Saturday, April 16, 2011


So. A lot as changed or let's say: I've got some great news. My insight into Pikler and Gerber, my son and those regular visits to parent-infant classes made me change my career direction at last. I am now becoming a playgroup educator mainly to run those parent-infant classes myself. On top of that I'll start the Montessori education in September and Pikler education is following next year or the one after. Lots of education, lots of interesting reads and thoughts. And so much to discover.

In my essay for the plagroup teacher I had to answer the following question: Why do you think are the basic mental needs of children often not fulfilled in our world?
And here are my thoughts. I'm excited to hear yours!

My first thought was - WHAT ? When talking to others or reading in some internet forums you would think that the fulfillment of basic needs have the highest priority in parents' minds. And it's true. But that doesn't mean that these needs are actually fulfilled. On the contrary, because they have such high priority, especially those mental needs are quite often NOT fulfilled.

This starts with the gross motor development. As soon as the baby becomes active, starts rolling over, sitting up, crawling and eventually walking the parents are concerned that the child might fall. They are behind him all the time, support him when there is the chance he might hit his head, they catch him when he falls and they don't trust him to be able to care for himself on slopes, steps or small hurdles. They might even help him sit up before he can and walk him before he is able to do so himself.
Not just does the child then learn to rely on this support and help and has difficulties estimating dangerous situations himself later on when he is walking and running free (finding balance, judging heights or distances etc...) - he is also lacking self confidence, pride and the joy of having mastered and achieved such situations himself. He is not learning to deal with frustration which he will undoubtedly face later in life. The parents' fear, this instinct to protect a child does actually quite often lead the child to run into dangerous situations in life unprepared.

Similar observations can be made when it comes to the achievement of certain tasks or the exploration of things, be it toys or household items or anything. Infants discover things with their mouth, they taste them, feel the form and texture with their tongue, discover the weight. Only later they start piling up cups or stones or wooden bricks (whatever is available), putting things from one bowl into another, emptying drawers and place the items back in. They learn how to flip pages in a book and how to play with a car "correctly". But if we show them how to do that, they don't get the chance to learn for themselves. And even worse - we interfere with their creativity, focus and attention span. A child needs two things to achieve those tasks or to discover this world full of things: Firstly, a prepared environment in which he can move freely and touch and taste everything around him. Secondly, observing parents who provide age appropriate items or toys. How annoying is it to see an interesting thing, reach it, discover it with all senses and suddenly have it taken out of our hands because you are too young for it?

We as parents have to be very observing here. Our job is not just to remove inappropriate or dangerous things from his reach in the first place but also to see and learn what our child wants, what he prefers. There is no point in piling up books and reading them all the time to him when he is clearly interested in stacking cups or balls. We do not need to sing and talk constantly to develop his speech, when he is capable and happy to play on his own for certain times. Guidelines and standards on what a child MUST be able to at a certain age can interfere here a lot. We might not see our child and all his capabilities anymore but the task he is NOT yet capable of. Therefore we do not respect and appreciate him the way he deserves, we are nervous, and while we may tell him that we love him while at the same time aren't paying full attention sends mixed messages that children pick up on immediately. Children have such fine senses...

The guidelines and standards are not just a problem often introduced (and produced) by pediatricians. They are also a problem of our society. Not just are random people asking "Can he walk yet? Stand free? Talk?". They are also keen to advise that if we don't act like such and such we might end up having a little tyrant in our house. And I mean tyrant. There is a book by a German children's psychiatrist that's called "Why our children become tyrants". A lot of people are annoyed by that title but I think he has just picked up what he heard from the older generation and people without children. Because this is what society is scared of, what they call our children. And we as parents are easily scared. Especially when those motherly instincts don't kick in just like that the minute the child is born. When we start digging our way through the forest of how-to-manuals and guidebooks for successful parenting. This is when we get confused, when we try things and forget to look at our own child. We are not ourselves and therefore we can't provide our child with the continuity, love and appreciation he deserves.

This leads to another reason I would like to address - the amount of courses and groups we are offered to attend with our newborn. Partly because of those guidelines and standards, partly because there is an obsession to raise little geniuses and to promote and encourage them from day one. A child's calendar can be stuffed with dates in music classes, swimming lessons, playgroups where games are taught and language classes. The list is endless, the offers unlimited and no price too high. Again we might push our child in a direction he is not willing to go or not capable or or both not willing and capable YET. We promote everything in order to open up chances and possibilities in life but at the same time we often overcharge those little persons. No day is the same, no routine to rely on, no idea what is coming next, insecurity and unease. The list is as endless as the list of courses and classes.

Last but not least are we as parents at risk of JUST caring for the child, of just trying to fulfill all needs that we forget about our own, forget about ourselves, our partnerships, friendships and social activities. We are growing frustrated, dissatisfied and maybe even aggressive. We are tired and easily distracted. We are not the loving, natural and respectful person anymore our child needs to feel home, secure and loved.

I am scared to say - I do believe many children are lacking the fulfillment of their mental needs. And I wish I could change the world. But then again I wish I could change so many things in this world that I can only try and care for my own child as good as I can and with my new education ahead help other parents to do the same.


  1. Woohoo!!! Nadine, such exciting news that you'll be a playgroup educator, though it isn't surprising! You have an obvious gift for understanding authentic infant and toddler development. I'm beaming!!!

    And thank you for these terrific insights about children and their true needs. "How annoying is it to see an interesting thing, reach it, discover it with all senses and suddenly have it taken out of our hands because you are too young for it?" And I would add: Or taken out our hands because the baby music teacher wants us to move on to the next instrument, or because our parent wants us to pay attention to a new toy they've chosen for us. Worst of all, no one explains why they are taking the toy away -- they do it so quickly -- they make the toy disappear!

    Nadine, you WILL help change the world by helping parents. Then, someday, the wonderful boy you are raising so mindfully will help, too.

  2. Thank you Janet, I do feel like this is the right thing for me to do. I just loooove those little persons. And not just my own although him obviously the most.

    And yes, you are right, along with the other examples the worst is when children are not told why this and that just happened.
    But it's always so easy to judge others while struggling with some things myself here and there. But I guess that learning progress will help me helping other parents... if that makes sense.