Seemingly simple day-to-day interactions between parents and children can have lasting effects on the latter. For instance, they can give rise to money wounds — stories, beliefs, and thought patterns around money that keep us from abundance.
If left unchecked, money wounds can trickle down from generation to generation. But they don’t have to. We can and should break the cycle for our children, and it starts with understanding our role as parents.
In today’s episode, Dylan talks about how children grow and mature, what our roles as parents are, and how this all connects to our financial lives.
- [03:31] Why children are intensely human
- [05:45] The Freeman attachment cycle
- [11:23] How the Freeman attachment cycle is often interrupted in a Western context
- [15:53] How Dr. Benjamin Spock influenced generations of parents
- [20:05] How parents can unwittingly perpetuate trauma
- [25:05] How the Freeman attachment cycle connects to our financial lives
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, I wanna tell you about going to Salt Lake City to get a tattoo. The story is not about the tattoo per se but about heading into the airport. I had parked my car in the long-term parking lot and got my bag as I’m heading towards the terminal so that I can check in for my flight, go through — and arrive safely at my gate. And as I’m walking through the parking lot, I suddenly hear what can only be described as yelling. And as I walk into one lane of cars, I look down and find the source of the yelling is a mother and a small child. The mother is yelling at the child loud enough that from almost a hundred yards away, I can clearly hear her tell what I assume is her son, “Mister, if you don’t behave, you will spend the rest of the vacation in time-out.” And immediately following this mother’s declaration, her son bursts into a wail that just rends to the very core of my heart. It’s the yell of somebody who is terrified, somebody who is scared, somebody for whom they feel their world is coming apart and it’s no longer safe to continue to exist. And I stop for a second and allow myself to feel those feelings witnessing this interaction. And as I continue on my way to the terminal, all I can think of is, Man, that’s gotta leave a mark.
[00:01:47] Ladies and gentlemen, I tell that story because it really hammers home this idea that as we mature from basically from cradle to grave, we’re on a journey in which we are constantly building our sense of self. And this interaction between the mother and child in the Denver airport parking lot is a great example of how simple day-to-day interactions are going to have lasting impacts in our life. And so, today on the show, I wanna start unpacking a lot of those things, particularly from the child’s standpoint. Now, why on a finance show do I spend time talking about mothers yelling at their kids in airport parking lots? Well, it’s because money is emotional. So much of how we treat our money stories comes from a context that is significantly younger than we are in the current day. And I’ve talked about this on the show before, where events when we were growing up are impacting our abilities to continue in a logical fashion today. And the shoes example that I’ve talked about on this show where I’m trying to buy a pair of shoes and my finger just will not click the purchase button on the website is a great example of that. That incident is actually pointing back to a time when I was 16, but that pattern of behavior that led up to not being able to have the shoes that I needed for what my life was at the age of 16 and being shamed for wanting a pair of work boots to work on a farm and on construction crews — for sure that didn’t just occur in my 16th year. It was something that had started much sooner.
[00:03:31] And so, today, we wanna talk about children and specifically how children grow and mature and what our roles as parents are. And if you are listening to this and you thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not a parent, so this doesn’t apply to me,” you couldn’t be more wrong. The cliché that it takes a village to raise a child is 100% correct. Literally all of us are in this project of raising the children of our communities. And anyone who has spent time overseas, they know this. They know how other cultures treat their children because the children are the future of your community. They’re not an inconvenience. They are precious, they are fragile, and most of all, they’re intensely human. Children’s mental and emotional development begins in utero. And as they continue to develop in utero, a lot of their environment — what the mother is experiencing — is also being experienced by the child. So, when the child is born, they’re not born a blank slate. They’re born with a set of experiences that they have absorbed on a bodily level. We used to believe that children were so young at different ages that they didn’t remember traumatic events and it’s turned out that that’s not true. The children’s body keeps the score. Just like us as adults, our body keeps the emotional score. The idea that we have to sit somehow and have solid emotional control over every little thing that happens to us and we shouldn’t act out or we shouldn’t be able to say the things that come to us, that’s all part of a domesticating process of modern society that removes us from our human context. But children, well, they didn’t get the memo yet and so, they’re intensely human. They are coming into this world set up with an expectation that they’re going to experience a human context on the other side of birth. And in our modern society, that just simply isn’t how our world is set up. And to be fair, I’m talking specifically into a US context, but this is true in Canada as well and most of the developed world, at least on this side of the Atlantic.
[00:05:45] And my reference for a lot of how this goes is an attachment cycle called the Freeman attachment cycle. This was developed and is copyrighted by Duey Freeman of the Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies. The Freeman attachment cycle outlines how children then attach to their parents. And furthermore, in his practice in the realm of therapy, he frequently states that all of the disorders that we see on an emotional level have their basis in an attachment issue that happens sometime when they were much younger. The Freeman attachment cycle starts off with what a baby is wanting. And when I say “baby” or “child,” just understand that as adults, we are continuing this cycle. The difference between a child and an adult is adult has a history of this cycle operating, whereas children, their histories are much, much smaller, and you’re gonna see how this plays out in a second. That is to say, this cycle never stops. So long as we’re drawing breath, so long as we’re interacting with the world, this cycle is continuing throughout our entire lives. So, what they’re going to do, what a child wants is they need their needs met. So, they need food, which is nurturing. They need touch — physical, actual touch — contact with people. They need movement and emotion, right? They’re able to move around in the world and that movement in their body also sparks emotions. Think about how kids, like, they get angry and they stamp their feet. Well, that’s not just a cute thing. Like that’s literally their body’s interpretation of the emotions that are in them at that time.
[00:07:31] So, when you look at the Freeman attachment cycle, the next step is they, once they have a need for food, touch, or movement, they then will do something that is a bid to have that need met. So, they cry, they wiggle. They’re cute. They smile, they kick, they yell, they scream, they act out, they ask. As adults, we do all sorts of things to try to get these done. Like the list is, I gave a list, but it’s not exhaustive in any way, shape, or form. But that’s a bid by the being by the child or by the adult in a lot of cases to ask for their needs to be met by the caretakers in the environment around them. Food, touch, movement — those types of things. And in the case in which those needs are then met, so you think about a child or baby specifically, the baby wants to be touched, so they cry and you go pick them up and you put them on your chest and you relax in that space and that is meeting their need for that touch. And the baby immediately relaxes and then they believe and they get the message that the world is okay. The context in which they exist is okay and then we go back to the start that maybe they want food, which is why you can pick up a baby and put it in your chest and then it will start rooting around in your chest. And I’m a dude, so I don’t have food-dispensing mechanisms on my chest, but babies root on me all the time. Why? Because that’s typically the next thing. They got touch. They like that. So, the cycle comes back around. Their world is okay. Okay. Well, now, they want movement. This is why, you know, getting up and moving around with the baby will work more than just holding them on your lap. It’s another loop along the Freeman attachment cycle.
[00:09:10] And so, what you see then is that this cycle is how babies start to understand that the world is okay. And as we continue on that cycle, they’re constantly testing. Why? Because they don’t know anything. As adults, we may have the concept that the world’s okay, but it might not actually be because think of how many times that we are looking for food, touch, or movement, and for whatever reason, we don’t get it. This is where Duey Freeman, in his Freeman attachment cycle that is copyrighted by him, is very clear that when you have the need — food, touch, movement — and then there’s the bid to get the need met, when that is interrupted, that is the source in which this breaks down and it results in addiction or a rage shutdown response. And the addictive cycle is essentially you have the need for food, touch, movement. You make a bid. It doesn’t happen, so then you go right back to food, touch, movement. And so, what you’re doing in that particular case is that you are trying to get to the world is okay by constantly going back to the thing that you were seeking. And this is where you start to have breakdowns in a normal attachment cycle. The other option, of course, is that those needs aren’t met. You get really pissed off about it. I mean, how many times have you seen somebody who’s had a rage response about a money issue, about a food issue, about sex in a relationship? You name it. And they’ve just shut down. They like energetically leave the room. They’re bodily here but the rest of them is gone. Or they get enraged and they turn on you. They yell, they scream, they shout. Or they barely contain it. They’re holding on, you know, with their fingernails to sanity. This develops in the child a belief that the needs either can’t or won’t be met by the caregiver. And from the child’s perspective, whether it’s a can’t or whether it’s a won’t is irrelevant because they end up at the same place. And maladaptive systems are then developed by the child in a desperate attempt to get their needs met, whether through self-abandonment or other different types of things we see play out in the modern world.
[00:11:23] And just stop and think about that in your own life, in your own context, and how the Freeman attachment cycle is very present and how it has been interrupted many times throughout our childhoods, especially in a Western context where we live in a deeply antihuman society where we are atomized down to every individualistic level and then taught from a very early age that everything rises and sets on the whims and wants and wills of the individuals. It’s a recipe for disaster. And if you’re a child in a system like that, it’s worth noting that children are utterly dependent on their parents. That isn’t an admonishment of the child. It’s an observation of fact. When children come into the world, human children are completely and utterly dependent on their mothers for survivals. And note I said mothers because fathers, at the end of the day, the kid can survive without the father but the kid is gonna have a significantly harder time if the mother is not there and present and showing up for that child.
[00:12:28] There are other cultures and in the book The Myth of Normal, Dr. Gabor Maté outlines in other cultures, they have entire cultural programming around protecting the attachment periods of time, especially the early attachments, between the child and the mother, where communities come together and basically take care of everything around that mother so she has time to attach to her child and she can get the very first cycles of this attachment cycle correct. And as time goes on, when you’re raising children in communities, there are multiple caregivers, so not everything is on the mother. It might be on the aunties. For anybody who spent time in other countries, you know that people will live in neighborhoods and they’ll count everybody as their aunties and everybody their uncles and everybody’s raising these kids. Well, what’s happening is there are more individuals within the community that can meet the needs on this attachment cycle all the time.
[00:13:25] In the Western context, however, we have this idea that somehow, the parents are supposed to stand up to their children; that somehow, they just gotta show that child who’s boss and get this kid on our schedule and make them understand that night is for sleeping. And it’s harsh and it’s dehumanizing. The reality, though, is that parents owe their children everything and the children owe their parents nothing. Now, you might be listening to this and think, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, Dylan.” No, it’s not. It’s not easy for me to say. I have a wife and two kids. I have gone through the depths of poverty with my children and struggled to come out. I’ve had moments of weakness where I’ve yelled at my kids because I just need them to understand something. And ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. That is not at all how I should be responding to my children. My children owe me nothing and I owe them everything. The day that I held my daughter for the first time and she cooed and she snuggled in the blankets they wrapped her in, I realized that my life was no longer my own and that my sole obligation in this world was to be a good memory for this child as she got older. Our modern society is deeply antihuman and quite frankly, antichild. When we scattered ourselves into our little boxes all over the globe and started to believe that somehow we are all supposed to be completely independent and not in community with anyone else, we broke so much of the cycle. We set up our kids for failure. They no longer have aunties and grandparents all over the place to help them get their needs met. More and more of it is burdened onto mothers and fathers, too. More and more of this continues to be shoveled into two people who are supposed to have a, you know, full-time jobs. They’re supposed to be concerned about their retirement savings. They’re supposed to be making good decisions all the time. There’s no buffer zones. There’s no margins. There’s no community to help them out. That is antihuman. Humans, at the end of the day, are tribal, and raising children is a tribal activity. Our modern society doesn’t want us to be humans; it wants us to be economic units. And nowhere can you see this more clearly than how we treat our children.
[00:15:53] And let’s be clear. There isn’t a smoke-filled room somewhere that had this deep plot. It was a bunch of very small choices made over a long period of time for everyone’s individual economic advancement without ever considering what would happen if the entire society did this and whether or not that actually encouraged human flourishing or not. And you can go look at the work of Dr. Spock. And, now, if you were like, “Dr. Spock?You mean like the guy from Star Trek?” No, no, no. This was an actual researcher back in the, I think it was in the 1950s, 1960s. And Dr. Spock, he came out with all these books by which the Greatest Generation — the generation that went through World War II, that gave birth to the baby boomers, who then in turn gave birth to millennials, but I’ll get to that in a second — Dr. Spock was there to tell all of these mothers how to raise their kids. And you might be thinking like, “Oh! Well, that was probably really convenient.” My question, though, is why did we have a bunch of new mothers during the baby boom who didn’t know how to raise kids? Like where were their parents? Oh, yeah. Their parents were still back on the farms. The baby boomer generation was born during a period of time in history where we were first creating the little boxes of the suburbs as we atomized our society. Prior to that, you would’ve been born into a community that had been there for quite some time surrounded by family.
[00:17:16] And I can look at my mother’s parents for this and see this very clearly because if you go back to Cadott, Wisconsin, the whole family farm is still there and that entire community knew my grandmother and all of her sisters since the time it was settled. Like they were a community. And so, as one of them had kids, they had their aunts and they had their grandmothers and they had their grandmother’s friends and all of those people were there to help that woman learn to be a mother and support her. But what happened? After World War II, my grandfather went back to Cadott, went to my grandmother, proposed marriage, and then went from Cadott, Wisconsin to Kenosha, Wisconsin to get a job at the Simmons mattress factory. And what that means is that my grandmother was having children in a city in land she did not know, surrounded by strangers, and completely separated from the support network that humans normally build around themselves.
[00:18:18] And into that world, a man named Dr. Spock writes a book about how women need to stand up to their kids. This is where the “cry it out” advice comes from. The idea that everyone gets their own room? That was, you know, this, oh, look at American greatness. But prior to that, kids would sleep in the bed with their parents. Why? Because then at night, when they would cry or wiggle or smile or need food, their needs would be met. They would believe the world is okay and they would create trust, and then, we go back to the next need — right around the Freeman attachment cycle. But what did Dr. Spock say? Dr. Spock told everybody, “Let the kid cry.” Now, go back to that cycle. When the kid is crying, the kid is demanding, asking, begging, pleading for that child’s needs to be met and we don’t do it. The, quote unquote, professional decided that we weren’t gonna do that and instead, we were gonna disrupt that. Why? Because that would help all of those individuals in the suburbs become better economic units. Is it any wonder that we started to see during that period of time a rise in addiction, in violence, in people dropping out of society? It was a built-in disruption that echoed into generations because the baby boomer generation believed that as they grew up, that they had been raised correctly. They were, of course, everyone’s special blessing, right, during a time of economic expansion the world had never seen. And then they did it to their kids but with the newest technologies, right? This creates generational issues and that’s what we’re seeing today.
[00:20:05] So, in the light of all of this, reexamine the story at the top of the show because what’s happening is that child is at an airport. There is nothing in this world that is more antihuman than an airport. It is in fact the craziest thing in the world because the idea that humans are going to get into a gigantic aluminum toothpaste tube, I mean go into a, sit in a chair that will then be in the sky, is insanity. And yet, we do it all the time. We don’t even think about it. That is how divorced from the amazingness of aviation that we are. But there’s nothing that’s natural about it. From the moment that you park in the parking lot to walking in to filing in lines, there’s nothing real. There’s nothing natural. You’re treated like cattle going through TSA and that doesn’t even get into how the airlines treat you. Everything’s in bags. Everything’s single-serving. Nothing is in concert with everything else. And I live in Denver, so I was flying out of the Denver International Airport, which everyone of course knows — if you follow your conspiracy theories — was developed by the Illuminati for some purpose. But if you go to the end of the A terminals now, there’s a patio where you can sit out there around your artificial flyers and look at nature but you can’t interact with it. In fact, every one of your movements in an airport is watched, monitored, curated, and choreographed. So, is it any wonder that a child who has not become accustomed to a world that is not set up for them but set up to make him an economic unit is scared? That’s what’s happening in that parking lot. That child is terrified because nothing makes any sense anymore. The routines, everything that he has come to regulate with is gone. And so, what he’s doing is he’s turning to his mother, but his mother — she can’t regulate either because traveling is stressful. And so, what’s happening is he is acting out because what he needs is reassurance that everything’s gonna be okay. And how do we get to the world is okay? Well, you have to be able to satisfy the need. His need in this particular case is nurturing. That’s a food, that’s a feeding activity to him. So, he is acting out. And what his mother did is instead of meeting the need allowing her to become what he can attach to to regulate, she yells at him and threatens him. And children being utterly dependent on their parents? This has now become a literal life-and-death situation for that child. Now, we can look at it as an adult and say, “Well, no. That’s not true.” But to the child, he doesn’t know that. And his body certainly doesn’t know that. And I’m certain that this was not the first time. But of course, where did the mother learn it? Well, she was probably yelled at going through airports, too. And you can see how this suddenly creates this generational thing because that kid is going to grow up and go through the airports either utterly fucking terrified or as an absolute tyrant. And I can point to my own context for this, right? My dad was always scared of losing control. And so, going through the airport, like it was like a military operation. We weren’t even allowed to hold our own passports. In fact, it became a joke in the family to say, “Passport? Passport? Where’s your passport?” because my dad was always terrified that we would lose this most critical document. And it created tons of stress.
[00:23:31] And so, you can see how this is generationally echoing and if you ever pay attention at an airport, you see people playing out these traumas all over the place. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And you also see people who have chosen a different path where they’re working really hard at helping kids regulate. And it was in this moment that I’m watching this mother yell at her son in the parking lot that it suddenly occurs to me that my daughters travel really, really well. And ladies and gentlemen, I would love to take credit for that, but it wasn’t me. It was my wife. My wife sunk a lot of time and energy to make sure that our girls felt safe and secure in the airport, meeting every one of their needs at every single time they asked for it, from food to comfort to movement — all of it. She was a loving and doting mother and still is. As much as I would love to take credit for how well my girls travel, I can’t because that wasn’t my doing. I took care of the everything else, but my wife took care of making sure that as we move through the Freeman attachment cycle, we’ve met our girls’ needs every single time. And now, when they’re in an airport, it’s not scary. It’s not hard. They’re relaxed. And I really wish that I could go to that mother and give her a hug and tell her like, “Hey, you’re okay,” and speak to that younger part of her.
[00:25:05] And this connects into our financial lives because money is emotional. The Freeman attachment cycle wasn’t developed for airline travel. It was developed for life and money’s part of life. A fear around money, scarcity, shame for having needs and wants, being told we can’t afford things, or punished for the things that we buy for ourselves — those are all disruptions to this attachment cycle. And it leaves a mark. It leaves a mark that we are dealing with today. Take it out of the airport and put it in the grocery store as the kid looks at the candy that looks like berries that is designed down to the very hue of the packaging and the font to create a stimulus in the child that fits into this attachment cycle only to have their parents punish them for it. We’re not responsible for what happened to us when we were little. And in many cases, our parents were extraordinarily loving people who did the absolute best they could with what they had. And that doesn’t mean that we came out of this without a mark. We can look at our money stories and we can look at our budgets, and we can see that it’s written all over it. Every one of my clients that comes into the practice at Fiscally Savage, this is half of what we deal with at the bare minimum. So, we’re not responsible for what happened to us when we were little. And this doesn’t mean that our parents were bad people. But it does mean that we are 100% responsible for how we repair this within ourselves and how we break the cycle for our kids going forward. Because remember, even if you don’t have kids, you’re still part of the village who’s raising them.
[00:26:56] And so, as I’m walking into the airport and having all of these thoughts, I decide that as I’m gonna go through the airport — because I always leave myself enough time — that I’m going to go with kindness and I’m going to internally set myself to be as soft and as comforting as humanly possible; to express gentleness with travelers and help people out where I can. I see an old lady who’s on the people-mover coming to the end and I can see the scared look in her eyes. And I walk forward and get to the end and I give her a handoff, so that she knows that she’s safe. I get on the plane and I have the window seat and I see a scared young girl who’s sitting separate from her parents who are two rows up. And I tell her, “Hey, would you like the window? Because I know I really liked the window when I was a little boy.” And her eyes light up and she moves over and then she tells me that she’s glad that they can look out the window because it’s gonna help her baby. And she has this little doll in a little hoodie and she’s projected on all of her worries and fears onto that doll. And she’s pointing all the things out the window. And as we take off, she gets scared. And I decide that I’m just gonna help regulate her the best I can by explaining all the sounds and all the bumps and why she’s safe. When we landed in Salt Lake City, I felt better than when I took off because I heard children crying, I engaged with people, because I chose human activities and community all within the midst of the most deeply antihuman context we’ve ever developed. And ladies and gentlemen, that made all the difference in the world.
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