Trust is at the heart of secure attachment and meaningful connections. It provides a foundation for children to feel motivated and inspired to expand their knowledge of the world and themselves. Responsive parenting is about encouraging feelings of trust within your child; trust in you, trust in the world around them and most of all, trust in themselves. Responsive parents use the tools of empathy, unconditional love and responsive care, to achieve this secure bond and belief in one another.
Responsive parenting is about responding to the needs of the child and their parent, as much as possible. They are not seen as individual, but as a dyad, that adapts in the pursuit of meeting both parties needs, without sacrificing the needs of the other. Responsive parents respond to the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of their children, as much as they can. Behaviour is seen as communication and the parent tries their best to make their child feel heard. Responsive care is the foundation for secure attachment. Reciprocity and synchrony are the instinctual tools one uses to encourage secure attachment. This dance can help with developing a flexible routine that allows both parent and baby to get their needs met, while still bonding and connecting.
Responsive parents recognize that quality of attachment has a major influence on a child’s holistic development. We have the most sacred and valuable job in the world. It is as simple as it is complex; it is to provide unconditional love and acceptance that leads to secure attachment. Everything else won’t matter if that is not in place. It is the single most important job we have and the only way we are going to have a new generation of altruistic souls. Responsive parents try not to use the instinctual power and nature of attachment to manipulate or scare a child into compliance. Instead they try to foster intrinsic motivation with empathy and incentives, instead of rewards and punishments. They also use encouragement and modelling instead of direct teaching and praise. They refrain from using shame, guilt, power or fear to motivate a child. They respond to the needs of their children, regardless of age, behaviour or time of day. These tools help to foster secure attachment and maintain that bond and security, throughout both their lives.
Responsive parenting is about accepting the wonder, beauty and innocence of childhood. It is about seeing childhood as the most powerful season of growth in a persons life. We accept that children are competent and capable of knowing what they need. This trust in our children’s own intuition, helps them learn to listen to their own bodies and minds. Responsive parents know that children are this world’s greatest gift and if we can just nurture their beautifully kind spirits, they will save this world that we have so thoughtlessly destroyed. When we offer unconditional acceptance, we let our child know that they belong, they are worthy, they are valued and they are loved. Children who are treated this way become adults who care about this earth and everything in it as a result of being so thoughtfully cared for themselves.
Responsive parents believe all learning and development should be child-led. They recognize that this approach is usually most effective at inspiring long-term intrinsic motivation for learning, curiousity, creativity and the development of divergent thinking skills. They support their child’s unique developmental trajectory through offering experiential learning experiences, co-constructing knowledge, modelling desired behaviours and making thoughtful, intentional choices that are reflective of their child’s unique developmental needs and interests. A responsive parent does not see themselves as the ‘keeper of all knowledge,’ ready to gift their child with their infinite wisdom; rather they see this journey of parenting as a learning experience for both child and parent. From that perspective, they journey together into discovering and learning about the world and each other.
Responsive parenting is about modelling and valuing authenticity by celebrating individuality. Responsive parents know that being their authentic selves is one of the greatest gifts they can give their children. It is almost as powerful as encouraging your child to develop into their own unique selves. Responsive parents know that “when we try to teach our children how to “fit in” to society, we inadvertently send the message that conformity has a higher value than authenticity. In effect, priming them for a life of mediocrity and unhappiness, as nobody ever feels like they “fit in” when they are not being their authentic selves.” J. Milburn. By valuing authenticity, we provide a safe space for growth and a much needed sense of belonging.
Responsive parents know that they are the experts on their own children. That faith in their intuition and knowledge helps guide them when others try to give advice that doesn’t feel right. Responsive parents know that all resources for parenting “are meant to be a menu, not a manual” Lisa Spencer. They find what resonates with them, and leave what does not. For this reason, responsive parenting is an inclusive practice, as it can accommodate to the individual needs of the family and child. They acknowledge challenges of living in a world that is not truly accessible and inclusive for children. Most public places, children are expected not to act like children, or they could cause damage or get hurt. Responsive parents are aware of the inequalities against children and strategize to support them in environments that do not offer inclusive, safe spaces for them to be themselves.
Responsive parents are fierce advocates for the rights of children. They defend all children against acts of childism and always try to stand up for our most vulnerable. Whether at a playground or at a relatives house, responsive parents help children maintain body autonomy and advocate for their right to be themselves, without interferences from others. Responsive parents try to make sure their child’s voice is heard and they feel supported, throughout their lives and in all environments and situations.
Responsive parents are accountable for their own emotional baggage and how that effects their interactions with their child. They try to refrain from blaming their child for triggering painful feelings inside of themselves. Instead they use reflective practice and mindfulness to process their emotions and seek understanding into their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They have patience with themselves and their children as they try to understand how their own past experiences may be affecting them today.
Being a responsive parent involves continuous learning and growth through reflection and research. Responsive parents spend time researching their parenting strategies and child development, so they can better understand and support their child and themselves. Reflection and flexibility is key to honing in on your strengths as a parent. Responsive parents are comfortable with changing their minds, when faced with a new truth. They also take time to reflect on their own feelings and life experiences as a means to understanding how those things may affect their thoughts and behaviours. Having knowledge of child development allows us to have reasonable and informed expectations, while supporting our child’s unique developmental trajectory.
Responsive parents see the value in giving their children grace. They know modelling grace for their children and for themselves will demonstrate nurturing. A nurtured child, becomes a nurturing adult. Responsive parents recognize the immense value in nurturing your child through gracious acts of love. When in doubt, responsive parents choose grace; for their child and for themselves.
If you would like to join me, and our community of responsive parents, on this wonderfully complex journey of parenting, please join my parenting support group on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/groups/806727139517086