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Respect – It Starts at Birth


Tuesday 16 August 2016

We not only respect babies, we demonstrate respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.
Magda Gerber

This quote resonated with me when I first heard it, especially the word ‘object’. Did I do this, I asked myself, did I treat babies as objects? It was this question that started my journey into the philosophy of RIE – Resources for Infant Educarers. It’s a philosophy that has significantly influenced my professional practice and work, profoundly changing my day-to-day interactions and relationships. I now respect, watch, listen and trust – valuing more the unique and precious time that is the early life of a child.

Magda Gerber’s philosophy can guide and influence early childhood settings through the principles of trust, respect and relationships. How does this practice look when we focus on respect when interacting with babies? The answer is simple: if I wouldn’t like to be treated that way myself – then I don’t do it.

Do you ever blow a baby’s nose without warning? Do you ever wipe a baby’s face or remove a baby from their play without asking permission? Have you picked up a baby without interacting with them in advance? I had done all these things regularly. That is until I began to see babies with new eyes and considered how I would feel if somebody approached me and did the same thing - wiped my nose or face, imposed on my personal space without warning or acknowledgment? Caregiving times became more meaningful and shared as the baby became more involved, encouraging even the tiniest infant to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient of every activity.


My questioning and language became more considered as I truly acknowledged each baby - ‘I see your nose is running, can I help you blow it?’; ‘I can see you are busy playing, but I do need to change your nappy, I’ll come back in a few minutes’; ‘I can see you are upset would you like a hug?’; ‘I can see you want to climb but it’s not safe here, you can climb over here’. By asking for permission and acknowledging a baby’s feelings and desires, we send that message that respect should not be something that is earned, respect should instead underlie every interaction. When we ask permission we reinforce our understanding of babies as capable and confident individuals; our relationship deepens.


Further Reading:

To read the second post of this series, 'Trust - their own way, their own time', please click here


What are your thoughts? How does the quote resonate with you? What does respect look like in your baby room? How do you put respect into action during caregiving times? Let us know in the comments box below. 

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