Responsive parenting: 3 steps to meet your child’s needs

Follow the ‘watch, ask, adapt’ method to build closeness and self-regulation

Responsive parenting: 3 steps to meet your child’s needs

As a parent, it is important to be responsive to your child’s needs, wants, and feelings.

By using the “watch, ask, and adapt” approach you will be able to respond in a way that truly meets your child’s needs.


Watch and observe your child throughout the day. What are some things you notice? By watching and noticing you will be able to read your child’s behavioral cues and build a connection. Notice verbal and nonverbal cues: words, actions, body language, facial expressions, and physical movement.


Strive to understand the situation. When your child feels big emotions, it can be difficult for them to process and react appropriately. All behavior is communication. It can be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • “What is my child trying to tell me?”
  • “Does my child need something from me?”
  • “How is my child feeling in the moment?”

Allow your child’s emotions and feelings to exist. Don’t always assume you know how they are feeling. Try to understand and work with your child through their big emotions. It can be helpful to ask, “What will help you feel better?” or “What will help you feel calm again?” With time, your child will be able to tell you.


Put your understanding and findings to use. Be sure to respond immediately and accordingly based on what your child needs. Keep trying until you find a strategy that will be successful.

Try not to immediately jump to conclusions or problem-solving. It is important to work through big emotions and teach children the long-term skills they can use for next time.

Try a few of these suggestions when responding to your child:

  • Be present and work with your child. “I can see you’re feeling big emotions. I will be right here and protect you. Let me know when you are ready to talk.”
  • Get down at your child’s level.
  • Acknowledge and validate feelings. “I see you are sad. That’s a hard feeling.”
  • Become more self-aware. Notice your words and reactions. Try to respond instead of reacting to the wide range of emotions.
  • Be proactive. Work as a team to come up with a strategy that will help your child be successful for future challenges.

Using the “watch, ask, and adapt” method will help you to understand your child, teach self-regulation skills, and build a lasting connection.

Learning your child’s temperament may be helpful in responding to your child’s personalized needs. Find out more information by contacting Sanford Parenting Services at (605) 312-8390 or email

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Posted In Children's, Family Medicine, Parenting