What is your role as a parent?

Babies come into the world helpless and dependent on others. They need to be taken care of and feel safe, both physically and emotionally. The most important role you have as a parent (in addition to providing food and shelter) is protection of your child and providing comfort when they're distressed. This builds trust in your child that you will be there for them when they are frightened or overwhelmed by something. This also helps your child learn to regulate their emotions, and better understand those of others around them.


A related role is to encourage learning and exploration. Children are born with a desire to learn and explore their environment. 

Your child will do this naturally as long as they feel safe and protected. You can help this process by expressing delight when something new or exciting is discovered by your child. You can also help by setting up situations which are appropriate for the age and ability of your child so they are more likely to experience success. This builds confidence and willingness to continue to learn new things.

Children will inevitably become frightened or upset by something. If the parent can be responsive, that is, tuned into what the child is feeling, and then can act in an effective way to soothe the child's distress, that child can then cope more effectively with whatever is causing their alarm. This helps them learn ways of handling any new situations of distress more easily on their own.


When the child's explorations are not supported, or when so much of the their time and energy is being taken up seeking comfort and security from an unknowing or unwilling caretaker, this exploratory urge gets dampened, and their ability to trust and rely on others gets distorted. This can, depending on how often it happens, turn into a lifelong problem, and the child may struggle with shame and low self-worth through life.

A nice graphic presentation of this process has been produced by the Circle of Security International: 

Understanding Your Child's Development

For further understanding of this topic, please see the links below:

Positive Parent Child Relationships

from the National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement


Center on the Developing Child

Harvard University

Parenting Matters

from the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development


Everyday Ways to Support Your Baby’s and Toddler’s Early Learning

from Zero to Three

Parenting Resources from Minding the Baby 

Yale Child Study Center


Baby Love- Supporting Infant Security

Hospital for Sick Children- Toronto


Developmental Milestones

from Help Me Grow


The Health Effects of Sensitive, Responsive Parenting

from Parenting Science- Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.


Responsive Parenting Nurtures Infants’ Secure Attachments 

From Parenting Exchange- Karen Stephens


12 Responsive Parenting Techniques to Form a Healthy Attachment

From Building Your Family- Joanne Solchany Ph.D., R.N


Responsive Parenting: Moving Towards Parenting Without Punishment

From The Mule


Eleven Important Baby Cues

From Parenting


Baby Center

From the Baby Center



Extensive parenting information site 


Promoting the social emotional development and school readiness of children 0- 5

From The Center on the Social and Emotional

Foundations for Early Learning 



Responsive Parenting Overview