Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The other day my friend, who is also raising her child after the Pikler method, asked me "But how come it is still such a niche? It all sounds so logical but why do only so few parents pick up on it?" And I began to wonder...

The first answer I found was that Emmi Pikler is always related to her orphanage in Budapest. Most people think that it was there that she developed and researched all the principles she came up with. From this they conclude that the principles aren't compliant to single families with one or two children. This is one misunderstanding I wanted to clear up for a while now.

Emmi Pikler started to rethink early childhood development much earlier when she was a medicine student and working in a children's hospital with Prof. von Pirquet and Prof. Salzer. Both were as much interested in the children's wellbeing and motor development as they were in their health. They put the intensity of care time, a nice and friendly atmosphere and the understanding of the importance of the gross motor development as high up on the scale as the need for medication and surgery.
When Pikler's first child was born she and her husband decided to take that into account and let her move freely and patiently wait and watch her development.

Later when she was working as a pediatrician herself she developed this knowledge further and gave advice to hundreds of families. She also started thinking about the intensity of care and wrote first articles, gave lectures and in 1940 wrote her first book. This was six years before she opened the orphanage Lóczy. Only here she seriously studied and researched her insights. The way she chose nurses and gave the children a warm atmosphere, allowing them to develop freely was just extraordinary and this is what she then became famous for. It does not mean that her principles can not be adapted to children in families. If anything - most of them SHOULD be adapted - especially when it comes to care times and undivided attention the child really needs. But this is not the topic here.

The other argument that the Pikler method can be adapted to families is Magda Gerber's work. She had learned from Emmi Pikler first as a mother when she watched Pikler dealing with her daughter in a certain way and was amazed. She then worked as an assistant to Pikler in the Lóczy orphanage. In the 1950s she emigrated to the USA and worked with a pediatrician where she used the knowledge she gained from Emmi Pikler. From this experience she founded the „Resources for Infant Educarers“ (RIE) organisation where the Pikler principles are passed on to parents in classes and play groups.

Now having cleared that up I believe there are some more reasons why Pikler is still a niche.

For once - there is still a lot of belief out there that parents should not read any books on parenting or take advice from others. Many women appeal on their instincts and feelings. I thought that too until I had a child and realised that my instincts are either hidden somewhere or I am not capable of using them. And why is it that so many parents in the end do raise questions along the way? Because their instincts aren't the answer to everything and I believe it is good to have a framework to rely on and work with your emotions within that. This will help you not to focus too much on what you read but also help you when things are out of control and your instincts let you down.

Another answer to the question of this post I believe is that the Pikler method is too "cold" for many parents. When you read about it or mention it to others it does not sound like the cuddly and loving method people think about when they are expecting a baby. When people first hear about letting your child be, let it lie on the floor and play independently, don't interfere - they think this is cruel. They do not continue to read until they find out about the loving and warm intensity of care and feeding times. About the way "Pikler parents" should sit and watch their child, get to know this little human being while showing respect and appreciation.
Most parents misunderstand love with physical attachment. But there is more to it.

And last but not least I believe Emmi Pikler's principles are (don't get me wrong here) somewhat "too difficult" to some parents. Not in a way they don't understand it but in the way of patience and holding back. I have to agree - sometimes it is hard to resist to give your child this little push he just needs to finally roll over on to his belly for the first time. But look at the child's face when he finally manages himself. The happy smile of achievement. And yes, some nights are hard when you decide not to plug your childs mouth with a pacifier but help him get through the tough first weeks until he is able to find his thumb to comfort himself. But believe me - this is all worth it too (read here)
And of course - there are all these toys out there and most of them you want to play with yourself (admit it) and now this Emmi Pikler says you should let your child play alone and just sit and watch? Well yes, this can be difficult too (although she is not saying you never should - you should just wait until your child invites you to play with him). But I experience observing my child as really satisfying and much more entertaining than any TV show.

So these are a few thoughts why I believe Pikler and Gerber are still a niche. If you have some more - feel free to share and comment. Because I am not just interested in the reasons but also solutions on how to help parents find out about Pikler earlier and with a better understanding and learn about about a parenting method that is so exciting and satisfying !


  1. My mother spent a large portion of her first 5 years living with her aunt, Dr. Emmi and her cousin, Anna. When my children were babies she shared some of the Pikler philosophy with me and I think I did incorporate them to some extent, but I also practiced baby wearing and most Attachment Parenting practices. When I visited my grandmother (Pikler's sister-in-law) she was very interested in my baby-wearing and had me take some pictures of how happy my baby was to send to the family in Hungary. I do not believe that the Piker method is totally incompatible with attachment parenting, but I not not studied it enough to be sure.

  2. I'm still unclear about the differences between the two methods. Could you elucidate?

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