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Bond, Boundaries & Bringing Up Baby

Judith Little | | Comments 0

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Each parenting journey is unique.

The one thing we all have in common is finding the capacity to love someone so much even though you haven't even met. Once a child comes into your life, they have a way of stealing your heart. The bond between parent and child, according to Dr. Tanya Cotler, is made up of more than just one moment in time – it is built upon millisecond-by-millisecond moment-by-moment interactions through life.

In episode 8 of the 40 Weeks to Forever podcast Dr. Tanya Cotler walks us through the importance of rupture and repair, trusting your intuition, and how to create a warm, loving, and healthy bond with your babe.

Episode Convo Highlights

How do we create that healthy, warm, loving and secure bond in those moments beyond that first initial meeting?

So this is a million-dollar question, right? You know, what we all [want to know] and we buy 100 books for it is the 10 tips to building a secure attachment with our children. And as a psychologist who specialized in this did a lot of research in this area and has clinically been practicing for 20 years, I'm unfortunately going to burst the bubble by saying there are no 10 tips. However, what that actually means is that every unique relationship has a capacity within the relationship to build that secure bond. And the way it's done is really the two people in the relationship you and your child coming to know one another. And I try to simplify the kind of primary areas we want to come to know each other as what I call the three Rs. So the first one is a reflection and the idea of reflection is reflecting on minds. So seeing mind and seeing our children's mind.

We all come to this world with a need to feel seen and known and understood. And one way we cultivate that with our children is by narrating, for example, helping them feel that their mind is known to us. So we're changing our baby's diaper and baby screaming and you know hates diaper changing. And we say, Oh, I see you're so upset you don't like when they change your diaper. Now, that doesn't mean we don't change their diaper. They can be covered in poop all day, but we recognize for a moment we reflect on their mental state, and that helps them feel felt. And that's actually probably one of the most key aspects to building a secure attachment. So if nothing else, when people come to me and they say, Tell me one thing, what should I be doing? I say narrate, narrate, narrate all day long.

What do you see your child doing what's going on in their mind, it helps them feel recognized. The next R is responsivity or responding and I kind of put in brackets whenever I refer to this as responding sensitively. So, this is the way we soothe our children, we help our children feel safe. So, it's how do we respond to them is with sensitivity. So, when I just said, I see you, I see your mind, you're sad, I will speak in a soothing voice, I will speak in what's called motherese or parentese. Now, you know, with the gentle inflection in your voice that softly says to them, with my tone and with my face: I see you, I've got you, I will make eye contact, I will hold eye contact, I will make what's called the whoa, face. You know, we're not on video, but Whoa, is when you know, imagine saying whoa, you're sad, right? You're literally your whole face says that, whoa, I will make the whoa face when they're sad, which to them mirrors the feeling and so they know I feel in me what they are feeling and I help them further feel soothed, and seen. I will offer ways of coping. So as they get older, they'll fall, ouch, you fell down, that hurts, do you need a kiss on your knee? Right, so that's sensitively responding. And that helps them feel again, this sense of soothed and safe and seen. The third one is probably to be the most important, and that's repair. And you can also call it rupture and repair. And we'll get into repair I'm sure but in very brief repair is all the moments where we take responsibility for all the moments we do in perfectly. And you know, Edward Tronick, a researcher who really focuses on the infant-parent attachment, says it's a 70-30 split this rupture versus match perfect matching. So meaning in 70% of the time, we're actually not responding perfectly sensitively. You know, the kid wants dessert before dinner, and we say you can't have dessert before dinner, and we don't actually do the whole, I know, you really want dessert, you know, we don't do that whole thing. We just say no. And they get upset, they start to cry. And then we say, Oh, I'm sorry, you really wanted dessert. I know, you really want dessert and we can't have dessert right now. We repair it. Literally as simple as that. And there are obviously small repairs and big repairs, but they're key and we'll get into why but the fact of the building attachment is their key. So it's a reflection, sensitive responding and repair are kind of the three building blocks.
Dr. Tanya Cotler

The 3 R's

Learn more about healthy attachment, boundaries, and self-compassion and remember the 3 R's:
  1. Reflection using narration 
  2. Responding [sensitively] 
  3. Rupture & Repair 

About Our Guest:

Dr. Tanya Cotler is a Clinical Psychologist, author and speaker who specializes in reproductive mental health, infant mental health and parent-child attachment. 

Through nearly 20 years of clinical and research experience, Dr. Cotler has honed her particular interest in the emotional bond between parent and child – including how it is formed and the role it plays in lifelong capacities for emotion regulation, empathy, and social-emotional development. Her work and approach also acknowledge that every relationship is messy and that repairing ‘mismatches’ (as opposed to avoiding them completely) is central to building safety and trust. 


Tripp Trapp Newborn Set


Listen Anytime, Anywhere!

On this season of 40 Weeks To Forever, we are chatting with both moms and experts, who are sharing encouragement, advice, and answering some of the most common questions all parents have (some you didn't even know to ask)!

Judith Little

Snuggle Mama

Boasting a background in Broadcast Journalism, Judith is a talented content creator and the vivacious host of the Snuggle Bugz “40 Weeks to Forever” podcast. Being the youngest of six kids, a busy family has always been at the core of her life — a tradition she continues as the proud mama of two energetic boys. Judith is a vital member of the Snuggle Bugz team, who passionately offers support, encouragement, and guidance to others navigating the adventure of parenthood.  


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