The Parenting "Magic Word" from Magda Gerber

This is a topic that we think a lot about here at nido durham. We spend a lot of time in the classroom pausing, waiting, observing, and letting the child show us their own readiness or feelings before influencing them with our own. We love this post on Janet Lansbury’s blog about the power of waiting.

Magda Gerber extolled the power of a single word that is fundamental to her child care philosophy. This word reflects a core belief in a baby’s natural abilities, respects his unique developmental timetable, fulfills his need to experience mastery, be a creative problem solver and to express feelings (even those that are hard for us to witness). The word is a simple, practical tool for understanding babies, providing love, attention and trust for humans of all ages.

The word is wait. And here’s how it works…

1. Wait for development of an infant or toddler’s motor skills, toilet learning, language and other preschool learning skills. Notice a child’s satisfaction, comfort and self-pride when he is able to show you what he is ready to do, rather than the other way around. As Magda Gerber often said, “readiness is when they do it.” Ready babies do it better (Hmmm… a bumper sticker?), and they own their achievement completely, relish it, and build self-confidence to last a lifetime.

2. Wait before interrupting and give babies the opportunity to continue what they are doing, learn more about what interests them, develop longer attention spans and become independent self-learners. When we wait while a newborn gazes at the ceiling and allow him to continue his train of thought, he is encouraged not only to keep thinking, but to keep trusting his instincts. Refraining from interrupting whenever possible gives our child the message that we value his chosen activities (and therefore him).

3. Wait for problem solving and allow a child the resilience-building struggle and frustration that usually precedes accomplishment. Wait to see first what a child is capable of doing on his own.

When a baby is struggling to roll from back to tummy, try comforting with gentle words of encouragement before intervening and interrupting his process. Then if frustration mounts, pick him up and give him a break rather than turning him over and ‘fixing’ him. This encourages our baby to try, try again and eventually succeed, rather than believe himself incapable and expect others to do it for him. This holds true for the development of motor skills, struggles with toys, puzzles and equipment, even self-soothing abilities like finding his thumb rather than giving him a pacifier.

(For more examples of the value of waiting for children to solve problems, please read A Jar Not Opened and A The Powerful Gift of “I Did It”.)

4. Wait for discovery rather than showing a child her new toy and how it works. When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself. –Jean Piaget

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