Unlocking Childhood: Exploring Approaches to Parenting and Early Education

Recently, I came across Bubble & Speak, a charitable organisation that provides the space for parents and carers to drop in with their little ones, socialise, speak and listen. The idea for this project came from Françoise Dolto (1908 - 1988), a French paediatrician and #psychoanalyst who developed a child-centred view of psychoanalysis. Her approach, often called the "Dolto method," emphasises the importance of listening to and respecting #children to understand their experiences and emotions. Bubble & Speak is the only centre of this kind in the UK and is similar to services offered in continental Europe, France especially.

The effectiveness of the Dolto method lies in its emphasis on the child's perspective and the recognition of their individuality. By listening to children, giving them the freedom to express themselves, and validating their emotions, the Dolto method helps children to develop a stronger sense of self and a more positive self-image. The Dolto method also focuses on the importance of the parent-child relationship and the need for parents to understand and empathise with their child's experiences. By fostering a strong, positive relationship between parent and child, the Dolto method helps to create a supportive and nurturing environment for the child's #emotional development.

Here are some ways you could work with children and their parents using the Dolto method:

  • Encourage #parents to listen to their child: One of the key principles of the Dolto method is to encourage parents to listen to their child without judgment. You could work with parents to help them understand the importance of hearing their child's emotions and desires, even if they don't always agree with them.
  • Help children express their emotions: Another key aspect of the Dolto method is helping children express their emotions in a healthy way. You could work with children to help them identify and label their feelings and then teach them techniques for expressing those emotions constructively.
  • Focus on the child's perspective: In the Dolto method, the child's perspective is always the focus. You could work with parents to help them see things from their child's perspective and understand that their emotions and desires are just as important as their own.
  • Use play therapy: Play therapy is an integral part of the Dolto method, as it allows children to express themselves in a safe and non-threateningly. You could incorporate play therapy into your sessions with children to help them work through their emotions and develop coping skills.
  • Collaborate with parents: Finally, it's important to collaborate with parents when using the Dolto method. You could involve parents in the therapy process and help them develop strategies for supporting their child's emotional development outside of therapy sessions.

The method emphasises the importance of understanding and respecting the child's perspective and encourages parents to listen to and support their child's emotional development. Incorporating these principles into your work with children and parents can help promote healthy emotional development and positive family relationships.

As mentioned earlier, the Dolto method is not widely known or practised in the UK. While some playgroups in the UK may apply her way of thinking, it is not a mainstream approach to early childhood education and parenting. There could be several reasons for the limited adoption of the Dolto method in the UK. One possibility is that there may be cultural differences between France and the UK regarding parenting and early childhood education practices. Additionally, there may be a lack of awareness or understanding of the Dolto method among parents, educators, and childcare providers in the UK.

It is also worth noting that there are many approaches to parenting and early childhood education, and what works best for one family or community may not work for another. While the Dolto method may be effective for some families, others may prefer different approaches.

  • The Montessori method is based on Maria Montessori's educational philosophy and focuses on promoting independence, self-direction, and hands-on learning through structured activities and materials.
  • Reggio Emilia's approach is based on the educational philosophy of Loris Malaguzzi and emphasises the importance of child-led exploration, creativity, and collaboration with others.
  • The Waldorf/Steiner approach is based on Rudolf Steiner's educational philosophy and emphasizes the importance of nurturing a child's spiritual, emotional, and physical development through artistic activities, storytelling, and free play.
  • The high/scope approach emphasises the importance of active learning, positive adult-child interactions, and child-directed play in promoting social, emotional, and cognitive development.
  • The play-based approach emphasises the importance of free play and exploration in promoting children's learning and development.

It's worth noting that many playgroups and early years settings in the UK may use a combination of these and other approaches, depending on the needs and interests of the children and families they serve.

©Anna Sergent

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