This time of year we spend time reflecting on the things in our lives that we are most grateful for. I’m a very fortunate person, my list of things to be thankful for is quite long and RIE® is very near the top. Not just because of all the wonderful things it does for my children, but because of the wonderful things it does for me.
When I went to my first RIE® parent/infant class more than 11 years ago, I quickly started to see all the benefits that this kind of parenting would have for my children. I’m so grateful that I learned to care for my child’s needs, feeding, bathing, diapering — really anything they needed — in a way that respected them and encouraged them to participate in their own care. The connection, communication and cooperation that is part of each of these interactions, as well as the respect for each child’s authentic self, develops self confidence, secure relationships, sense of self, competency, self awareness, and the list goes on and on.
I am also deeply thankful for uninterrupted independent playtime. When a child doesn’t have a need that requires help to fulfill, they get to play. The benefits that come from this are astonishing and numerous. The children automatically feel free to be themselves at play. They are relentlessly curious, brilliant problem solvers, confident, attentive, focused. They feel and respond to their own inspirations about what to do next. They explore and become aware of everything in their space. This kind of play brings children peace and happiness all on their own. It is truly beautiful.
By parenting in this way I feel that I have helped my children develop all these qualities. It makes me feel really good, and for the first several years this was my focus. I was solely concerned with how RIE® was good for my babies. What I have come to understand is that RIE® is good for me, and that maybe that is even more important.
I have four children, and on top of that I spend 25 hours a week with a classroom full of two year olds. I’ve heard this sounds like a recipe for a mental breakdown, but I love it. What’s more, is that I know I wouldn’t love it without RIE®. Because I have this philosophy to guide me I no longer stress about the millions of choices I make for the children in my care every day. In lots of cases RIE® directly gives me the answers, like what to do with a child who is resisting diaper changes, but also when I have a choice that RIE® doesn’t have a prescribed answer to, like when do I let my tween have a phone. I always base my decisions on the respect, and trust, and knowledge of my child that parenting in this way has given me.
I don’t panic anymore because I know that when children are testing limits they aren’t out to get me. They aren’t searching for my weaknesses, they’re searching for their boundaries. I can be calm because I don’t feel I have to fix every emotional outburst or stop every cry. I can accept their emotions and support them in whatever way I can. I am at peace because I know I will make mistakes and that my children will be okay — not only that but it gives me a chance to model for them how to apologize or make amends. I have time to take care of things in my life, because my children can play on their own and be quite happy.
It is not all sunshine and roses at my house, and I do loose my cool sometimes, but I shudder to think what I would be like without RIE®. Children are resilient and I am basically a loving and good person, so without RIE® I think my children would still be okay, but I would be a mess. With RIE®, my children are better than okay, and I am happy. There is respect and trust and love in our home. So this thanksgiving I am truly grateful to Magda, Janet, Ruth Anne, Liz, Carol, Erica, Melani, Deborah, and all the others at the RIE® foundation who have helped me to understand and implement this beautiful way of life in my home.