One study looked at the effects of both father-child and mother-child videotaped interactions on subsequent language and cognitive development. 290 children were evaluated at 24 months and 36 months. Supportive parenting was significantly related to the child’s subsequent development. (Tamis-LeMonda CS, et al. Fathers and Mothers at play with their 2- and 3 – year olds: contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Dev. 2004; 75(6): 1806-20.)
The sensitive or responsive parent pays attention to his child, acknowledges the child’s emotion, and may provide some options or distractions. But the responsive parent should not become emotionally involved in the child’s distress as the child needs to view his parent as stable and dependable. And the sensitive parent also recognizes the child must experience disappointment and frustration in order to learn creativity and problem solving skills.
The responsive parent adjusts expectations based upon the child’s temperament. If a shy, slow-to-warm-up child hesitates at the pool’s edge on the first day of swim lessons, a responsive parent may allow the child to initially sit and watch. A parent of another hesitant child may recognize her child will feel better about herself if she gives it a try – so she encourages her more strongly to participate.