3555082768_97ec29f086_s It’s natural to want others to listen to you. Children are no exception. From infancy to adolescence voices, gestures, facial expressions, postures and behaviors speak. What happens to expressions that go unheard?




Zander blog 7 mosWhy do some parents respond quickly to their babies and others wait? Is it a matter of Parental Intelligence? Parental Intelligence is the ability to understand your baby’s behavior, find meaning in it and respond. Some parents do this naturally, others learn how. There is an interaction between parent and baby that influences how they react to each other. Simply stated, some babies are quiet, others more active. Some parents are quiet, others more active. Sometimes the match seems just right: active parent/active baby; quiet parent/quiet baby. But actually the quiet baby may need a more active parent to bring forth their potential. The active baby may need the quiet parent, to learn how to self-soothe. There are as many combinations as there are infant-parent pairs.


As an infant-parent psychotherapist who developed the concept of Parental Intelligence, it is interesting to me why some parents react quickly to their infants (like Clara’s mother in yesterday’s post) and other parents wait (like Dale’s mother in yesterday’s post.) I’ll just talk about mothers now for ease of writing, but I’m referring to fathers, too.

One possibility is that mothers react to their babies depending on how they were mothered when they were young.

Consider this:  A mother who was left alone a lot for various reasons when she was small recalls that her loneliness was often accompanied by fear and doesn’t want her baby to ever feel that way. So she reacts quickly when her baby calls out. When she reassures her baby she is there for him, she is also reassuring herself that her child won’t have to feel what she felt.

Consider this: A mother who had an anxious mother who was always shadowing her, hovering over her like she was always in danger, remembers wanting more space and independence. That mother felt more at ease as a child when she had some distance from her own mother. So, she lets her baby fuss a bit before she moves in. She wants her baby to get to know himself somewhat before she steps into his little world. She believes then he will be confident and unafraid.

Both situations are understandable. But what is right for their babies? Parental Intelligence means taking into account your own tendencies as a parent based on influences you’ve had from other people including your own parents and then choosing the best parenting style for your particular baby so he feels heard. Parents should not think they have to be perfect. So, experiment with your baby. See how she reacts when you take your time or come quickly. Different paces work for different babies and for different moms.

See the next post about babies who play “Chase and Dodge” with their parents! And meanwhile, click here to read more about Parental Intelligence.




  1. Eli on April 27, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I often wonder whether the actions of parents don’t “trickle down.” I never met him, but I understand my great grandfather was extremely active but his son, my grandfather, was quiet and a loner. His son, my father, was quiet but a powerhouse of activity. Me, I’m sort of a mix, and I wonder what I’ve passed on to my son.

    • Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. on April 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      It might be enlightening to know how you were as a father when your son was a baby–if any of those generational influences affected your parenting.
      Thanks for your interesting multi-generational comment.

  2. Rich on May 1, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Very valuable observations. I think it’s natural for people, to some degree, to assume that the way they go about doing things, parenting especially, is THE way. The idea of experimenting with different styles that don’t follow an emotional impulse in the parent is very intriguing.

  3. Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. on May 1, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for zeroing in on that idea of “The way.” What seems natural to a parent with a baby may not be what the baby needs in that moment. It may feel natural to the caring mother, but not to the baby. So some trial and error is just fine, in fact, it helps mommy/daddy and baby find each other, get to know each other.
    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Nathalie on May 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    “Some parents do this naturally, others learn how.” Until I realized this I fretted why I wasn’t “getting” this parenting thing. Despite my active approach (eg reading lots of parenting books) I just wasn’t getting along well with our first baby. Meanwhile my husband was a natural (he did no preparation of any sort). It was maddening! Each personality in the family falls on the extremes of the spectrum so it was a learning curve to see how this factor, plus our personal approaches, impacted our parenting.

    • Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. on May 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      You might be interested in going to my book page and reading about Parental Intelligence, specifically the step two, self-reflecting. Sometimes it’s important to not only know about child development but about what in yourself has to do with your reactions to your child or baby. That might clue you in to what was at first happening with your baby. Sounds like you really enjoy your children. That’s what counts!

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