What Is Responsive Caregiving?
Responsive caregiving is not a complicated or abstract idea. It is as simple as it sounds. Responsive caregiving is a method highlighted by the Texas Early Learning Council in their early learning guidelines, where the caregiver pays close attention to what the child is signaling and then provides a response that meets the child’s needs. This method promotes communication because when a child sees that her signals are resulting in her needs being met, then she will continue to communicate with her caregivers and feel secure.
The signals that children will give their caregivers will vary and will depend upon the age of the child. For instance infants may cry, laugh, look at objects and use gestures to communicate. Toddlers may point to things they want and use some words to communicate as well. Whether children can verbalize their needs or not, it is important to pay close attention to them and to learn what their signals are. For instance if an infant is crying and rubbing his eyes, then he could be signaling that he is tired and ready for a nap.
Once you learn the signals, the next step is to provide a loving response that meets the child’s needs. In doing so, you make the child feel secure and promote continued communication that is important for their over all development.
Why Responsive Care Is Important
Security is a big deal for infants and young children. A secure bond with a caregiver means that the child feels safe and knows they will be cared for even if they are upset, scared, or angry. A young child’s earliest relationships can affect the way they view people and how they form relationships later in life. For instance a child who feels secure may think that “grownups are people they can trust and they will listen to what I need,” or, “it’s OK to share with my friends because I know I will get another turn soon.” On the other hand, a child who does not feel secure may think, “I need to be wary of grownups because you never know when they may yell,” or, “I don’t like to share because people take things from me and never give them back.”
Your child’s first relationships are very important. The ability to form at least one secure relationship will go a long way to making sure that your child does not have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior. These types of difficulties can cause learning issues later in life. For instance a child who becomes frustrated easily may give up on things and lack good problem solving skills. A child who is insecure may not speak up in class or may not be willing to take part in new activities. While all children are born with their individual personalities and temperaments, you can really help your child be a secure and happy individual by being a warm, loving, and responsive caregiver.
Responsive Child Care
Many times both parents need to work to support their families and so child care becomes a very important issue for them. It is important to find a high quality child care provider near your home or work who you trust to provide the kind of care you want for your child. Not all child care provider will know what you mean if you say “Do you practice responsive care?” If they do that is good. If they don’t still be sure to inquire about how many children each caregiver is responsible for caring for, and talk to the caregivers about how they interact with the children and how they make sure they are all cared for throughout the day. Even if they are not familiar with the term “responsive care” they may be very good at making sure their kids are well cared for and that they are happy and secure.
Photo by Milan Jurek