Everyone’s parenting journey is unique. You will encounter a number of challenges, some difficult moments, some wonderful moments, and so much more. Parenting is a full-time job, and it requires lots of energy, emotional commitment and patience. It’s hard work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
It’s impossible to say which parenting style is best, because every family dynamic is different. For some parents, conscious parenting works best. However, another style I have recently become very familiar with is responsive parenting.
As you and your child(ren) grow together, it’s my hope that you find the following information valuable and helpful.
What is Responsive Parenting?
Responsive parenting, also known as sensitive parenting, is about being aware of your child’s emotional and physical needs, and then responding appropriately. The goal is to be “in tune” with your child by being highly sensitive to your child’s needs.
You can accomplish this by trying to understand your child as they travel through different developmental stages, while also providing plenty of encouragement and support during difficult moments.
As a parent, another main principle of responsive parenting is to look within yourself as well. Try to be open to learning new strategies or hearing other ideas that might be helpful to you. Responsive parenting embraces learning and growing along the way, while using self-reflection in a way that benefits you and your child.
Principles of Responsive Parenting
At the heart of forming meaningful and secure attachment is trust. Building trust allows your child to feel secure, while also teaching your child to trust themselves as they strive to achieve a goal or try something new. This will help create a sense of security for your child.
You also need to trust yourself by trusting in your abilities and the decisions you make.
While it can be hard to know if you’re doing the right thing during a specific situation, remember that you’re doing the best you can. Remembering that you’re doing the best you can and equipping yourself with the right tools and knowledge can help you be a positive parent.
Give yourself grace and give it to your child as well. Kids are going to misbehave or have emotional outbursts. This is a given. You will likely make mistakes here and there, or wish you handled a situation differently once you have a minute to reflect on it. This is also a given. Despite these things, remember to give your child grace as well as give grace to yourself.
You both deserve it.
By modeling grace and carrying out gracious acts of love, you can create a nurturing environment within your home. A nurturing environment which can give you more time with your child that you will both enjoy.
You’ve probably heard this before. This idea of looking at yourself as if you’re staring at yourself in the mirror or examining your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Self-reflection is an amazing thing to partake in as it’s essential for growth.
Being able to reflect can allow flexibility as a parent. Examining how you handled a situation and why you handled it in that specific way. It can help you arrive at conclusions about something you want to change or simply do differently next time.
The word accountability is thrown around often. It’s about accepting responsibility for your actions. Always try to hold yourself accountable as a parent. If you make a mistake, own it and take the steps to solve it.
Parents don’t know everything and there can be so many questions that come up along the way. Seek out answers to questions you have and be open to new ideas, especially if something isn’t working.
I know I’ve mentioned self-reflection already, but this applies here as well. You can also practice mindfulness to process the emotions you’re feeling and work to understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Responsive parents can help their child maintain body autonomy and allow their child to be their authentic selves. It’s always important to make sure your child’s voice is heard and that they have your support, especially in challenging moments.
To advocate for your child, one thing you can do is communicate with them. Also, ask them about their feelings, such as about school or a new activity. By asking your child questions, you can get an idea how your child is currently feeling about something or if they’re struggling with something as well.
The Child Mind Institute offers a multitude of ways you can advocate for your child, especially in a school setting.
Every family is unique. Each has its own dynamic or family “culture,” and you should always strive to accommodate each of your children’s needs in addition to the needs as a family unit. Try to acknowledge the inequalities children face, and create safe spaces where they feel comfortable to be themselves.
Celebrate individuality. As your child grows up, they’re going to be putting together the puzzle of who they are. They’ll discover their own passions, interests and hobbies. Maybe this week your child is obsessed with sea life, but last week they were fixated on trucks or princesses or dogs. It can truly be anything.
Encourage your child to develop a sense of who they are and let them be their authentic selves. In the same breath, remember to be your authentic self as well. Set a good example. You’re probably already familiar with societal expectations and norms, or feel the pressure of trying to fit in. By letting your child be themselves, you’re creating a safe space for them.
Value authenticity by letting your child develop into their own, but also extend this to yourself as you navigate being a parent.
With a child-like sense of wonder, kids are inquisitive. You might hear the question “why?” a hundred times a day and at some point, you just don’t have any more answers. They want to know why things are the way that they are. As we get older, it’s easy to lose this thing that so many children possess.
Embrace and accept the wonder, beauty and innocence your child possesses. Accept that your child is competent and capable. Your child has the necessary tools so that they are capable and know what they need. By offering unconditional acceptance, you are letting your child know that they belong and that they’re valued. They also know that they’re loved. Once your child is an adult, they’re more likely to become accepting of others and deeply caring.
Sensitive Parenting Techniques
Creating a nurturing environment for your kids
Baking cookies with your child, working on creative projects, gathering to do a puzzle are all examples of what a nurturing environment can look like. Today, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into a screen or movie and it’s important to consider screen-time for your child.
While screens can be great for keeping your child entertained and occupied, too much use can lead to issues down the road. I’ve written about how you can make technology work better for your kids and navigate this technology and screen filled world.
Creating a nurturing environment can allow your child to thrive. Your child is given the security and opportunity to discover who they are and learn about the outside world.
Connecting with your kids through play
One of the most effective tools to build relationships with your child is through play. Maybe you let your child host a tea party or show you a little dance they just created. Just entering their little world of make believe can contribute to the long-lasting bond you have with your child.
There are so many benefits to finding some time to play with your child. Playing can help your child gain skills, such as creativity, memory, motor, regulation of emotions and so many more. Playing with your child is a way to build a strong and nurturing relationship. Let your child embrace silliness and join in.
Taking advantage of everyday moments
One can argue that everyday moments or the small things are what matter most. When life gets busy and things get chaotic, it’s easy to let small moments slip away. Instead, view every moment with your child as an opportunity.
With your kids, remember that quality time is a gift. Life’s small moments can leave a lasting impact on everyone’s life. These small or everyday moments can also turn into a long-lasting memory.
Understanding developmental stages
As your child or children grow up, there will be so many changes happening. While you’ll see physical changes, there’s also the emotional or mental changes. As time passes, your child is learning about who they are and discovering different parts of themselves.
The different child development stages your child goes through as they develop from toddlers to teens presents many different challenges. There’s the “terrible twos,” potty training, your child going to school for the first time, and many more. Eventually, they’ll create their identity separate from you.
As your child travels through developmental stages, you’ll need to use positive discipline techniques and develop age appropriate strategies. Think or read about issues you might encounter in the future so you can educate yourself on how to deal with those.
Also, consider your child’s mental health. As your child grows, make sure they have healthy social skills and can be problem solvers. In a previous blog post, I wrote about connecting with your kids and how we can help in times of loneliness. While this was written during the pandemic, you might find it helpful now.
Responding to your child’s cues
Whether it’s through spoken words or nonverbal communication, responding to your child’s cues is important. Maybe you turn away for a second and see your child drawing on the wall with a marker. Try to respond rather than react. If you need to, give yourself a minute to think so that you can then respond calmly and appropriately.
On any given day, do your best to make sure you’re meeting your child’s needs. Making sure your child is eating enough, getting enough sleep, and receiving enough love and affection can help lessen the times your child misbehaves or has emotional outbursts.
Responding to your child’s cues in a healthy and positive way can help your child feel loved, understood and lessen any frustration they’re feeling towards something. For more information, read my post on how to be a calm mom and how it’s not only good for our well-being but also our children’s.
Responsive Parenting Books
There are many positive parenting books that can help you discover parenting techniques, practical strategies, and problem solving skills. Parenting is hard. We all need a little help from time to time and there are so many experts that share their knowledge that we can learn from.
I compiled a few to share with you.
Written by Hunter Clarke-Fields, Raising Good Humans is a guide to breaking the cycle of reactive parenting and provides tips on how you can raise kind and confident kids. In this book, you’ll find powerful mindfulness tools and practical strategies. You’ll also read about how to change any “autopilot reactions” you might have.
In The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson share twelve key science-based strategies meant to help you foster healthy brain development within your child. Siegel and Bryson take current scientific discoveries and apply those to everyday parenting so that you can turn an emotional outburst or argument into something that fosters growth.
This book is the first book of The Peaceful Parent Series written by Dr. Laura Markham. Dr. Markham takes her research and extensive clinical experience to share her message to parents. She shares the importance of fostering an emotional connection with your child that can lead to real and lasting change.
This next book I’m telling you about is also written by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. No-Drama Discipline examines the link between a child’s neurological development and how a parent reacts to misbehavior. If you are struggling with the chaos in your home, No-Drama Discipline provides a way you can minimize the chaos and nurture your child through development.
The world can be hard to navigate, and Elaine N. Aron explores this idea in her book The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them. Aron is a pioneering psychotherapist and became the first person to identify “high sensitivity” as an inborn trait and how it can affect those who possess it. This book explores the challenges of raising a highly-sensitive child and how to help these highly-sensitive children thrive, regardless of their age.
Tell me your thoughts about responsive parenting below.
No matter what type of parenting style you adopt, there are aspects of responsive parenting that could come in handy on a daily basis. Let me how responsive parenting works for you and if you’ve incorporated a different approach that works well for your family, share that as well. We’re all in this together! For more on all things mom-life, head to the blog.