Attachment Parenting: Responding With Sensitivity

I was so glad to be able to attend another monthly meeting of the Attachment Parenting Support Group this month.  I always learn something, and there is usually an a-ha moment or two!

“Responding With Sensitivity” can be a way to prevent the need to discipline when behaviors are a result of acting out.  Remove the need to act out, and you remove the need to discipline for that instance.  It can also circumvent or redirect behavior if a child is already moving down the path to needing help to make kinder choices themselves.  Meeting them where they are at, at their level, listening to what they need, redirecting if necessary – those actions from the parent that honor the child can make all the difference in their world.

Here are the three behaviors shared with us in yesterday’s meeting by Amanda, our AP facilitator in the Phoenix area:

1.  Show interest in your child’s activities and participate enthusiastically in child-directed play.
This made so much sense.  We can spend the day telling our children what to do: go here, go there, do this, stop that…I can see how it gets to be too much.  It must be so rewarding as a child to feel like your word counts because for once, one of your favorite adults is happy to do what you want to do.

2.  Some children enjoy programs where parents are not included.
There are children who will thrive in a home environment, there are others that will enjoy a group environment.  If your child is one who craves groups, then we as parents need to gauge our child’s readiness to spend significant time away from us.  Our other responsibility is to learn about the type of support provided by the adult caregivers.  How do they run the classroom/group? What are their expectations?  How do they set boundaries?  Are those things (and more!) in line with your beliefs?  One thing that was not brought up in the meeting, but that comes up because of my own backstory is to ask if the care providers have been trained, screened, and/or cleared for child care.

3.  Babies’ brains are extremely immature – the more you soothe them, the more they learn about soothing themselves. 
This particular facet piqued my interest, especially after Tuesday’s post.  I am intrigued by the idea that the more they are comforted, the more skills they have at doing the comforting.

The simplicity of this principle really struck me, and confirmed once again, that AP can work because you are respecting your child as a whole person who has needs, however they are able (or unable) to communicate them.  It is our role as parents to slow down, listen with our hearts as well as our ears, and meet that child where they are.

When I think of, “Responding With Sensitivity”, it means that we are intentional about nurturing, comforting, and being kind to our children.  Not just when we can see them start heading to a melt down – all the time.  To me, it means I want to learn to move through the day with the mindset that we are meant to nurture, comfort and be kind *always*.

I know whenever I hear our child crying or whining, my first thought, especially when I am tired, is typically to think, “What now?”  AP teaches that any behaviors out of their ordinary usually indicate that they have a need that isn’t being filled.  I am training myself to learn to ask, “Which need is not being met?”  I know that they are not setting out to ruin or manipulate when I am rested…I want to remember that when I am tired, too.

With an infant, the needs are pretty easy to identify after four kiddos…wet, hungry, tired, in need of more/less touch?  I am having a harder time – maybe you have a suggestion to help me formulate a toddler list when they are not always able to use words.  So far my checklist includes: hungry, tired, eye contact and attention…what else should I add to my list?

Our older kids are “easy” to decipher thanks to spoken language and body language .  Now I am waiting for the hormones to kick in and make me learn AP skills for tweens and teens…

I am still pondering the sleep statement.  I wonder if that is why some babies rock when they are tired?  And it brings up the never-ending debate of nature versus nurture.  Can I teach my “high-needs” child to soothe themselves?  Can we nurture them out of their nature?  Do we want to?

So for now, sleep will continue to be something I am just happy to “roll” with (pardon the pun!).  If it works for our family, we will go with it.  If it doesn’t, we will try other ideas, until we find the next something that works “for now”.

The big a-ha moment from yesterday:  AP takes time.  A Lot Of Time.  Time I don’t always want to take because our “demand change now tape” from my reflexes takes over.  I worked so hard to never bark out orders at my adult staff and co-workers – why would I treat my children with any less respect?  Unfortunately, my reality is that it is SO much faster to bark a directive than it is to breathe, reflect, and get down on our child’s eye level and nurture them.  However, seeing the moments when an older child remembers to breathe instead of react, the time when they look a sibling in the eye to ask, “are you okay”…those are the rays of promise that efficiency *is not* everything.  Nurturing with love and respect is worth it every time.

So I will continue to try to erase the “fast” tape and replace it with the “intention” tape.  I can see it’s worth it, and I want to allow our children the space to know that they are worth my time.

I will close with this video that I ran across today.  It was put together by Rachel Rainbolt, M.A., and it offers more insight on the biology of infant sleep:


Do you want to keep up with information about the Attachment Parenting of Phoenix group?  It is facilitated by Amanda Santana, and meetings are held the 3rd Thursday of the month.  You can find her at Nurtured Beginnings on Facebook HERE

P.S. We are having a great opportunity to try out Responding With Sensitivity today.  We have one Sweet Pea with a fever that hasn’t broken, two tired parents, and three other Sweet Peas who want and need attention…definitely time to breathe, speak with kindness, and parent with the intention of meeting everyone individually and respond to that particular child’s needs.