Applying the Approach®
I have just discovered Magda Gerber's Educaring® Approach and it seems so beautiful and intuitive. What have you learned is the best way to share this work with others in an authentic way? I find myself wanting to tell everyone I know about it but, don't know how to do it without coming across too strong and turning people off.
Good question, I have felt this way myself. To begin, it’s great that you are even aware that you may come off too strong. During the first years of integrating the Educaring® Approach into my life, I too
was concerned with how I would share “Magda’s way” of being with babies. Respecting babies was so logical and treating young children as people, as I’ve come to think of it, were ideas that fit my way of being and are perhaps the foundation of the intuitive aspects you refer to. I also see the Educaring® Approach as fundamentally about relationship, and in that regard, it has impacted who I am and how I am in all my relationships. My thoughts about how to best share this work are that it depends.
Sharing information and experience requires a “recipient” or another person. When I share my ideas or experiences with another person it is done so in relationship. When I talk with someone else, it’s never said in exactly the same way because I am trying to reach a different person. Learning about and integrating a (new) approach is a process riddled with excitement, confusion, success and failure. At first there’s this need to do it right. Just the way Magda would have done it. To be pure. But, to think that I can purely implement or express someone else’s approach is ridiculous, it wouldn’t happen the first time I tried and that wouldn’t include being authentically me.
Just like babies who need to understand ownership in order to truly share, the information we want to share is received best when it comes from a sense of passion, connection or ownership to the information we’d like to share. Really understanding a new approach requires trial and error, practice and integration, learning about the nuances of theory which are only understood and transformed through experience. Really integrating the approach requires personal reflection most every step along the way (this can be in retrospect!). Part of what I have come to learn about sharing the Educaring® Approach is that I will stress different points of my passion for the approach depending on where I am in my learning and who I am with. I will never be with babies just the way Magda would have, but I will be with babies in ways that are authentically me, that are ways that Magda would support and sharing my experience with the approach is invaluable for piquing interest and helping someone else understand.
Each time we share something we know, we solidify that knowledge and figure out what we really know as well as what more we might want to learn (in order to explain it better the next time). Direct practice with babies, personal reflection, more reading, talking with colleagues or other parents all help us to more deeply, personally, authentically understand. Initially, when I shared “RIE®” with people I would explain, “Magda Gerber says it doesn’t help children learn how to walk by holding your hand, they need freedom of movement…,” for example. Over time, as I began to feel more and more confident as a caregiver and later a parent, I found I could rely more and more on my own experience and speak from that. I find a way to bring in “Magda” and “the Educaring® Approach,” but after many years of practice, I can also own this knowledge myself.
When I am with adults, other caregivers, family members and parents, I am aware that I have a unique relationship with each of those adults and that I am sharing my self, my own authenticity, my own experience. Yes, I want others to find inspiration and passion for the Educaring® Approach! Yes, I want all babies raised with respect! But my way, Magda’s way, isn’t right for everyone – she said so herself. I let go of any attachment to converting others a long time ago and have instead sought out ways to connect, like identifying something I like in how the other adult is with children. Once we have a connection, I can share from the perspective of what works for me – and it isn’t usually the RIE® Principles that come out!
To connect with another adult I find it invaluable to consider my role in sharing at that time. Am I at the park sitting near a stranger, am I with my sister, my best friend, a colleague, a stressed parent? Is the person asking for help or am I just responding to show empathy and pass along a tidbit that may help? Starting with acknowledgment works well. Just as I would recognize the emotions, needs, skills, effort or positive impulse behind a child’s behavior, I would first acknowledge what I see going on for the adult. If I am wanting to share the information, I want it to be received! Just as I seek to actively engage a child, I need to find the way to actively engage the adult – I certainly don’t want to be annoying, insulting or background babble.
After I’ve determined someone is interested, using the above example, I want to find something to relate to their experience. I might say something like, “It’s so exciting she’s beginning to walk! Do you think she could cruise along holding the table so you’re both a little freer?” If I really wanted to get to Magda, I might add something like, “Have you ever heard of the Educaring® Approach? The work of Magda Gerber? One of the things I have learned from her work is how valuable it is for the creeping child to be able to move independently to strengthen all the fine muscles and gain the balance required to stand and walk.” In this sort of way I can introduce fundamental principles from the context of my own experience without turning people off. By actively engaging the listener, I get the benefit of their wonder and curiosity in return. It doesn’t always work… sometimes I’m too much or my family member thinks I’m preachy. I just step back, reflect, and if it’s important to me that the person know about my passion for the Educaring® Approach, I’ll try to think of another way to approach them next time.
Being with babies is certainly different than sharing with adults and sharing something I am passionate about is different than imparting information. One thing that really helps me is having a baby or child in the room (for real). The child’s presence provides someone for us to share interest in, delight about and to have as a current example, but unless it is appropriate to include the child in the conversation, the best time to talk may be when there are not children present…
Believing the Educaring® Approach is applicable for adults and children alike, I strive to be present and collaborative. Magda states that if we “want an infant to be authentic, [we] have to be interested in who that little person really is” (2002, Dear Parent, p. 71). I want true, authentic conversation so that I can help the other person learn/understand – I must observe and listen, their engagement shows me they’re actively involved with me. I must trust the other person has experience, concerns, questions of value and show my interest in them, just as I hope they’re interested in me, or what I have to say – this enables the adult to learn and connect with the information. Generally speaking, I also try to use positive communication skills, objective description and stating key points, without spending energy on methods I don’t like (what you say stays in the mind of adults, too). Ultimately, I find a little humility and not taking it personally if someone doesn’t want to hear from me helps to keep the door open – I have to trust that if the ideas I’ve shared are of interest, s/he will explore them and maybe come back to talk with me more!
Gerber, M. (2002) Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect. Los Angeles, CA. p. 71.
About Our Associate:
Jude (Santa Cruz, CA) has built a career around supporting and advocating for children, families and early care and education professionals. In addition to providing direct care for children birth to 6, she has taught early childhood education courses in community colleges and the State University of New York. Her work has extended into managing community programs that provide medical care, prenatal and parent education, and advocacy for children who have experienced trauma.
Jude is captivated by witnessing children learn to communicate and passionate about supporting positive, nonviolent communication in families. She has a special interest in children’s literature and antibias imagery, and documents children’s experience through photography. Her work can be found in professional journals including "Young Children" and "Montessori Life," child development texts and in her self-published book, Bite A Bagel, authored by Wendy Rolnick. Jude’s writing has been published by the Association for Childhood Education International. Jude completed her RIE® training and became an Associate in 2001 and was the Editor of their quarterly newsletter, Educaring® from Spring 2014-Fall 2017.