Tag Archives: authenticity

Authentic Caregiving in Centers

Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby

The RIE® method is one that makes caregiving a pleasant experience for every party involved. One of the ways this concept is best demonstrated is through the belief and practice of authenticity that Beverly Kovach discusses in her video series, Being with Infants.

As caregivers, we understand that children are coming to school on their good days as well as their bad days. For the most part, we are able to keep our expectations for them at an appropriate level. That means that we don’t expect the children to just stop being tired, stop being upset, or do anything to repress their mood on their own.

The Greeting

In my experience in centers, most adults feel the complete opposite way when it concerns themselves. Perhaps they didn’t sleep well the night before. Perhaps they are going through a situation that is causing them emotional turmoil. Despite the way they are feeling, they feel they must put on a happy face in order to be with the children.

Children can easily feel the tension in our bodies and have insight to what we are feeling – even if we don’t want to admit our feelings! Having a tensed and stressed body while having a smiling face can be confusing to any child and send them mixed messages. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to be honest with the children you are caring for? This not only helps the caregivers by being honest with her emotions, but also teaches the children about their emotions and empathy for others.


In Magda Gerber’s book, Your Self-Confident Baby, she tells a story about a mother who learned to be authentic with her daughter. When the daughter was sick, of course the mother cared for her. When the mother got sick, she was honest with her daughter from the start. “I hear you crying, I want to give you what you need, but right now I don’t feel well.” The mother said the daughter was less demanding than she was ordinarily!

Children understand more than most caregivers might think they do. We can be authentic and honest with them.

Note: Thank you, Ms. Rebekah for sharing your thoughts on Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby. Ms. Rebekah began working with infants at the center May 2017


Being with Infants Video Guide

Your Self Confident Baby

To Comply or to Conform… that is the Question?

“How do your children transition to first grade?”

I wasn’t surprised by the question which typically comes up during a tour.   I was surprised, though, that this Dad was worried about first grade readiness.  His baby wasn’t even born yet.

Immediately, my mind sifted through to the barrage of information, research, affirmation, test results, lesson plans, teacher qualifications, school accreditation checks and balances which I typically share with Primary aged families.  I looked into the father’s eyes then glanced over to his wife; what could I tell these soon-to-be parents that would help guide them in their decision making process on how to provide best for their infant in a way that would prepare him or her for the rigors of later academics and life itself?

My thoughts turned back to our current Kindergarten students; what attributes do these individuals convey that best prepares them for elementary success?  Each armed with unique gifts, resourcing abilities, temperaments, family cultures, weaknesses requiring scaffolding, testing abilities, self-regulatory capacity.  Looking outside my office door, the eldest student answered the father for me.

Together the Expectant Parents and I watched as the six-year old began negotiating with two of his peers deciding who would get to play chess with him and who would watch- they both wanted to play.  Michael tried several tactics to please both of his buddies, but neither seemed happy with the solution.

Michael did not give up, finally giving up the chess game for a work which could involve all three of them.  Later that morning, he was able to return to his first choice of chess once his friends’ needs had been met.  Many things struck me about the interchange we witnessed- at the core, what struck me most was Michael’s ability to know himself and his desires, appreciate and respect the desires of his friends, stay in tune with the group throughout the discussion and then comply with a group request of togetherness without conforming by giving up his own desire.

He was able to say, “OK.  Right now we’ll do what you want.  It seems really important to you.  Later I will do as I desire.”  – something that some adults have difficulty managing.

So where is this foundation laid?

We think early on- at infancy- from the moment of birth and first through our everyday care-giving routines.

A RIE baby attains a strong sense of value and respect beginning with how he is cared for during eating, sleeping and diapering routines.  At play, his concentration and motivation are carefully observed and the environment is prepared to follow his interest and regard, which he shares with his primary teacher by touching base and refueling.  The discovery is open-ended and while the routines may be predictable enabling security, the timing is set by the child.

On the other hand, parents are advised that in order to be wise, they must put children on adult centered schedules, feed by the clock rather than body cues, wear their babies on their bodies throughout the day or place them in positions the child can not get herself in and out of.  With the best of intentions, well-meaning parents and educators ask an individual child to conform to their expectations; in her efforts, the baby adapts and develops a need even for that which is preset for her.  It can be difficult not to ask a child, though, to conform to an adult schedule or activity which allows for us to ensure that everything that needs to be done for baby and adult is taken care of.  However, it can be difficult for the child later to know what she wants and resource herself in getting needs met, to regulate his own body, to feel secure without the presence of outside support, to trust herself.

Learning to comply- a necessary skill in becoming a contributing member to society- or learning to conform- requiring the input of another to move forward starts with our regard of babies.  An infant regarded with love and respect by his primary caregivers develops the skill to read and understand his community and wants to contribute to its success.  Eventually he complies- sets his impulses-or will aside (self-regulation) in order to help the group, to which he feels he belongs to, be successful.

A RIE baby isn’t asked to conform- he is invited to cooperate.

A RIE baby complies- she wants her family to succeed.

Being true to yourself while being sensitive to the needs and desires of others is not only a vital life skill, it also assists the child in transitioning to new environments.  To collaborate, cooperate, comply takes time and a degree of sophistication.

Putting out the Elf on the Shelf

It can’t be just me- that Elf on the Shelf is just a bit scary, no?

And what a tattle tale.

There’s  Santa at the North Pole in crunch time.  By now he’s already checked his list twice and he’s moving on to wrapping and loading the sleigh.

But first, he has to deal with  these CONSTANT interruptions by his American elf helpers.

This child didn’t eat all her peas…This little boy didn’t want to share his truck…or maybe they didn’t brush their teeth…. Come on- we already knew that and have reserved the bags of coal accordingly.  “It’s GO! time!” an exasperated Santa must be thinking, “Don’t these elves have something better they can be doing?”

The history of the Mother/Daughter Trio who wrote, self-published and marketed this new family tradition is indeed amazing and inspirational, so before you worry- I’m not about to entirely knock the Elf totally off the Shelf..   I’m all about FAMILY TRADITIONS be it tried and true or new to you- especially during the holidays.  These yearly rituals are a part of our social fabric that marks each family as unique while also celebrating our connectivity.

And while the story of the Elf on the Shelf seems harmless enough- its implementation by some well-intentioned adults as a form of behavior modification does have potential for some long-range ramifications.

Consider what the early childhood developmental theorists observed about motivation and what current brain research now concludes:  extrinsic incentives may work in the short run, but over time, they actually interfere with the very behaviors adults are working to promote.  Not to mention, they can cause a child to disengage from her own method of learning- which, yes, involves testing limits- to hide her authentic self.  The mask gets put on.

And that Elf in particular- hiding, lurking, always watching- reporting back- is that truly the emotional climate we want to train our young children to expect in their own homes?

Things at the school seemed to be status quo without the Elf, so I asked Head of School, Megan Nordoff, how she was faring at home during the holidays with her own young children and what she thought of Elf on the Shelf.

“I sometimes feel that I’ve given birth to a pair of little monsters when I get home,” she said half jokingly.  “Parents are often surprised to discover that I also face many of the same challenges at home as a Mom with setting limits and following routines while at the same time adjusting for spontaneous moments and holiday activities breaking from the norm.”

Megan concurred that based on the stories shared by the children in her care from two years through Kindergarten, that when used to direct a child’s behavior, the Elf seemed to be more beneficial as a band-aid perhaps quickly stopping a temporary flow of noncompliance and attributed its rise as a new holiday tradition contrived from commercialism and consumerism fueled by an unrelenting advertising and media campaign.  Used as a way to control your child’s behavior, The Elf robs your child the opportunity to “behave” for the common good- to learn to control his own impulses and will in order to collaborate towards to common good of society- a process of learning that takes all of his efforts this first six years of his life.

As things begin to unravel at home as they often do during what can be an over-stimulating holiday season, Megan has invested in some pre-planning to help avoid a stressful meltdown.  They include:

* building in unscheduled time at home at least once a week when nothing is planned

* starting bedtime routines a bit earlier and lengthening them to ensure little ones get to bed on time

* keep diets balanced – limiting holiday sweets to earlier in the day- and drinking lots of water

* make a holiday tradition with project oriented, hands on activities such as cookie making or gingerbread house building rather than screen time

*find something you can all do together to celebrate this time of year and when limits are tested, take them as learning opportunities to instill long-range family values

*care for yourself!  Have you been on a date lately?  Need a little pampering?  During this time of year, adults often forget to take time alone or with their partner to refuel.

These added measures proactively help Megan’s family avoid misbehavior often resulting when physical needs are not met or due to overstimulation.  And, in the event that redirection is in order, Megan feels better prepared herself being refueled to take TIME IN, be fully present, and help guide her children socially and emotionally through a learning opportunity.  For it to be COOPERATION it must be a request- coercion and demands provide little of the required scaffolding necessary for young children to learn pro-social skills often reflected upon as ‘being good.”

Will Ms. Megan be getting an Elf on the Shelf for her family for the holiday season?  “I’ve learned that as a parent never to say ‘I never…’, but right now there doesn’t seem to be room for it on our mantle.”

“The prize and the punishment are incentives towards unnatural or forced effort, and therefore we cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them.” Dr. Maria Montessori