You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Parenting with responsiveness and connection

Form a never-ending bond and connection with your child by being loving and responsive.

Attachment Parenting, Responsive Parenting, and just plain parenting has always been a common topic among parents, especially since the cover of Time magazine hit the stores  about a year ago showing a breastfeeding Mom and a toddler.  That cover caused quite the stir in parenting circles, and many parents started to wonder what is actually needed to form the wonderful, loving bonds so necessary between parent and child.  Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician in California, coined the term attachment parenting 25 plus years ago.  Since then, there have been numerous conversations, arguments, and articles telling parents what their baby needs.  Research shows that babies and children with strong parental attachments grow up to be loving, trusting, caring, and confident adults.  Don’t we all want that for our children?!  My thoughts on this?  Parents really know what their baby needs…they just have to be confident enough to parent!  Really listening to your heart is the best way to start.  I always tell new parents, “if it feels wrong, it probably is.”  Parents get so many different pieces of advice,  and are often stressed and confused, but most of the time if parents love their child and parent in a way that “feels right” to their heart, they will make the right choices in parenting strategies.  Parenting is all about forming a strong connection with your child, not necessarily about following specific “rules” of a type of parenting strategy.  Parenting according to  your child’s developmental level and temperament, and being open, loving, and responsive to cues your child gives you is the best way to parent.

Tips on being a responsive, nurturing parent.

  1. Work on listening to your child’s communication. 
  • During the first few weeks after a baby’s birth, Mom, Dad and baby are getting to know each other.  Soon parents start to understand some of their baby’s communication cues.  Most babies will root and suck when hungry, arch their back when they are uncomfortable, and have a blank stare when tired.  Crying can mean many things like “I am hungry”, “ I am tired”, “I am bored”, “I need a diaper change”, “I need to be held”, “I don’t feel well”…and parents will begin to decipher their baby’s cries in a few weeks.
  • As a child grows and develops, the communication will change.  Toddlers often will have tantrums out of frustration.  Parents will learn how to give their toddler words to decrease frustration and tantrums and will soon learn to help their toddler handle frustration.
  • Older children will communicate with words, but parents will know their child so well that often they will pick up on subtle communication.  Often I will hear, “I just knew he wasn’t OK even though he didn’t say anything.”  Parents that keep communication open and responsive will know their child intimately.  Go with your gut.

2.  Feed your baby lovingly.

  • I am a huge supporter of breast-feeding.  There are so many advantages to breast-feeding your baby.  I also know that there are times that breast-feeding simply does not work for a Mom for various reasons, and sometimes Moms feel very guilty about their choice to bottle feed.  One of the biggest keys to developing a strong parental attachment is feeding LOVINGLY.  That means, responding to your baby’s feeding cues in an intimate way, holding your baby in a loving cuddle, and feeding on demand.  Parents can develop wonderful connections to their baby by feeding LOVINGLY, breast or bottle.
  1. Respond and connect.
  • Certainly the early days are important in forming a true connection with your child.  However, the key to bonding and connection is responding to the needs of your child throughout the parenting process.  Bonding is ongoing, it is not always just instant from birth on, it is a process.  A parent must continue to tune into their child and share joys, frustrations, sadness, and fun over the long run.  Responsiveness brings connection.  Learn your child’s temperament and respond lovingly to it.
  1. Touch lovingly and often.
  • Babies and older children need to be touched.  Infant massage, hugs, kisses, skin-to-skin touch, and physical play with older children are essential to the bonding and connection process.  Some parents fear they may “spoil” their baby from holding and carrying too much.  During the first year, “spoiling” doesn’t happen.  Studies show us that responding to an infant’s cries, holding, rocking, and not letting an infant younger than 5 or 6 months of age “cry it out” provides the tools a baby needs to develop good physical mental, social, and emotional health.
  1. Safe sleep that is connected with a loving and consistent environment.
  • Babies need sleep that is safe and in a loving environment.  Practice safe sleep guidelines, but respond to your infant at night.  Feed lovingly on demand and establish a loving bedtime routine with your child.  Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children need to have a loving, calming, bedtime routine for sleep.  A well rested child results in better behavior, better school performance, and easier parenting!
  1. Provide overall consistency.
  • Try to be consistent in your parenting.  Children feel secure in their parents when things are predictable.  “I know Mom and Dad react this way when I do this.”  Routines and patterns in care bring stability to a child.  A child with very little routine at home often feels disconnected, stressed, and will many times act out.
  1. Provide positive discipline.
  • Parents need to have a discipline approach that teaches their child there are consequences for behavior.  This discipline should be positive and nonviolent.  Positive discipline helps your child develop an inner conscience to guide him or her in future decisions.  Discipline should not be scary, but loving and consistent.  Mom and Dad need to be on the same page with discipline and remember that attention drives behavior in children.  Lots of attention to an unwanted behavior, even negative attention, will reinforce that behavior!
  1. Be sure to balance.
  • Parenting requires balancing your needs, your partner’s needs, and your child’s needs.  You will learn when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to your child and others.  You will need to take care of yourself to be a good parent.  Parents that have no time to recharge cannot continue to be a responsive parent.

8.  ENJOY!

  • Parenting is a full-time job…but it is a wonderful one.  There is lots of information out there that can make parenting seem like a rigid, stressful job.  Make time for fun and spontaneity!  When parents are confident in their parenting, there is plenty of time for fun.  Learn to be flexible when it is time to be flexible and laugh when there are moments that are laughable.  Parenting is incredible…with all its challenges laughter, joy and love that comes with it.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


1 Comment


    1. Does your child have “selective hearing”? « raisingkidswithlove

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