Meaning of Respect and Trust in Caregiving

If you have seen Our Philosophy page, you know that we recommend that our children grow up in an atmosphere of trust where we trust that children know what’s best for them and we respect them as whole individuals. This doesn’t mean we treat them as adults – no. We must still be firmly in charge of their safety. Treating them as whole individuals means ‘we treat them as small sized fully complex individuals with complex emotional and intellectual capabilities and needs.’

The primary work of a child’s absorbent mind is constructing herself. And the first most important work of a caregiver is to create a space of physical safety which has the psychological characteristic of trust and respect.

What is this respect? What is this trust? Magda Gerber’s RIE Parenting philosophy defines it in these simple actions.

  1. Magda says “An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing.”

This is pretty self-explanatory. I will write a blog post soon with clear instructions to create such a space. Such a space can be called a ‘yes’ space.

2. Magda says “Time for uninterrupted play. Freedom to explore and interact with other infants.”

Uninterrupted is indeed interrupted. You let them be in that space and trust that whatever they choose to do, is the best for their own formation. Children’s play has this unique ability to be right on the edge of their skillset at all times, as long as it is self-led. Observe them with love and make sure they are safe. Intervene for no other reason than safety.

3. Magda says “Involvement of the child in all care activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient.”

Again, pretty self-explanatory. But this one takes some thinking and some simple and powerful redesigning of spaces. For example, if you are setting up the dinner table, the child can become a part of carrying things to the table. My son, when he crawled, would love to help me carry spoons in this hands, while he crawled.

The idea is not to get work done, the idea is to involve them to the extent of the child’s ability. The idea is to let them know they belong as equals and not as helpless individuals – a real form of showing respect, don’t you think?

4. Magda says “Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs.”

The word sensitive here is quite significant. A sensitive observation is the one with a purpose. To learn about our child. To learn about her growing independence and her inclinations, which will allow us to change her environments as her ability rapidly expands. She can start carrying glass of water to the table instead of just a spoon, before we know it. How would we know, if we don’t observe purposefully?

5. Magda says “Consistency, clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline.”

  • If we don’t set limits for our child with love, the world will do so without it.
  • If your child loves to run in the home and that’s not ok for your home’s culture, then do set that limit. And do it every single time. And do it every single time with patience and love. If done consistently and with love and patience, it will become a part of your home’s culture and boundaries very soon.
  • For me, with my son, since we have been consistent with him on most limits we set; at 2.5 years old, he can inculcate any new boundary with just a conversation or two within 24 hours. He has been set boundaries with, since he was an infant, and always with love, consistency and most importantly clarity. (Now we set limits even collaboratively.)

Magda Gerber’s quotes have been taken from here.

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