You want your child to feel loved and protected, but are you applying the principles of nurturing parenting in your daily life? “It’s all about being there for your children, listening to them and understanding the principles of child development. Children need to feel secure in a loving family,” says Dr. Stephany Hughes, who has a doctorate in educational psychology and is the author of “Mother as Emotional Coach: 8 Principles for Raising a Well-Adjusted Child.”
Here are some techniques nurturing parents use:
- Display Love and Warmth
According to Denise Daniels, a child development expert, one of the foundations of nurturing parenting is acting in a loving, nurturing and warm way from a very young age. “Parents often think that this only applies to older children, but you don’t have to wait until they’re older. You can do it as soon as they’re born,” she says. Respond to your newborn’s cries with loving attention and continue to respond to her needs in a caring way. Always let her know that you love her no matter what.
- Spend Time With Your Child
Take time each day to spend one-on-one with your child. Do things together that you both enjoy, such as playing with toys. “It’s so important to enter the world of play with your child. Kids build trust that way,” says Daniels. Reading books is another great bonding tool — especially if you ask open-ended questions about the story once you’ve finished reading.
- Listen to Your Child and Acknowledge Her Feelings
In order to figure out what your child needs, you just have to listen. “Turn off the ambient noise that surrounds you. Forget about what you think is important at the moment and turn your attention to the most important person in your life — your child,” says Dr. Hughes. Let your child reveal his inner feelings and emotions, and acknowledge them.
- Develop a Routine
According to Dr. Hughes, developing a consistent routine is another tenement of a nurturing parent. “Once you have your children in a routine, they know what to expect. Their life is bereft of chaos. And guess what? They like it. It gives them comfort to know what is going to happen next,” she says. Routines help relieve your child from wondering about the when and if of daily life and lets them focus on being a kid and discovering themselves.
- Participate in the Community
Nurturing parents also realize that kids need access to people outside the family with whom they can develop healthy relationships. Take your child to the library, museums and youth enrichment programs, like sports or dance. Just remember, these activities shouldn’t take up all of your child’s time. “Get your children out of the SUV on the way to umpteen after-school activities and let them have some free time,” says Dr. Hughes.
- Invest in Self-Care
Self-care is a huge cornerstone to being a nurturing parent. According to Daniels, it’s important to “nurture yourself so you can nurture your children.” Take a warm relaxing bath or have a cup of tea. When you take the time to recharge your own batteries, you’re more patient and responsive to your children.
Effects of Positive Parenting
Nurturing parenting can provide numerous benefits for your child:
- Enhanced Brain Development
Studies have found that growing up in a nurturing environment from an early age actually helps build a child’s brain.
- Increased Empathy and Self-Esteem
Nurturing parenting also produces kids who have a deep understanding of empathy. They’re also more confident than those who grew up in strict, authoritarian households.
- Better Attachments and Healthy Conflict Resolution
Since nurturing parenting focuses on forming attachments from birth, it makes sense that it helps children develop better relationship and problem-solving skills.
- Fewer Mental Health Problems as Adults
According to Daniels, not only do kids of nurturing parenting experience fewer mental health issues, they’re also less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol.
When it comes to parenting, remember that there is no one “right way.” Different techniques work for different families and different situations. “Don’t try to be the perfect parent — there’s no such thing. Just try to be a ‘good enough’ parent,” says Daniels.
For more parenting techniques, read Do You Practice Peaceful Parenting?
Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.