Respect in Action
The passionate child advocate Magda Gerber often summed up her approach to working with infants as 'respect' or more specifically as 'respect in action.' In fact, the word 'respect' alone - defined as a feeling of admiration, esteem or regard - is not enough to understand the profound benefits of treating children as Magda intended.
When I hear or read about the current public discussion around consent and the 'me too' movement, I am often reminded of how Magda's approach gives infants an experience of being respected that they can carry with them throughout their life. Respect puts a little distance between you and the other person, setting the two apart from each other so each can see the other more clearly.
Here are three key examples of respect in action, adopted from The RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) Manual:
1. Narrate: When you pick up your baby, first tell him what you plan to do. And when you put him down, tell him that too. Simple! But how often people grab babies and plop them down like they were little dolls - lovable, but empty-headed. We would not respectfully do anything 'to' an adult without first asking him, telling him, or preparing him. We can teach children from infancy to expect to first be asked.
2. Allow: Any problem that a child can handle by himself is good. Allow the baby to figure out how to roll over on his own. Allow the toddler to experience conflicts and let him be active in them. Allow a child to cry, to experience pain and sorrow ... don't negate his experience or feelings with a quick, 'It's ok.' Trust in your child's capacity to overcome challenges.
3. Reflect: Reflect in words what you observe, without judgement. Avoid imposing your opinions. 'I see that you are sad.' 'I hear that you do not want to leave yet.' 'I see that you both want that toy.' By stating the problem and not adding any value judgements, you give the children the feeling that you really understand where they are at. And you give them the opportunity to resolve the emotions or the conflict on their own.
For more on Magda Gerber and her Educating approach, go to: