What’s attunement? The physical and emotional connection that a healthy parent makes with their upset child that brings them both back into a calm and balanced state. Why is it important? Because without attunement you don’t have healthy attachment, and attachment is the foundation for a healthy emotional and interpersonal life. Attunement and attachment are some of the biggest issues in psychology today. Everyone is talking about it, but once those early years are over, it takes a lot of therapy to repair rifts in this foundation. So reinforce your emotional connection with your toddler, and know that the effort you make today will help them recognize healthy relationships for the rest of their life.
How does The Fast Food Rule help parents develop attunement? By reflecting back the child’s perceived complaint with enough gesture, facial expression and vocal intensity to register in the mind of a child, your child will feel that you “get” them, just as they are, regardless of whether you agree that a broken cookie is the end of the world. Knowing that a parent understand where you are coming from is essential. For more details, read Stop The Whining With The Fast Food Rule.
Again, later in life, realizing that a partner isn’t “getting them” is important when deciding whether to develop or stay in a relationship. From there, your child will be able to consciously decide to communicate more effectively, invest more time and effort in the relationship, or move on to another person who can connect more successfully with them.
Does this mean that you give in to every howl from a young child? Of course not. Even toddlers know that they won’t get everything they demand. They may be unhappy to hear that they can’t have cookies for dinner, but they don’t actually think they will be having them for dinner. What matters is that they know that you understand them, understand their feelings, and aren’t rushing to squash their anger, sadness or frustration.
Once you see those little shoulders drop, hear the scream become a wail or a whine, and get more eye contact, you will have been given the green light to offer a solution. Wait for it. And look for that moment when the two of you are calm and moving forward together. That, my friends, it attunement at work.