Cindy combines theoretical mastery of her material with lively, entertaining, and heartfelt stories of the difficulties and successes she has experienced with her own family. This approach enables her to effectively help others put the theory into practice in everyday interactions with the children in one’s life (as well as in relationship with oneself and one’s mate). Her presentations range from two-hour talks to multi-day seminars. In addition to the topics listed below, Cindy can customize presentations to meet the needs of a particular group.  

Cindy presents to parents, educators, undergraduate and graduate students, and mental health professionals in a variety of venues.  She is available for teacher/administrator professional development days, parent groups, university courses, and continuing education programs for licensed professionals. Presentations rooted in the attachment based developmental paradigm pioneered by Gordon Neufeld are presented with his express permission. Workshops cover all types of problems with parenting and problems in educational environments.

Making Sense of Young Children

The needs of a young child are profoundly determined by the dynamics of attachment. Insight into a young child’s inner world lays the foundation for intuitive and fruitful interaction that can make a profound difference over the long term. Making Sense of Young Children will help participants understand the developmental characteristics of these early years including learning how to cultivate deep attachments, dealing with separation anxiety, accurately interpreting impulsive or defiant behavior, and responding wisely to aggression and complaint. It will allow participants to better cultivate resilience in their children and discover safe alternatives to damaging disciplinary practices.

 

Discipline That Doesn’t Divide 

One of the most common challenges parents face is how to help children behave without resorting to threats, coercion, withdrawing connection, or bargaining, approaches that produce short-term results but are damaging to the relationship in the long-term. The context of relationship with our children is the single most important factor determining our success as parents. For this reason it is critical that we find ways to help our children grow up that preserve and protect the relationship instead of compromising it. Discipline That Doesn’t Divide outlines basic principles of discipline that are both attachment friendly and developmentally safe. The presentation explores these principles in depth and clarifies how we can incorporate them into our interactions with children of all ages.

 

Why Children Say “No”: Understanding Resistance

Children are instinctively primed to resist and oppose when they feel pressed upon or controlled by others. This basic human reaction – the counterwill instinct - can be highly disruptive for parents and teachers and is undoubtedly one of the most troublesome, misunderstood and misdiagnosed dynamics in childhood. Why Children Say “No” helps make sense of the natural response of children to resist direction and to defy others when feeling coerced, explaining the key protective role this instinct plays and offering insightful approaches to reduce this instinctive response and gain our children’s cooperation.

 

Resistance and Oppositionality in Teens

Human beings are naturally inclined to resist and oppose when feeling pressed upon or controlled. While the reaction is quite normal, and even healthy in certain circumstances, its manifestations and impact can be highly disruptive and disturbing, making life difficult for parents and teachers. Resistance can take many forms: negativism, disobedience, rebellion, passivity, noncompliance, disrespect, nonconformity, belligerence, incorrigibility and even antisocial attitudes and actions. There are a variety of reasons, both healthy and unhealthy, why this impulse – the counterwill instinct – becomes more acute in adolescence. Resistance and Oppositionality in Teens will outline the meaning of this deep-rooted instinct, the dynamics that control its existence and expression, and provide strategies for how to handle this misunderstood and troublesome reaction.

 

Confident Parenting: Gaining the Insight We Need to Do the Job

How do we nurture our children and provide the necessary elements for growth? The more insight we have into what is truly needed, the more we naturally see ourselves as our children’s answer. By focusing on the maturation processes occurring inside our children, 

and deepening our understanding of the role of attachment and vulnerability, we become more confident about standing in the extraordinarily important role we play with our kids.

 

Being in Right Relationship with Our Children: Who's In Charge?

As more and more children attempt to take charge with their parents and teachers, we experience the tremendous challenges that come from having lost our place of natural authority. When children succeed in taking the lead, they become increasingly difficult to parent and to teach. We, the adults responsible for them, become depleted, and no matter how much we do for our children it never seems to satisfy. When children take charge, they are also robbed of the conditions they need to mature and realize their full potential. The solution lies not in parenting “tips” and “techniques” but in clearly understanding where we have gone off track and then restoring the relationship to its proper context. Being in Right Relationship with our Children: Who’s in Charge? will identify the signs of an inverted relationship and explain how to resume your rightful place in your child’s life. 

 

Beyond Sibling Rivalry

While conflict and competition between siblings can be a natural occurrence, it is often one of the most frustrating aspects of family life. Seeing one child verbally or physically attack their sibling can be upsetting and leave us at a loss for how to respond. Beyond Sibling Rivalry will uncover the roots of competition, aggression, and impulsivity in our children and shed light on why sibling conflict is so prevalent. It will also offer strategies for handling specific incidents and for achieving long-term developmental goals that offer deeper, lasting solutions. 

 

 

Cultivating Caring Children 

We all want kind and considerate children, but there is much confusion about how to get there. Understanding the developmental roots of these esteemed virtues helps unravel the mystery of how to raise socially responsible human beings. What may come as a surprise is the negative effect that some of prevailing practices in parenting and education have on our children’s capacity to care. Cultivating Caring Children reveals how parents can best cultivate these characteristics in their children and is an excellent general introduction to the developmental approach to raising children.

The Trouble with Time Outs
Time-outs have become the disciplinary practice of choice because they often produce the desired behavior. Despite the current assumption that this is a safe practice, time outs are contrary to our child’s attachment needs and can be debilitating to their healthy development. The issue is not whether time outs “work” but why they “work” and what the psychological and developmental costs are for the child in the long term. The Trouble with Time Outs will outline how this popular practice can be harmful to our children and offer alternative approaches that protect the child’s growth and development.

 

The Roots of Resiliency and Resourcefulness
Humans are one of the most adaptive species in nature, able to overcome adversity and find creative solutions to our problems, but unfortunately this does not apply to all of us. Given the turbulence and change of our world, raising resourceful and resilient children has never been more important. They must face disappointment, loss, and circumstances they cannot change; with resilience, they will not merely endure these experiences but actually gain strength and confidence from their ability to cope with them. The Roots of Resiliency and Resourcefulness will uncover the developmental roots of these critical functions and clarify parents’ key role in fostering this capacity in their children.

 

Making Sense of Adolescence
Crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood has never been so daunting. Adolescence literally means ‘growing into maturity’: an adolescent is neither fully a child nor fully an adult and there are many challenges inherent in this process even in the best of conditions. Our highly complex society requires a lengthy adolescence yet provides little support in understanding or facilitating this transition. The challenge is neither to treat teens as though they were children nor to retreat from them as though they were independent adults. Rather than turning to peers for guidance and consolation, the resolution to adolescent challenges lies in deep attachments to the adults in their lives. Making Sense of Adolescence will help participants understand the inner life of the adolescent, see the developmental purpose behind maddening behaviors, and develop a vision of how the process is meant to unfold

 

The Teachability Factor

Teaching doesn’t always result in learning; in fact, the gap between teachers and kids seems to be widening. Despite advances in curriculum, technology, and pedagogy, the teachability of children is on the wane; as a result, teaching has become much more difficult than it used to be and more difficult than it needs to be. The receptivity of a student is the single most important factor in the learning equation, yet this variable is rarely addressed. This presentation will tease apart the psychological determinants of learning to reveal the impact of attachment, immaturity and vulnerability in facilitating or impeding the learning process. Practical suggestions to increase one’s effectiveness as a teacher through improving the teachability of students will be provided.

 

The Making and Unmaking of Bullies
Most attempts to change bullies, or to “teach them a lesson,” are not only futile but actually compound the problem. The reason is that most interventions are not based in an accurate understanding of what makes a bully in the first place. We mistakenly perceive strength in bullies when in fact there is fragility, attribute intention where there is in fact pure instinct, and assume conscious choice where instead there is compulsion. Blinded by these misperceptions, we battle against the symptoms in ways that often harden the very syndrome we wish to eliminate. The key to making sense of the bully lies is seeing what is missing. When we get past the violating behavior to the underlying functioning, gaping holes become apparent. Once we understand how bullies are made, attempts to unmake them can be truly effective. Every human has the potential to become a bully and every bully has the potential to become fully human.

Presentations:

"It is the relationship of the child to the adult responsible for their care that is the most significant factor in the unfolding of human potential."

                                                              -Gordon Neufeld

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The sessions Cindy has facilitated with our faculty are amazingly pertinent to our work with our students and so very helpful. Her insight and experience are extremely valuable. She is authentic and humble, yet so confident in helping us be the answer the children need. Each session has been inspiring and brought at least one of us to tears as we reflected upon our mission as teachers, and touched parts of ourselves that needed to be explored and perhaps healed. Cindy is able to bring the work of Dr. Neufeld into the classroom in a professional and practical way.

-Nancy McNabb, Head of School,

Middle Creek Montessori, Bozeman, MT.

Presentations & Education

Growing Our Children Up, Growing Ourselves Up

Dr. Gordon Neufeld's courses I have attended with Cindy Leavitt have literally transformed my life, the lives of those around me and the lives of children entrusted to my care.  I have undergone a deep process of healing and inner transformation.  These invaluable courses, Cindy’s presentations, and her mastery of Dr. Neufeld's material have really helped me understand how to deal with challenging situations and behaviors.  I have not only grown in my capacity to love and understand children and adults alike, but I have also grown in my capacity for compassion and patience, truly making a bigger difference in the lives of those around me.
 
Mayela R Koster, Founder and Director of Renaissance Montessori and mother of two boys.

Last night my husband and I had a chance to do the knowledge transfer and today we both set about implementation. I can't even tell you the REMARKABLE difference in our child that has already occurred in such a short time. We've made incredible inroads to repairing our relationship with our daughter and I am blown away by how just a few simple (but very powerful) changes can make a world of difference.  

- Mother from Seattle Who's in Charge Presentation

Cindy also offers private parent consulting sessions to help clients regain their confidence and dignity as mothers and fathers by providing the insight they need to understand their child from the inside out.