A baby is rocking, pushing and reaching, trying to figure out how to use his body in order to grab his favorite toy. Or maybe he has grabbed that toy but wants to roll onto his back to play with it. A recent blog post from a well-respected parenting educator reiterated the dogma that a hands-off approach was the best way for a parent to support this child’s development. Within the Feldenkrais community and other somatic child-centered programs, there’s ongoing debate on whether it’s the ‘right’ thing to do – to intervene or not – in a baby’s explorations.
In this situation, the caregiver did not touch the baby to help him figure out how to roll over, but offered a great deal of verbal encouragement. «You are pushing the floor; you are trying so hard; you are so close; keep trying.» Giving feedback on the child’s experience is fabulous, but why not a mindful bit of verbal AND tactile support?
Observing more and doing less is a wonderful guideline. A little bit of baby frustration during exploration is a natural component of the learning process. There’s no question that how we hold the baby for a feeding, or shift her to bathe and diaper, is meaningful and matters.We know that even very young babies observe a parent reaching to pick them up, and alter their posture to help. ALL interactions affect development. If it’s acceptable to place baby on her belly while on the parent’s chest, to verbally encourage an action, why is it wrong to gently guide her leg, pelvis or arm towards turning during floor time?
«In human development, every neural event, every reach, every smile and every social encounter sets the stage for the next and the real-time causal force behind change,» wrote the late Esther Thelen, Developmental Psychologist and Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. Admittedly, it’s a delicate balance between ‘doing for’ the baby and mindfully supporting her explorations – but certainly one of the most transformative ideas to bring to any parent/child interaction with which you have the privilege to participate.
Barbara Leverone, MA, Child’Space Practitioner and Trainer, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner