Responding with Sensitivity
Attachment Parenting International‘s third principle of parenting is “responding with sensitivity.” With respect to infants, API explains:
You can build the foundation of trust and empathy by understanding and responding appropriately to your infant’s needs. Babies communicate their needs in many ways including body movements, facial expressions, and crying. They learn to trust when their needs are consistently responded to with sensitivity. Building a strong attachment with a baby involves not only responding consistently to his physical needs, but spending enjoyable time interacting with him and thus meeting his emotional needs as well.
Parents should continue to respond to toddlers and older children with sensitivity as well. When toddlers are exploring their independence and learning to work through big emotions (often in the form of “tantrums”), a parent’s role is to comfort and empower the child, not to stifle the emotions by becoming angry or punishing the child. Responding sensitively to an older child requires parents to maintain a close connection through play and quality interactions. At every stage of a child’s life, parents who respond with sensitivity approach behavior by looking at the needs and wants underlying the behavior.
To learn more about responding with sensitivity, take a look at the resources below. If you have specific questions about this category or know of additional resources that should be on our list, please contact us.
- Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children – Chapter 4, Principle 3, by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker: This chapter in Attached at the Heart focuses on learning the importance of the sensitive response; it entails putting the child’s needs first and picking up the subtle cues from your child in order to build a relationship based on love and trust.
- Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, by Karen Maezen Miller: All parents whether male or female, religious or non-religious could engage with this material. The author inspires the reader to step back and reflect on their responses, enabling more heartfelt, instinctively nurturing interactions.
- The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp (Book, DVD, Website): Help newborns find their “calming reflex” by practicing Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side/Stomach positioning, Shushing, Swinging, and Sucking.
- The Wonder Weeks, by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans X. Plooij (Book, Website): Based on the authors’ anthropological and biological research observing infants and their parents, this book breaks down the different stages from birth through the first year and a half and gives insight into the fussier phases of this time period. Each developmental milestone is described as a “magical leap forward.” The authors also provide activities for interacting with your baby during the different phases.
- Dunstan Baby Language – Learn the universal language of newborn babies (DVD): Instructions on learning the 5 different (universal) cries that all newborns use to communicate their needs: hunger, tiredness, gassy tummy (needs burping), lower gas, and pain.
- What Babies Say Before They Can Talk : The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings, by Paul Hollinger, M.D.: The author explains that all babies communicate the following through coherent signals: interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, anger, fear, shame, disgust (a reaction to bad tastes), and dissmell (a reaction to bad smells).
Tantrums and Strong Emotions
- Dr. Sears on Temper Tantrums: Links to articles on understanding, preventing, and helping toddlers and older children learn to manage tantrums.
- “Ask Naomi: Why Tantrum?” by Naomi Aldort (From Natural Child Magazine): The author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves states that tantrums are not necessarily inevitable parts of childhood, but rather a symptom of a parent/child dynamic and the parent’s own way of responding to their own anger and disappointments.
- Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others, by Myrna Shure and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo: Raising a Thinking Child offers methods to help children learn how to effectively problem solve without resorting to tantrums and other aggressive behaviors.
Learning sign language helps foster better communication and can alleviate tantrums.
- Handspeak: ASL site with online dictionary video reference. Also includes babysign information.
- ASLPro: ASL site with online dictionary video reference.
- Raising a Thinking Pre-teen: The “I Can Problem Solve” Program for 8- to 12-Year-Olds, by Myrna Shure and Roberta Israeloff: Using humor and real-life examples, Raising a Thinking Pre-Teen gives parents and pre-teens tools to learn problem-solving skills, solve interpersonal problems, and identify emotions.