If you were to go to a bookstore and look in the parenting section, there would be no shortage of books written by experts, all claiming that their new and innovative approach will work for a number of different problems. I know that I found this both amazing and confusing, making it hard to know who was the real expert, until I was able to believe that they all could be correct, although not for all children. If all children and all families were the same (and thank goodness they are not), and the same techniques would work with each, I am sure that someone would have been able to successfully create an owner’s manual by now. Since this is not the case, we must look at parenting from a responsive point of view.
Responsive parenting should be a goal for parents. I know that I often warn against following other people’s advice and listening to childrearing “experts” and therefore this may sound hypocritical but I promise you that it is not. What I am calling responsive parenting is not a technique but a philosophy that basically means knowing your child and what they need. It relies on a parent’s intuition and knowledge of their own child in order to determine what is right for the child in each situation. It is a positive approach to childrearing because it looks at each child as an individual instead of making blanket statements for all children. It means responding to your specific child, in each specific situation, as appropriately as you possibly can.
This philosophy can be used with children of all ages. As soon as our children are born we start learning their personalities. As they grow and continue to develop and change, we learn more and more about them. We learn to what degree our child likes structure and change, how easy we may be able to distract them, and how emotionally sensitive they are among many other personality differences. Parents also continue to try different discipline and parenting techniques and begin to notice differences in how children react to each. By noting these differences, you will be able to intuit how to get the best reaction from your child next time you face a similar situation. It may initially take more time and effort to parent in this way, but as time goes on it will become more second nature. In future entries I will give more information about this parenting philosophy and will give examples for more understanding.