Reading Notes – Authentic Relationships in Group Care for Infants & Toddlers

My Notes

  • Didn’t think RIE approach was being explored with poor and young parents to full potential. (I am interested in this) p 10
  • If she had known about RIE, she believes her own parenting would have been much easier (writing topic: I found parenting to be much easier than how I’d heard it described by most others) p 10
  • Babies who are understood better are easier to care for. p 11
  • Plea for improved subsidies for young children. p 15
  • Importance of leadership and management when implementing RIE in facilities. p 15
  • Growth of joy as parents learn about and implement RIE. p 15
  • Importance of attachment theory. p 20
  • Child care policies tend to focus on the needs of adults to the detriment of children. p 21
  • Importance of self-directed play. p 22
  • Rigorous system of evaluating effectiveness and scientific inquiry into gross motor development at Loczy. p 22
  • Original nurses spent more time caring for linens than children. Fired all and hire new nurses they could train. p 23
  • Children were able to be subjects, not objects at Loczy. had as much choice as possible, allowed to express themselves even if adult agenda had to be followed. p 24
  • Continuity established by elaborate note-takeing shared between caregivers. p 24
  • Gerber worked for some years as a child therapist (what type of therapist?). p 25
  • Magda says lifestyle in US makes it very hard to raise a baby the way Emmi wanted. p 26
  • Through DIP program, Magda developed way of helping parents observe their children. Also modeled respectful interaction with infants without disempowering or deskilling their carers. (I want to become skilled at this). p 26
  • Taught when and how to intervene by being available without being intrusive. p 16
  • Very different than teaching parents how to work with a generic baby. p 26
  • Children have a right to information and autonomy, as well as consistent loving care. Adults must accept responsibility of authority and be honest about it while allowing the child to express anger or be upset. p 27
  • High rate of foster/adoption placement breakdown, unless it is early adoption of healthy infants. 🙁 p 29
  • “Observing, thinking, caring for children and teaching were not separate activities to [Pikler & Gerber] but part of a unified approach. They had to find better ways to care for children because the children were there to be cared for; they could not wait.” p 30
  • Policies promote paid work as the way out of poverty. This means that day care is required. Subsidies are a priority subsequently. p 31
  • Pre-school is provided free for 3-4 year olds but tends to take place in schools. Concerns about this because formalized schooling is known to not be good for young children. p 31
  • Little collective responsibility for children in western countries. They are instead seen to be the responsibility of the parents. Places a lot of economic pressure on families. p 33
  • Can tell if people are authentically applying RIE principles rather than imitation without understanding. Sometimes people do things very differently but she can tell they understand the principles. p 37
  • Basic principle is to trust baby’s inborn capacities. Our role is to create an environment where the child can best do what he wants naturally. This is very difficult in US where entire society is pushing you constantly. p 37 
  • “Through regular routines, babies eventually learn to anticipate what is expected of them. This is the beginning of discipline.” p 44
  • “Knowing when to give infants freedom and when to introduce limits is most important, and is the backbone of the RIE approach. We need to remember that limits function as traffic signals, keeping things flowing smoothly between family members. With this framework are those things a child is expected to do (non-negotiable areas), what she is allowed to do (negotiable areas), what is tolerated (“I don’t really like that, but I can understand why you need to do it”), and what is forbidden. These are the parameters of discipline.” p 44
  • “If a child spends hours playing uninterruptedly, he will be much more willing to cooperate with the demands of his parent. If he doesn’t have to fight for autonomy, he can comfortably relinquish it once in a while.” p 44
  • “We at RIE would like to see parent support happen as a by-product of our classes, but it is not our main purpose. Our classes are designed to be infant as well as adult-oriented, in that we focus on the infant’s initiations, needs and cues, demonstrating sensitive and appropriate ways of responding to them. We try to model ways in which the needs of o=infants and parents can be synchronized. We believe this will help parents more in the long run than if we were to emphasize solely parent-support activities. Many parents also bring with them the expectation that they will receive quick and ready explanations and solutions about parenting and infancy. In our hectic world the standard way to learn about anything is to pick up a “how-to” book on a given subject and start reading, or to go to a class and have the instructor tell us what to do. In my opinion, this is short-term learning, and it usually doesn’t work.”
  • RIE parent-infant classes, by their very nature, rely on and encourage long-term learning. Our classes are eight weeks long. Effective parenting cannot be learned or “taught” in eight weeks. The goal in our classes is for parents to observe and really see their infants. The classes are divided into two sections. In the first, parents ease their infants into a prepared environment, then move back to a spot where they can sit quietly and watch as the RIE demonstrator interacts with the infants. We ask parents to try to remain in the same place throughout the observation period, so that their babies will always be able to find them. This gives the babies the requisite security they need in order to move away from their parents, accept the attention of the demonstrator, and get involved in exploring the environment and the other infants. The fact that that parent is there allows the baby to let go of the parent. The RIE demonstrator will meanwhile pay full attention to the babies, responding to their cues, and helping them either directly or by not helping them. With her soft voice and slow movements she will try to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet. After observation of about one hour, the RIE instructor will lead a parent discussion to talk over issues that have arisen during the class as well as at home.” p 46
  • Story of swim class that babies did not enjoy but parents did and didn’t seem to notice their babies not enjoying it. p 47
  • “I recommend that parents form small groups in which their babies are the “actors” and “scriptwriters.” The parents can then watch, learn, and enjoy.” p 47
  • “During the RIE parent-infant classes we are trying to impart a quality of experience — a way of relating that can be used at all levels of growth. In the long run, our goal is to help parents learn to live and let live with their infants and later their older children.” p 47
  • Difficult to meet needs of infant because though usually well meaning, caregivers are generally low pay, low status, few models, poor training, high turnover, etc. p 48
  • Focus is on two areas: 1) time spent with adult during caring, 2) time spent alone, freely exploring the environment. Only a child who receives undivided attention fro his educarer during all routine caregiving activities will be free and interested to explore his environment without needing too much intervention from the educarer.” p 48
  • Difference between good average carer and trained educarer (from page 49-50):


Good Average Caregiver

Trained Educarer

May rush through caring activities in order to get ready for the more valued time of following a curriculum, lesson plan or providing some structured stimulation.

Uses the time that must be spent with the child anyway as a potential source of valued learning experience.

Rely on infant curricula, books and packaged programs as a prescription to teach, drill and speed up new skills in the areas of gross motor, fine motor, social/emotional or language development.

Trusts the infants’ abilities to initiate their own activities, choose from available objects, and work on their own projects without interruption.

Teaches and encourages postures and means of locomotion that the infants are not yet able to do on their own (thus hampering free movement and exploration and sometimes even creating bodily discomfort).

Provides appropriate space for the infant to freely initiate his own movements without interference, thus helping the infant feel comfortable, competent and self-reliant.

Attention is focused on the elicited response to her or his stimulation.

Attention is focused upon observing the whole child, his reaction to the caregiving person, to the environment, and to his peers, thus learning about the child’s personality and needs.

Selects and puts objects/toys in the infants’ hands.

Places the objects/toys so the infant must make an effort to reach and grasp. The child work towards what she or he wants.

Encourages dependency by assuming an active role, such as rescuing a child in distress or helping her to solve her problems.

Waits to see if the child is capable of consoling himself and solving his own problems, thus encouraging autonomy.

May often use bottles and/or pacifiers to soothe a crying child, creating a false oral need for food or sucking.

Accepts the child’s right to show both positive and negative feelings. Does not want to stop the crying, but rather tries to understand and attend to the child’s real needs, such as sleeplessness, hunger or cold. If infant soothes himself by sucking his thumb, this is accepted as a positive, self-comforting activity.

Often restricts infant-infant interaction, such as infants touching each other, for fear of them hurting each other. 

Facilitates interactions by closely observing, in order to know when to intervene and when not to.

In a situation of conflict, resolves the problem by separating, distracting, or deciding who should have the toy or object in question. 

Comments, “Both you, John, and you, Anne, want that toy.” Often after such impartial comments, minor conflicts resolve themselves.

May become aggressive in controlling an “aggressor,” thereby reinforcing the aggressive behavior.

Models appropriate behavior by touching the aggressive child and quietly saying something like, “Easy, gently… nice.”

May rush to pick up, to rescue and to console the “victim” of the “aggressor”.

Squats down, touches and strokes the “victim” saying, “Gently now, nice.” By concurrently stroking and talking to both “victim” and “aggressor,” the educarer is modeling and consoling both children without reinforcing a pattern of becoming a “victim.”

Likes to have more people or helpers in the room.

Wants to become the steady person to his or her own small group of about four infants.

Gets exhausted from picking up one crying child and putting down another, as if extinguishing one fire after another.

Calmly observes and can often prevent the “fire.”

May scoop up an infant unexpectedly from behind, thereby startling, interrupting and creating resistance in the infant.

Always tells the infant before she or he does anything with him or her, and thus gets cooperation.


  • Offering high-quality care using RIE is easier than offering low-quality care. p 51
  • “Appropriate curriculum for infants should not be a special teaching plan added to their daily activities, but rather it should be incorporated in the infants’ every experience.” p 54
  • This must be in the context of respectful relationships between adults, as well as between an adult carer and an infant. p 54
  • “Essential to best practice is comprehensive knowledge of the little recognized stages of natural motor development in infants.” p 56
  • Charts by Klara Pap of natural gross motor development. p 56
  • Magda believed strongly that effective teaching comes through demonstration and internalization of ways of working. p 57 
  • “As RIE’s purpose is to foster the development of healthy, competent, cooperative, creative children, taking an infant’s need for both interdependence and independence into consideration, a model of a cooperative relationship must be adopted from the beginning of the infant/adult relationship.” p 57
  • “Signs of the infant’s growing competence may not only be unnoticed and unappreciated by the adult, but even thwarted if the old model of “baby as dependent” remains. And if the infant does not see recognition of her competence reflected in the adult’s eyes, then it could go unnoticed and unappreciated by the infant herself.” p 58
  • “Interference has a negative effect on the qualities of grace, surety, and the child’s sensory awareness of her own movements. In addition, development of initiative, judgement, coping skills and satisfaction in controlling one’s own efforts are rooted in early, natural, unassisted motor development supported by a safe environment and a secure relationship.” p 58
  • “RIE values freedom of emotion as well as of motion, accepting the full range of a child’s feelings with equanimity. In time, the child can come to recognize them, and be able to deal with them in a constructive way. As Jackins has argued, crying is not the hurt, it is the release or healing of the hurt.” p 60
  • “I often wonder if in attempting to teach infants how to play, adults foster short attention spans. Infants engaged in the discovery process have long attention spans.” p 73
  • RIE recommends being specific when making comments about play (ex. I see you are very interested in rolling that ball). This sends message we are really paying attention and helps with language development.
  • Relationship-based philosophy: “I want to know and understand who you are and I’m prepared to help you understand and know who I am.” p 84
  • Many adults who work with infants believe they already know what’s best for infants. p 84 
  • “It’s interesting to note that when a caregiver becomes skilled in this approach with children, it also enables her to create a more respectful relationship with adults.” p 84
  • “Diapering should be a pleasant time for both the adult and the child. When adults expect that the child can and will be a willing participant, it becomes an opportunity for developing a close relationship. There are times when the child might fuss or giggle around and then the sensitive adult slows down and allows the child some time to adjust and help with the task. The child’s sense of self begins to emerge during this kind of caring routine. During meaningful interactions, the child may attempt to engage the adult in a playful exchange, similar to teasing. This can become an opportunity for the child to learn to negotiate if the adult joins in the play. Adults who are focused on the task rather than the relationship feel rushed and often miss the child’s attempt to engage them.” p 87
  • “Toddlers are more active than infants but are not yet pre-schoolers. Many programs make the common mistake of creating a toddler environment and curriculum similar to the pre-school program. While it appears toddlers are ready to learn through group activities, this is not always true. In an effort to control the active toddler who is not ready to work in groups, an inexperienced caregiver is often drawn into “entertaining” the children. When a child does not participe, she sees the child as difficult and might take inappropriate measures to discipline the child. The can often weaken the adult/child relationship because the toddler, at the critical stage “autonomy vs. shame and doubt,” feels shame or anger, and the child is labeled difficult in the caregiver’s mind.” p 90
  • “Caregivers must be emotionally healthy and be open to diversity, accepting of each family’s unique culture and lifestyle. Likewise, caregivers must be committed to their own professional growth and development.” p 90
  • “RIE works on the premise that learners across the life span take a more active role in the educational process if they learn in relationships with each other. Those who teach infant caregivers attempt to engage students actively in their education, and involving parents of very young children in the educational arena is a widely accepted strategy in the US. A collaborative learning model can be more effective than the limited “professional expert” model and, indeed, that model has been questioned in complex Western societies as our understanding of diversity and difference has increased.” p 93
  • “Babies from birth on try to communicate how they feel. If your attitude is, “I cannot know automatically what you need, please tell me”, then the baby will learn to give you cues, and a dialogue will develop. If, on the other hand, a mother superimposes her interpretation of the baby’s problems, the infant will unlearn to expect appropriate responses to her hees, and learn to accept what mother offers. This is the difference between being understood and misunderstood. Being understood creates security, trust and confidence. Being misunderstood creates doubt both in yourself and in the problem.” Magda Gerber. p 96
  • “Parents are treated very gently. Certain expectations of the supportive environment need to be articulated as “ground rules” for adult interactions. Modeling the respectful approach, staff do not judge, directly admonish or blame parents. Parents may choose to use self-reflection and also may choose to share insights with the group without judgement or criticism imposed on one another. No one ever says: “Don’t do that; you will damage your child” or “This is the right way to do it.” The parent-educator brings parents’ attention to the large and small changes in their child’s abilities and competencies. Naturally, the parents are already in communication with their child and can often translate a child’s need (by the tone of a cry from example) to the demonstrator. Noticing that they already have special knowledge about their child’s needs is a positive reinforcement of parenting abilities.” p 102-103
  • “Always the emphasis is on the parent’s need to make conscious choices, to examine why they make specific choices, and the necessity of doing what feels comfortable and right to the parent. A parent attempting to adopt a pedagogical method that is unfamiliar and not fully understood cannot help but give confused messages to a baby. It is better for both parent and infant if the parent does what feels natural and at the same time self-observes, becoming more conscious of her/his own behavior and trying to discover why a particular response or reaction feels right. Is it also important for the facilitator to support this process in which parents become clearer about what they value or appreciate, and observer how the baby actually responds to their behavior.” p 103
  • “16 to 24 months: As baby gets closer to talking, mom increasing expects the baby to alert her to problems, rather than anticipating or decoding baby’s expressions or gestures. The great day comes when the toddler realizes he can get an adult involved in a verbal dialogue. “What’s dat?” (pointing again), “What’s dat?” ad infinitum. The child can now capture and direct the adult’s attention whenever and wherever he wants to. The power of words!” p 105. (Never heard any other parenting book talk about this).
  • “An expert parent-educator/facilitator can really encourage animated and honest discussion between parents, even when their viewpoints differ. This is particularly valuable in ensuring the inclusion of families and children from diverse communities or who have special educational or physical needs. The key seems to be valuing all contributions and validating them as a reflection of each individual’s experience. Exchanging ideas and ways of dealing with the same problem gives parents a chance to consider the possibility of alternative solutions.” p 106
  • “Parents are encouraged to think and talk about what feels comfortable for them and for their babies. We discuss where these feelings come from: our own forgotten infancy. parenting we observed or experienced as older children or as siblings, what we have heard and read, and our socio-cultural traditions and values. We encourage parents to parent by choice, as they feel, to be sincere and authentic, and know why what they do is right for them and for their baby. We encourage thinking and mindful decision-making about parenting, rather than just reacting or letting whatever happens happen. No one can be totally consistent, that wouldn’t even be helpful to babies or parents, but it is possible to be more consistent and more content when we are doing what feels right to us. In RIE parent-infant guidance classes, parents become the experts on their own baby.” p 107
  • “Intervention must highlight the strengths that families have, rather than underscoring the weaknesses. RIE’s non-deficit model features empowerment as a process of change, over time, for parents of young children from any section of society.” p 107
  • Example of government funded RIE program in California. p 107
  • Examples of what parents learned during the program 🙂 p 108
  • “Expression of alternative viewpoints is encouraged and so adults learn the value of conflict when generating multiple perspectives.” p 109
  • “The essentials for this learning experience are: small groups, a long, unhurried time, a carefully prepared, safe space, a trained parent-educator/facilitator and demonstrator, and a relaxed, sharing atmosphere. Within this context the child can be truly valued just as he or she is. And the parent can be valued as well. Parents see the weekly gathering of families as a very special opportunity for peaceful checking-in on their lives and relationships. Many find support for their “authentic” expression via mutual sharing of concerns in the safe space where there’s nothing to do. Rather, it is a time to be, to connect with others and their own baby, especially for those returning with their second or third child.” p 110
  • Magda taught that the struggle is the essence of learning. p 113
  • Favorite Article: Give Them What You Want Them To Give The Babies. p 114
  • Magda challenged people’s thinking yet validated their experiences and thinking. p 119
  • “How they see the child is how the child will become. Understand their vision of the child and help them see yours.” The lesson of Magda Gerber. p 119
  • RIE on the outside: They knew the words, went through the motions, but failed to internalize the philosophy. p 120. Understand their vision and help them see yours. 
  • Lessons
    • 1. Give the adult what you want them to give to the babies.
    • 2. Create an environment where each adult feels emotionally safe, yet intellectually challenged.
    • 3. Work hard to understand each person and help them to understand themselves.
    • 4. Work hard to develop the skills and confidence it takes to share the philosophy with others. 
    • 5. Understand your students and be responsive to their issues and concerns. Be prepared to adjust your course, lecture or workshop to meet their needs. 
    • 6. Understand their vision of the child and help them understand yours. 
    • 7. Remember: you can’t teach RIE to the mother in line at the grocery store but you can acknowledge she has a hard job… and you can let her go in front of you in line. 
  • It is the most vulnerable children who could benefit most from RIE. p 127
  • The voices of very young children tend to be silent in the marketplace. p 128
  • Yet services tend to be consumer driven, intentionally. p 129
  • “… affluent societies tend to exclude and constrain very young children, in many ways creating a dependency upon adults that is neither protective nor facilitative of growth.” p 132
  • “Parenting is the most important influence on children and young people’s outcomes. We need to shift away from associating parenting support with crisis interventions to a more consistent offer of parenting support throughout a young person’s life.” p 133
  • Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber were remarkably silent about abuse.. more about this. p 134
  • Tendency to split caring and education, particularly in early years and why this is a problem. p 135
  • Use of caregiving routines as the central element in learning and development of babies is very difficult to find in practice, though often recommended by child care theorists and trainers. p 139