I wanted to post something I came across in one of the books I usually reference. It's an entry written by a doctor named Karen Pierce, who wrote this for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. This section is an excerpt from a longer article she wrote but makes a lot of sense.
Parental confidence can make the parenting job much easier, even despite the inevitable problems and pitfalls of child rearing. We all make mistakes. This is why a prominent pediatrician called parenting "good enough", meaning that there is no one style of parenting that is perfect. The first time the parent misses a messy diaper does not "damage" a child. However, repeated failures of misreading the child's signal will have an impact. The emotional microenvironment is growth-promoting or growth-inhibiting, depending on the caregiver's ability to read her child's affective state. It is the patter of daily response, not the moment-to-moment response, that a baby internalizes and forms memories of.
Missing one signal in an infant's life will not cause permanent damage as long s as the parent learns and does not repeat the same mistakes. Good-enough parenting includes maintaining a child's arousal within a moderate range that is high enough to maintain interactions but not so intense as to cause avoidance or distress. Optimal stimulation produces a balance between positive feelings and awareness and internal tension. Too much stimulation, like tickling, can quickly become unpleasantly intense if not properly dosed. Lack of proper regulation by parents prevents the emergence of a system to cope with heightened levels of arousal and discomfort. Sleep is just one example where a child needs to develop internal regulation.
A child must have the conviction that her surroundings are secure, providing pleasure and satisfaction while preventing or balancing anxiety. This includes both bodily needs and emotional needs. With mother as a secure base, the baby is free to explore the world. Babies who are securely attached to their caregivers respond more positively to peers and teachers later in life. A baby's security manifests itself by a balance of interest, curiosity, pleasure, and exploration of the environment.
The protective response, innate to most caregivers, is sometimes interpreted as "never frustrate your child". This is virtuously impossible. Babies need to learn to tolerate frustration and learn self-soothing techniques to calm themselves and prepare them for life's inevitable obstacles. Gentle limits are the way to do this. A dilemma occurs when a parent needs to step away to promote growth. When babies learn to walk, first they creep along the furniture, and then they hold on to a hand. Eventually both baby and caregiver must let go so that independent walking will occur. Both parent and child feel anxiety at this separation. Struggles appear as each development task, such as rolling over, sitting, standing and talking is mastered. This is normal and may consist of an increase in fussiness or frustration experienced by both baby and caregiver. As each new step occurs, challenges and tensions are introduced, resolved and masted.
When do caregivers step away? Sometimes adults have the tendency to infer adult meanings from the child's actions. It is important to remember that a baby may not be feeling or experiencing what the adult feels. We cannot "read" an infant's mind. Too often, adults have a tendency to project their own feelings on to the baby and not really listen to or attune to their baby. The grandmother who is cold tells her granddaughter to put on a sweater. This assumption that we know what is going on in an infant's internal world can lead to conflicts in parenting if we project instead of attune. Try to understand your own baby's needs and not confuse them with your own