Responsive Parenting and Better Health Outcomes
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Responsive Parenting and Better Health Outcomes

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What is it?

Ultimately, Responsive Parenting is a research informed parenting modality and intervention strategy. Above all, parent try to be warm, responsive, and regulated with their children.Thus, parents are the adult in the responsible own response to a child’s behavior instead of the opposite. Children are expected to be exactly what they are, namely unique humans with underdeveloped brains and neural pathways. Interestingly, its less about controlling children’s behavior and more about parents responding in a warm and nurturing way to the child’s needs. Research is beginning to show just how important responsive parenting is in creating better health outcomes for children.

Responsive Parenting or Gentle Parenting?

Generally, Responsive Parenting, Gentle Parenting, and Authoritative Parenting are used interchangeably. Contrary to some, Responsive Parenting is not “Permissive” parenting. Unfortunately, that means they are missing some of the big points. However, this type of parenting still has disciple, consequences, and accountability. In the heat of a kids big feelings moment, parents aren’t adding fuel to the fire with their own big feelings. Parents work to share their calm with their little one until their little one has regained control. There are some pretty great folks out there who are worth the follow: Big Little Feelings and Janet Lansbury.

Some of the Big Points.

  1. Parental love is unconditional. Love and attention are never withheld from a child who is showing big emotions. All emotions are OK and provide information, they are not unmanageable.
  2. Choose to slow down and respond, not react. Instead of “OMG YOU HIT ME, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”, try, “It seems like you are really angry, I won’t allow you to hit me”.
  3. Ask hard questions about your own experiences growing up. Check your own emotions and parenting triggers. “I wasn’t allowed to ask why when I was growing up and when my kiddo asks why, it feels unacceptable.”
  4. Be knowledgeable about Child Development and developmentally appropriate skills. Did you know, Biting is in the normal bucket of behavior up until the age of 3.
  5. Never try to disciple in the heat of the moment, slow down, work on helping them regain control of their brain and body first.
  6. When parents mess up, they apologize to kids. Teaching by modeling is one of the most effective ways.

Health Outcomes?

Above all, Responsive Parent has so many great, research-based outcomes and seems to show some mitigating effects on ACES. Health , Weight, aggressive and challenging behavior, and Self-Esteem are some of the major areas positively impacted by this approach. Responsive Parenting and Health Outcomes are closely tied and continued research is imperative.

Expect it to Be Challenging at Times

Being intentional is challenging and parenting is hard sometimes, actually a lot of times. Neural pathways take time formed. Repetition and consistency are important and it makes those hard days feel more manageable. It isn’t going to always be pretty or wrapped up in a nice bow. It’s gritty and ugly sometimes.

And Tonight…

Tonight, we were a little off schedule. I picked my little one up a little late from daycare and what has been a solid string of good weeks, came crumbling down. He fell into tears and yells when we got home and he couldn’t have one of the Valentine Treats I had been making for his class. First though was, “Don’t yell at me!”. Of course, I hate being yelled at and it’s one of my parenting triggers. Had to slow it down and acknowledged his wants and feelings instead. “I hear that you want the candy and it’s dinner time, so we aren’t going to have right now.”

That didn’t stop his crying, he cried and yelled some more. I remained calm and kept making his dinner. Then, when he was visibly calmer we talked it out. Next, We made a plan for next time and talked about what he can do when he starts to feel angry. We talked about the “hangry” feeling. We got back on track and it lasted about 10 minutes.

Barriers to Wide Application

Lastly, it’s also worth looking at the barriers to this approach. I read a great blog post that made so much sense. Some of the issues that make this harder to practice include: Complex Trauma, Generation Trauma, Past Child Abuse, Mental Health, Socioeconomic barriers, and so many other things. One of the more recent studies showed outstanding result in children and parental outcomes for Low-Income Families in Portugal.

All and all, we all just want to be the best parents we can, doing the best we can to help our kids grow into well-adjusted, emotionally stable and independent adults.

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