In Mo' Mommies Art of Awareness classes, we introduce babies as young as 10 months to snack time which incorporates structure and norms around meal time. Babies come into the world not knowing about the millions of norms that exist in the world. Exposing them to these norms, based on their readiness, age and development, is so important. During my classes, I do so in a patient, unhurried way, while validating and encouraging their push back, curiosity and questioning. Anna Ruth, an infant development specialist, Pikler® Pedagogue candidate and RIE® Associate discusses the concepts of boundaries and norms below.
Toddlers and adults often have trouble relating to one another because they approach life with vastly different experience levels and points of view. What seems obvious and natural to an adult may actually be an intricately constructed social or cultural norm for which a young child has no frame of reference.
Helping a child learn the cultural and social norms of the family and community is a key to establishing an enjoyable relationship with a child. Social rules are communicated through experiential learning and adult guidance, with careful consideration to age-appropriate expectations. The most ubiquitous examples (you don't go naked in public) are often the easiest to instruct the children in because they're so universal that we rarely question them. The purpose seems obvious on its face. It’s much more difficult to consistently hold a limit when you're unclear or unable to concisely identify the benefit of the boundary yourself.
It is also true, however, that while instructing children in social norms, adults must have a child’s individual developmental underpinnings in mind and understand how the child’s developmental stage relates to his or her behaviors. For example, a young toddler desires personal control and independence. Accordingly, part of the adult’s task in this stage is to support the child's desire for autonomy. This requires allowing the time for them to explore the world from a frame of reference that adults don’t necessarily understand. What seems strange and pointless to an adult may be of great interest to a child. Boundaries that unnecessarily restrict this exploration can stifle their natural curiosity.
In the RIE® Educaring Approach, we work to guide the child towards that middle place that is neither blind obedience nor freedom-as-license, but the desire and self-initiative to be a contributing member of the community; the self-regulation to learn and follow the norms and rules of the community; and the self-confidence to question those rules and norms when necessary.
Anna Ruth Myers, MA is an infant development specialist with over 15 years of experience supporting families and children. A Pikler® Pedagogue candidate and RIE® Associate, her work is guided by the profound insights of Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber and their approaches to infant care. As a certified doula, childbirth and lactation educator, she has worked with families and hospitals in New York to advocate for respectful infant care from birth. Anna Ruth also holds diplomas in both Montessori and Waldorf education and has completed 2 study groups at Reggio Emilia. She teaches RIE® Certified Before Baby and Parent-Infant Classes in NYC’s only RIE® dedicated classroom. For more information visit thenurturedchild.com