Culture of life

Gentle teaching is a combination of an individual process and a basic attitude. With this attitude – the integration of the principles of gentle teaching in all our actions – we create a culture of life.

An individual process will be less successful – if not impossible – if it isn’t embedded within a culture of life.

The culture of life isn’t only important for the development of companionship, but also for other kind of individual treatment a person may need. For instance a person with a mental illness may also need a specific psychiatric therapy or old people with Alzheimer may also need validation of sensory activation. The culture of life and the individual process of gentle teaching can often be applied with other methods which are focused on the specific vulnerability of the person.

Most important in the culture of life is the unconditional posture of the care giver and the focus on developing the safe and loving relation, of companionship.

Aspects of the culture of life are

Unconditional help

When a person needs help, he will be helped. No matter on his conduct at the very moment. We don’t only help because the person needs it, but also because it is a good opportunity to strengthen the relation with him.

Use every interaction for teaching

Not only the moments of help are good teaching moment, but every encounter with the person is. So don’t walk by the person without making short contact, involve the persons in what you are doing, tell them where you are going, etc. This makes your persons feel important and improves their feeling of self-worth.

Create one community

Create one community of care givers and persons and prevent them from living in two parallel worlds. Sit together, talk together, share your stories with the persons and ask them to share their stories with you. In many group homes care givers sit in their office while changing shifts., Why not sit together and involve the persons in this sharing.

Give the person what he want, to be able to give what he needs

Most aggression comes from not giving the person what he wants, like coffee, attention, a cigarette,  etc. You don’t just give this to spoil him or to give in out of fear, but you give what he wants, to create an atmosphere of peace in which you can give what he really needs: safety, love, companionship. And don’t only give it when he asks for it, but also on your own initiative. This is even more important.

Respond on the needs of the person, not on his behavior

Be constantly aware of the needs of the person and try to respond on them. Especially when you attention might be triggered by the behavior, it’s important to turn your mind and feelings to the needs of the person. Remember always that the behavior is not the problem to solve, but the stress the person is suffering of is the problem to be solved.

Be welcoming

Great every person at the beginning of your shift in a way he feels personally seen by you. Shake hand, touch gently on the shoulders, make warm eye contact, etc. Also when the person enters, make him feel welcome. When you leave your shift, also say goodbye to every individual person. Not only those who are sitting in the living room, but also those who are in their own room.  Let them all know they matter to you.

Make the pace look neat

By paying attention to the environment the person lives or works in, you also show the person that you care for them and that you value their presence. So make sure the place is neat, it doesn’t smell, clean the table or floor when something is spoiled, etc.

Adjust your energy to the atmosphere of the moment

This is the skill of going with the flow or going against it, depending on what is needed at the moment.  When there is a lot of turmoil, don’t let yourself get dragged into this by becoming strained yourself. Try to feel relaxed in your body and show this off. When the atmosphere is cozy, join the atmosphere. When persons are playing together, play with them but prevent the atmosphere to become euphoric, because then the persons may get lost in this energy.

Protect without domineering

Sometimes care givers have to protect persons from doing harm to others. The first option is to do this by making personal contact and assuring the person who feels stressed. If haven’t been able to an escalation, then stay calm yourself and try comfort the victim instead of punishing the ‘perpetrator’. Only if you can’t calm him down and he keeps hurting others, you leave the room with him as calmly as possible. Try always to stay with the person until he feels relaxed again.

Don’t have false expectation

When we expect things from the person he can’t do, we put a lot of pressure on him and we create the situation where he will feel failing. Remember that neither his actual age, nor his intellectual understanding determines what he can when he is emotional. Then it’s his emotional strength what matters most. So always be aware of the inharmonious development of the person, or of traumatic life experiences or psychiatric disorders which might determine what he can, more than his intellectual understanding.


It’s important to learn to look at their own actions and their emotions from the perspective of the person. It are not our intentions that matter, but how the person perceives out actions and attitude. This self-reflection asks an open mind from the care giver and openness for feedback from others

Have hope

Perhaps the most important is always to have hope for the future. Never say that we have already tried everything with a person and that there is no hope for improvement. Lack of life is devastating for your creativity and it’s like putting the person with the garbage.