start way back with our parents, and it can start when you’re in utero, but let’s start with the birth process. Everything about the birth process wires us for social connection.
Were you at the birth of your kids?
Roy Salmond – I was. And it was a wonderful, intense and exhilarating experience, but I wasn’t the one giving birth.
Rachel Cram – Well, that whole moment for both parents, actually, sets us up for social development right there. Human babies are born helpless, needing to be entirely cared for and protected and without relational ability in parents or caregivers, babies would not survive. When you think of the animal kingdom, there are animals that can survive without a social connection with parents.
Roy Salmond – But we’re not wired that way.
Rachel Cram – We’re not wired that way. But I’m just thinking like tadpoles or spiders. There are babies that can do it on their own. Humans, we need social connection in order to survive. We need that for years, not just a few months like with puppies or kittens for example. We need someone to feed us, someone to keep us warm, someone to keep us clean. And most parents will naturally follow the advice of their neurons and their hormones, nurturing their babies and maintaining close contact with them in order for that survival to happen.
Roy Salmond – What do you mean by following the advice of their hormones?
Rachel Cram – Well, oxytocin is one of nature’s chief tools for creating a mother. And it’s roused by high levels of estrogen, which is a female hormone, during pregnancy and the number of oxytocin receptors in the expectant mothers brain multiplies dramatically near the end of her pregnancy and promotes maternal behaviors. So
Roy Salmond – How does a hormone promote behaviors? What does that look like?
Rachel Cram – Maternal behaviors?
Roy Salmond – Yeah.
Rachel Cram – Well, let me tell you a little story Roy. I remember when my first child was born, one of the things that oxytocin does is it causes the mother to become familiar with the unique odor of her newborn infant and actually to prefer her baby’s odor above all others. And that is why, and you see many women doing this, I just could not stop smelling him. I just wanted him up by my nose. I was just overwhelmed by the attachment I felt for him. It was a love that I’d never experienced before. My kids like to ask me, “Do you love us more than you love dad?” It’s a different love and it was so intense. I remember when the doctor pulled him out of me and held him up, and he was still attached with his umbilical cord and he was all covered in goo and blood, and I could have licked that off of him. Everything about him just was so intensely delicious to me.
Roy Salmond – So that’s what you mean by behaviors, is the hormones affecting how you engage and bond with your child. Is that what you mean?
Rachel Cram – Yeah, and it’s evolutionary. It is at the hormonal level and is where social development begins. That social instinct comes with a flood, for most parents during that birth process, not always right there at that moment but in the ensuing weeks or months, because sometimes a parent’s capacity for social connection does take a bit of time to kick in, and they need some support, and that’s what keeps our kids alive. We are social by design.
Roy Salmond – Now you’ve talked about the mother’s behaviors, maternal behaviors from her hormones. Is there any such thing happening with the father’s?
Rachel Cram – There is. There is a chemical that’s released in men, and I am just trying to remember the name of it right now. I want to say it’s called vasectomy, but it’s not. I know that’s not what it’s called. It starts with a V. Let’s just see what it is. Can you just google it for me for a moment?
No, I will look it up. You chat among yourselves. Tell me, how was the birth process for you? While I quickly look this up.
Roy Salmond – The birth process? Well, it’s twofold? One, you have the mother and the pain and the protectiveness for the mother and the other is a child, a soul, a person coming into the world that is a part of you. And you asked me, you know, “Do I know my children’s smell?” Not any more, but I distinctly remember holding them and taking them on my backpack for walks when they were crying and putting them to ease or to sleep and just loving that smell. I absolutely know what you’re talking about there.
Rachel Cram – Thank you for covering for me while I looked it up. I was listening to you at the same time. And that leads right into where I wanted…
Roy Salmond – Sure you we’re.
Rachel Cram – I was. There is a hormone that’s released in men and it’s called vasopressin, and it plays a much bigger role in the father, because I think there’s some of it in the mother as well, but “This hormone promotes brain reorganization towards parental behaviors when the male is cohabiting with the pregnant mother.” I’m just reading that off the article here. “The father becomes more dedicated to his mate and expresses behaviors of protection, and it’s gained a reputation as the monogamy hormone.”
So, yeah, isn’t that fascinating?
Roy Salmond – Now here’s something that is possibly a little more personal with you. You have six children. Three of them are adopted. Did you, as a mother, experience the same hormone activation with an adopted child?
Rachel Cram – I want to start by saying absolutely. Yes, I did. And I’m also really careful about how I talk about this because it is sensitive. And all of my children, oh, I just love them equally. And adoption is a complicated process.
Roy Salmond – It’s a long process. So it’s not a nine month gestation. It’s like a couple years.
Rachel Cram – Well, it also can be a long process to get to that nine months gestation as well for a lot of parents. So.
Roy Salmond – Yeah. That’s true.
Rachel Cram – But to answer your question, I actually don’t know if oxytocin and vasopressin is released in parents through the adoption process, but it felt like it was. It was equally intense and joyful and life-changing, receiving each one of our kids and the three youngest that are all adopted, it was no different. The bonding from our end as parents was equally intense; like, I will die for you, I will give anything for you. My life now orbits around you kind of feeling and that social connection. Yeah, to do everything that they needed for care.
Roy Salmond – And I’ve told you this story before that you sent us a picture of the two boys. And I remember looking at them and going, “I don’t know who you are, but I will love you because you are part of a couple that I love.”
I just felt that immediate bond looking at these photos. It’s about association. We tend to love what and who those we love, love. Which is an interesting idea. Anyway, for me, it was.
Rachel Cram – And that is the hope. As a species of people, we are still very young in our social capabilities. We have a long ways to go. But there’s that phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” And what you’re just explaining of your attachment to other people’s children, our ability to do that, that is what is required to become a village where we can help raise one another’s children, and different cultures do that better than others. I would say North American culture is very weak in that aspect.
Roy Salmond – Well, I actually listened to a podcast a little while ago where a mother was talking about, with during COVID, being in the house alone with her child for hours on end and how unnatural that felt. It wasn’t good for the child and wasn’t good for her as the Mother. Covid has required us to silo off, but social isolation was a problem even prior to COVID. So, finding a village or a community to help us raise our children is a challenge.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. And of course, social connection is going to look different for everybody, but we all absolutely need it as part of our wholeness, part of our well-being.
Roy Salmond – Humm. Now, you mentioned North American culture as weak in the “village raising scenario” for children. What did you mean by that?
Rachel Cram – Yeah, well there are some problematic tendencies in the way we currently operate as parents, and I’ll mention a few but will start by suggesting we tend to practice parenting as more of a ‘competitive sport’ than as a collective investment into vibrant, healthy communities of care.
Roy Salmond – That ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ paradigm you’re talking about?
Rachel Cram – Yeah. There’s a lean towards wanting our own child to stand out above all the others. To be famous even, which might sound extreme to say, but fame is a predominant goal at the moment and it entices us to knock other parents and kids down on our way to the end zone.
Roy Salmond – And that kind of approach makes raising a child in a village difficult.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, it does, because ultimately, that competitive mindset, which I think social media promotes; looking at things like, the shade and pattern of our kids clothing, the colour scheme of their bedrooms, even the popularity of their child’s own social media platforms, that kind of focused attention on those kinds of concerns isn’t healthy for a child, or a family or a village.
Roy Salmond – Well, it’s all about comparison.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. Who was it that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy?” Was that Bob Dylan as well?
Roy Salmond – Ah, no. That was Elenor Roosevelt. And comparison is also the thief of community and of villages. And certainly from the tenure of your definition, social development requires concern for others as much as for ourselves.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, and as North American parents, of course we care about others. Even thinking this week, we heard of the terrible accident in Tasmania, Australia.
Roy Salmond – With the children falling from the bouncy castle. So sad.
Rachel Cram – So sad! And as parents around the world, and of course as North Americas, we groan and grieve for those families. Last night actually, when I was putting my youngest daughter to bed, she wanted to pray for those families. It was her way of extending care, and we all have our ways.
Roy Salmond – We care about the hurts of others, particularly when children are involved.
Rachel Cram – We do. But when we’re up close and personal, and it’s not across the world, do we groan and grieve for children and families we see on a daily basis in our schools and in our neighbourhoods.
Roy Salmond – Right.
Rachel Cram – What do our children watch us do in those moments? Because that’s what makes a village.
Roy Salmond – Agreed.
Musical Interlude #2
Roy Salmond – OK. So, there’s work to be done. Lead us on Rachel, from where you left off after the Oxytocin and vasopressin has kicked in. The baby is born. The family is gathered together and they’re bonding and smelling each other, and the hormones are going through everyone and it’s a good thing. So what happens next in the stage of social development?
Rachel Cram – OK, well there’s many ways this conversation can divide, but there is a branch of the conversation that I’m not going to cover right now, but I can refer to an episode we did with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, where he talks about the stages of attachment and how those determine how a child grows in their capacity for relationships.
Roy Salmond – The Six Stages Of Attachment.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, I don’t even know what episode? Do you want to look that up while I keep talking and you can shoot that in?
Roy Salmond – Ok, I will do that.
Rachel Cram – But I’m going to go in a slightly different direction. I’m going to head in the direction of how social development emerges as children prepare to go into the world of school, and peers, which is a different flavour of social learning than what we experience with our parents at home. But it all still comes back to home. Dr. Neufeld describes family as, “the central unit of society and where we set our capacity for social connection.”
Roy Salmond – Yes. Episode 45: True Play And The Six Stages Of Attachment.
Rachel Cram – OK, thank you.
So, there’s a movie that gives a wonderful analogy for the complex relationship between social learning at home and social learning at school. And I know you love this movie as well. It’s The Lion King. And there’s this scene
Roy Salmond – Oh, I thought it was The Godfather.
Rachel Cram – No. There’s a scene from The Lion King where Rafiki holds up Simba from Pride Rock to show the new prince to the rest of the pride and to the population. And as parents, that’s what we want to do. We are sure that everyone else wants to gaze upon our child as the hope of the future. We’re sure that they wish our child was their child because our child is so clearly the best child ever. And this is all really healthy and good on some fronts.
Roy Salmond – And normal
Rachel Cram – And normal. But when our little Simba or our little Nala starts school this is where social development starts to get complicated because to carry on with the analogy, we walk up to the school, with our precious prince or princess in hand, and we just can’t wait for them to be king and we don’t want them discouraged in finding their throne. When we parent from pride rock, problems happen. Do you know what I mean?
Roy Salmond – Oh, I can picture that. I think of when my children started, preschool or kindergarten.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, how did you feel, on the social level?
Roy Salmond – Well, excited for them, but also worried. I didn’t want them to be bullied. I didn’t want them to feel misunderstood. Be left out. All those things.
Rachel Cram – Hmm. OK, exactly. OK, so hold that thought. In the first five years that I started Wind and Tide, before I had children of my own, when I thought being a teacher equated with being a parent, and that I knew it all about being a parent, I noticed a disturbing trend. There would be gossip in the playground. As they waited for their kids to come out of school, parents would be talking about, you know, “We had Zane over to play the other day and you know what he did? He bit the cat.”
“What?! He bit the cat?”
And this information would trickle through, like everyone knew Zane bit the cat.
Or there would be attention to who was getting invited to which birthday party. Who was not. There was fear, like you said, of children being bullied, and it even went to the point of parents, this only happened once, but parents starting a petition to ask to have a child removed from the class that they saw this as a bully in the classroom. And I was aghast. I thought, “How can parents react like this? How can they think like this?”
And then I had my first child. And I remember at the playground one time when he was two, I was watching him bravely climb up the ladder on the slide, and I was so excited for him that he was venturing into this brave new experience, and these older children came rushing in.
Roy Salmond – Like six or seven year olds?
Rachel Cram – Yes, that’s exactly it. And they kind of pushed him out of the way. And they seemed huge to me compared to my two year old. And I thought, “How dare they? They’re too old for playgrounds like this.” And no doubt this was still some of that oxytocin surging through me and muddling my mind. Because in general I’m a lover of all children, but none more than my own children. And this bias can wreak havoc with our children’s social development if we’re not really careful.
Roy Salmond – Well, this is not only social development for the children but social development for us as parents. Like, how do we not pass on indignation and judgment. And it’s really easy to do that when you have something that you care about so deeply. It masks your feelings towards others.
Rachel Cram – Absolutely. And you’ve got your preferred child. Your preferred smell. So, this is another variable affecting the viability of finding a village to help us raise our kids. Having a child brings social development to a whole new context.
Roy Salmond – It reminds me of the saying that one of our guests said, “We always do our best parenting before we have children.”
Rachel Cram – Exactly. That’s case in point. Now, parents often send their children to preschool thinking this is where socialization will take place. And that does happen in a school setting. But the home environment is always the most important and influential factor in a child’s social development. And as parents, as our children go off into classrooms and peer relationships, we need to take the time, and we’ve already talked about this a bit, to think about things like, “Do you want your child to be integrated or do you want them to be an icon? Do you want your child to be a victim? Or do you want them to be an advocate? Do you want your child to be filled with compassion? Or do you want them to be a competitor?
Roy Salmond – Unpack those. What do you mean by an icon?
Rachel Cram – If you asked a parent, do you want your child to be an icon or integrated, I think most people are going to choose integrated right? But it is so easy to tip into the icon status without even realizing that you’re doing that. You want to shine out as better. How is my child dressed? What grades are they getting? Are on the starting line up or not? Are they invited to all the birthday parties that are happening? Which ones are they invited to or which ones are they not?
Roy Salmond – Well, this brings up the whole thing about being a victim or an advocate, because if parents perceive their child as maligned, when they don’t get the grade, or the placement on the team, or the invitation to the party, the child will likely see it that way as well.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. Which is problematic because versions of these social dynamics are inevitable realites for every child in every school setting. The way that we respond as parents, when all of those things happen, when a child feels that they didn’t get what they deserved. That’s a marker for how a child is going to develop socially.
So. I actually have what I call a soapbox speech that I often do.
Roy Salmond – Oh, you do?
Rachel Cram – You’re not surprised.
Roy Salmond – I’m surprised. I hear them just about every day, at least for a few minutes. So who do you inflict this on?
Rachel Cram – I’d like to think it’s not an inflection, but as I was saying when I was five years into running Wind and Tide, I was noticing this disquiet. And of course, as a teacher and as someone who runs a community of care, you need to keep that safe environment for children. So although it was very uncomfortable, what I started doing was going to the parents one on one when that was happening and saying, “We really can’t have that happening because it’s hurtful to the children. And that was a very awkward conversation to have. I have to say I am kind of conflict averse.
Roy Salmond – Don’t like conflict.
Rachel Cram – Well, it’s very uncomfortable. So I decided to do this soapbox speech, which meant that I gathered parents at the beginning of the year and gave a presentation on social development; how, as parents, they could support the social learning that we were doing at Wind and Tide and how they might want to help their child grow in their social development uniquely at home. And it had such a great response from parents, we did that for many, many years. In fact, in various ways, we still do that today.
Roy Salmond – So what is the Soapbox speech?
Rachel Cram – Well, I will not give you the long extended play, but at the heart of it was a little role play that we would do. And it’s an example of just the daily little dramas that happen at a school, and when your kids come home and report them, how you can respond as parents, that will set you up for a backdrop to social development that you want your child. So I’ll give you an example.
Roy Salmond – OK. Shoot.
Rachel Cram – So one of the role plays that we did was two parents sitting at a table with their child who was telling them about their day at school. “It was a color day. We are looking at the color pink, and the Play-Doh was pink,” and the parent’s responding as often parents do, as kind of half listening, half not because children chatter.
And, as I mentioned earlier, there is nothing a child wants more than to be seen and to be heard. Their whole orientation, for their survival, is to be seen and heard. They want to be acknowledged, they want the attention of their parent. So children are very aware of what gets your attention and what doesn’t.
So when a child is going on about; it was pink day today. There was pink Play-Doh. I painted with pink paint and the parent’s half attuned to that conversation, if a child brings up something that happened in the day that perhaps had a more negative slant to it, so in the role play we do for this soapbox speech, the child then says, their mom. “Oh, and Christopher hit me today,” and at that moment, the mom who’s listening in this role play goes, “What? He hit you today?”
And you can see the mother’s attention suddenly sharpening because Christopher’s probably a name that’s been mentioned in the playground before. And she says to the child, “Where did he hit you?”
And you can see the child in the role play kind of perk up, like “Oh, this has got my mom’s attention.”
And she says, “Oh, he hit me right here,” and she points to the side of her face.
And the mom leans in, and it goes, “Let me see, Oh my goodness, I can see a little mark here.”
And then she turns to her partner and says, “This Christopher, he’s totally out of control. All the moms are talking about it in the playground.”
Then she goes back to her child and says, “What did you do when he hit you?”
And the child’s getting a little more worked up and says, “I went and told the teacher.”
“And what did the teacher say to you?”
“Well, she came over and she talked to me and Christopher.”
“And what did she say to Christopher? Did she tell him he was a bad boy? Did she tell him that he should never, ever hit children?”
“No, she just asked me how I felt.”
“And what did you say? Did you tell Christopher how very upset you were?”
“I did Mommy, I started to cry.”
“Oh my poor baby, you started to cry.”
And she leans over and she hugs the child. She turns back to her partner, says, “I’m going to talk to the teacher. I do not want him around my daughter. Did you see where she got hit? It was right beside her temple. This could have really, really hurt her.”
And she turns back to her daughter and says, “Listen, honey, not everybody’s family has the same values that we have. In our family we know that we don’t hit, but not all families…”
Now, obviously this is dramatized,
Roy Salmond – Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“but not all families teach their kids these types of values. And so here’s what we’re going to do. I don’t want you to be rude to Christopher because I know that you’re not a rude little girl, but the next time he comes over to play with you, I want you just to politely get up and walk away. Because you cannot be hurt like that sweetheart. That is not acceptable, and I’m not sending you to preschool to be hurt, so I’m certainly going to talk to the teacher about that. Oh my child, I’m so sorry that happened to you today.”
And by this time, in the role play the child’s weeping and the mother’s hugging them and the drama has unfolded.
So obviously, when parents are watching this, there’s a lot of laughter.
Roy Salmond – Yeah, and a little bit of familiarity.
Rachel Cram – Exactly. Because I can relate to that myself. I know all of this and I still get that bodily surge of protection when one of my children are hurt or offended or left out or criticized. You have that instinct to go in and to lick off all that’s hurt them and to protect them, and it’s not helpful.
Roy Salmond – Ok, so, thinking back on your “definition” for social development, how would evolving, wondrous understanding as you say, show up in a social scenario like this?
Rachel Cram – Well, it actually doesn’t because a response like this from a parent, sets up a mindset for; when I am the one that is wronged, I will get attention. And when I feel badly, there’s someone who can be blamed. And if I can have blame and attention in my life, that gets my parents attention. Because when we are the victim, the attention comes our way.
Roy Salmond – And of course, the media has known this for decades. That’s why the news that makes it is always negative stuff and not the good stuff.
Rachel Cram – Yeah. As one of our previous guests said, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, “We are velcroed to the negative.” That is human instinct, to be velcroed to the negative. And so when we’re looking at healthy social development in our children, these are the kinds of things as parents and educators that we want to be aware of. What are they marinating in during these early formative years?
Roy Salmond – So that backdrop, you talk about those foundational values; that everyone belongs. We treat others as we want to be treated. That joy comes through giving to others. Intentions like this give us a reference point to what?
Rachel Cram – To how you step into those situations. OK, so can I give you now the other side of how you respond to that situation? So
Roy Salmond – OK, so there’s another story?
Rachel Cram – There’s another side. So we do the same scenario over again. It’s easy to see the wrong way to do it. But what do you do instead? So in the counter situation, when the child says, “Christopher hit me,” I think as a parent, you want to be aware that you don’t swivel and go, “What?!” but that you’ve got a similar response to the conversation that was happening before.
So, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. How did that make you feel?”
So keeping it calm. And there’s some phrases; how did that make you feel? Tell me what happened. What did you do? What do you think Christopher was thinking?”
So there’s some questions that you can ask that just keep it neutral.
Roy Salmond – And more reflective.
Rachel Cram – And more reflective, because this is your child situation. It’s not yours. And often, as parents we feel this is our situation to fix. This is our opportunity for social development. And in a way, it is our opportunity for social development. But that situation of being hit, that’s your child’s opportunity for social development, and this is where they stretch their wings and figure it out. And if we come in and figure it out for them, a couple of things will happen. One, if they don’t like how you respond, they might not tell you the next time when something happens. Or, they might love how you respond because of the attention they got, that starts to feed an unhealthy cycle. Or it disables the child from using that as a growth opportunity for themselves.
And then after there’s been some time to talk about feelings and what happened and just asking some gentle questions, there’s also an opportunity to say, “How can we connect with Christopher?” And what I’ve often told my children, even though they don’t love hearing it at the moment; people very, very seldom intend to hurt you. People do things out of their own needs, out of their own hurts.
Roy Salmond – Deficiencies, frustrations, disappointments.
Rachel Cram – Exactly. Because we’re all here on this planet swinging our souls around, trying to find where we fit.
Roy Salmond – Trying to find how much room we have.
Rachel Cram – Yes! And very often when somebody gets hit, or when a playdoh gets smashed, or blocks gets knocked over, it’s nothing to do with an intention. It’s just impulsive childhood behavior. And as adults, the tendency can be to read an intention into a situation where that’s not actually present.
Roy Salmond – Yeah, and for us adults, those interpretations are often the result of social habits we learned when we were young, and we carry them into our adulthood and our parenting. And here’s an opportunity for us to practice helpful and healthy social responses with our children so they can carry those forward to their children.
Rachel Cram – And that’s why, ideally, as a family, you come up with your own definition for social development in essence. As a family, what’s your foundational base? So that when those situations come up, which they are going to come up, again and again, what’s the value basis that’s been put out? What’s the direction of social development that you’re nurturing, that you’re launching your children into? What’s the marinade of your family culture?
Roy Salmond – And these are key questions for parents to consider even before their child starts school and is hit, bit and maligned for the first time.
Rachel Cram – Um hum.
Musical Interlude #3
Thanks for listening to family360 and our first episode of season 3.
Next episode I’m back in my interviewer’s chair, in conversation with pediatric psychologist, Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart. Ann-Louise is director of New Day Pediatric Clinic in San Antonio Texas and a writer for The Gottman Institute, researching key components for relationship contentment. She describes 4 conversational habits that harm relationships. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Hear the antidotes to these 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, as they’re known, in her upcoming episode.
And now back to the conclusion of my conversation with Roy, and our offering for some great music you can share with your younger kids to help move them along their paths of social learning and growth.
Roy Salmond – So we’re getting close to wrapping up now.
Rachel Cram – My goodness, are we already at that point?
Roy Salmond – We’re already at that point.
Rachel Cram – Wow, now I see how fast it goes for our guests.
Roy Salmond – And usually we come to a conclusion by asking our guests, do they have one last thing to say that they really want parents to know. Or lately we’ve been asking them for an action point. What are some choices that you can do right now that are simple, that are practical? That would help, for example, with a child’s social development?
Rachel, do you have anything that you would like to impart as a last point?
Rachel Cram – Ah, the power of the last point. Ok. I think it’s really beneficial to look at your child or each of your children and think to yourself, what are three social values that would uniquely fit this child? Things like loyalty, respect, generosity, goodness, caring, service, encouragement, initiative, leadership, courage, kindness. Like, there’s all these values, right? And as I list those, what I tend to think is, I want all those for my child.
Roy Salmond – Well, that’s a great list.
Rachel Cram – Yeah, and so this is why I say choose three, because if as parents, you try to instill all of those into your child, they’re going to feel like they’re never hitting the mark. And you’ll feel like they aren’t either.
Roy Salmond – Setting up expectations for the child to fail?
Rachel Cram – Right. So look at your child, and notice three unique positive relational characteristics they already exhibit, and in some ages and stages these will be harder to find, but the seeds are there.
Roy Salmond – You’re not trying to create something that isn’t there naturally already.
Rachel Cram – It’s already emerging. And how do you wondrously come into that situation; not to say, “Hey, do this or do that,” but to draw them out so that they can figure that out uniquely for themselves because this is their social development journey, it’s not yours. And watch that with wonder, and appreciate what is under their stand at this point in time and how is that going to prepare them for the person they’ll become in the future. Because our child’s future is very different from the future we grew up in?
Roy Salmond – And their social development needs the flexibility for their generation.
Rachel Cram – Yes, in a world that’s changing very rapidly.
Roy Salmond – Um hum.
Rachel Cram – Now, in talking about social values, we have an album that we created at Wind and Tide.
Roy Salmond – We, as in Wind and Tide. OK?
Rachel Cram – Yeah. The album is called Going For Goodness, it’s created for 3-6 year olds, and each wonderful singable song highlights a social attribute like the ones I just listed. And it’s available on apple music or spotify, with wonderful reviews from parents. You don’t get to control the music your children listen to for that long.
Roy Salmond – Yeah, by the time they’re tweens they’ll have their own playlists.
Rachel Cram -They will, so there’s some good marinade there. If you want to stream or download Going For Goodness, we’ll put a link to it on our website.
Roy Salmond – Yeah, great album.
Rachel Cram – You produced it. So, yes, great album.
Roy Salmond – Well, Rachel, it has been different and it has been fun.
Rachel Cram – You did a great job interviewing.
Roy Salmond – And you did a great job answering questions. I love your stories.
Rachel Cram – I was going to say it’s much easier to be the interviewer, but I don’t want to discredit you. But I’ll be excited next episode to go back to interviewing.
Roy Salmond – Yes, and I’m going to be excited to go back to producing.
Rachel Cram – Our happy places.
Roy Salmond – Those are happy places. Wonderful. Thank you.
Rachel Cram – Thank you.
Life is a good teacher and a good friend.
Things are always in transition,
if we could only realize it.
Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about.
The off-center, in-between state
is an ideal situation
A situation, in which we don’t get caught
and we can open our hearts and minds