When you are a parent, you often face situations that catch you off guard, which can challenge even the most experienced parents. But there is one parenting model that is considered extremely useful and is highly advocated by child experts – It is called responsive parenting. But it isn’t so simple – to be a responsive parent, you just don’t require humility, but a lot of perspective (and patience, yes!).
You ask why it is important? According to WHO, responsiveness, a mother’s/caregiver’s prompt, contingent and appropriate interaction with the child, is a vital parenting tool with wide-ranging benefits for the child, from better cognitive and psycho-social development to protection from disease and mortality.
Dr Vibha Krishnamurthy, Developmental Paediatrician agrees. “For a child to survive and thrive, they need good nutrition, safe environment and responsive parenting. Responsive parenting is nothing but interactive parenting – it involves observing your child and responding to their need. For example, instead of distracting your kids with toys and videos during meal time, wait for signs to see when the baby is hungry. Or while playing peekaboo with your younger one, allow them to push down or pull the cloth and say peekaboo. By doing this, you are responding to their cues and helping their brain develop.”
Speaking at Mount Litera School International, Dr Krishnamurthy spoke about the science behind the critical early years in the development of a child’s brain; and how responsive parents can influence their child’s development using simple and fun ways of engaging with them. In today’s age, where technology and fast paced lives govern our lifestyle, she helps new and expecting parents understand their role in the right development of the child’s early years.
Responsive parenting also allows socio emotional development and helps them become confident, independent and problem solvers. “It is important for parents to prepare their child for failure. Instead of rushing straight into fixing issues for them, acknowledge the situation and allow your child to respond to it. By providing solution every single time, you refrain him from labeling the feeling and arriving at a solution himself,” guides Dr Vibha.
Children have a range of emotions through the day and dealing with them can get overwhelming at times. But try to be nonplussed most of the times. You cannot be a responsive parent all the time but try to be in sync with their needs and emotions. Take a pause when you get frustrated. Try to have an even tone while talking to the child.
Respect your child and yourself. Doing this will help your child gain a better understanding of herself, and of the people around her. Talk to them like you’d want them (and others) to speak to you. This will help them to express emotions in safe ways, while knowing how to treat others respectfully. This also makes them better communicators.
Your child should know you are in charge and will ensure their emotional and physical safety. When you see your child arguing about something, first ask them to explain the conflict. Acknowledge their feelings and encourage them to resolve their strong feelings.
Never label your child. Accept them the way they are and do not judge them on their actions. Allow them a few meltdowns. They should have a positive sense of self and feel competent. By giving them labels like lazy, bully and more, you are distancing them from the real issue.
Never undermine your child’s strong emotions, even if you feel they are invalid. When your kid has a outbreak, ask if they want you around or be on their own. Respect their choice. Let them express and feel safe about it.