Respectful Care™ is a unique and distinctive approach to human development, education and care throughout the lifespan, and as a professional development tool, the approach is named after and has as its foundation a very specific and unique understanding and definition of five dimensions of “respect”:
The first four dimensions of respect culminate in and form the resilient foundation for the care we are giving to the person who is primarily receiving our care. Without the first four dimensions of respect, our role is compromised and we cannot enter into a relationship of authentic respect for the child. Thus these “Five Dimensions of Respect" form the Foundation of Respectful Care™.
This structure reflects lessons from emergency medical technician training many years ago: on the first day of class, the EMT instructor asked “Who is the most important person on the emergency scene?” Someone replied “The patient” - and the instructor said “NO! You are the EMT, the one who can help the patient, but if you get hurt, then who will help them? Therefore YOU are the most important person on the scene. If you don’t take care of yourself and you get hurt, then you cannot help the patient AND someone else who comes will then have to help you, instead of being available to help with the patient.”
That was a powerful lesson in the primacy of self-care, and it has stuck around ever since. She went on to explain that the second most important person on the scene is also NOT the patient, but rather our EMT partner, if we have one on scene. If they become a patient, there would be one less person to help the original patient, and further their need for care would divert health care resources from caring for the original patient. Third comes any bystander or member of the public who is not already injured: again, if one of them becomes a patient, that would divert health care resources from the original patient.
This structure becomes clear when one begins to ponder what exactly it means to prioritize the care of the original patient: it means first prioritizing NOT inadvertently creating new patients whose needs would compete with the original patient’s needs. It’s not doing the patient any good to rush to them and step into a puddle where there is a downed power line, and be incapacitated or killed before you even reach their side. An EMT must prioritize their own safety first, in order to provide care for the patient.
A primary respect for the infant or child requires us to be similarly thoughtful and intentional about our priorities. If we disregard our own well-being, then the care we have to offer quickly begins to fall short. If we disregard any other person who participates in the care dynamic, that is a disservice to the child (as well as obviously a disservice to the other person). If we disregard laws or regulations that are relevant to child well-being, that is clearly not in the best interest of the child either. Thus these other dimensions of respect become imperative and primary, once we dedicate ourselves thoughtfully to the goal of respecting the child.
Analogously then, parents can find the foundation for their unique Respectful Care™ path of parenting in respect for self, respect for other family members involved in the care dynamic (if any), respect for professionals supporting their family, and respect for any applicable laws - and finally together these lay the groundwork for an authentic and enduring respect for their child, on which basis a healthy and mutual respect can grow and flourish.
Rooted in the 5 Dimensions of Respect, in Respectful Care™ we take CAREOF™ others by planning and reflecting on our intentional interactions through the lenses of:
C = image of the Child
A = image of the Adult
R = Reality check
E = role of the Environment
O = Observation (including perspective and documentation)
F = Funds of knowledge
In the context of caring for infants and children, we can reflect on and ask ourselves questions about our actions (past and future) using these lenses in any order, but a complete reflective or planning experience will include considering all of these ways of thinking about our interactions.
We can begin with pondering what our words and actions might communicate to the infant or child about our own images of the Child and of the Adult, and with the quick pace of everyday interactions we can also do a Reality check and consider whether it is a suitable moment to try something new or attempt a teachable moment - or if it is doomed to failure by a time crunch, or by the child being already overtired or hungry.
We can consider all of the facets of the Environment, including not only the physical space but also the socio-emotional context and factors such as timing, order of events, predictable routine, and the physiological state or internal environment underlying each person’s moment-to-moment presence in the scene.
We can consider if there is anything that we can Observe in order to gather new or more complete information that would be useful in future CAREOF™ reflections, including looking at the situation from the perspectives of all stakeholders and documenting observations (whether formally or in informal notes or tallies).
Finally, we can consider whether there are any other Funds of knowledge that we can consult that can enrich our understanding in new directions.