Most people would agree that respect, trust, and understanding are all parts of a caring and loving relationship. These are some of the characteristics that would be used to describe a good relationship. Indeed a relationship lacking in these staples would be considered a bad relationship. Bad relationships can cause us to feel depressed and even lower our self-esteem. Most people want to put in as much effort as possible to make sure their partners feel safe with them and that they can trust them. All relationships need these components, especially the relationship between parent and child.
When a parent/child relationship is built on a strong foundation of trust, respect, and understanding, it will thrive. When the same kind of relationship is built without these components it will soon crumble. This makes sense to most people. Yet, many people who would agree with this idea, practice parenting styles that lack trust, respect, and understanding.
There is more to it though. It begins before any parenting techniques are even begun. It truly begins at the very moment of birth. Instead of welcoming a baby in a calm, positive, and respectful manner we forcefully pull it from its mother, violently ”dry” it and actually want to cause it to cry. The room is usually very bright with a lot of loud machines and strangers. We clamp the cord and deprive the baby of needed blood. We take them away from their mother and poke them with needles. Then we strap their arms down in a tightly bound blanket and place them in a plastic tub and tell their parents it is to dangerous for them to carry their own babies. The babies are also supposed to sleep in those tubs instead of next to their mothers in bed. And that is if they room in with their mother at all.
There is a saying ” if babies could talk…” What would they say? This idea is very flawed. You see, babies can and do talk. If people listen to them their language is simple and easy to understand. But you have to listen! If you are capable of understanding the most basic of human emotions you can understand a babies language. Screaming and or crying usually means one is upset and unhappy. Quiet calmness most often signals contentment. Smiling and laughing signifies happiness. A mother will quickly learn the special sound that her baby has when they are hungry, tired, or need to use the bathroom or be changed. Just as a mother jaguar knows her babies cries above all others, so can a human mother. When a baby is born and it is not crying, we mistakenly assume something is wrong. We shake, rub, or even slap it to make it cry. A baby can breath without crying! A baby who is blinking and alert but not crying is ok. In fact, they are probably doing better than the crying infant.
Perhaps this is where the problem truly lies. When new parents are shown and told that it is good that their child is crying we send a horrible message. Many people quickly jump from it is ok and even good that a baby is crying to it is good for the baby to cry. This is a completely untrue and very dangerous idea. It is that mentality that allows parents to think it is ok to ignore a child while it cries for help.
When a mother responds promptly with love and understanding when her baby calls to her the baby learns a very important message. The baby learns ”I am important. My mother cares for me and as long as I make my needs known, they will be met.” Consider the opposite of that because when you ignore your baby you are performing the opposite action and are indeed sending the opposite message. A message of unimportance and unworthiness. The baby learns that no matter how long it begs, its needs will not be met. It’s mother will not help it. What a sad lesson to learn at such a young age. When we think in this way it is easy to believe the results of research that found these feelings and the subsequent effects on the brain are linked to adult depression.
In the most basic, primal way we are designed to listen attentively to our children. In the days of cavemen a crying baby would have signaled a predator to an easy meal and given away the location of the family. Because of this cave mothers were great at listening to all of their babies cues. Babies will make several smaller or quieter noises before they actually begin to cry. In truth a crying baby is one that is in its last desperate stage of trying to gain its mother’s attention. When a mother truly listens to her baby and understands their cues the baby has no need to actually cry.
There is even an easy to follow instructional video on “Baby Language” from Dunstan Baby. I think that this or other instruction should be given to all new parents as soon as their baby is born. Eventually it will just become accepted knowledge just as it used to be. How ever you learn your own babies language is up to you, but please learn it. Know that EVERY sound your baby makes means something and respond every time.
Respect your babies needs and feelings and do not write them off as meaningless noise. Help your baby to trust you by showing them that you will always be there when you are called. Understand that every sound has a meaning and a value and it needs to be responded to accordingly. I want to share a story about trust in children to help emphasize this point.
One day my father, my daughter, and I were at my parents pool. Another family came to the pool as well. They had a little girl with them that was close in age to my daughter. However her interactions with her family and my daughter’s interactions with us, were very different. My daughter was relaxed in the water with my dad or I. She knew that if she became nervous and wanted to return to the step she would be. She knew that she could trust both of us to care for her and she knew that we would not let anything bad happen to her. My daughter has always been respected and responded to. I have always done everything I could to make her feel secure and foster a strong attachment. The other girl was a polar opposite. She was visibly terrified even in the arms of her mother and other family members. She did not trust that she was safe. Her wishes were not granted her fear was not acknowledged and several times she was told to “shut up” when she cried in terror. To see a child that age who had no security in her own family, especially her mother was heart breaking. It was as if she were invisible. No one cared about what she wanted or needed. She was a side note to their life. My father and I decided to take my daughter inside and avoid this scene which seemed to be very upsetting and confusing to my daughter. Now I do not know how this child was raised. I can only imagine and assume. There may be other factors at play here. Still, in that moment she was not listened to. She was not respected or understood and she did not trust. My daughter has fallen in the water. She has slipped under when she didn’t want to. Accidents have happened that could have made her very afraid but every time something like that happened, someone she knew and trusted strengthened that trust by immediately stepping in to help her. My daughter knows that if anything does happen, she will be helped so she doesn’t worry.
Bottom line: Listen, respond, respect and understand your children so that they will grow to trust, listen, respond, respect, and understand you! It will also save you and your child from a list of problems! Happy Listening!