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The Roots of Resilience and Opposition in Kids

Presented by Deborah MacNamara, Ph.D.

Monday, May 29, 2023  |  Vancouver, bc

Date & Location

Monday, May 29, 2023 – Monday, May 29, 2023

8:30 am – 4:00 pm

Wosk Auditorium, Jewish Community Centre

950 W. 41st Avenue
Vancouver, BC

 Full map & directions

Workshop Description

Making Sense of Resistance and Opposition in Kids

The instinct to resist being controlled or coerced is one of the most perplexing and troublesome dynamics in dealing with children and youth. This presentation reveals the dynamics controlling this instinct and provides suggestions for how to deal with it. This material is applicable for all those dealing with toddlers through adolescents: teachers, parents and helping professionals, and is based on the relational and developmental approach of Gordon Neufeld.

Counterwill is a name for the instinctive reaction of a child to resist being controlled. This resistance can take many forms: opposition, negativism, laziness, noncompliance, disrespect, lack of motivation, belligerence, incorrigibility and even antisocial attitudes and actions. It can also express itself in resistance to learning. Despite the multitude of manifestations, the underlying dynamic is deceptively simple – a defensive reaction to perceived control or coercion. Counterwill is undoubtedly the most misunderstood and misinterpreted dynamic in adult-child relations. The simplicity of the dynamic is in sharp contrast to the trouble it creates – for parents, for teachers, and for anyone dealing with children. It creates a perplexing dilemma in that what is most demanded or expected from a child can become the least likely to be realized. Understanding the role of counterwill in the development process is the key to knowing how to handle it. A three-pronged approach to safely defusing counterwill and to handling the resistant child or adolescent will be discussed.

The Roots of Resilience and Resourcefulness

One of the most challenging and crucial questions of our time is why some bounce back from adversity, seemingly unscathed, while others fall apart and become emotionally distraught and dysfunctional. What has become apparent is that it is not what happens to us – good or bad – that explains how we are ultimately affected, but rather something about ourselves that sets the stage for the story that unfolds. But what is this something? Do some have this prerequisite ‘something’ and others not? Or does everyone possess this ‘something’ but it somehow needs to be activated for the potential to be realized?

The pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together and the answer is in this remarkable human attribute called ‘resilience’ or the ability to bounce back. Resilience is the ultimate good news story – that stress in itself is not the enemy and that we need not be brought down by the circumstances in our lives. After years of mistaken focus on the stress part of the equation, the focus is now on uncovering the keys that can unlock the amazing human potential to grow through adversity, to thrive under duress, and to bounce back from trauma.

Resilience is probably the most important topic of our time. It holds the answers to emotional health and well-being, to mental illness, to healing and recovery, to prevention, to addiction, and much more. Resilience is not only the best overall prevention but also the best focus for intervention. Resilience should be everyone’s concern, not only the medical and helping professionals, but also educators, parents, and society at large. Resilience is about ourselves and those we are responsible for.

So where does resilience come from and how are we to make sense of it? The answers lie surprisingly in fresh understandings of emotion, relationship, feelings, play and rest. These pivotal factors have unfortunately been eclipsed by the current prevailing focus on symptoms, syndromes and stress, as well as problem behaviour and dysfunction. The incredible story of emotional health and well-being is not about what has happened to us but rather about what hasn’t happened within us.

Workshop Topics:

Agenda & Learning Objectives

Making Sense of Resistance and Opposition in Kids


  • Counterwill distilled to the essence
  • How `will` provokes `counterwill`
  • The many faces of counterwill
  • How counterwill serves attachment
  • Counterwill in the alpha child
  • Counterwill and competing attachments
  • How to defuse counterwill through attachment
  • How counterwill serves the individuation process
  • How counterwill is misread as willful
  • How to make room for a child`s will
  • How to keep counterwill from sabotaging the relationship
  • How to maintain the lead position
  • How to reduce pressure and coercion

The Roots of Resilience and Resourcefulness


  • what is optimal functioning and characteristics associated with it
  • an updated look at the nature of stress and neuroscience of emotion
  • resilience and the science of emotion
  • the role of attachment in the development of resilience and human adaptation
  • The role of play in setting the stage for resilience

Learning Objectives

Making Sense of Resistance and Opposition in Kids

  • the many faces of counterwill
  • the meaning of counterwill
  • how to differentiate between counterwill that is healthy and counterwill that is a sign of something amiss
  • a three-pronged approach to dealing with counterwill
  • why praise and reward can backfire in some children
  • why counterwill is normal in toddlers and preschoolers
  • why pervasive counterwill is a sign of attachment problems
  • the importance of not taking counterwill personally
  • how to prevent and defuse counterwill in children
  • how to safeguard one`s relationship against the fallout from counterwill
  • how to avoid a battle of counterwill`s

The Roots of Resilience and Resourcefulness

  • what resilience looks like when distilled to its essence
    the three tell-tale signs of optimal functioning
  • the role of true rest in resilience
    the difference between feelings and emotions and why we need to feel our emotions
  • the three personal keys that unlock one’s innate potential for resilience
  • how to make sense of the typical stress response
  • understanding the essence of stress and recognizing it despite the diversity of experience
  • the common impact of adversity and how it can be circumvented
  • the tell-tale signs of emotional hardening often mistaken for resilience
  • the complicated role of attachment in stress and resilience
  • the surprising role of true play in resilience
  • how child-centered parenting can backfire, resulting in reflected fragility rather than reflected strength
  • how to help children grow out of counterwill

Continuing Education Credits

This workshop has been formally approved by the following associations:
  • Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)

† The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers (NLASW) accept CPA-approved CEUs.

* Participants will receive a certificate of completion after every workshop. Workshops are pre-approved for 5.5 or 6 credits per day unless otherwise specified.

Your Presenter(s)

Deborah MacNamara, Ph.D.

Deborah MacNamara, Ph.D., is a Vancouver-based clinical counsellor and educator with more than 25 years’ experience working with children, youth, and adults. She is on faculty at the Neufeld Institute, operates a counselling practice, and speaks regularly about child and adolescent development to parents, child care providers, educators, and mental health professionals. She is also the author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or Anyone Who Acts Like One) which has been translated into ten languages and provides a 360-degree developmental walk around the young child. She continues to write, do radio and television interviews, and speak to the needs of children and youth from a developmental science-based approach. Deborah resides in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two children.

More information: www.neufeldinstitute.org/person/deborah-macnamara/

Who Should Attend

Education and Clinical Professionals: K–12 Classroom Teachers, School Counsellors/Psychologists, Learning Assistance/ Resource Teachers, School Administrators, School Paraprofessionals including Special Education Assistants, Classroom Assistants and Childcare Workers. All other professionals who support students including but not limited to: Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, Clinical Counsellors, Family Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Addiction Counsellors, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Probation Officers, Police Officers, and Early Childhood Educators.

Parents, Caregiver, Foster Parents, Grandparents, and Extended Family raising a child.


Recommended Accommodation

Granville Island Hotel

1253 Johnston Street
Vancouver, BC

phone:  604.683.7373

website:  www.granvilleislandhotel.com

 Full map & directions

Our rates:

To make a reservation, please call 604-683-7373.

When booking hotel rooms, ask for the Jack Hirose and Associates corporate rate. To receive our corporate rate, rooms must be booked one month prior to the workshop date. Please keep in mind hotel rates may fluctuate.

Registration & Fees

Registration Early bird Fee Regular Fee
Individual Enrollment $269 $289
Group 3-7 $254 $274
Group 8-14 $239 $259
Group 15+ $224 $244
Full-Time Student $224 $244
Individual Enrollment $269 $289
Group 3-7 $254 $274
Group 8-14 $239 $259
Group 15+ $224 $244
Full-Time Student $224 $244
Attend Both Events and SAVE!
Individual Enrollment $469 $489
Group 3-7 $449 $469
Group 8-14 $429 $449
Group 15+ $409 $429
Full-Time Student $409 $429

Fees do not include applicable taxes (5% GST).

Early bird cutoff date: May 15, 2023
To receive the early bird rate, registration and payment must be received by Monday, May 15, 2023.

Please review our Registration Terms and Conditions for information on our cancellation policy, payment policies, rebates, and more. You must agree to our Terms and Conditions to register for a workshop or conference.

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