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Quality Time and Your Parts

May 15, 2024

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

Today, we are continuing with our series that expands Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell 1997 book  The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively to include the childlike parts of ourselves and others.  As a brief recap, here are the previous three reflections in the series:

  1. April 3, 2024: Healing Our Parts … So We Can Love Better
  2. April 10, 2024: How Children Need Love from You
  3. April 17, 2024: A Touch of Love
  4. May 1, 2024: Words of Affirmation and Parts

In the last two reflections from April 17 and May 1, we covered the love languages of touch and words of affirmation, respectively.  Today, we are exploring Chapman and Campbell’s third love language, the critical theme of quality time.

“Being with”

Those who have followed our work at Souls and Hearts know the premium we place on “being with.”  And Chapman and Campbell capture something of this “being with” in their love language of “quality time.”  As poet, author, actor, and educator Laurence Overmire wrote “The best gift you can give anyone is to spend quality time with them.”  The gift, the present of your presence.

The title of an Inc. article by Melody Wilding sums this gift of time up succinctly: Tell Me How You Spend Your Time, I’ll Tell You What You Value Most.  Children know this intuitively.  They watch how you spend your time, and they know that time has a finite, fixed supply, unlike money or other resources.  And they know that you treasure what you spend your free time on.

Even a passive neglect to spend time with a child communicates that “You are not as important to me as these other things are” and contributes the child’s inner depository of shame.  Conversely, when you choose to spend time with children, the message is one of “You are important to me.  I cherish you.”

Singer-songwriter and troubadour Harry Chapin died at age 38, crushed in his Volkswagen Rabbit by a semi on the Long Island Expressway in July of 1981, You may remember his hit Taxi, but he is most remembered for his 1974 chart-topping ballad Cat’s in the Cradle which tells the story of a too-busy father and his son that grew up “just like me.”

Check out this video in which Harry’s widow and son discuss how the song impacted so many followed by a recording of a live performance of the song.  Sandy Chapman, Harry’s wife, wrote Cat’s in the Cradle as a poem before she and Harry had children; after the birth of his son, Harry wrote the music and produced the song.

The lyrics of the song remind me of the quote by L.R. Knost:  “Join them in their world when they’re little so you’ll be welcome in their world when they get big.”

Quality time and attachment needs

The first five of these attachment needs were summarized by Elliott and Brown in their 2016 book Attachment Disturbances in Adults; I added the sixth.  Let’s review them together:

  1. Safety: My need to feel a sense of safety and protection in relationship — self-protection
  2. Recognition: My need to feel seen, heard, known, and understood
  3. Reassurance: My need to feel comforted, soothed, and reassured
  4. Delight: My need to feel desired, cherished, treasured, delighted in by the other
  5. Love: My need to feel that the other has my best interests at heart, holds a position of benevolence and beneficence toward me.
  6. Belonging: My need to feel included, of being a valued member of a community with an important role

Quality time is necessary every one of these, but I want to focus in on the second one:  recognition.  A child’s need to feel seen, heard, known, and understood.  Chapman and Campbell discuss how important it is for a parent to make positive eye contact.  They write: “Quality time should include loving eye contact. Looking in your child’s eyes with care is a powerful way to convey love from your heart to the heart of your child.” (pp. 64-65).

Eye-to-eye contact fosters the heart-to-heart connection.  And that allows the child to know that she exists in your world, that you remember her, that she matters to you, that she endures within you. Which brings us to the integrity needs:

  1. Survival: My need to exist and to survive. 
  2. Importance: My need to matter in the world, to be significant
  3. Agency: My need for autonomy, to be able to exert influence on others and to make at least a small difference the world
  4. Goodness: My need to be good in my essence, in my person
  5. Mission: My need for mission, purpose, and a vision to guide my life
  6. Authentic expression: My need to share and communicate with others what feels true and real within me rather than pretend otherwise

Quality time is needed for these as well, but especially the second one:  Importance.  Children need to feel they have a place in the family, in the world, in your heart; they need to have a sense that they matter because of their intrinsic being, to have existential importance, not just being a forgotten little creature whirling around on a forgotten little planet in a tiny little solar system on the edge of an insignificant galaxy.

They need time with you to learn their importance, not only to you, but to God.

Personal conversations and silence

Chapman and Campbell write that “Children never outgrow a need for quality conversation with parents and other adults.” (p. 66).   Those conversation require quality time.  Availability.  Sometimes structure.  One of the favorite activities I share with my adolescent and young adult daughters has been our tea parties.  I am a fanatic about tea; brewing my own blends, and we have a special chai that we share when we are together.  The tea parties go on for about two hours, usually on Sundays, and they have been the places of some of the deepest conversations.

For other ideas on how to have those conversations with kids of different ages, I highly recommend episode 278 of The Messy Family Podcast with Mike and Alicia Hernon, Conversations with Kids.  The Hernon are parents of ten of their own, and they discuss how to have conversations with children at different ages from infancy to adolescence.  I highly recommend that episode and invite you to check out their great work at the Messy Family Project.

For younger kids, seek out time individually with them every day; and that brings us to “snippets” and “taskits.”

“Snippets” and “taskits”

Author and pastor Andy Stanley wrote: “Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time. You can’t cram for what’s most important. If you want to connect with your kids, you’ve got to be available consistently, not randomly.”

Small, consistent deposits of time.  Andy Stanley put language to a crucial idea here.  Children need predictable and consistent time with parents.

When our three oldest children were 5, 3, and 1 years old, Pam and I discerned that we should spend 5-15 minutes with each one individually each evening.  We called these special times “snippets” and the children could use that time for any reasonable activity they chose with the Pam or me – reading books, playing games, working on puzzles, private conversations, wrestling on the floor, working on projects (Grace and I once built a transistor radio together when she was six), all kinds of things.

And our children loved and still love “snippets.”  It was one of the first words our younger children learned.  So many times, one of our toddlers would sense that some other child was about to horn in on their snippet and yell out My ‘nippit!   Our 23-year-old son who is married and on his own still has Sunday snippets with Pam, playing their weekly game of Scrabble.

What we found was that instead of those snippets taking time away from other things, they actually increased the time we had available for other things.  Why?  Because our children knew they had a consistent time and space every day to talk with us.  That knowing created a containing function for them – they knew that they could use the snippet time to discuss what was on their minds and hearts, and so they didn’t need to enact as much through their behavior, resulting in significantly less parental time spent in disciplinary measures.

We had to prepare to be available for these snippets.  As Chapman and Campbell write:  “One of the most difficult times in a family’s day can be when everyone returns from work and school, hungry and tired. So planning for time together also means preparing yourself.  (p. 69).”  It’s really important to be “in a good place” for that special time with your child.

A “taskit” is different from a snippet.  In a snippet, the child has the parent’s undivided, full attention.  A taskit is bringing in the child to participate in a task the parent is doing.  I have two bookcases to assemble in my office right now; it may be that one of my children will take me up on an offer to build them with me as we talk and share time together.  Chapman and Campbell write: “Instead of waiting until all your chores are done before spending time with your child, include them in your daily activities such as laundry, grocery shopping, or yard work. Though it may take longer, the time together will make up for the inconvenience.” (p. 73).

Taskits can take on many forms – feel free to get creative.  Having a farm provides ample opportunities.  Lucy and I were potting on transplants from soil blocks not long ago in the greenhouse.  It helps if the child can learn something in the task, rather than it be something routine like housecleaning, and if the task provides opportunities for conversation and connection.

“A story, Daddy, a story!”

Over the years, often in snippets and sometimes outside of that time, I’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Little House on the Prairie, and Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series to our kids among many other books.

Check out Michael D. O’Brien’s Landscape with Dragons for recommendations about stories; the appendix of recommended authors and titles alone is worth the cost of the book.  Also check out Christendom College graduate Brittany’s website goodbooksforcatholickids.com where she offers an amazing selection of detailed reading lists for Catholics of different ages, interests, subjects, historical periods, genres, and so on.

I also told made-up stories:  the most popular series of my own creation for my sons were The Toad with the Pointy Stick (a most crotchety and misanthropic creature with aggression-management issues) and the Defenders of the Good; a series about various rodents and other small animals performing feats of valor and derring-do, featuring Bartimeus the Squirrel.  For my daughters, I told a whole series of stories with the heroine Adeline Ames (who always wore “sensible shoes”) and her sister Abigail Ames (who didn’t).

I drew out the scenes of the stories as I told them; the art was very primitive, but the kids cherished them and still keep the drawings.

Two weekends ago, my 14-year-old son listened to my father, his 82-year-old grandfather, “Grandpa Mal” telling him about his fishing and hunting adventures, some of which involved me at his age. As Dan Pearce wrote  “Fishing is much less about the fishing, and much more about the time alone with your kid, away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday.

Which segues into getting away and “vacations.”

“Vacations”

First, let’s dispel a little myth we’ve noticed many couples believe about vacationing with children: it’s not going to be relaxing. It’ll be stressful, it might be fun, it may not be relaxing but it will definitely be an adventure!

This great quote is the lead from The Messy Family Project’s article How to Plan a Great Family Vacation.  And it couldn’t be truer.  Many years ago, Pam and I jettisoned the word “vacation” to describe our travels and adventures with our children in favor of the word “trip.”

Time away from the routine with children provides opportunities for deeper connections.  There is something immediate to discuss; experiences in the present to share. The main point for especially new parents to remember is that the time away from home with children will still demand much from them.  That was a major adjustment for me as we started our family.

And now with parts…

Spending quality time with a child means an openness to spending time with that child in all of his or her parts.  Not just with those parts that might be gratifying to the parent – all of the parts.  As Chapman and Campbell write, “If you give loving looks only when your child is pleasing you, you are falling into the trap of conditional love.” (p. 65).

To be more present with our kids, we need to connect with their parts, especially parts that might be hidden, disconnected, withdrawn, or otherwise less available.  I’ve defined parts in this way:

Parts feel like separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view.  Each part also has an image of God. 

You can also think of parts as “modes of operating.”  As you become more familiar with the idea of parts, and especially as you are more in touch with your own parts, you will start to recognize parts in others, including children.  You can check out episode 71 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast titled A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others for more information on parts and Internal Family Systems.

The critical thing for parents to remember is that they will reject any part in their children that is like any part within themselves that they reject.  Parents reject their children’s counterparts of their own rejected parts.  Parents who are more fragmented inside, more disconnected from their own parts have much more difficulty deepening relationships with their children.  That’s why one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child in the natural realm is to do his or her own human formation work, coming to know, accept, and love his or her own parts.

Your human formation work…

Parents get closer with their children as they get to know them, accept them, and love them in their parts – not just the most gratifying and “desirable” parts, but all of their parts.  And we at Souls and Hearts are here to help with that adventure.  As part of that, I offer you this 17-minute experiential exercise titled Quality Time with Your Parts, which invites you to consider someone with whom you have difficulty connecting – and seeking a deeper understanding of what might be going on with your parts that contribute to your side of the difficulties in the relationship.  Could you take 17 minutes and look within, to remove the beam from your own eye?

Next up is Chapter 5 of The 5 Love Languages of Children:  The Secret to Loving Children Effectively, all about the love language of  “gifts.”  Join us for that in the next weekly reflection, which comes out on May 20.

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New schedule: semi-monthly reflections

You may have noticed that this reflection did not come out last week, on May 8, as originally scheduled.  I had just gotten back from a “trip” with Pam and my two youngest to visit my parents and for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Rockford, Illinois, and time just didn’t allow me to finish it on deadline.

I might have gotten it done in the evenings, but at the expense of time with Pam and snippets with my kids.  So, I chose to delay publication of this one, though some of my parts were really troubled by not meeting a (self-imposed) deadline.

I’ve also discerned that these reflections will now come out “semi-monthly” on Mondays, which is a fancy way of saying twice per month.  So the IIC podcast will come out on first and third Mondays and these reflections will come out on the second and fourth Mondays.  This will free me up to do some other creative endeavors for Souls and Hearts, including finishing a major (free) project for you by the end of this year.

IIC Episode 137 released:  Q&A with Fr. Boniface Hicks on Personal Formation and Spiritual Direction

Souls and Hearts’ good friend Fr. Boniface was back on the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast for episode 137 taking questions from a live audience – see the YouTube video and click here for the audio and take in his answers and a great discussion in which we covered:

  1. What counsel can you give to those who have experienced poor spiritual formation, especially from formators who only acknowledge the spiritual realm?
  2. How do you deal with St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “evil spirits” from the IFS perspective? Would this involve a more compassionate approach to temptation?
  3. How do you leverage parts in spiritual direction when your director has no experience with IFS?
  4. In the context of Colossians 1:15-20, can you share how your inmost self holds space for an encounter with Jesus and some of your exiled parts?
  5. Can spiritual direction be positive and productive if the directee has a strong hiding part or protectors that don’t want to be transparent with the director?
  6. Can you talk about the prophetic timing of human formation in the context of Pastores Dabo Vobis, given the cultural issues of the meltdown of the family, marriage, etc.?
  7. How do different kinds of suffering relate to our parts?
  8. In resisting spiritual bypassing, is there not also the risk of bypassing the spiritual, bypassing the walk with Jesus? Is there a way to navigate this?

Help us out by liking this video and subscribing to our IIC YouTube Channel – that really helps us rise out of the noise and be more visible on YouTube, which ranks second on the Internet in content searches.

Understanding scrupulosity on the Chris Stefanick Show

Chris had me back with him on his show for an episode titled Scrupulosity: When Piety Becomes an Affliction. After a 7-minute introduction where Chris takes on critics and trolls who condemn all priests because of the sex abuse scandal, we cover the core issues in scrupulosity in the next 27 minutes.  I discuss how scrupulosity is “the son of anger and the grandson of shame.”  We also get into the false God images that drive scrupulosity.  I truly enjoy hanging out with Chris, and so appreciate being with him on the show.  Check out the audio only here.

If you want to learn more about scrupulosity, check out these episodes of the IIC Podcast:  Perfectionism:  Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – Episode 85, Obsessions, Compulsions, OCD and Internal Family Systems – Episode 86 and Scrupulosity: When OCD Gets Religion – Episode 87.

Internal Family Systems and Litanies of the Heart—A Journey and Book Review

Check out this excellent article from May 5, 2024 where Resilient Catholics Community member Emily Rochelle writes an introduction to Internal Family Systems, shares the story of her own journey with IFS, and reviews Dr. Gerry’s book Litanies of the Heart (which also just came out in Audible).   It is so good to see RCC members spreading the word about Souls and Hearts, so thank you, Emily!

We are so close…

Nearly 300 have signed up already on the interest list for the St. Gertrude the Great cohort, the seventh class to enter the Resilient Catholics Community.  General registration opens on June 1, but those on the waitlist will receive an email on May 30 at noon Eastern time allowing them to register two days earlier, which has some advantages, including getting your PartsFinder Pro results back earlier.

If you are a Catholic who believes all that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, if you are seeking to flourish in love and for love, if you want to overcome your deficits in your human formation and shore up your natural foundation for loving God, your neighbor, and yourself, and if you resonate with working at depth, with your parts in your heart, all in a way that is firmly grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person, consider joining us in the RCC!

Find out so much more, see new RCC member testimonials and get on the interest list at our RCC landing page.  Also join RCC Lead Navigator and me for a live presentation and lots of Q&A about the RCC in our Zoom meeting on Tuesday, May 21 from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern Time.  If you can make it live, that would be great – here is the link to register. If you can’t, we will post the recording of the meeting on our landing page.

If you’re considering the RCC and have questions for me, consider calling me on my cell at 317.567.9594 any Tuesday or Thursday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern Time during my conversation hours for a private one-on-one talk.

Pray for us

Keep Souls and Hearts, all our members and our staff, and Dr, Gerry and me in your prayers – every day.  Every good thing we do depends on prayer.  We are praying for you.  Thank you.

In Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

P.S.  Don’t forget to listen to the experiential exercise that goes with this weekly reflection Quality Time with Your Parts.

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