Ideas on Baby-Rearing That Credit the Baby


Magda Gerber believes successful parenting comes down to this: Each baby is unique and will grow in confidence if allowed to develop at his or her own pace.

Gerber, who is in her 80s, has spent 50 years working with children. She is founder and director of the Los Angeles-based Resources for Infant Educarers, a nonprofit organization that offers classes for child-care professionals and parents.

Gerber and her child-rearing philosophy have been featured in Parents, Parenting, Working Mother and other national publications. When freelance writer Allison Johnson of Aliso Viejo discovered that Gerber had never written a book outlining her parenting approach, she asked Gerber to collaborate.


“Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities--From the Very Start” (John Wiley & Sons; $14.95), co-written by Johnson, is a guide to Gerber’s “back-to-basics” approach to parenting.

Gerber and Johnson will speak and sign copies of their book at 2 p.m. today at Super Crown, 27110 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Niguel.

Gerber’s philosophy, which originated in her native Hungary, shuns structured play and fancy toys. It allows the infant, under the watchful eye of the parent, to be an initiator, explorer and self-learner.

Gerber’s philosophy is the antithesis of the Super Baby phenomenon of the 1970s, when parents put their infants and toddlers on advanced learning schedules by trying to get them to recognize pictures and numbers on flashcards or trying to teach them to read at an early age.

“She feels, why teach them something at that age that they can’t comprehend and they’ll do naturally at the right time? Let them develop at their own rhythms and save teaching for the appropriate time when they’re in school and they can comprehend the materials,” Johnson says.

That’s not to say Gerber espouses a toddler free-for-all.

“Within the freedom of letting them explore and do what they do, there are firm limits, and the child knows what they are and they are enforced. Safety is always the major consideration,” Johnson says.


Johnson is sold on Gerber’s approach.

Johnson and her husband, William, made the 100-mile round trip to Gerber’s center in Silver Lake for weekly classes for more than a year after their daughter Juliana, now 4 years old, was born.

“I think parents sometimes have in mind a ‘dream child’: They try to shape their child to be a certain [way] rather than seeing who their child really is,” Johnson says.

“Her whole philosophy is really based on a parent’s observation of the child. . . . You sort of sit back and try not to direct what they’re doing: Observe their behaviors, moods, feelings, actions, how they relate with other children.”

“Our goal,” Gerber has said, “is an authentic child--one who feels secure, autonomous and competent.”

“Authenticity is a big concept for Magda,” Johnson says. “It’s stepping back and giving your children space to discover who they are and letting them develop in their own time frame.”


The sixth annual Day of Authors, featuring Natasha Josefowitz, Shirley Taylor Haizlip, Aimee Liu, Barbara Saltzman, Pat Welsh, Jaroldeen Edwards, Judy B. Rosener and Earlene Fowler, will be held from 8:30 am. to 2:30 p.m. March 7 in the Student Center at Cal State Fullerton.


Cost for the event, sponsored by the ALPHA auxiliary of the National Assistance League of Fullerton, is $45. The deadline for reservations is March 2, and they can be made by calling (714) 871-8614.

Also this week:

* Joyce Spizer, author of “The Cop Was White as Snow,” will speak and sign at 1 p.m. today at Mystery Ink, 384 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.

* Mary Lyon, author of “The Frazzled Woman’s Practical Guide to Motherhood,” will sign at 2 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble, 13712 Jamboree Road, Irvine.

* Robert J. Conley, author of “A Novel of the Real People,” will speak and sign at 2 p.m. today at Barnes & Hoble in the Huntington Beach Mall, 7777 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach.

* Amy Keehn, author of “Love and War Between the Signs,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble in the Huntington Beach Mall, 7777 Edinger Ave.

* An evening with Dickens scholar George Newlin, author of the three-volume reference set “Everyone in Dickens,” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 130 of University Library-North at Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd. General admission: $5.


* Joanne Pence, author of “Cook’s Night Out,” and Penny Warner, author of “Sign of Foul Play,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Thursday at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster.

* Patty Paul, author of “A New Spirituality: Beyond Religion,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Thursday at Huntington Senior Village, 16171 Springdale St., Huntington Beach.

* Connie Merritt, author of “Finding Love (Again!): The Dating Survival Manual for Women Over Thirty,” will speak and sign at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble in MainPlace/Santa Ana, 2800 N. Main St.

* Mark Mazza, author of “Wannabes,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Saturday at Borders books and Music, 429 S. Associated Road, Brea.

* Actor John de Lancie, best known as the character “Q” in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” will sign tapes and CDs of the Alien Voices audio book adaptations of classic science fiction at 1 p.m. Saturday at Borders Books and Music, 429 Associated Road, Brea.

* Diann Marsch, photo editor of “The Colorful Coast: An Illustrated History of Newport Beach and Harbor,” will sign at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Fashion Island, 953 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.


* Mona Michaels, author of “Single in Orange County,” signs at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the Huntington Beach Mall, 7777 Edinger Ave.

Send information about book-related events at least 10 days before event to Dennis McLellan, O.C. Books & Authors, Life & Style, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.