This is part 2 – please click here to read part 1.

Years ago I had a friend who was a missionary in Vietnam during the war. She told stories of finding “silent weepers” along the roads—babies left in baskets who never cried.

Periodically these infants would tremble from head to toe, but they never uttered a sound. I didn’t get it when I first heard the stories… now I understand. For unknown reasons, the adults in their lives either couldn’t or wouldn’t respond to their cries and they soon learned that it served no purpose.

Their distress was visible but their circumstances taught them that they were powerless to do anything about it. Their voices were completely silenced.

Silent weepers are rare and indicate extreme levels of neglect. Stories such as this remind us of the importance of “the dance” of attunement that takes place in the first year of life.

We live in a culture of preoccupied adults. Some are preoccupied for understandable reasons—illness, financial stress, or the like. Others may be preoccupied by technology or their own personal pursuits. Preoccupied parents find it difficult to respond in a timely and consistent way to their baby.

Infants who receive inconsistent care (and never know whether or not someone will come to their aid) often learn to exaggerate their emotions. When their cries get no response they resort to whining, clinging, throwing temper tantrums and manipulative behaviors. In a sense, they find another “voice.”

This form of attachment is called “insecure ambivalent.” Research has found that these children cry more at one year of age than children with any other form of attachment.

Infants who are ignored, harshly treated, or rejected when they cry are likely to turn their emotions inward and become emotionally withdrawn and repressed. In some cases, they become aggressive and approach the world with anger and defiance. This form of attachment is called, “insecure avoidant.”

Substance abuse, chronic depression, and mental illness are often the reasons why parents respond to their baby with rejection or harsh treatment. In other cases, it may be a very business-like approach to parenting. Custodial care is administered but there is no real emotional connection with the baby. These children grow up with the outward appearance of, “I can take care of myself” but inwardly they experience a deep sense of isolation and loneliness.

Responding to the cries of an infant in a warm, timely and consistent manner helps the child begin to realize that he is effective in getting his legitimate needs met by using his “voice” and doesn’t need to resort to manipulative strategies or “suck it up” and take care of himself.

The key is learning to “read” the baby’s cries and responding appropriately.

The squirmy, fussy cry in the middle of the night does not necessarily mean, “pick me up and feed me.” It may mean, “I need someone to give me a pacifier and pat me on the back.”

Dancing with your baby is an on-going learning experience that leads to a secure attachment. Research indicates that good parents get it right about 50% of the time.

That statistic kind of takes the pressure off!!

It’s not about being a perfect parent…it’s about being authentically invested in the dance.

Tell me what YOU think!