In my perspective, a child is born as a whole, yet incomplete human being. Our role as parents is to support them as they learn to be in their bodies, in the world, and with other people. As fully grown adults it is difficult for us to comprehend that everything is new for our new born children. And so they need time. They need space. They need quiet – time to think, to feel, to sense. They need practice - to experiment and do things for themselves. Their bodily needs must be taken care of. How do we do this? With respect and consideration. Slow down. Observe before interacting. Observe more, do less.
That last sentence came from Magda Gerber, the founder of the RIE approach. I was fortunate to meet one of Gerber’s proteges, Eileen O’Sullivan, when my daughter was ten months old. We attended her parent-child classes every week for two and a half years. After a year we simultaneously attended the parent-child classes of another Gerber student, Janet Lansbury.
When my daughter "graduated" from RIE classes and went on to preschool, I didn’t. I had found my calling. Eileen became my mentor and I dived deep into Gerber’s approach. For three years I assisted Eileen O’Sullivan and Janet Lansbury in five classes every week.
The basis of Gerber’s approach came from Dr. Emmi Pikler who was Gerber’s family pediatrician in Budapest from the 1930s. Like Eileen, I have studied with the exemplary pedagogues and caregivers of the Pikler Institute in Budapest, Hungary and am in the last stage of becoming a Piker Pedagogue. Dr. Pikler’s perspective on newborns, infants and toddlers matches what developed for my wife and I organically. She and her colleagues worked out effective and sustainable care for babies practically and scientifically. Their work and research took place not only with families but within a Hungarian orphanage founded in 1946. I have been there, studied with these incredible people and am committed to sharing this approach with families.
Gerber brought this approach of respectful care and interaction to the United States while Hungary was still behind the Iron Curtain. She was an innovator, holding group classes for infants and their parents for the first time. It is this same format that I use for my parent-child classes - after years of mentorship, study and support from many of Gerber’s students.
Within the range of orphans in Budapest and generations of families in Los Angeles and around the world is an approach that has been practiced and tested across the wide range of family possibilities, one that can accommodate yours as well.