Recognizing Connected Parents
- Present Physically and Emotionally
- Not Permissive or Authoritarian
- Attached from the Beginning
- Invest the Time
- Caring for Themselves
Connected parenting is a term that has been bandied about recently in childcare centers and pediatric offices, but what does it mean? It sounds repetitive, like icy snow or burning hot. Aren’t all parents connected to their children? It turns out that they aren’t. Sometimes parents just abdicate that calling, but more often they just don’t realize that they aren’t as connected as they thought they were. What does a “connected parent” look like?
1. Connected Parents: Present Physically and Emotionally
Today’s culture recognizes multitasking as an asset. People write reports as they teleconference. They plan presentations as they drive. No one, however, wants a doctor to be thinking about an upcoming seminar while they are in his examining room. Parenting is like that. Of course, parents can carry on a conversation with their children while watching the evening news, but should they? One mark of a connected parent is that he or she gets rid of distractions and tunes into the child.
2. Connected Parents: Not Permissive nor Authoritarian
The American Psychological Association recognizes two types of parenting that are neither healthy nor effective. The first is authoritarian parenting. This is demanding obedience because an adult is bigger, stronger and, after all, the parent. The relationship between parent and child becomes one of fear. The child is afraid of losing the parent’s respect or possible negative consequences of disobedience. The second parenting method is permissive. Children have few boundaries. In this style, parents demand little of children, fearing that they will anger or distance them. Connected parents relate to their children in a loving manner that teaches children to recognize and respect boundaries out of love.
3. Connected Parents: Attached from the Beginning
Infants whose parents are slow to respond to their needs or who do not respond at all often develop attachment disorders. They have difficulty trusting other people and form only shallow relationships. Parents must anticipate and meet the needs of their children. That does not mean giving in to every tantrum or giving the child anything he wants, but it does mean making certain, in addition to meeting physical needs, that a child’s fears are calmed and his need for touch and affection are met. Connected parents touch their children. They reach them on their level, even to the point of getting down on the floor with them.
4. Connected Parents: Invest the Time
Parents today often seek daycare for young children so that they can return to work as soon as possible after the birth of a child. Experts say, however, that children need to be with their parents as much as possible through their second year. One recommendation is that parents each work 2/3 time and spend the other third with the child. Ideally, children would spend a third of their time with each parent and only a third with a caregiver. Older children benefit from one-on-one time with each parent. This often involves taking part with the child in an activity he or she enjoys. In other words, connected parents carefully invest time with their children the way they invest financially.
5. Connected Parents: Caring for Themselves
Parents who are tuned in to the needs of their children are more successful than those who are distant. In the same way, adults who are tuned into their own needs are more successful as parents than those who become martyrs. Connected parents get rest, seek out support systems and pay attention to their own emotional and physical needs. Adults who are exhausted, frustrated or anxious find it hard to maintain a good relationship with others, even with their children. Connected parents know when to seek out the counsel of more experienced parents. They practice self-care and are as accepting of themselves as they are of their children.
This kind of parenting is prevalent in the animal world, but our culture has introduced stress and social expectations that change the way we respond to our children. Successful parents have to work at it. Being a connected parent means overcoming the stilted patterns of authoritarians and the negligent patterns of permissiveness to the natural parent-child connectivity.