IDEAS ON BABY-REARING THAT CREDIT THE BABY by Dennis McLellan
Magda Gerber believes successful parenting comes down to this: Each baby is unique and will grow in confidence if allowed to develop at his or her own pace.
Gerber, who is in her 80s, has spent 50 years working with children. She is founder and director of the Los Angeles-based Resources for Infant Educarers, a nonprofit organization that offers classes for child-care professionals and parents.
Gerber and her child-rearing philosophy have been featured in Parents, Parenting, Working Mother and other national publications. When freelance writer Allison Johnson of Aliso Viejo discovered that Gerber had never written a book outlining her parenting approach, she asked Gerber to collaborate.
Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities–From the Very Start co-written by Johnson, is a guide to Gerber’s “back-to-basics” approach to parenting.
Gerber’s philosophy, which originated in her native Hungary, shuns structured play and fancy toys. It allows the infant, under the watchful eye of the parent, to be an initiator, explorer and self-learner.
Gerber’s philosophy is the antithesis of the Super Baby phenomenon of the 1970s, when parents put their infants and toddlers on advanced learning schedules by trying to get them to recognize pictures and numbers on flashcards or trying to teach them to read at an early age.
“She feels, why teach them something at that age that they can’t comprehend and they’ll do naturally at the right time? Let them develop at their own rhythms and save teaching for the appropriate time when they’re in school and they can comprehend the materials,” Johnson says.
That’s not to say Gerber espouses a toddler free-for-all.
“Within the freedom of letting them explore and do what they do, there are firm limits, and the child knows what they are and they are enforced. Safety is always the major consideration,” Johnson says.
Johnson is sold on Gerber’s approach.
Johnson and her husband, William, made the 100-mile round trip to Gerber’s center in Silver Lake for weekly classes for more than a year after their daughter Juliana, now 4 years old, was born.
“I think parents sometimes have in mind a ‘dream child’: They try to shape their child to be a certain [way] rather than seeing who their child really is,” Johnson says.
“Her whole philosophy is really based on a parent’s observation of the child. . . . You sort of sit back and try not to direct what they’re doing: Observe their behaviors, moods, feelings, actions, how they relate with other children.”
“Our goal,” Gerber has said, “is an authentic child–one who feels secure, autonomous and competent.”
“Authenticity is a big concept for Magda,” Johnson says. “It’s stepping back and giving your children space to discover who they are and letting them develop in their own time frame.”
(Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times. Original article HERE.)