The Magda Gerber Philosophy: IN and Out of School

There are many popular parenting philosophies. One such philosophy was developed by Magda Gerber. Read on for an overview of the Magda Gerber philosophy on loving, crying, spanking, quality time, and discipline.

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What is love? Magda Gerber defines love as, 'space and time measured by the heart.' Love makes you feel good, safe, less helpless, less confused, trustful, energized, and a variety of other positive emotions. Children feel this also through their experiences and the ways we interact with them. If we respect them and accept them for who they are it shows we care. To care is to put love into action.

Can you over love your child or give too much attention? This is called spoiling and Magda Gerber has identified certain ways you can 'spoil' your child. Spoiling can happen by means of the capacity to cope with life.

This includes:

1. Spoiling by overprotecting or being controlling or by constantly entertaining.

  • Real care is to take the time to create a healthy, safe environment in which children can safely explore and mothers can relax.

2. Spoil by controlling.

  • Real care is using the time we naturally spend with our babies to learn, teach, and experience together what is happening.

3. Spoil by constantly entertaining.

  • Real care is to allow the time, have the patience and encourage even the youngest baby to do whatever they are capable of doing for themselves.

On Crying

How do you feel when a baby cries? Most of us get a guilty feeling and we want to do something for that child. The thing you should not do is try to stop the crying. We need to respect children's emotions whether sad or happy. Many parents try to sooth the child with food because they think they are hungry, or change their clothing because they think the baby is too cold. Others change the baby's diaper frequently even though it is not necessary. So the next question is why do babies cry?

Studies show that infants cry when they feel discomfort from:

1. Hunger

2. Pain (could be gas, irritated skin, etc..)

3. Feeling too cold or warm

4. Sudden changes in position (equilibrium off-balance)

5. A change from wakefulness to sleep and vice versa

6. Too much stimuli from the environment (noise, light, activity) around them

On Discipline

Discipline is defined as training that develops character and self-control. There are three different types of discipline that Magda Gerber labels red light, yellow light, and green light. With a red light the situation discipline can't be negotiated. An example of this occurs when a baby crawls towards a sharp knife and your first reaction is to pick up the child or the knife without consulting the child first. You don't worry about how it will affect the child's psyche; you just do what needs to be done immediately.

A yellow light is when the situation can be negotiated. You must think if your time can be sacrificed for what the child wants to do or if you think the child should obey your requests. You have to respect the child but also respect yourself. You have to also let the child know what you want to do yourself and what it is that you expect the child to do.

A green light is when you and the child want the same thing. You can give the child choices and whatever the child picks, you accept.

On Quality Time

Quality time is rewarding for both parties involved because there is no ambivalence, you are open for listening and taking in the person, and you try to fully understand the other's point of view. There are two different types of quality time: 'wants nothing' time and 'wants something' time.

'Wants nothing' time is when the parent doesn't want to do anything particular with the child, has no plans other than just wanting to be with the child.

'Wants something' time is when you are doing something necessary. It is a time when you have a task to accomplish for or with the child such as diapering.

On Diapering

1. Prepare ahead. Before involving the baby, have everything ready so you won't have to search for a pin, cream, or water, which would disrupt the continuity of your time together.

2. Observe what your child is doing. If she is absorbed, do not interrupt them, but wait for the right moment to intervene.

3. Explain to you child what it is you are going to do. This pattern can begin in early infancy in all interactions. Although the infant does not understand your words at first, they will soon begin to associate your sounds and tone of voice with your gestures and actions, and his anticipation will grow for enjoyable time shared together with his parents.

4. Communicate with the child. Gently take any toys or objects out of the infant's hands, explaining what you are doing, and tell them you want to pick them up now.

5. Explain and show your infant just what you are doing, step by step. As you diaper allow your infant to follow and to become involved in the process, to make eye contact, study your face, vocalize, initiate play, to follow your actions, to respond to you - and you, of course, respond to them.


Physical punishment has been a fought-over subject among parents for a long time. Is it acceptable to spank your child or not? Many have different opinions about spanking and how to raise children to be disciplined as they age. The following information explains some pros and cons of spanking. You can take these ideas in and make a choice about whether you think spanking will be a form of discipline you will use in child rearing. Keep in mind that our center, as well as many others, does not use physical punishment of any form.

What good it does:

  • Stops undesirable behavior immediately.

What harm it does:

  • It teaches your child to hit when she is angry and encourages further abuse.
  • It closes the lines of communication as you are not verbalizing your rationale.
  • Tears down self-esteem.
  • Displays inequality of two human beings - 'I can hit you, but you can't hit me.'
  • Produces aggression and physical violence that child carry throughout their lives.
  • The child behaves from fear of being spanked, rather than from respect for parents' wishes.
  • Teaches negative approach to problem solving.
  • Builds up resentment towards parents and offers no way of coping.
  • Nothing positive is learned.
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