“In my world there are no bad kids, just impressionable, conflicted young people wresting with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs the only way they know how” — Janet Lansbury
The day I started becoming a good parent, in my eyes, is the day I started to begin to understand life from my child’s eyes — which is why I chose the RIE method of parenting.
I think a lot of our parenting difficulties come from how we were parented — or the lack of parenting we received when we were children ourselves. We all know those deep-rooted feelings we have from our childhood that seem to haunt us. As much as we say we don’t ever want to be “our mother” or we don’t ever want to put our children what we were put through, it always shines through the nooks and crannies of our souls. The bright side is that it can be changed with hard work, persistence, patience, and forgiveness. And if you’re like me, you’re probably going to do whatever it takes to make sure your children experience a childhood that is much more connected than yours ever was.
Now that we are expecting our second baby, my father-in-law jokes with me often; saying I probably won’t get as good of a child for the next round as I did with the first. My first born is amazing, but what my father-in-law hasn’t seen are the behind-the-scenes I go through to parent him. He hasn’t seen the blood, sweat, tears, high-pitched screams, the “I hate you’s” thrown in my face, the slamming of the doors (I feel like a have a three-nager sometimes), and the straight-up defiance I have experienced. Honestly, if I can parent a child like Andrew (and he’s on the path to being an amazing kid), I can parent any kind of child.
In regards to transitions in life (crib to toddler bed, binky to no binky, potty training) Andrew has been easy. In regards to temperaments and actions, Andrew has been hard; like, I feel like the throwing in the towel because I am emotionally and mentally exhausted and feel defeated hard.
He’s stubborn, incredibly smart, strong-willed, knows what he wants and will do what it takes to get it, creative, and independent; all of some of the best qualities you can have in an adult yet what makes parenting him incredibly hard. What makes it harder is that I often feel he is a mirror reflection of myself — this makes us bump heads, often. I think it would be easier if I just sent him to time out and didn’t try to understand his feelings, but the last thing I want to do is break his spirit and quiet those personality traits that are going to make him excel in life.
The question I would always ask myself is: How do I parent this type of personality constructively, respectfully, and peacefully without breaking down who he is?
I would ask in various Facebook groups and people would give me advice but nothing seemed to really stick with me. Some people would tell me to “look at it from their point of view” but the problem with that is if you don’t really know where they are coming from, it’s hard to understand their point of view. They would point me to gentle parenting books but I felt so guilty after reading those books, I felt even more lost.
The truth is, I didn’t bond with Andrew when he was a baby because of my own issues. As a new mom and new wife at 19 years old who gave up my dream to stay home with my baby and be dependent on my husband, it was extremely hard for me and I spent many months engulfed in my depression and completely unattached to Andrew. Those first few months of life are so critical to establish a strong bond and I missed out on those. All the parenting books I read made me feel guilty that I hadn’t done that and now I was paying the price and trying to “catch up.”
I honestly was starting to feel hopeless until a dear friend of mine told me about the RIE method of parenting and invited me into an RIE Facebook group. I also picked up a book called No Bad Kids (RIE inspired) which has by far, been the BEST book I’ve read and has helped me really put methods into practice.
From that point my life changed forever — I became a better parent and my relationship with Andrew drastically improved.
What is RIE?
To sum it up, Janet Lansbury says,
RIE parenting could be summed up as an awareness of our babies. We perceive and acknowledge them to be unique, separate people. We enhance our awareness by observing them — allowing them the bit of space they need to show us who they are and what they need.
RIE parenting also makes us more self-aware. Through our sensitive observations we learn not to jump to conclusions; for example, that our babies are bored, tired, cold, hungry, or want to hold the toy they seem to notice across the room. We learn not to assume that grumbling or fussing means babies need to be propped to sitting, picked up, or rocked or bounced to sleep. We recognize that, like us, babies sometimes have feelings that they want to share and will work through them in their own way with our support. (source)
And another summary from Regarding Baby,
The simple response is that RIE stands for Resources For Infant Educarers, which represents both the philosophy of infant care that Magda Gerber began introducing to parents and caregivers in the United States beginning in the 1970’s, as well the non-profit organization she founded, through which parenting classes and professional trainings are offered.
RIE emphasizes caring for infants with Respect for their unique needs, as well as their unique strengths and capabilities. Magda wanted us to look at babies not as needy little unformed lumps who are completely dependent on adults for everything, but as competent little beings in their own right, capable of being full and active participants in their own growth and development from the very beginning. (source)
Now, I’m a firm believer of not following anything too closely and finding what works for you and your family so I am not a die hard RIE follower.
The four most important things I have learned from RIE parenting are:
- My child is a human-being who has feelings, insecurities, and challenges, not just a toddler who doesn’t know anything. Children may not know math or who the president is, but they are well tuned to the important things in life; like their feelings, desires, and how their parents react to these things. Instead of shunning Andrew away by telling him to “stop crying,” or “you’re okay,” or trying to hurry him through something that is bothering him, I do my best to take the time and let him cry it out (we all know how amazing we feel after a good cry) or talk to him about the situation — which brings me to my next point.
- It’s important to validate his feelings. Taking the time to validate his feelings has been one of the most powerful things I have done to help make parenting a little bit easier. When he’s angry about not getting something he wants, I often say, “I can see you’re upset that I’m not letting you have X, Y, Z but we’re about to have dinner and I don’t want you to be X, Y, Z.” I’m not saying he won’t break out in a tantrum after this, but the simple act of validating his feelings makes him feel heard and loved — even if my answer isn’t the one he wants.
- Build respect by giving gentle, unruffled responses and boundaries. A defiant child (over and over and over again) is one that can break your own spirit if you don’t treat the situation carefully. We all know the feeling of, “Why won’t he just listen to me?” By creating respectful boundaries and making sure our own emotions are unruffled during those times (which can be incredibly hard and something I still work on!), it helps children feel secure in their parents. The truth is, children want us to be the strong, confident caretaker because when they get too much power, they feel scared. The more we can show our children respectful boundaries, the less likely they are to continuously try and push them. (although remember that a toddlers job IS to push the boundaries)
More posts on respectful boundaries and staying unruffled:
– 7 Reasons Kids Need Us to Disagree
– 4 Toddler Testing Behaviors and How to Cope
– Parents Struggling with Boundaries — 3 Common Reasons
– 9 Best Ways to Stay Mostly Unruffled with Toddlers
- Learn to look beyond the tantrum and figure out what is really the issue. Are they tired, hungry, scared? Are they crying out for your attention because you’ve been consumed in other things during the day? By learning to read our children’s que, it allows us to look at the deeper issue so we can figure out how to help our child through the big feelings. Sometimes that means stopping EVERYTHING you’re doing and giving your child undivided attention. Sometimes that means leaving where you are because your child is overly tired (even if they fight you as you’re trying to leave). When we can read our children’s que, validate their feelings, and do what we can to help resolve the problem, it creates a stronger bond, connection, and makes our children feel safe that they can rely on us to help them through these big feelings.
This is a great post on figuring out why your child may be behaving the way they are.
I’m not saying RIE parenting will work for everyone but the four things I mentioned above have helped me tremendously. It also was not easy at first learn to validate Andrew’s feelings because as a child, my mother never validated my feelings or we never discussed it. I learned to shut myself out and keep my feelings to myself, which ultimately caused relationship problems in my young adult life.
Parenting is Life’s Greatest Teacher
It’s so true when they say that parenting not only teaches your children about life, but that you learn about life, too — more importantly, you learn about yourself.
While following RIE methods, I’ve grown so much as a person in the way I communicate, the way I understand things, and the way I can be patient even when most feel like pulling their hair out (please note: I’m not perfect so there are times where I still feel like pulling my hair out!).
Although I am thankful to RIE for opening my eyes, I’m also more thankful to my child for being the pathway of teaching myself how to be more kind, more soft hearted, and more loving. Because of Andrew, I am a better person and I can be a better role model for him and his sister.
And I hope out of everything, Andrew knows that I have not given up on him and that I am forever grateful he has led me on this path, even though it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!
P.s. No Bad Kids is my favorite book on gentle parenting. It did not make me feel guilty and allowed me to really put suggested methods into practice, with success.