I always knew there had to be oth­er peo­ple around who thought like me about liv­ing crea­tures and last month I found one of them. 

One of those peo­ple is Mon­ty Roberts. The author of ‘The Man Who Lis­tens to Hors­es’. The book I allud­ed to in my last post.

You may know of him as the per­son about whom the book and film ‘The Horse Whis­per­er’ was based. But the film and nov­el are noth­ing com­pared to read­ing about his real life. Wow!

Mon­ty Roberts under­stands so clear­ly what it is that makes hors­es tick. Of course he has devel­oped his exper­tise over near­ly 60 years; I’ve only had 30+ with young chil­dren. He is a true inspi­ra­tion and has fol­lowed his pas­sion since he was very young, despite his father hav­ing very strong opin­ions to the contrary.

I am inspired to write my book; Mon­ty Roberts has giv­en me faith in what I do.

There is no doubt that with hors­es (or chil­dren) ‘vio­lence isn’t the answer’. Mon­ty saw how hors­es were lit­er­al­ly ‘bro­ken’ by train­ers before being built back up to become controllable. 

I believe 20th and 21st cen­tu­ry ear­ly child­hood devel­op­ment meth­ods have had the same effect on young chil­dren. I have seen many chil­dren that par­ents are try­ing to ‘break’ in order to con­trol them. 

Some­how the words that are taught in col­lege and espoused by those in the busi­ness of teach­ing very young chil­dren belie their actu­al behav­iour in the classroom.

It is the ‘in the class­room’ part that has pained me in the past year. Pri­or to that it was what I observed from inside a fam­i­ly’s home – in many cas­es the behav­iour of par­ents and fam­i­ly mem­bers towards their ‘prized pos­ses­sions’ (their babies and young chil­dren) was awful! In vir­tu­al­ly every fam­i­ly I found at least one of their chil­dren had devel­op­men­tal delays. 

I’ve just heard of anoth­er fam­i­ly with one child with a speech delay and the oth­er with dyslex­ia – the moth­er seems won­der­ful (I nev­er saw her inter­act­ing with her chil­dren, only in her pro­fes­sion­al envi­ron­ment) but she had an active career from the day each of her three babies was born. She has final­ly decid­ed to cut back on her work hours and spend more time with her chil­dren – but they are at school now, with their prob­lems, and she left their ear­ly care to her ‘nan­ny’.

Only true, pro­fes­sion­al­ly trained nan­nies under­stand what babies and young chil­dren need. Par­ents sel­dom val­ue an excel­lent car­giv­er. It is so easy to employ (cheap­ly and for a brief peri­od of time) a so-called nan­ny from anoth­er country. 

As I recent­ly heard, a friend’s 18 year old daugh­ter left her home coun­try for Eng­land – for the expe­ri­ence you under­stand? Of course she was home­sick. She found a job for a few months as a ‘nan­ny’ in Lon­don to infant twins and a slight­ly old­er child – it was very chal­leng­ing to say the least. She had no pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence. What was the chil­dren’s moth­er think­ing? Cheap!

The 18 year old went back to her home coun­try after the ‘expe­ri­ence’ (maybe 6 months). Nobody thinks about what it might have done to the chil­dren she was car­ing for! Where was the con­ti­nu­ity of care?

More recent­ly the lov­ing care­giv­er of two girls, who has helped raise them for 7 years, has found her hours short­ened each week by the par­ents, with no com­ment from them. The fam­i­ly isn’t fac­ing the fact that they need to let her go – due to finances or just because they think that at 14 and 11 the girls are able to take care of themselves. 

The youngest child, who was just diag­nosed with dia­betes, is already dev­as­tat­ed because of spend­ing few­er hours with her car­er and friend. What will she be like when near­ly all con­tact ends?

Do the par­ents care – NO!!

Which takes me back to Mon­ty Roberts – he real­ly cares about his hors­es. What he strives for with the hors­es he trains is that they should want to work with him.

He can read them so well now that he can give a blow-by-blow account as he is gen­tly break­ing in the horse. He real­ly under­stands the nuances of horse behav­iour from years of study­ing them in the wild.

What I find in the insti­tu­tion­al set­ting with young chil­dren is that when one is work­ing with adults who are instinc­tive about car­ing for the chil­dren every­thing works real­ly well, there is no yelling and scream­ing because nei­ther the adults nor the chil­dren are stressed — even on a tough day.

All it takes is one manip­u­la­tive and uncar­ing per­son to dis­rupt that smooth oper­a­tion. I’m sure the same applies to being around horses. 

I have worked with both sorts of peo­ple. Chil­dren only become hys­ter­i­cal when the manip­u­la­tive adult they are addict­ed to (note: I use the word ‘addict­ed’ and not ‘attached’ because ‘addict­ed’ implies an unhealthy con­nec­tion) leaves the room. When calmer adults leave the room and explain where they are going the same chil­dren are com­fort­able in the care of the adults they are left with – no cri­sis ensues.

I have become aware of my own effect on young chil­dren par­tic­u­lar­ly when I enter the class­room once the day has been under­way. What I usu­al­ly do is take the hand of the most tear­ful (and there­fore the most dis­rup­tive!) child and say “let’s find a book to read”. That child is imme­di­ate­ly reas­sured, com­fort­ably sits with me and no soon­er have I start­ed read­ing than two or three oth­ers gath­er and sit with us – it works every time!

Thus the lev­el of noise is imme­di­ate­ly reduced and the oth­er car­ing adults can work with the rest of the chil­dren or what­ev­er oth­er respon­si­bil­i­ties they have at that moment. It lit­er­al­ly ‘breaks the spell’ of what­ev­er has made even one child feel very stressed.

Going with the flow and fol­low­ing the child’s needs takes time and intu­ition but works every time. It also makes the chil­dren much more coop­er­a­tive in the long run — just like gen­tly bro­ken horses.

Thanks Mon­ty, you’re an inspiration!