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How to Build Responsive Relationships with your Little Ones?

Written By:
Syra Salam


Parenting is a journey full of joy but with various challenges. However, if parents or caregivers understand the art of building a positive relationship with the little ones from the start, it takes paves the way for a thriving bond. Here we will have a look at various approaches to building responsive relationships. They apply not only to the parents but also to caregivers, facilitators or any adult that the child interacts with.

The 3r’s: Approach to Building Responsive Relationships

Respect

Respect is shown when adults treat young children in ways similar to how others would like to be treated! 

Reflect

Reflect refers to Thinking about one’s own experience and the experience of others.

Relate 

Relate refers to Choosing a response that supports learning and the relationship.

In order to build responsive relationships with your little ones, we need to reflect on a few questions:


Considering the child`s developmental stage, what does the child need from adults?                                                       

  • Reflective practitioners often use an emotionally uplifting,  warm and positive approach which leads to constructive behaviour in children 
  • The child needs adults to build a sense of self-worth in them by listening attentively to children
  • They notice when the child is helpful, and they appreciate the efforts of a child. For Example, When your child helps you to clean the table, make sure to say out in appreciation: ‘Thank you!’ 
  • Adults create opportunities for infants and toddlers to express their curiosity and desire to learn, experiment and set goals.
  • Adults understand that children are competent while still making them learn about how to react in different situations.
  • Caregivers also respect each child’s individual traits. 
  • Knowledgeable adults also know behaviours have different meanings at different stages of development: security for young infants, exploration for the mobile infant and sense of self for toddlers and twos.

Considering the child’s developmental stage, what does the child need from the environment?

 A child needs a secure environment caused by secure attachments. When adults are unpredictable, unresponsive, insensitive, or even threatening, it leads to insecure attachments. Insecure attachments can make children feel unimportant. As a result, they may struggle to develop positive relationships with others. 

Children, unfortunately, don’t have much control over their environment. Thus, they depend on adults for their safety. They look up to adults to provide for their nurturing, physical and emotional environment possible. 

When a child’s environment fails to meet the needs or leads to stress, he may not be able to identify those needs. This causes frustration in their behaviour as the child does not know how to articulate the agitation in words. The child also wants less clutter and confusion in the environment:  Less noise and confusion.

What is Self Regulation?

Self-regulation refers to the ability to focus attention, control emotional energy, and initiate and recover from anger, disappointment, joy, or other emotions, as well as manage facial and body movements. For example, if a child is disturbed, he/she might use both sensory (crying) and motor skills (getting up and moving away) to regulate. Here, the role of an adult will be to ensure in the future to provide an environment where she can experience a full range of emotions, majority positive emotions and feel safe enough to express them and not feel humiliated. For example, get her favourite toy character, so the child doesn’t feel isolated. These simple tips and tricks help to build positive and responsive relationships.

How can we practice Responsive Interactions?

Examples can be to try to use the child’s name more frequently when communicating and soothing. Also, use infant-directed speech; for instance, speak slowly with exaggerated changes in pitch and loudness when praising and giving instructions repeatedly by adding the child’s name. This type of speech can attract infants ‘attention more than adult-directed speech because its accentuated changes provide an infant with language cues and help them perceive the fundamental sounds of their language. For example, when the child feels shy and gets up, you can say that we all are having a snack party in an excited, loud pitch. Where is Ann? The cereals are waiting for Ann.” And then start singing a rhyme that she like to respond to. 

How to inculcate resilience?

Adults need to review the seven abilities associated with resilience to assist in helping themselves and the children bounce back from daily stress and tough time:

  • Being in charge of our emotions: emotional regulation. To remain calm under pressure.
  • Controlling our impulses: stop and choose whether to act on the desire to take action. E.g., stop ourselves from shouting when we get angry and decide that these actions will not do any good.
  • Analyzing the cause of problems: We can help children develop skills in this area by first helping them to identify the problem and then by thinking together about what they can do about it. 
  • Maintaining realistic optimism: This is the ability to maintain hope for a bright future. 
  • Having empathy for others: being understood and understanding others are important to the growth of resilience. Example: Ann, how would you feel if your friend tore your puppet? Will you be sad?”
  • Believing in your own competence: Helping child experience competence by choosing that allows influencing the decision, for example,’ Do you want to first use paints for the puppet or colour pencils?’.  This way, if peers use the paints, the child will not fret as it’s his/her own decision.
  • Reaching out: This is the ability to take new opportunities and take risks.

It’s important to note down here about Conflict Negotiation and Management of Aggressive Feelings. Also,  how it affects a child’s development both socially and cognitively. While there is a strong tendency for infants and toddlers to develop prosocial behaviours, there is also a tendency to use physical aggression. Therefore, it is important for adults to use positive guidance to help young children learn alternative strategies to express themselves in more socially acceptable ways.

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