I first heard about RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ classes from a friend when my daughter Fern was around six months old. The timing couldn’t have been better as I was just at the stage where I was questioning if Fern was getting bored and needing some toys to start playing with. My friend explained the use of minimal toys in the class and how the babies are free to interact with what they choose. She also mentioned the wonderful facilitator, who had such a calm and caring manner.
Intrigued I sent an email to the facilitator Sharon, requesting more information. I was so intrigued, and the seed had been planted. I remember staying up late that night watching videos and reading blogs, learning everything I could about RIE® and its’ founder - an exquisite lady with a hard to remember name! The next morning I wrote to Sharon again, sharing how my eyes had been opened to just how wonderful RIE® was and that we simply must come to the classes. She was delighted and I remember her saying how my message brought a big smile to her face. From there began the complete transformation of myself as a parent and of my relationship with Fern.
I see the difference adopting the Educaring® Approach has made in so many areas of our life. Here are a few examples I’d love to share:
- When we first started the classes, I remember always arriving late. Our morning having been a juggle of balancing Fern’s needs and mine to get out the door. There was usually lots of rushing and tears (mainly Fern’s). We would arrive all flustered, and in general I was just cramming too much into our days. Being a part of these classes taught me to slow down, to simplify things. I learnt that I needed to respect Fern’s needs and realised what those truly were! The importance of connecting during care moments and then giving each other some space to simply be. How communication with your baby is vital and that they appreciate being told what is happening or going to happen next. It felt strange at first speaking to such a young baby like an adult, but now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
- I loved being in the space of the classes every week with no role other than to observe my child for 90 whole minutes. What bliss! It allowed me to see what an incredible being Fern is (not simply just a baby!) and observe the small changes in her development. The Educaring® Approach of allowing your baby’s physical development to happen naturally made a lot of sense to me. But it certainly resulted in lots of questions and comments from curious friends and family as to why I was still laying Fern on her back on the ground at 11 months old. Fern has been so content at each stage, only moving on when she feels ready and has built up the adequate strength. There were a few times where my patience was tested and societal norms were starting to get the better of me, but I’m so glad I persisted. The rewards have been evident in the strength and coordination she has, and how she knows the capability and limits of her own body so well.
- Mutual respect - a revelation I had a few months ago around this was that I was doing a lot of talking at Fern. I changed this by taking a few more seconds to get down to her level, actually look her in the eye and then communicating the message. Boy was I amazed by the difference this made! She was so much more willing to comply with my requests. I also learnt here the importance of waiting patiently and giving her a few moments to process what I’ve said. As well I try as much as possible to let her make the decisions and have autonomy at appropriate moments, so when it’s my turn to be in charge she’s happier to cooperate.
- Growing up I learnt to hide my emotions (well the ‘negative’ ones at least) as I think a lot of us did. This meant the Educaring® Approach of allowing instead of suppressing all emotions was quite a challenge for me. I was determined however for my daughter to know that it is okay for her to share however she’s feeling. That I won’t try and fix her or distract her out of it, but instead guide her with how to express those emotions safely. I believe this is a much healthier release instead of keeping those feelings bottled up inside. Again this is something I often get odd looks about as to why I’m not in a frenzy hugging and swaying and shushing Fern to stop her crying when she’s hurt or upset. Instead I show her that I’m there for her and observe carefully to see what she needs at that moment.
- The Educaring® Approach opened my eyes to the fact that as a parent you don’t just set boundaries because you’re the boss and know best. You set them because a toddler who is learning to understand the complicated world around them needs those boundaries to feel safe. They’re going to test and test to find out where they are, and if met with no resistance will end up confused and not knowing what to do with all that power. It’s also important for us as parents to model setting our own limits so our children will be able to do the same. This is again where showing respect is so important - there’s no need to trick and coerce your child into doing things. Instead be truthful, while also being prepared that there’s a good chance they might not be happy with what you’ve just said. But again your role is to allow those emotions to come, acknowledge them, and then follow through with what you’ve said.
I am extremely grateful to have discovered RIE® and the Educaring® Approach. I want to say a special thanks to Sharon and her practicum students who do such a wonderful job modelling and re-inspiring me in class. Fern is now 19 months old and I’m still learning something new every week!
Rosalie Sinclair has been attending RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes with her daughter Fern for the past five terms. She has a wonderful podcast called The Crunchy Mama if you would like to hear more.