Magda Gerber split the quality time we have with children into two categories: wants nothing and wants something.
Wants nothing quality time:
“That’s when the parent doesn’t want to do anything with the child, has no plans other than wanting to simply be with the child.” (Gerber, 16). This is when you are sitting, on the floor, and being totally available to the child as they explore on their own. You are not sitting back and relaxing but you’re 100% observing the child. You are thinking just of the child and what they are doing right in the moment, you’re watching each of their movements appreciating what their body is doing right then and you’re listening to them (both sounds and body language). “This is a free flowing space in which the child shouldn’t feel he has to perform, because the parent is not sending out the kind of demanding messages that say, ‘I am here now, what would you like to do?’”(Gerber, 16). This is a time when our presence and full attention tells the child we are really there and with them in the moment. By fully being in the moment with the child and watching them work we also let them know that “your work is important, I appreciate what you are doing right now.”
This is so extremely hard to do. You have to be able to clear your mind and just focus on the child. If you have a million other thoughts going through your mind, you should pick a different time to engage in “wants nothing” time. It also takes practice. Start with little amounts of time and slowly work your way up. Eventually, you will learn to observe and you will appreciate this time together. “Many parents tell me that wants nothing time is a revelation, and it is a relief to know they don’t always have to do something with the babies” (Solomon, 31).
Wants something quality time:
“This is when you do have a goal to accomplish something together, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, ect.” (Gerber, 16). Let’s say you need to change the child’s diaper. You can start by saying “I would like to change your diaper now.” This lets the child know what’s going to happen but also that this quality time is different from “wants nothing” time. Your goal in “wants something” time is cooperation and to work to together through the process. It’s not about getting the job done quickly; it’s about learning to do a task together. “Your availability is still there, expect that during this time you also have expectations” (Gerber, 17). You are still totally focused on the child but you are also letting them know what you expect from them during the process. You might say “can you please lift your legs up so I can put your clean diaper on.” You let the child know what you are going to do before you do it and always ask for their help, even if they might not understand, one day they will.
It can be so easy to fall into a “robot” like routine when changing, feeding or dressing a child. Viewing these tasks as quality time and a time for cooperation will help us avoid turning into robots. “It’s what is happening consistently that counts, not mechanically” (Gerber, 17). If every time we engage in “wants something” or “wants nothing” time with a child and we are fully with them, giving them all of our focus then we are connecting with them consistently. Don’t we always want to engage with child in a way that counts?
Gerber, Magda, Deorah Geenwald, and Joan Weaver. The RIE Manual for Parents and Professionals. Revised/Expanded ed. Los Angeles: Resources for Infant Educarers, 2013. Print.
Solomon, Deborah Carlisle. Baby knows best: raising a confident and resourceful child, the RIE Way. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Print.