Family life

Parenting: sensibility and beliefs

You can learn to be a parent... with experience, time, and a few good reads that help you better understand the influence of parenting on children.

What do we know?
  • Parents encourage their children’s autonomy by evaluating their needs and responding right away (especially between ages 0 and 1) and later by giving them proper supervision (clear rules, encouragement).
  • Loving parents who make an effort to understand what their children are trying to tell them make it easier for their children to respect rules, cooperate and get along with others.
  • Sensitive parents pay attention to their child’s distress. By reacting to the child’s crying calmly and quickly, they reinforce the child’s feelings of security and offer valuable comfort.
  • Sensitive parents enthusiastically encourage their child’s need to explore and make sure the child is safe by setting limits.
  • Parents will behave positively or negatively toward their child based on the feelings they have when they are with the child, their memories of their own childhood, and their beliefs about education.
  • Parents often behave toward their children the way their own parents behaved toward them.
  • Parents who believe they are not effective are likely to abandon their own rules when their child is resistant (such as not applying the consequence when the child breaks a rule).
  • It is easier for parents to resolve a conflict if they can clearly identify their child’s emotions.

The sources of information about child development that parents consult will affect the strategies they use. Well-informed parents know more about the challenges they will face and are able to adapt when the time comes.

Paying attention to...
  • the fact that a child’s behaviour creates an emotional response in the parent.
  • the challenges that children face as they grow up.
  • figuring out the ways in which children express their emotions.
  • what the situations experienced by parents and children have in common.
What can be done?
  • Identify the emotion felt when facing the child’s behaviour (for example, anger, fear, disappointment, sadness, etc.).
  • Consult informative materials on child development (such as books, websites, etc.).
  • Name the emotion and the signs of the emotion that is observed in the child.
  • Ask the child questions.
  • Ask yourself what provoked this difficult behaviour and what are the consequences (for you, for the child, and for others).

This article is a publication from the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.

The Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development identifies and summarizes the best scientific work on the social and emotional development of young children. It disseminates this knowledge to a variety of audiences in formats and languages adapted to their needs.

For a more in-depth understanding of parents’ practices, consult our experts’ articles in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

Parents’ practices: When sensitivity and beliefs enter the picture. In: Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters RDeV, Boivin M, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Montreal, Quebec: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development; 2008. Available here. Accessed September 2010.


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