TEN STEPS TO THE EDUCARING® APPROACH
In a 1976 issue of Afterbirth, Janet Gonzalez-Mena published a list of “Ten Steps to the D.I.P. Philosophy.” This list, slightly revised, provides us with a brief, practical synopsis of the RIE philosophy. If you, as an educarer, have grasped the essence of our philosophy, this list will be a helpful tool for you to review the way you care for children. It is a reminder that caring for infants, with respect and quality foremost in our minds, must not become routine. Perhaps the next time you find yourself facing a new situation with your infant, these guidelines will help deepen and strengthen your motives, insight, and perception.
1. Involve the infant in caretaking chores, such as diapering. Don’t just distract him so you can get the job done faster.
- Remember that babies have long attention spans if they’re actually involved in something.
- Consider that you can give the baby a feeling for team work which can become a lifelong attitude.
- Realize how much learning goes on in these kinds of interactions.
2. Invest in quality time when you are totally available to the infant. Don’t settle for constant time together when you are only half there.
- Give the baby privacy—space and time alone.
- Give yourself privacy—space and time alone.
- Think of caring activities as quality times, not as chores.
3. Respect the baby as an individual. Avoid treating him as a cute, empty-headed doll to be manipulated.
- Try to tune in on the baby’s real needs, rather than your own projected needs.
- Really listen to him when he expresses needs. He will learn to refine his ways of expression.
- Avoid talking about the baby in front of him.
- Respect the baby’s feelings and his right to express them. It’s okay to be mad, sad, frustrated, etc.
- Offer strength to a child in conflict by being available, reflective, and neither judgmental nor over sympathetic.
- Help the baby to anticipate what will happen by telling him what you intend to do. Give the baby a chance to respond before you start the action.
4. Learn the baby’s system of communication and teach him yours. Don’t underestimate his ability to communicate.
- Regard crying as communication and try to understand it, not just stop it.
- Talk to the baby in a natural way using daily language, not “baby talk.”
- Cut down on endless chatter. A small amount of meaningful talk will be listened to.
- Don’t repeat yourself over and over.
5. Be honest about your feelings, rather than pretending to feel something you don’t.
- Give appropriate, honest feedback, being careful not to hook the baby on praise.
- Try to be aware of sending mixed messages and guard against it.
6. Invest time and energy into the building of human relationships and the development of the baby’s personality. Don’t concentrate on cognitive development alone, buying a lot of gadgets to promote it.
- Help the baby learn to use the potential he has.
- Help the baby to come to see himself as a problem solver.
7. Build security by teaching trust. Avoid placing the baby in situations in which he can’t depend on you.
- Don’t sneak away without telling him.
- Be available, if possible, when he really needs you.
- Understand he will go through periods when he needs you even more than usual.
8. Focus on the quality of development in each stage. Don’t be concerned about reaching developmental milestones in a hurry.
- Let the baby develop on his own. Don’t push him to do things he can’t do on his own before he is ready.
- Don’t teach the baby—facilitate his learning.
- Give the baby plenty of physical freedom.
- Let the baby stimulate himself—respect him for knowing what is best for him.
- Try not to promote a “circus atmosphere” where the baby gets hooked on being entertained.
9. Model the behavior you want to teach. Don’t preach.
- Respond to aggression with gentleness if you want to teach gentleness. Don’t give aggression for aggression.
- Teach sharing by sharing.
- Be aware that all you teach is yourself.
10. Give the baby a chance to solve his own problems. Avoid taking away valuable learning opportunities from him.
- Try to wait after the expression of a need to allow enough time for the child to attempt to satisfy himself.
- When the baby is going around in circles, or seems stuck, facilitate the smallest step necessary to enable him to solve the problem himself.
- Give the baby opportunities to practice decision-making by giving him a reasonable number of real choices when it is appropriate.
Janet Gonzalez-Mena is a RIE-trained infant Specialist. She has Co-authored, with Dianne Eyer, a book entitled Infancy and Caregiving, Mayfield Publishing Co. along with several other books.
Educaring® Volume I / Number 4 / Autumn 1980