Book review: Janet Lansbury “Elevating Childcare: a guide to respectful parenting”

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Janet Lansbury's 2014 book "Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting" is a practical guide to channeling your inner Miss Honey.
In Roald Dahl’s 1988 masterpiece, Matilda, the reader is invited to pick sides in the battle of caregiver style, and it’s obvious there is only one “right” choice.
 
On the one hand, you have Matilda’s father, Harry Wormwood:
 
“I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
 
On the other hand, you have Miss Honey:
 
“Miss Jennifer Honey was a mild and quiet person who never raised her voice and was seldom seen to smile, but there is no doubt she possessed that rare gift for being adored by every small child under her care. She seemed to understand totally the bewilderment and fear that so often overwhelms young children… some curious warmth that was almost tangible shone out of Miss Honey’s face when she spoke to a confused and homesick newcomer to the class.”
 
Janet Lansbury’s 2014 book “Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting” is a practical guide to channeling your inner Miss Honey. 30 articles from Lansbury’s website are collated in the book, tackling essential tasks like “How to love a diaper change”, reflections on “I think I know why you’re yelling” and suggestions for how to achieve “No bad kids – toddler discipline without shame”.
 
Dignity and respect are important to me, whereas shame/humiliation in caring for children are inappropriate and damaging. I’m a big believer in child led play, trusting in the child to select activities of interest to themselves, and looking for the teachable moment – so Janet Lansbury’s ethos ought to speak to me, and I kept feeling like I should LOVE this book… and yet… there is something about it which just didn’t endear itself to me.
 
Janet Lansbury makes clear throughout that she is an admirer of the teaching of Magda Gerber, and an adherent of Gerber’s RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) philosophy. Most of the articles in “Elevating Child Care” refer directly back to with Magda Gerber or the RIE approach. By the time I had finished all 30 articles and thus the book, I concluded I simply should have gone straight to the source and read either of Gerber’s books, “Your Self-Confident Baby” or “Dear Parent – Caring for Infants with Respect” instead, so I could get the information directly from its source.
 
It is a slightly odd experience to find myself so well aligned with somebody’s expressed ideals, and yet unable to warm to the book presenting them for my consumption.  The articles in the book are still available online at Janet Lansbury’s website.  Given the usefulness of being able to dip in and out for specific areas of need (we all have days where our minds go blank on a challenge we face!), my suggestion is to use that resource instead,  for both an overview of her ideas and methods. A quick refresh of ideas is sometimes the boost we need, in order to help us respond better to the challenges we face in our childcare careers.
 

Written by Adele Scott, a daily nanny in London.

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