Respect as a Right

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Understanding the Rights of a Child to a Respectful, Unhurried and Supportive Learning Environment.

Respect is the basis of the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) philosophy, which was proposed by early childhood educator Magda Gerber. RIE requires educators and caregivers to not only respect babies, but also demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them.

As teachers, we develop respectful attitudes to children and view them, even the youngest infants, as unique human beings who are eager to explore the world. We trust in their competence, as we believe that children are capable to learn through engagement with experiences, instead of being taught to.

We empower them by providing resources appropriate for their capabilities and allowing them time to explore at their own pace without unnecessary intervention. We don’t put them on chairs when they are not ready to sit themselves up, and we don’t hold their hand to walk them when they are not ready to take their first steps. We allow them to experience frustration while challenging themselves, as they will gain self efficacy and confidence when achieving goals through their own efforts.

We also believe that children are competent to express themselves in their special ways. Through our daily interactions we notice that children, even infants who are not able to communicate verbally, can give adults various signs when they are tired: rubbing their eyes, becoming unsettled or asking for cuddles. By peacefully observing their body language, facial expressions and other cues, and interpreting their intentions based on our familiarity with them, we understand their needs, feelings and ideas.

Respectful practice requires us to slow down and provide unhurried time and opportunities. Children see the world differently from adults because everything is so fresh for them. For example, eating, rather than a part of daily routines, can be great opportunities for children to explore with all their senses: taking a close look at the shapes and colour’s of food, tasting the flavour with their tongues, feeling the texture in their mouths, and listening to the crunchy sound while chewing. Giving children unhurried time to enjoy the exploration is much more important than finishing the feeding itself. If possible, forget about the clock and enjoy every second we spend with children by being fully present.

Respectful practice requires us to invite children to engage in rituals and care routines and to provide them with an element of predictability. Being informed of what is happening gives children a sense of security, so we ask prior to interacting with them and wait for them to respond. We also offer choices and allow them to make decisions, which inspires their active thinking and enhances their self-regulation.

Te Whāriki (2017) states that children learn through their interaction with people, places and things. By the ways we “educare” them, we influence their whole personality and the way they see life, and as Magda states in her book “Dear Parents” (1998), our respectful practices will support them to become authentic children who feel secure, autonomous, competent, and connected.