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How to get First 2-4 Years Right – Dr. Gabor Maté’s Compassionate Inquiry Workshop Summary

Magical Child Artist Studio Kids Art Craft Space With our thoughts we create the world IKEA kid furniture smock

With our thoughts we create the world.

This year I attended Dr. Gabor Maté‘s Compassionate Inquiry workshop online. For those of you who do not know, Dr Maté is world reknown for his revolutionary work on childhood development, parenting, AD(H)D (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) and addiction. He was awarded the Order of Canada, has authored four best-seller books (see below) and often gives talks on mind-body connection.

This workshop was not intended for general public but rather for healthcare professionals. However, being a big fan of his work, I thought it was well worth the investment to attend and see how I can learn to be a better parent and person.

The workshop was 2+ days long, so I won’t review everything in this post. Instead, I will focus on what will be relevant to you as a parent. I filled half a notebook with notes as the workshop was so amazingly informative and I learned so, SO much. I had many eye-opening moments where I really felt my consciousness expanding and I want to share a bit of that with you here. This way, if what Dr. Maté said speaks to you as much as it does to me, you can check out  his work online.

***Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a doctor, so all the information in this article is for information purposes only. Also, this site contains affiliate links, and if you decide to purchase anything from suggested links or companies, I may receive a commission. Recommended products are either things I love using or think would be helpful for you. Making your purchase using these affiliate links helps keep this site running, so thank you kindly!***


Dr. Maté said that all life situations can be used as an opportunity for growth. He quoted Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl from a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning, saying:

“You can’t control external circumstances, but you can choose to control your response to those circumstances, even dire ones.

This can be applied to situations when your child does something that makes you feel angry. Often we tend to react to “misbehavior” and yell, shout or even spank a child. Dr. Maté is vehemently against hitting children and believes that:

“We don’t react to what happens. We all react to the interpretation of what happens and we ‘chose’ the worst interpretation… If you are upset, hurt, angry, etc. it’s not about the present moment, but a clue to your past… You are never angry about what you think you are angry about… You are never upset about what you think you are upset about.”

So what he suggests is that if you find yourself feeling angry at your child, stop and pay attention to your body – to see what is happening inside you, to pay attention to what is making YOU feel this way. And the more you do it, the more you will realize that it’s not that the child is making you angry, but that something that the child did triggers you – your past self. Use this as an opportunity to discover what that trigger is and work on it. Dr. Maté  advises to be curious about your reactions – ask yourself, “What is happening inside me?”

“Where there is anger, there is always hurt underneath.” – Eckhart Tolle

Dr. Maté supports Attachment Parenting and talked about his opposing views on the CIO (Crying it Out) method.

“Infants are the most vulnerable people of all, so they can be wounded… When a ‘Crying it Out’ method is used, the message that an infant gets is that they don’t matter. That they are alone with their feelings. That they are not good enough to be cared about. That the world is indifferent.”



I learned that if a child has COLIC it means that she is picking up on the stress in the environment (usually mom). So he suggests that if your child has colic, try to find ways to calm down.

“Energy of where you are coming from is much more important than the content of what you say and what your conscious intentions are. Most important thing to pay attention to is where you are coming from. The most important part of our transaction with other people is who we are being.”


Apparently, if a child experiences chronic bullying, it means that they have lost connection with parents.


AD(H)D is a coping mechanism – a “natural response to an abnormal situation.” He wrote an entire book on this topic (link below) and believes that AD(H)D originates in childhood when the child looses attachment / nurturing conditions necessary for their healthy development.


“Mother’s emotional state during pregnancy has an effect on the child – on the nervous system.”

TRAUMADr. Gabor Mate Quote Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you

Dr. Maté  explained that if you are more constricted in your functioning / reactions and beliefs about the world, etc. then you are traumatized. If not, then you suffered.

“Trauma is a constriction in you that was not there before. If there is no constriction, there is no trauma, no matter how bad the event was… Trauma shapes your view of the world… Trauma makes it hard to be in the present moment.”

He also talked about gut feelings vs. strong emotions.

  • Gut feelings: There is a calm knowing (nothing to do with thought)
  • Strong emotions: Real disturbance and agitation

Dr. Gabor Mate Quote Childhood

“Anything that is ‘wrong’ with you began as a survival mechanism in childhood.” He said that it deserves nothing but respect and compassion and what helps a child survive later becomes a source of dysfunction. So keep that in mind as you parent and also while looking back at your own childhood!


Someone asked “How do you take care of your own needs as mothers while also taking care of babies?”

Dr. Maté talked about how we are meant to live in communities like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way the child is always with the parent, is not hit and attachment is created with multiple adults. His advice for modern-day parents is:Dr. Gabor Mate Quote Parenting

Dr. Maté stated that while this is difficult work in today’s world, there are things we can all do to raise healthy children and here are his suggestions:

  • Organize your environment to support your needs.
  • Mother’s needs should not be met at the expense of the child.

“What we don’t give up now, we will give it up later in an exaggerated fashion.”

  • Don’t impose personal stuff on the kid.
  • Be curious about the child.

Dr. Gabor Mate Quote Attention

Do not judge child for behavior, but be curious about it. Ask yourself:

What do they need?
What are they missing?


Dr. Maté’s explained that children have two deep, biological needs:

  1. Attachment – connection with another person
  2. Authenticity – being connected with yourself and being able to act on it (i.e. the gut feelings mentioned above)

When these two needs are in conflict, a child cannot be authentic, so they choose attachment and that makes them trapped.

If you find yourself trapped in this way, he suggests a Daily Practice that brings you back to yourself – things like contemplation, journaling, meditation, yoga.Dr. Gabor Mate Quote Children

Dr. Gabor Mate quote Children mirrored BMA Baltimore Museum of Art

“The most important thing that you offer is the quality of your relationship. The real relationship has to be developed with yourself – creativity, art, dancing, drama, anything that bring you in relationship to yourself… What are you doing to help yourself self-care? Body, emotions, soul. How much time can you call your won? Do you have 5 minutes a day where you are not externally focused? Do you dislike yourself so much that you can’t spend time with yourself?”

And my favorite quote from the weekend! :DDr. Gabor Mate Quote Kids We are all kids at heart. Don't be so serious.


In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction When the Body Says No Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It

  1. Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
  2. Scattered Minds: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It
  3. When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection
  4. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

If you liked the quotes in this article, then add them to Pinterest so that they can also help others on their parenting journey. ❤

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