Stages: Babies & Toddlers
New Book Focuses on Empathy and Independence
As an early childhood educator I came to study diverse cultural practices in child rearing. Before that I had always assumed everybody thought children should learn to see themselves as independent individuals. Then I discovered a contradictory assumption. For some cultures, the most important goal is teaching interdependence so children see themselves first as members of a group. Childcare practices usually relate to one or the other of these goals. I felt a tremendous sense of conflict in trying to reconcile what seemed like a contradiction. I got over that conflict when I first observed at the Pikler Institute in Budapest, Hungary in 2003!
Dr. Emmi Pikler taught generations of caregivers to help infants and toddlers see themselves both as individuals and as members of the group, just as this new book is also going to teach generations of caregivers, and is backed up by research.
My first step toward resolving the contradiction I discovered in my diversity work came from Magda Gerber, when I studied with her in 1976. Today, I am thrilled that the field now has an exciting new resource to add to what has become a growing movement. The book is Being with Infants and Toddlers: A Curriculum that works for Caregivers by two talented authors, Beverly Kovach and Susan Patrick, plus an equally talented editor, Laura Briley.
This book combines Pikler theory, practice, and research with Magda Gerber’s teachings and makes it all into a curriculum that is not only accessible and easy to read, but in a format that grabs the reader. The information is conveyed in ways that make the book hard to put down. The photos and words tell a story as the reader sees examples of self-initiated free movement and play activity. It is clear that these babies are becoming independent individuals who are self- aware.
At the same time, examples of how to build trusting relationships between the child and caregiver also abound. The reader will learn how to foster self-awareness in young children and also awareness of “the other” as a person. From the trusting relationships with adults, babies relate to their peers and come to see themselves as connected to the group. I learned a long time ago that empathy is a developmental issue and doesn’t occur in the first years of life. I have since learned that that is wrong! I have observed amazing examples of empathy from babies who care about each other at the Pikler Institute. Those who follow the teaching in this book will also observe empathy among very young children!
The idea of respect shows up on every page of this book, which I highly recommend. Magda Gerber used to say about her philosophy, “It’s simple, but it’s not easy.” That is so true. But this book takes a giant step toward making it easier to be a caregiver in a group care program that fosters independence and interdependence, leading to caring relationships and a sturdy sense of self for the child.
Being with Infants and Toddlers is available now at www.Pikler.org at the Store link.