This week, Dr. Steven Gutstein begins a new podcast series, “The Heart of RDI®: What is Mindful Guiding for Parents“. In this first episode of the new series, we join Dr. Gutstein as he defines MindGuiding and Mindful Guiding and how they fit within the RDI® Model.
We do not believe that we can, that we’re in the business of establishing what we would refer to as the natural intuitive guiding relationship. If that’s already occurring, then we have no reason to be doing what we are doing. So, what we want to think of is that we are establishing what we refer to as a mindful guiding relationship. Now, let me even preface that a little bit. I use that word intuitive. Mindful guiding is still an intuitive process, it’s not an analytical process where you refer to charts and graphs, and sequences and procedures. I’d rather say it’s mindful versus purely unconscious or go with the flow. That’s not what we are doing. On the other hand, we don’t want people to feel uptight and manualize over a sense of procedure, first do this and this and this. So, there’s a great deal of intuitive judgment that must go into a mindful process, but we’re consciously aware that we are doing. I think that’s the key in mindful. Okay. So, we want to establish as mindful guiding relationship where the guide is mindfully functioning, and the apprentice is functioning in a way that indicates that they are motivated to assume their role. That they are providing what I refer to as the thrust, or the engine of this shared process. That, along with the guidance system, allows the rocket to launch and get to its destination.
So, the apprentice doesn’t have to have all the skills in place for us to proceed to what we think of as dynamic intelligence, or the use of the guiding relationship, but they have to have developed that excitement, that desire, or learning the desire for learning through and with others. That initiation of exploration, that valuation of discovery. That really represents what being an apprentice is all about. You have to experience that. That has to become part of their identity. That has to become internalized. You could be missing all kinds of things. It would have to continue to be developed and built through a guiding relationship, and I think you could keep those two issues in mind — How do we develop a guiding relationship, and, how do we then use it? I think it helps us as beginners, and us as veterans, to do our jobs much much better. So, we think about that, and then we think about the next step and going into mindful guiding, and then mind guiding, which is what starts to happen naturally even towards the end of the first year of life in typical development where if you are guiding a child as a parental figure or ongoing relationship, without even realizing it you will begin to interject mindful terms, terms about thoughts, and feelings, and internal states into your communication with that child. And to elaborate, even before they might understand those things you’ll unconsciously become more aware that your primary role is to develop their mind. Now you might not know that unconsciously, but through your actions as a guide, especially during the course of the second year and onward, that becomes quite evident when we observe this in its natural form.
So, another criterion here is the sense that we are ready, or parents are ready, or guides are ready, or you are ready, to consider serving or becoming a mind guide, that has some value. Again, that doesn’t mean the child has to have a huge amount of language, doesn’t mean you have to be ready for conversations yet, but it means that that makes some sense, observing what’s going on between the guide and the apprentice, the student. So, those become very critical terms.
So, I think if we can keep in mind that development of that guiding relationship, feeling secure, that that’s in place, which doesn’t mean everything’s perfect, that’s going to be important. What I mean by that is, we don’t really need to see the child as 100% compliant. Look at any typically developing two-year-old who is very much in a guiding relationship, and you’ll see that a great percentage of the time they may be trying to control things, they may be oppositional. And so, we don’t want to communicate somehow that the guiding relationships only form when you have the perfectly compliant, passive, whatever, perfect apprentice. I think that’s very unrealistic. And, I think especially for many of the children that we work with who have been extremely passive, not to mention that they’ve already been oppositional, they have been very passive, they’re often going to go through a stage like a typically developing two-year-old where you’re going to see somewhat of that controlling oppositional action, but it’s not going to be 100% of the time.
You’re also going to have many opportunities where you’re providing guidance to that child who wants to initiate, and I think that’s the other piece of it. When you start to see parents, parents are still worrying, what activities should I do with my child? Or, how do I keep them motivated? Or, how do I keep them engaged with me and not running off? We don’t yet have the guiding relationship we want, we don’t. As opposed to sometimes when I am guiding my child wants to take over, or sometimes they are oppositional about it, that’s different. But when we have a guiding relationship in place, it’s intrinsically powerful for that child who want to remain engaged. It may be a game sometimes of arguing, but engaged with their guide. And provide that guide with many opportunities throughout the day, for influencing, for often limiting their actions in terms of discovery and trying out things that may be too difficult for them, as well as providing a little bit of challenge, or elaboration, or support for what they are trying to do. But you see that energy, you see the mindfulness coming from the parent. You see the energy coming from that child. The energy to engage with you. Also, the energy to be autonomous.
Autonomous doesn’t mean disengaging and walking away from you. It’s autonomous through your participation. And that could be your participation in a more peripheral supportive way, your participation in co-participating with them, with them being peripherally involved with you, having a more minor role in something that’s a bit ahead of what they are able to do on their own. But you will see that they want to become more autonomous and they also want to maintain that engagement with you.
The child should be supplying the effort to stay engaged with you. The child should be supplying the energy to want to want to develop, to want to increase their confidence. That’s a motivational thing. That should be internalized. And that becomes the most important element. And parents should be perceiving their role in a facilitative way. They should be starting to move out of co-participation as the only modality. There should be a balance between that, and an increasing emphasis on facilitation, either through autonomy support, support of actions, whether that’s emotional support, or structuring activity so that it is not too difficult for that child, those are two ways, or by stepping back. Those are ways to provide autonomy support, as well as balance with providing challenges to that child. They should perceive their role that way and feel comfortable that way, and to not be worried at all at this point about what to do because the child should be, and this is the third thing, they should have at this point developed a number of frameworks, activity frameworks, that are mutually expanded and extended by both parties, they’re both finding ways to add interesting things to the activities that they are doing, and they should have more than enough of those activities. You don’t need to quit the activities.
A parent who is saying “Gee, he gets bored so quickly still. I don’t know what activity to give him,” that’s not a guiding relationship, that’s not an apprenticeship yet. Because an apprentice is not just something, it’s not about I’m doing this to please you, or I’m doing this to be compliant, they’re operating out of their own energy, their own desire to grow and develop. They are co-participants in this relationship, in maintaining this, and growing this. With using the frameworks that you already have to grow, not that you can’t introduce new things, but there shouldn’t be any need.
I’ll give you an example, my grandson and myself, who’s about 2 ½ years old, we do a lot of yard work together, we do some woodwork together, and we play with trains together. You know, we have a finite number of things we do. But those things keep growing and expanding. And he elaborates on them, as well as I do. So, he’ll invent new variations, and I will, and we have to do a lot of compromising and sometimes negotiating. But, there’s no lack of those things, it’s not like I ever have to think — Gee, do I need another activity? Sometimes I will think of that, for instance the summer is coming here in Houston and all the things we’ve done outdoors we can’t do, that’s no different than anything you would do with any two-year-old in Houston, Texas because you wonder now that we have to do everything indoors what the hell are we going to do that’s going to be interesting and exciting, and that is a limited number of things. So, we have to be creative. It doesn’t have anything to do with autism. It has more to do with having a two-year-old in a very hot climate, that you might expect. But in terms of everyday worrying, that worry about activity, that should not be at all present for that person if we have a guiding relationship. That’s really telling us that both parties are invested in this and they’re both moving in the same direction. That we’re not worried about, you know, are they going to walk away? That anxiety is still, is that child going to leave? What do I have to do? When I think of activity with my grandson it is not that he is going to walk away from me, it’s what can I do that we’ll both enjoy that’s indoors, now that we must move towards indoors. And, like you would do with any child. But it’s not at all that he is going to leave to do something else, because what the hell is he going to do? His ability to do on his own is fairly limited. I am excited when he does things on his own. It’s like he’s starting to do things on his own that are interesting, and I love it because it gives me a break. It gives me a way to relax. It’s that type of feeling you want to see rather than if there’s still that fear that they are going to disengage, then we don’t have that guiding relationship in place.