What is “Respect” in Regards to Childcare?

From RESPECT is Key to Baby Development, by Joy Horowitz, an article discussing Emmi Pickler’s approach to infant care:

Respect.  When the subject is mentioned, pediatrician Emmi Pikler sticks out her tongue.  It is not a sign of displeasure from the distinguished 79-year-old infant specialist, but an imitation of a baby’s first rejecting movement, an early signal from the child of having had enough to eat.  Disrespectful parents, Pikler says, might never see or understand that gesture.

Respect.  It is the key to Pikler’s philosophy of infant care, one that forbids a doctor’s examining a crying child until calm, that promotes treating the infant as an active participant rather than a passive recipient when it is diapered, fed and dressed.  “One has only to expect the child will cooperate,”  Pikler says, smiling, her English heavily accented by her native Hungarian.

Respect. It demands early free movement that is not interfered with by parents or caretakers.  Pikler says, so that a baby can fully develop a capacity to solve problems and take the initiative on his own.   By letting the infant develop at his own rate, Pikler adds, the baby chooses how to move and what to play with rather than being pushed to sit, stand or walk before he is ready.

She continues, discussing the tendency many adults have to overstimulate children. 

“Stimulation,” Pikler explains, “is usually extra stimulation.  For an infant, the whole surrounding is stimulation. Each toy, each new movement is stimulations because it is new and has to be learned.  When an adult interferes, it is extra stimulation—more than is needed for an infant or small child.”

Challenging, threatening and demanding for many parents, Emmi Pikler’s idea about treating infants with the same respect accorded adults and older children require most people to rethink the way they deal with children.


RESPECT is Key to Baby Development, by Joy Horowitz