Attachment Safe and Developmentally Friendly


Every parent, teacher and helping professional wants to know what to do when ….. 

Students and young people are increasingly angrier, lonelier, more anxious and less able to self-regulate. This one day presentation speaks to the question of what to do when feelings get big and the behaviour gets bigger! This is often the most pressing and universal issue in dealing with children. Finding the right answers to these questions becomes more challenging when adults are concerned about issues like attachment and healthy development and do not want their discipline methods to undermine or sabotage these processes. At the same time however, there is the responsibility to teach the lessons that need to be learned and to impose order when required. 

Learn how teachers, parents and counsellors can support social and emotional development whilst providing boundaries and safe relationships. Change your thinking about discipline by exploring the six traits of the well-behaved and the twelve best practices of safe discipline in the larger context of what is required to raise children to their full potential as human beings. This presentation provides participants with the opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach to discipline with strategies that are attachment-safe and developmentally friendly. The guidelines and principles apply to children of all ages, based on the work of the Neufeld Institute.

Major Themes Explored


Current approaches to discipline are deeply embedded in assumptions about human behaviour that originate over four hundred years ago and have since been thoroughly debunked. In this session, we put the topics of discipline and behaviour management into some historical perspective and reveal the flaws in approaches that ignore the role of attachment, instinct and emotion. In addition, we reveal the implications of thinking of discipline as 'teaching the child a lesson'. Fresh understandings of how the brain actually works helps to provide a foundation for an enlightened approach to managing a child's behaviour until they are capable of managing their own. Critical to any approach to discipline is to use practices that are developmentally appropriate, not only in terms of age but also in terms of readiness.


Every single child has the potential to be well-behaved quite spontaneously and from the inside out. The realization of this potential depends upon the development of six natural traits, none of which are genetic or learned. What these traits are and how they are developed, is the topic of this session. Surprisingly the keys to consistently good behaviour lie not in learning or discipline, but in right relationships and in healthy brain functioning. Taking a long view of discipline enables parents to provide the conditions that are conducive to healthy development. For teachers, understanding what traits are missing and why, provides much insight into how to compensate for developmental deficits. This session also helps to explain why some children have much more trouble behaving than other children.


In this session, we cover the territory of discipline by outlining four basic directions one can take in managing a child's behaviour, with three core practices involved in each of the four directions. Included in this session is a discussion of how best to manage incidents where troubling behaviour occurs, as well as practices that help children grow out of discipline problems. This session also includes strategies for compensating for immaturity or stuckness in a child. All twelve practices are not only effective when properly applied but also attachment friendly and developmentally safe.


Play is a powerful instrument in managing behaviour. Play not only changes the heart, but also preserves and develops a child's will as well as prepares the mind to become more informed by the outcomes of behaviour. When employed properly, play can be used as the default method of managing the behaviour of the immature. Play is especially important in pre-empting powerful instincts of resistance as well as managing difficult alpha instincts and attacking impulses. Since most troubling behaviour results from the failure to adapt to that which one cannot control, play also serves a significant role in fostering this adaptation.

Course objectives

Apply developmental science to the arena of discipline

Enable parents, teachers, and helping professionals to think critically regarding the current discipline practices

Provide a philosophy of discipline that is congruent with science and with the developmental needs of the child

Equip parents and teachers with the inner confidence to handle problem behaviour

Provide discipline strategies that are attachment-safe and developmental friendly

Provide special strategies for stuck kids who cannot benefit from normal discipline measures


This workshop is suitable for any setting involving children: home, school, playground, residential programs.

The material is suitable for educators, counsellors, helping professionals and parents.

The guidelines and principles apply to children of all ages.

Dr Deborah MacNamara

Dr. Deborah MacNamara 

Deborah is a Clinical Counsellor and Developmentalist, on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute and Director of Kid’s Best Bet, a counselling centre for families. Deborah completed a two-year post doctoral internship with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, is an award winning researcher, and has over 20 years experience as a teacher and counsellor working with leading institutions such as the University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Vancouver School Board. Deborah regularly appears on radio and TV, her articles appear in parenting magazines, websites, and newsletters across Canada and internationally. She resides in Vancouver British Columbia with her family and consciously works to create an attachment village for her children to grow up in. 

Deborah is a dynamic teacher and experienced counsellor who makes developmental science come to life in the everyday context of home and classroom, including complex behavioural and learning problems. Deborah travels internationally, speaking to child and adolescent development issues including to the United Nations and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. She regularly presents to parents, educators, child care professionals, social workers, the foster and adopt community, and health care professionals, sharing her insight and passion for making sense of kids. She is a developmentalist at heart who is continually fascinated by the mysteries and beauty inherent in human maturation.

She is author of the best selling book Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one), which makes sense of young children through developmental science and is what every child wished their adults understood about them.  Her first children’s picture book, The Sorry Plane, is about respecting the feelings of children and supporting their emotional development.


The Neufeld Institute

The Neufeld Institute provides education and training to adults involved with children and youth based on the attachment-based, developmental model created by the psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. The populations served are parents, foster parents, educators, and helping professionals in English, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish, and Swedish. The educational material is delivered through personalized study programs as well as through presentations, seminars and courses, including video courses. The Neufeld Institute’s Advanced Studies Program equips participants to deliver the material to groups of parents and professionals. For more information please see

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author of Hold On To Your Kids, and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training others, including educators and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather to five.