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Emmi Pikler was a pediatrician who drew on the ideas of Freud, Spitz, Bowlby, attachment theory, constructivism and the pedagogical works of Montessori or Steiner.
Thanks to all these sources of knowledge, he was able to conceive a new way of seeing young children. Her work focused on two needs of children: the need for attachment and the need for autonomy.
For Pikler, the baby is a being capable of autonomous development. This vision of the child reached scientific validity thanks to the observation, reflection and data recording that he carried out for years in the children's home where he worked in Budapest, and later in the Lóczy institute that he directed from 1946 to 1979.
At the institute, Emmi Pikler made an effort to meet all the needs of hundreds of children whose biological families could not meet their needs, offering them the maximum well-being and optimal development of children in all areas: physical, emotional, cognitive and social.
Emmi Pikler developed a series of pedagogical principles to train the caregivers who worked at the Lóczy institute. More than a method, Pikler proposes a different way of looking at the child. That is, a change of role in the relationship of parents and educators with the child where adults are in a place of equality and respect for children.
It was a very different and original system of care for children that began to be put into practice at that time. The principles that govern this way of seeing children regulate in detail all the daily aspects of the lives of children. There are five principles that for Pikler are of equal importance and that acquire value in the educational system when they are put into practice and in which they will be respected simultaneously and constantly. That is, if one of them is neglected the balance that is offered to the child will be broken. These are:
1- Autonomy of children. Emmi Pikler showed that the child is capable of learning to learn by himself.
2- Need to encourage the child to become aware of himself and his environment. The adult has to give the child an emotional security that satisfies his affective need so that the little one can focus on the movement of his body and on discovering the objects in the environment, playing and moving freely.
3- Privileged affective relationship. Give a particular look to each child. Parents must provide security in their care in such a way that the child can predict what will happen and respecting their development rhythms.
4- Importance of physical health.
5- Free motor skills. The child will move on his own initiative. The child will feel competent. This free motor skills constitutes one of the determining elements in the child-adult relationship since they favor mutual respect. For Pikler this principle is the “soul” of his vision and the principle that runs through everyone.
From Emmi Pikler's approach to the education of children, it is the child who stars in their own development with full awareness of themselves and their environment, while integrating experiences that will nurture their autonomy and self-esteem. For this, the role of the adult is fundamental. Thanks to the way that the adult offers himself to the child to accompany him in his development, he will define the quality with which he does it.
In order to satisfy the needs on which Emmi Pikler bases all her work: attachment and autonomy, adults must act differently from the traditional:
- During care such as diaper change, feeding, bathing, etc. The adult should do them gently, putting into words what is being done and giving the child time to listen, focusing on what is being done, and paying attention to the child. Thus, little by little their autonomy and preferences will be respected.
- When the child is playing, the adult is a mere observer and the little one the protagonist. The adult is present but does not intervene and does not suggest to the child what to do or how to do it.
- The free movement of the child must be respected, so the child should not be taught to sit, walk, etc. The child will do it when he feels ready. Therefore adults should not intervene and should provide the child with adequate space to move and adequate clothing so that he can move freely. Thanks to this, the child discovers his body and its movements by himself, which motivates his desire for movement and exploration that promotes emotional, intellectual and mental development.
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