What Does Twitter Have To Do With Babies?

November 28, 2010 · 7 comments

in Inspiration, Our "View" of Babies

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been slow to embrace social media. Until three weeks ago, I never had a facebook page for my business, and I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of jumping on the twitter bandwagon. I just couldn’t see the point.

And then something happened that changed my mind, and turned my way of thinking upside down.The organization called RIE, founded by my mentor Magda Gerber, received some attention in the press. First, there was an article in The Daily Beast, which was copied, and spread like wildfire across the Internet, and then Lisa Belkin, of the New York Times, wrote about RIE in her well known, well respected, and well read blog, The Motherlode.

I will not be supplying the links to those articles here, because I refuse to be a part of spreading the snarky, inaccurate portrayal of Magda Gerber’s philosophy as presented in those articles. If you are interested in reading a thoughtful response to those articles, I will instead refer you to Janet Lansbury’s post, RIE Parenting, A Culture Of Creativity.

The response by the general public to the original articles was largely negative, and I found myself feeling helpless, and incensed that Magda’s words and work were being so misunderstood, and presented and judged in such a negative light, because I am passionate about carrying her message of respect for babies to as many people as possible. I have witnessed the power Magda’s approach has to make a profound positive difference in the lives of not only children, but adults as well.

It occurred to me that the reason Magda’s ideas are so little known, and even less well understood, is not just because they are a little different from the accepted norm, but because they haven’t been presented to the wider world in a way that others could hear, accept, and understand. When Magda was first introducing her philosophy to parents and early childhood professionals in the United States, beginning in 1978, the Internet and social media didn’t exist. (OK, the Internet existed, but we weren’t all on-line 24 hours a day.) The first inquiries that came to Magda came in the mail, in the form of handwritten notes (can you imagine?) and she responded on a typewriter.

Some say that Magda wasn’t ambitious, and was content to let RIE grow slowly and to remain a small organization, and to some extent that was true,  yet I see evidence everywhere that she was a one woman dynamo, passionate about enrolling others in the cause of “Seeing Infants With New Eyes.” Magda maintained an impressive schedule of teaching and speaking, traveling far and wide to bring her message to parents and professionals everywhere, in addition to writing a monthly newsletter, authoring three books, producing four videos, and a yearly conference for parents and teachers, to boot. She did this with the assistance of a part-time secretary, and a troop of dedicated volunteers.

Magda was fond of saying ” the message is the messenger,” (or vice- versa) and she was the embodiment of the message she was trying to convey to others. A person could not be in her presence without feeling deeply listened to, and appreciated. I vividly remember one time when she entered a baby/parent class that I was teaching. One of the little babies was crying inconsolably. Magda approached slowly, and sat quietly near the baby, and waited. After a few minutes, she talked to the baby in a quiet voice. The baby stopped crying, and gazed into Magda’s eyes, and in a few minutes she was smiling and cooing. Babies often responded to Magda’s presence in this way. It was magical to witness, yet there was no magic involved. Magda had the ability to be truly still, and fully present with babies and grown -ups alike, and it made a difference.

I feel like today more than ever before, families and professionals working with families, need to know about, and can benefit from understanding Magda Gerber’s ideas about babies, even if they don’t agree with them, or choose another way to parent or care. Magda was never invested in having people agree with her; instead she wanted to start conversations. She wanted to encourage people to think about babies in a different way. She never espoused her way as being the one way, only way, or right way to parent or care.

It occurs to me Magda was a social media maven in her own right, before there was twitter or facebook. Imagine the number of people she could reach with her message today if she was here to engage on-line. I can’t help but believe she just might take advantage of twitter and facebook to reach a larger audience if she was here with us today.

Times change, and the way we communicate with and bring our message to others has to change with the times. And so, I am now entering the world of social media via twitter, and facebook in hopes of taking a small part in bringing Magda Gerber’s ideas to a broader audience.

Because I am a teacher at heart, I can’t help but want to share my experience and thoughts about what I have learned (so far) about using twitter effectively to bring a message to a wider audience. I’ve discovered some interesting connections between engaging in, and building relationships on-line and engaging in, and building relationships off- line. Tomorrow, I’d like to share more on that topic. I’d love it if you’d join me in the conversation.

To be continued…. http://www.bitrebels.com/geek/10-tips-to-build-meaningful-relationships-on-twitter/

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Janet Lansbury April 1, 2011

Lisa, I so appreciate and admire the way you are spreading the word about Magda Gerber on Twitter & FB in such a beautiful, patient, postive light. I agree that there is a hunger, maybe more than ever, for child-rearing ideas that appeal to our common sense. After diving into the online world a year ago (never would have BELIEVED I’d be a ‘tweeter’), I’m especially grateful that Magda taught us to parent out of trust, rather than fear. There is so much fear and insecurity out there, and infants are sadly underestimated. Lisa, please keep up the GREAT work! ~Janet

Suchada @ Mama Eve April 1, 2011

Lisa, this comment is long overdue, but I couldn’t agree with you more on this post. I think I heard about RIE from a celebrity magazine, and I thought it sounded ridiculous. I’d read similar accounts of attachment parenting, though, so I thought I’d learn more about it, and I think that’s what led me to you and Janet and my discovery of Magda’s wonderful philosophy. Perhaps it’s true that all publicity is good publicity, and some others will take the time to really learn what RIE is really about.

Marilia April 1, 2011

Lisa, I have to say that I´m really thankful that you and Janet decided to go on line and spread the ideas of Magda Gerber. I´m sure there are many (maybe thousands already) of parents that like me wouldn´t have met the RIE approach if it wasn´t for your online presence.

Nathalie Brown April 5, 2011

Lisa, thank you for enlightening me.

Lisa April 6, 2011


Thanks for reading and participating in the conversation! It’s nice to “meet” you!

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