Why RIE parenting is a “practice”

February 3, 2014 · 6 comments

I love yoga.

I’m pretty good at it, too (at least compared to most of the seniors who are in class with me at my local Y).  I enjoy seeing how far I can twist and deep I can bend. It makes me feel accomplished.

But my teacher reminds me this isn’t what yoga is about.

You don’t have to be bendy and twisty to be good at yoga. You don’t have to be lithe and thin. You don’t have to have the right clothes or the right mat. You can be a yogi even if you can’t touch your toes (or see them).

I think of this when I read about RIE and the conversation turns to sippy cups and high chairs, or where baby sleeps or how much you put baby down and how long you let baby cry.

So often I see that RIE is viewed as a set of actions we should do to our children, but that’s not what RIE is.

RIE isn’t what we do to our children, it’s how we see our children.

I had a moment when I “got” it: when I saw my children as people, and when I understood the way Magda Gerber talked about respect.

I didn’t immediately chuck the high chair and the sippy cups. Three years later, I’m not always good about narrating when I get frazzled or tired. I still have days when I rush through meals or bath time because I just don’t have it in me to slow down and trust.

For a while I wondered if I really could be considered a RIE parent, because I just didn’t seem that good at it (especially compared to the gentle, patient tones of RIE teachers like Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury Gerber).

But what I’ve learned about RIE is that like with yoga, it’s not just about the actions, but the mindset.

The moment I saw my children as whole people deserving of respect, I started my practice as a RIE parent.

Some days are amazing, where I feel like I’ve hit it out of the park and I have a fantastic connection with my kids and I can take on any challenge they can throw at me. And other days are horrible, when everyone seems to be screaming and I listen to myself sounding ugly and barking orders. Yet even in the horrible days, I can stop, take a breath, and remind myself to reconnect.

Every screw-up is an opportunity to reflect and think about ways I can do things differently the next time — a time to return to my practice.

Like with yoga, there is no “perfect” in RIE to work towards. The bond I have with my children has already been formed. With every day of practice, it gets stronger, and there is nothing that can break it. Even on the bad days it grows, because we have learned more about each other, and we are reminded that we love and respect each other even through conflict.

It is practice that makes me secure and confident as a parent. When I practice yoga, I don’t worry that falling out of tree pose makes me less of a yogi. If anything, it makes me more of one. And when I practice RIE, I know I can get it wrong time and time again (and I do) and still have amazing children and an amazing relationship with them (and I do).

When I’m able, I deepen my practice with study and observation, but deepening my practice doesn’t mean what I did before was wrong or bad. Every yoga pose has modifications to fit different abilities, and in RIE there is always more to be learned. But a pose is a pose, and a bond is a bond.

That bond, and the practice that strengthens it, is the essence of RIE.

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