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Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child's Natural Abilities -- From the Very Start Paperback – February, 2012
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From the Back Cover
"A vital resource for new and expectant parents." Ed Greene, Ph.D., Board Member, National Association for the Education of Young Children
"At long lastMagda Gerber's wisdom and spice captured in a bookwhat a treasure! Now parents and caregivers everywhere can benefit from learning what it means to truly respect babies."Janet Gonzalez-Mena, Author of Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers and Dragon Mom
"Magda Gerber's approach will deepen your understanding of your baby and help you truly appreciate the complexity, competence, and amazing capacities of the small human being for whom you are caring."Jeree H. Pawl, Ph.D., Director, Infant-Parent Program
University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
As the founder of Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), Magda Gerber spent decades helping new mothers and fathers give their children the best possible start in life. Her successful parenting approach harnesses the power of this basic fact: Your baby is unique and will grow in confidence if allowed to develop at his or her own pace. The key to successful parenting is learning to observe your child and to trust him or her to be an initiator, an explorera self-learner with an individual style of problem solving and mastery.
Now you can discover the acclaimed RIE approach. This practical and enlightening guide will help you:
Develop your own observational skills
Learn when to intervene with your baby and when not to
Find ways to connect with your baby through daily caregiving routines such as feeding, diapering, and bathing
Effectively handle common problems such as crying, discipline, sleep issues, toilet learning, and much more
About the Author
Magda Gerber founded Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) and created a series of instructional videos. Allison Johnson is a freelance writer.
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Here are the main points that I found to be useful:
1. Have respect for the baby. He is a person, not a pet. If you need to do something to him,
let him know (now it's time to change your diaper....). This is similar to how a doctor talks you through a procedure beforehand so that you prepare for it mentally. I must say that these ideas are not entirely novel. Writings of Maria Montessori advocate respect for the child (see for example Secret of Childhood. Also, talking to your baby about what's going on is suggested by Bright from the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mindfrom Birth to Age 3. I can't remember where else I read about asking for permission from non-verbal babies (e.g. "Would you like me to pick you up now?") but I liked the idea, and has worked for me and my 2-year old. As a child what I hated most was relatives kissing and pinching my cheeks when I did not want that. My boy knows he has a choice in things that involve his body - he is not my property.
2. Crying is not the end of the world. I am one of those parents who feels like I have been stabbed in between my shoulders when my baby cries. I have, over time, figured out what different cries mean, and have relaxed. I still, however, immediately pick up my child when the cry is genuine (hurt, tired, etc.) I do not agree with the idea of letting infants cry when they are really young (regardless of why they are crying). The author contends that it's ok because that is their way of communication. However, wouldn't you want to be heard when communicating? Very young infants have very unexperienced parents sometimes, who don't know why the infant is crying. What if the cry is genuine? Even if it's not, I don't see how letting an infant cry while you take a shower makes sense.
3. Let the kid be. This is very good advice. I first got this from Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three and realized how much I got on my kid's way unintentionally. For e.g., when I bought a new toy, I was eager to show to him how it works, make funny sounds, put it in his hands when he lacked interest in it, etc. However, this book suggests that such interference from the parent robs the child from the joy of discovering himself what the toy/object is supposed to be and what it does. I changed my ways a long time ago, due to the Montessori book, but it was nice to see that this idea is supported by other authors. The end result is that my child does not need me for entertainment and can be left alone to play for a good 1-2 hours at age 2. I am of course, nearby, cooking or reading, so he knows where to find me. I also have babyproofed the whole first floor of the house, so he can be left alone to play unsupervised. The book suggests precisely that, similar to the Montessori source above - babyproof an entire area/room, and let the child roam free there and play with whatever he wants.
4. Free play is best. Forget about courses, music lessons, teaching ABCs, or any other form of "teaching" - the child will learn what he is interested in and by HIMSELF. There is a big push in recent years toward more free play (I remember a conference in the Bay Area last year about this), and I agree with it. We overschedule kids way too young because we want to provide them with choices, opportunities, and a competitive edge later on, that we probably lacked as kids. The book argues that a kid playing at home (indoors and out) by himself is all that is needed before the age of 2. This is similar in nature to the Waldorf approach (You Are Your Child's First Teacher: What Parents Can Do With and For Their Chlldren from Birth to Age Six).
5. With respect to discipline, this book has similar recommendations to Jane Nelsen (Positive Discipline: NO punishment of any sort - just choices, redirection, and logical consequences. E.g. the child throws the toy down the stairs - parent leaves it there and doesn't retrieve it. The child knows that throwing the toy away has the consequence that he may not be able to play with it anymore. I agree with the non-punishment view wholeheartedly. What does a child learn from time-out as a result of dumping juice all over the dinner table? If he is given a sponge and asked to clean it up, he may learn a thing or two (BTW, my kid is obsessed with cleaning up spills because of this approach - even before he could talk, he'd come to me and point out a spill and I'd give him a small sponge to mop it up).
Here are the issues I have with this book's recommendations:
1. It recommends ferberizing the baby. The argument is that parents need their privacy and the baby should not be brought into the parents' bedroom. The parents have needs too, and they should be met, so the baby is cared for by better parents. Similar argument made by Jane Nelsen who I like a lot, aside from this viewpoint - children don't NEED to sleep in your bed, they may WANT to. I personally thought I found a new messiah in Dr. Sears when his Baby book The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition) gave me the green light to co-sleeping. I did it because (1) it felt right (2) I had to get some sleep (so, here, meeting my needs), and (3) nothing else worked (and I did not have the heart to CIO my newborn). My 2-year old sleeps 12-14 hours at night and 1-2 during the day (if co-sleeping), so he is a much easier child to deal with (if not co-sleeping the total hours he sleeps in a day is about 10). Studies have found that 6-graders who got 1 less hour of sleep at night performed at a 4th grade level. Sleep is very important for babies and for adults. Whatever gets the entire family to sleep is the best solution. With cosleeping we get to sleep without paceing the hall to settle the kid when he wakes up at night, and he gets to sleep next to his most favorite people in the world. Have I mentioned waking up to cuddles and kisses? (BTW, about 48% of toddlers wake up at least once a night according to Pantley The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep), so Ferberizing is not going to mature a baby's sleep cycles before it's time. (Just a bit of anecdotal evidence - all three of my siblings were sleep trained the exact same way - as adults, two of us have major sleep problems, while the other sleeps the moment his head hits the pillow. Interestingly, this was the case since we were babies).
2. As mentioned briefly above, I take issue with letting children cry. Throughout the animal world, a baby crying gets attention. How did anyone figure out that human babies cry to let off steam?
3. It takes the idea of leaving the baby alone while parent simply observes to the extreme. The baby needs human interaction, talking to pre-verbal babies is important for language skills, one-to-one interaction with the baby helps build trust and self-esteem (there is plenty of literature on this, I'm not simply stating my beliefs). How are we to ignore these and just observe the baby? And what if the baby grabs us by the hand and leads us down to the floor to play with them (that's what my kid used to do)? Babies are very social, and they crave human interaction, especially once they are more expressive (even though still not speaking).
So why should AP parents still read this book? Aside from co-sleeping (which is an entirely personal choice IMO) and crying, I think this book provides balance. It may be easy to become a helicopter parent rescuing the child from all challenges when following an AP approach. The gist of the AP approach, however, is that in the newborn period, it's way too early to teach important life lessons like self-reliance. It may be difficult for AP parents to figure out when to teach such lessons, and picking the battles when doing so may be something worth reading about.
I tried the advice and am able to change diapers with a cooperative smiling child 90% of the time and how to respond confidently when the 10% occurs!
Being a first time Mom, this has been my go to parenting 101 handbook!