Today I want to talk about respect, from yours and my perspective and also from the perspective of a child, a baby.
When you think about respect, respectful interactions, is there an age where this begins? Is there an age when we assume someone is old enough to understand the concept of respect? Can we show respect in the way we interact, for example, with someone who hasn’t walked yet, or talked yet?
Let’s picture this scenario. You are 8 months old; you are sitting up, comfortably on your own by the way, on the floor, minding your own business. You are deeply engaged in this open and close activity with this box. You have closed it, now how to open it back up again. You have been at this activity for as long as you can actually remember and it has all of your focus, your attention. You know that if you just keep persisting… …when all of sudden, out of nowhere, someone has picked you up and they are taking you away, somewhere! Panic sets in. It takes a few good seconds (it feels longer) to see the persons face, its mum. It takes a few more seconds (it feels a lot longer) to find out where you are going, it’s a nappy change. Phewww…. That was stressful!
It shouldn’t matter how old or how small a person is, we can always have and show respect towards them in our words, actions, behaviour – in the way we interact with them. Interacting respectfully should have no age barriers or biases of any kind. Otherwise, it’s not really a respectful interaction, is it?
As mums, even educators, we cannot help but want to do things for young babies, we want to look after and nurture them. Sometimes we get so into the things we have to do, we forget about the how and why.
Now let’s revisit our story from earlier. We are back on the floor, persisting and working hard on this box, you know it opens and closes. You will master how it works because you know you are not giving up. Mum walks up to you and kneels down next to you. She notices your hard work and acknowledges your persistence. She lets you know she is going to take you to have your nappy changed and once that is done, she will bring you right back to the floor, to continue with your activity. You guess that’s ok… it is mum and she does sing that song when she changes your nappy which you love. She picks you up and scoops you into her arms, you feel safe and secure. You can’t help but give out a small giggle and off you both go!
In our scenarios, from the perspective of the child, the experiences are so different and have caused very different feelings and emotions. Magda Gerber, Author of Dear Parent and creator of the R.I.E approach says that “when we help a child to feel secure, feel appreciated, feel that “somebody is deeply, truly interested in me,” by the way we just look, the way we just listen, we influence that child’s whole personality, the way that child sees life.”
There is something here for all of us to think about in our next interactions with young children. The nappy changes, nose wipes, activities, language, it all matters. It all has an impact on the human beings these children are becoming. Listen, observe and understand more in order to build trust, confidence and a secure connection with your child. Trust them and let them trust you, trust me!