recognizing, understanding and then accurately responding to the cues and behaviors your child is expressing.
What it is and what gets in the way
Having and raising a child brings many changes to your life. As parents we want to raise children who are confident and can make the most of their abilities, can show empathy toward others, and are able to understand and regulate their emotions. The most important thing you can do as a parent to make this happen is to be responsive to your child. Science tells us that safe, responsive, and nurturing parent-child relationships early in children’s lives promotes healthy brain and child development. It also provides protection against lifelong disease by reducing toxic stress and promoting basic social-emotional health.
What is responsiveness?
This involves thinking about and trying to understand what your child might be experiencing in everyday moments. If your thoughts are accurate (and this is something that usually gets better over time), you can then respond to your child in a helpful manner. For example, when something is upsetting your child and you're able to recognize what that is, you can then respond in a way that helps soothe their distress. This will result in your child developing a sense that he or she feels safe and supported. Once your child feels this support, they'll have the confidence to return to exploration and learning. And, when that happens, it's also helpful for their development to acknowledge your child when they have discovered something new or exciting.
This is important at all ages, and of course the type of behavior presented by the child, and the challenge that this presents to you as a parent, changes as the child develops. Keep in mind that children have their own thoughts and feelings that may differ from yours. And of course you should always try to exercise good judgment on how best to respond. However, if done fairly consistently, responsiveness will help your child form a solid picture or model in their mind that the most important person in their world, you, will be reliably supportive and nurturing. These models build up over time and mostly operate outside of conscious awareness.
Being able to do this consistently is dependent on your ability to understand yourself and how your early life experiences impacts you in these day to day interactions with your child. Your view of your child is influenced by your conscious and unconscious thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. These views in turn directly affect the way you respond to your child's behaviors.
Here are some programs designed to help parents with these challenges.