Posted by: Roseann Murphy | March 8, 2012

Parenting on a Schedule: A Matter of Attention

After a brief sabbatical I have returned to the business of education and child development. I am currently working with three infant girls ranging in age from ten weeks to ten months. In addition, I am working with an eighteen month old boy who entered our program at ten weeks of age. His first care arrangement did not work out so little Cal’s adjustment required patience and open communication between home and here. These experiences bring back wonderful memories. I find myself picking up right where I left off a few years ago, spending my day observing infant behavior and allowing the optimal environment for eating, sleeping and playing.
Image           In October 1982 Madga Gerber of Resources for Infant Educarer fame was interviewed by The New Age Source News Publication.  As always Magda Gerber’s insight follows through all the years, fads and philosophies.  We continue to hear the terms “quality time or special time” especially in today’s technologically foggy world. Magda was asked what is helpful to the child when parents are so busy and time is so limited.  Magda responded: “What is it that is helpful to the child? What is it that enhances a child’s positive sense of themselves? Pikler found that it is important for young children to interact consistently with one or two stable adults regardless of whether or not they are the parent. Bathing, dressing and being attentive for at least some period of time each day was found significant” (New Age Source, October 1982 page 3.)
The A Bilingual Childhood Education Blog by Magdalena S. PalenciaMarch, 2012 article came at a most opportune time. Here, I am able to share this insightful article with current readers and participants in my program. “Parenting on a Schedule: A Matter of Attention,” has little to do with “schedules” as we might imagine. When we think of schedules we often attach the meaning of specific time…of minutes and hours.  Gerber and Magdalena S. Palencia seemed to transcend time-lines and emphasize the need for attention to the child.
Magdalena’s article emphasizes as did Magda Gerber and Emmie Pikler,  the need for consistency and for “full-on” attention when caring for your child.   As child care professionals, Magdalena and I realized a care giving situation was successful only if the parent had trust in the program and the carers. As Magdalena states, “If a child does not feel secure in a routine where their parents come and go on a consistent basis and where they are clearly communicated to on a level they can understand, and then they will express their confusion in different ways. Some will show changes in the way they play or eat and might have difficulty sleeping. In extreme cases the child may cry, scream or is some cases grab the parent’s leg.”
For those of us in the field, it is very obvious when a parent is not secure in their choice of care. Their child can never relax.  They are always “waiting”.  When a parent innocently says, “Go ahead into school..When I return we will go to the park, get candy or go to the movies.” The message to the child reads, “This is just a place where you have to wait… until I return and then we will have fun.”  We have observed children unable to play, unable to rest…while they wait for that magical time. If the schedule changes during the course of the day and the parent is unable to fulfill the promise, the day is ruined for the child. In addition time stands still.
An excellent example of respect, communication and children allowed to take the lead in play is apparent in the photos in the article. The wild car and the play house are the result of hours of uninterrupted play. In an optimal family or child care setting a child is allowed to play freely during the day.
This article touches on many important areas of parenting and child care.  It is a pleasure to share it with you.

Parenting on a Schedule: A Matter of Attention

          The arrival of an infant brings modifications in the family dynamic as well as changes in schedules. For moments it feels as if the time stops and parents have to make plans for the rest of their lives aImages if that new person will stay like that forever. On the other hand a mixed feeling of anxiety and pressure to not lose even one instant of these first months can set in for the parents. Because time with the child can be limited by other obligations, parents will look for the right ways to make the best use of it. Observing, talking and paying attention to a child from day one will establish a real relationship between the parent and the child that will remain with them through all the different stages of life. The way to accomplish this is for parents to focus completely on the needs of their child and when they are together, make sure that the child has their complete focus and attention.

        Trying to set a schedule that works for a family with a new child can be an exceptional challenge. It is most effectively managed, to the benefit of the child, when a parent is focused on the schedule, rhythm and needs of their child. It is true that many parents make sacrifices at work, with their social lives, etc. to be with their children, but expecting a child to show their appreciation for that in an adult way is completely ridiculous. For example, a parent may be fortunate enough to get off of work very early and may arrive home at the time when their child is asleep or eating. In this case they might insist on playing with the child in order to have more interactive “one on one” time. If the child continues to go about their schedule or routine, which may include a long nap, at that moment, the parent may feel ignored or unappreciated by them. Instead, a parent should recognize that they are showing their child respect by giving them a secure environment to freely develop without abrupt interruptions. On the other hand a parent may come home, break the child’s routine or expect them to want to play, because they came home specifically to have some “special time.” This may be a very special time, but only for the parent, because the child will be putting their development at hold to accommodate their parent’s need for a superficial adult level of appreciation that they are completely unable to provide. This kind of “special time” may make the parent feel special about how many minutes of “quality time” they spend with their child. The child on the other hand might feel especially tired.

          Keeping in mind that an infant is completely unfamiliar with what the terms, hour, minute, next week, etc. means it is more important for a parent to be fully present when they are with their child instead of attempting to gain their sympathy by explaining their work hours. A parent who may have to be gone for longer than their normal work routine may feel obligated to give their child reassuring words such as, “I’ll be gone for a few days, but I’ll have all of Saturday to spend with you.” This statement may reassure the parent of when they will be back, but ultimately the child will have no concept of… READ MORE

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