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Compassionate Roots Begin with Babies

by Janet Gonzalez-Mena
May/June 2010
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/compassionate-roots-begin-with-babies/5019346/

How do you teach compassion to babies? You don't. You show it. Long before the baby understands any words, she understands touch.

Hands constitute the infant's first connection to the world. Hands pick the infant up, lay him down, wash, dress, and even feed him. What a different picture of the outside world an infant has when quiet, patient, careful, yet secure hands take care of him. How different the world must seem when these hands are impatient, rough, hasty, unquiet and nervous.
- Emmi Pikler

The first experience of compassion infants can get is gentle, caring touch, which gives a strong message, especially when accompanied by eye contact and a soft tone of voice. The baby knows that she is cared about as she is being cared for.

Defining compassion

The dictionary gives several definitions for the word compassion, one of which is sympathy. My mentor and teacher, infant specialist Magda Gerber, taught her students to respect babies. She worried about giving babies sympathy, which she equated with pity. For example, have you ever said to a baby (or thought), "Oh, you poor little dear!" Magda used to say that sympathy puts you outside or above the baby who is on the receiving ...

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