Tib’s Tips: Attentive Parenting
In the military community, it is a well known fact that the word “attention” means stop what you’re doing and focus your attention on the person demanding it. Your baby deserves that same level of undivided attention and as you may have discovered, is hardwired to expect it from day one!
There are so many distractions in our world today. Those same conveniences that make your life easier may also double as distractions that pull your focus from your baby who not only wants your attention, but needs it in order to thrive.
Beep, Chime, Buzz. At the train station today I looked up from a text message and noticed that all my fellow travelers were glued to their phones. On a long commute, we depend on our phones and other devices for e-mail, diversion, and entertainment. Surprisingly and encouragingly, the only adults not bowing their heads to an electronic screen were the four parents of a group of young children setting off to see the sights in DC. Even so, it’s hard to imagine parenting without all of the technology available today. Receiving an instant response to your every parenting question through the Internet or a quick text message can help you in your quest to stay a step ahead of your growing child. Unfortunately, these same tools can also be very distracting especially during those days when we feel a little housebound and yearn to feel connected. But feeling connected to mom and dad is especially important for our little ones, they need our focused attention in order to develop a secure and stable attachment. So while your baby is awake, dedicate your focus to interacting, playing, and supervising your little one. Save the email, texting, social networking, or television when your baby is napping, sleeping , or spending time with another caregiver such as grandparents or a babysitter. Giving your child your full attention like the parents in the train station is so important because it will not only make your baby feel loved, but keep him or her safe, too.
What About Baby Monitors? Baby monitors have come a long way in recent years, but even the monitor with the highest rating and all the bells and whistles is no substitute for your eyes and ears. Never assume that you can leave your baby or young child home alone as long as the baby monitor is with you, even if you just want to go next door for a quick cup of coffee.
I Need Three Hands!! When my son had his new baby, he proudly demonstrated how he could change a diaper in under 20 seconds. I guess he and his wife playfully competed for the “blue ribbon” in speed diapering. He even threw in some kissing of the toes and singing. Attentive parenting begins where you’ll be spending much of your time…the changing table. Even before your child learns to sit up, crawl, or even just roll over, it’s so important that you attend closely to your baby on the changing table or other tall surface like a chair, couch, or bed. If possible, choose a changing table with at least two-inch guardrails, and keep all diapering supplies within your reach, but always out of reach of your baby. Once you have all the items strategically placed, attention focused on the prize, and baby secured, you, too, could win the title.
Should my baby play with that? Small objects, like spare change, your older child’s toy with small parts, and even food, can all be choking hazards. Just because it wouldn’t occur to you or me to taste a quarter or a stray piece of dog food doesn’t guarantee that your baby won’t make a beeline for it. Think like a baby again and get in the habit of scanning the floor and low furniture for choking hazards, as well as other potentially dangerous sharp objects, like scissors, pens, and kitchen utensils.
You want your baby to be safe, of course. Taking advantage of the technology at your fingertips, like the Internet, smart phones, and baby monitors, may be a great parenting resource, but remember that good old fashioned, undivided attention is an unbeatable parenting tool. For more tips and support you can reach out to your local New Parent Support Program. To find contact information, call your installation operator or visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and select “New Parent Support Program” in the “Looking for a specific program or service” box.
Mary Campise, LICSW, is a senior program analyst with the Family Advocacy and New Parent Support Program, Office of Family Programs/Children and Youth, Military Community & Family Policy, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. She shares responsibility of the policy oversight for prevention and intervention programs addressing child abuse and neglect and domestic abuse in military families. She has worked with military families for nineteen years and has been a military spouse for twenty-five years.