Dr. Laurie Hollman: “Dates are great”

Make a date with your kids and teens to spend time with them doing whatever interests them. Dates are great. Kids look forward to them and they can be scheduled to fit in with your work lives and your children’s school lives. As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to […]

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Make a date with your kids and teens to spend time with them doing whatever interests them. Dates are great. Kids look forward to them and they can be scheduled to fit in with your work lives and your children’s school lives.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child adolescent, and adult psychotherapy and is an expert on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder elaborately illustrated in her captivating new book, “Are You Living with a Narcissist? How Narcissistic Men Impact Your Happiness, How to Identify Them, and How to Avoid Raising Them.”

She is an authority on modern parent-child relationships and is an award-winning author who has published seven books. She has been on the faculties of New York University and the Society for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, among others.

She has written extensively on parenting for various publications, including the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation, The Inner World of the Mother, Newsday’s Parents & Children Magazine and Long Island Parent in New York. She blogged for Huffington Post and currently contributes articles for Thrive Global, Mind Body Green and Upjourney. She also writes for Active Family Magazine in San Francisco and is a parenting expert for Good Housekeeping and Bustle Lifestyle.

Her Gold Mom’s Choice Award winning books are Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. Her companion award winning books are The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way, and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anger in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way.

Other books in this series are The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Technology with Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Exhaustion with Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way.

In 2021, her latest arrival will be Playing with Your Baby: Research Based Play to Bond with Your Baby from Birth to One Year

She is proud to be an adoring and loving wife, mother, and grandmother.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us your “backstory”?

The backstory of children today would be about central themes in their generation such as racial injustice, contentious politics, COVID 19, and feminism in 2020 and 2021 with the WETOMOVEMENT. Central themes from my generation would include racial injustice with segregation in education and neighborhoods, antisemitism, political protests in colleges, the Vietnam War, and the bare bones of feminism and consciousness raising.

I focus on generational issues as a backstory because it highlights children’s intense struggle with questions of fairness and justice not only in families but in the worldviews of their generation. These are the issues parents need to discuss with their children openly and honestly based on their age level. This has been central to my career and motherhood.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I have been a psychoanalyst for over thirty years. Pertinent to this interview is my extensive work with parents and their infants, children and teens. I’ve shared for decades the basic principle that a child’s behavior has meaning that needs to be understood. I call this concept Parental Intelligence. Having much success in sharing this concept with parents in my practice I then wrote several books on Parental Intelligence so my method of raising children could be shared with countless other parents. These award winning books can be found on my website: lauriehollmanphd.com.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

My daily schedule includes extensive hours reading and writing which I find illuminating, inspiring, and actually relaxing. My reading used to focus on scholarly psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic works, but it has very recently shifted to psychological fiction in preparation for writing fiction for the first time.

Years of listening to the stories of people’s lives in my practice has given me a great fund of knowledge about how the mind works in diverse people’s lives. I hope to use this knowledge and therapeutic intimacy with people to create fascinating characters who address emotional conflict in relationships, develop shifts and changes in their personas known as character arcs, and give fiction readers new ways to see how fictional characters solve problems pertaining to their changing morality, struggles with intimacy, and life paths.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

From birth babies begin to learn through their contact with loving parents who relate to them attentively with their facial expressions, voices, smells, and gestures. This time spent with infants and toddlers begins to build a bond of trust that sets the stage for early and later child development.

Time spent in person face to face with children listening attentively to their ideas, opinions, feelings, and intentions without judgment but with empathy and understanding leads to children feeling valued for who they are and builds their sense of self as their inner and outer worlds expand.

If such time is not spent with children, they find their minds cannot develop trust in others which will insure trust in themselves. If they feel during the time spent with their parents is loving, they feel loveable. This instills inside of them a desire to relate to others, to share ideas and feelings with others, and to learn how people relate to each other.

From birth children are social beings. The baby recognizes the mother’s voice heard in utero after birth. That voice sets the stage for connection and socialization essential to a healthy mind and body. A baby without early facial recognition and holding is a neglected one. If time is not spent nurturing the infant, child, and teen there is a confusion in the growth of their sense of identity and capacity to form relationships.

The deprivation of such person to person time spent interferes with a mind able to learn to its potential. In later life such isolation could readily lead to deep anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.

The time parents spend with children listening and learning together builds the child’s executive functions, self organization, capacity to learn, and emergence of significant relationships. The absolute lack of that interpersonal from birth time can even lead to death.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Of course. This question and the last are interwoven. So, let’s think of different stages of development when time is spent with children.

When as a mother I clap when my baby claps, she feels recognized. We mimic each other as a form of affirmation. Taking inside the baby’s mind then is the feeling state of the other, the mother or father. Parents and babies share expressions of feelings when they are with each other.

As children grow the feelings shared with their parents become internalized. The time spent in person is internalized in mental pictures that shape the child’s perception of him or herself based on the facial expressions, gestures, and words he repeatedly experiences. If they are largely positive, the child can develop a positive self-image, a feeling deep inside that others want to hear their voices, appreciate and respect their points of view, and they are then encouraged to relate to others beyond their parents and to learn from others expanding their emotional and physical worlds.

Teens of course expand their social worlds and cognitive worlds even further if that earlier base of time spent with them as I’ve described creates a foundation of safety and security and love. Then they can venture forth, take risks, tolerate failures, tolerate disappointments and frustrations, and continue to grow and mature developing their individual potentials. Children who have had time devoted to them that they’ve internalized in the sense of feeling wanted are the children who expand their quests for knowledge, search and discover to satisfy their growing and deepening curiosities and learn for its own sake.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Quality time is the kind of time I’ve described above based on attentive listening and sharing interests with your children.

I remember fortunately being right there when my son was 12 months and began to walk. The very same day he began to climb! To my amazement his walking became rapidly a part of who he was and expanded his world so that before I knew it in one day he was on top of a jungle gym. I’m so glad I was there not only to cheer him on and make sure he was safe, but also to expand my world about how a new life could grow.

I remember many years later another of my children born into the world when computers were just becoming part of life learning how to create a simple computer program at seven years old. He was already learning something I knew nothing about. So, early on parents discover we can learn from our children. By the time he was a teen, and I was completing my Ph.D. he helped me learn to use word processing clearly facilitating the rapid way I achieved my doctorate. When he went to college, he sat me down: “You need to learn about hardware and software. I’m going to college and won’t be around to answer all your questions about technology.” He gave me a book to read to increase my skills. Of course, I still called him for help which he kindly gave me while in college, but I’ve saved the book!

One more quick thought about quality time that’s internalized as a sense that at least one other is inside of them encouraging them and believing in them. Because of the quality time spent in the early years listening to my children, they confided in me easily because they did not feel judged, criticized, but respected. When they were teens and even later as young adults they would continue to confide in me about their developing relationships with others, feeling they always had a trusted base to turn back to with me to as a sounding board and parent available for hurts as well as feelings of kindness and eventually enduring love from others.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

Executives and other professionals do of course work long hours. They have their minds filled with responsibilities and ambitious goals. How do you turn that off just enough to give your child the kind of time I’ve discussed above?

  1. When you arrive home from work, before you enter your front door, turn off your phone, that is, your literal connection to people at work.
  2. In order to do the above, you may need to take a walk or sit in your car digesting your day before you walk in the door. Take that time for yourself so when you do open the door, you are really present.
  3. Make a date with your kids and teens to spend time with them doing whatever interests them. Dates are great. Kids look forward to them and they can be scheduled to fit in with your work lives and your children’s school lives.
  4. Nighttime is a great way to spend time with kids of all ages. At bedtime kids are tired and their struggles surface more easily if they trust you. It’s a time to hear what those struggles are about. You needn’t solve anything. Listening is the optimal activity. Feeling heard is the optimal tension releaser for kids.
  5. If you are fortunate enough to work at home at least some of the time, it allows for some flexibility. A little story is when I was surely working full time and had been for years when my kids were teens I would drive them to school. They didn’t like the bus ride anyway and really, it was as much for me as for them. It was a great time to spend that five to ten minutes in the early hours talking and listening. I highly recommend it.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent is from my point of view a parent with Parental Intelligence. My books detail this concept but in brief it means that when your child is puzzling you with his or her behavior before you ever imagine jumping in to help solve what may see like a growing problem, Step Back. Observe your child. Ask yourself what this behavior may be communicating. Kids can’t always find words to express themselves, so they act instead. These actions may come at inappropriate times and in ways you don’t find acceptable. Of course we want to address these actions, but how can we if we don’t FIRST understand the meanings behind them?

A “good” parent using Parental Intelligence observes, thinks, looks for patterns and changes in patterns and then slowly helps their child verbalize their thoughts about their behavior. If you are nonjudgmental and can hold back your reservations until you hear their ideas, points of view, and the messages being communicated through their actions then you can collaborate to solve whatever problems may underlie these unexpected behaviors.

Busy parents who learn to use Parental Intelligence don’t have to be home all day to carry out this approach. Their quality time from infancy to adolescence will have created the setting for this kind of emotionally intelligent problem solving.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Dreaming “big” means allowing and encouraging dreaming! You’ll hear early on your kids motivations to explore and discover aspects of their world and the parents role is to encourage that adventurous, inventive side of them. Let them slowly learn that they can become experts in many things by perseverance, enjoying learning in a focused way, and sharing what they are learning by talking, writing, and other creative outlets. This builds incredible confidence and so dreaming “big” becomes a way of thinking, a life time perspective that builds wonderful aspirations and ideals. Important, however, is to help kids know that IDEALS GUIDE. They are the apex of what is yearned for but not necessarily what is reached. The process is as important if not more important than the ultimate finished goal. This is a wonderful value to share so your kids can dream big!

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is having the opportunity from early to later life to continue to learn and love in new expanding ways. If you model this attitude for your kids, they’ll internalize it. They watch you very closely, more than you imagine. As they see you straddle your family and your career and share with them your world in age appropriate ways as they mature, they, too, will know they can learn, succeed in their internal and external worlds, and enjoy the process of doing so.

It’s best to think of seeking success rather than just pinpoint certain goals. Because when those goals are reached, they will have inspired new goals, new learning, even career changes and leave you as a parent to be open minded about your child’s later career goals and opportunities for successes they may far exceed your own.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I dare to humbly share that I think my books since 2015 on Parental Intelligence as described above pave the way for deep and productive loving relationships with infants, children, teens and young adults.

Reading I suggest also includes such authors as Brazelton, Beatrice Beebe, Daniel Stern, Donald Winnicott, and Anna Freud. These are recent and older past researchers on child development that will give you a scholarly look at child development and how the child’s mind works in ways that self-help books can’t reach to. However, that said, use GOOGLE frequently. You’ll find on hundreds of websites answers to your questions about child development, activities for kids, goals for education, how to develop morality in children, and much more. When it starts to feel repetitious, turn to more scholarly books by such authors as I noted. It depends on the kind of reader you like to be. Listen in your car to audio books as you commute to work. And very important, share what you are learning. Others will give you perspectives you may not have thought of.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A favorite life lesson quote I learned from a patient: “Life does not follow a straight course.” This bit of wisdom helped me empathize with others as well as myself, open me to step outside of conventional wisdom, and vary my life course as I learned and grew and helped me do so for others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement I would like to encourage in the USA is to focus on our children. There are large populations of hungry, neglected, uneducated, even homeless children in this remarkable industrial country with vast opportunities. This is a great failing that must be forever addressed.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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