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Relationship Guided Parenting


We know conclusively through decades of high quality research, applied science, and generational wisdom that a warm and responsive caregiving relationship is the number one most important aspect of healthy child development. 

Children who receive this type of caregiving form a secure attachment and aren’t just happier, healthier children—they’re also happier and healthier adults. These people are more likely to have positive self-esteem and genuine confidence, are able to be independent and internally motivated, have the ability to show empathy and be kind, regulate their emotions and communicate effectively, cope with stress and emotional upsets well, have interpersonal skills, do better academically, and literally have more brain growth and healthier bodies. 

It’s amazing what influence a warm, responsive caregiving relationship in early life can do for people, which is one of the reasons I am so passionate about sharing ways to be this type of caregiver with you in ways that are achievable in everyday life.

A warm and responsive caregiving relationship seems pretty simple but I find that it can get confusing and hard when parents are faced with children who have extreme needs or when parents are stressed, anxious, depressed, or even just tired. The foundation of being a warm and responsive parent is all about a strong relationship with your baby. Although infancy is the ideal time to form this relationship, parents can continue to build, or begin to build, a healthy relationship with their child throughout early childhood. 

The “warm” and “responsive” nature of parenting comes more naturally (although really looks different in every person!) when the focus is on having a secure and healthy relationship with that child. This isn’t a cookie-cutter prescription for how to be a parent, it’s a paradigm shift in how we approach our children. It’s putting the focus on treating our child like a person we love and value and putting intentional thought into our role as a parent.  Here are some helpful ways to think about the importance of having a healthy relationship with your child:


Children learn from how they are treated and what they observe. This goes back to the very important work of Albert Bandura, who researched how children observe, imitate, and model, to learn. What it means is that children are looking to you to learn what they deserve in life and how they should and should not treat others. Basically, the relationship you form with your child lays the foundation for their internal emotional health (self-esteem) and also their external emotional health (social behaviors, treating others with empathy and kindness).

Your child will respond to you based on your relationship with them. The more you focus on building a relationship with your child, the better your relationship will be—you’re in the driver's seat as the parent. Just like adults, children are shown to respond better to directions and requests when they have a good relationship with the person asking them to do things. If you want to raise a “well behaved” child who is also successful as an adult, the results are clear: you must to have a good, trusting and respectful, relationship with your child. Children tend to have behavioral challenges when they only behave well based on rewards or fear.

You can get a lot out of parenting when you enjoy your child and your child enjoys you. There is a possibility of having a wonderful, meaningful relationship with a little person (who grows into a bigger person who will hopefully continue to be a delight to be with!) that enhances life in ways that are beyond words. This is possible when we focus our efforts on building a beautiful relationship with our child. We want to avoid having constant power struggles, defiant behaviors, emotional upsets, a child who is consistently sad, frustrated, clingy, or in need of constant attention. In a typically developing child, these behaviors are all signs of a poor parent-child relationship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not anyone’s fault! Every parent is trying their absolute best, there is no doubt about that. But, these behaviors can all improve drastically with a shift in how we are approaching the child. When we reframe our parenting goal to focus primarily on building a relationship, there will begin to be huge changes.  

Is Relationship Guided Parenting always simple or easy? No, absolutely not. And sometimes it will feel like our relationship with our child is hurting or weakening, and that’s ok. We can always strengthen and rebuild as we go. Just like with any relationship, there will be highs and lows and all of it is a learning opportunity. 

#parenting #parentchildrelationship #childhood #childdevelopment #selfesteem #motherhood