From Patience to Understanding

And happy Lunar New Year! To all of my families celebrating Chinese New Year, happy year of the Dragon!

It’s been a minute since I’ve sent out one of these ‘weekly’ newsletters, and I’m sorry for that! I’m still working on my balance between RIE office and Educaring practice…reminding myself that balance is a verb as well as a noun: an active state.

Language is a funny thing: Magda Gerber knew that, and that is why she was so careful with it. She knew that words matter because our words shape our thoughts which guide our actions. And you can feel it in almost every element of the Approach. We call diapers “fresh” or “used” instead of “clean” and “dirty.” We shy away from glib “good jobs” to speak more precisely about what we are excited about. We restrain ourselves when we want to say “you’re okay” to a crying child. And it may seem a little silly, but when we use language this way it has the effect of bringing us into relationship. We’re telling children: I see your upset, your achievement, your process…I see you.

Another word I thought more deeply about this week: patience. In an old issue of Young Children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s journal, I read a short article exploring the difference between being patient versus being understanding. Patient is defined as “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.” And yes, sometimes often being with young children absolutely requires patience. But when we engage with children with a sense of wonder, of curiosity, and we try to see what’s under a behavior, we can shift from patience to partnership.

And I want to acknowledge that that is a REALLY hard thing to do all the time! That’s why we call what we do a practice. One of the reasons RIE classes are so special is that it is time you dedicate to simply being in a state of observation. In real life, there are so many distractions pulling your attention this way and that, that it is harder to get back to this simple state. A recent Instagram video from Mr. Chazz beautifully exemplifies this point.

The video is a break down of a young child using the water fountain in the family fridge to fill up her cup all by herself. Mr. Chazz spends several minutes talking about the different states of the brain that the parent and child are in as the action unfolds, pausing several times to explain. As I watched and listened, I felt like I would have been able to calmly react at the end of the video…and then the video unfolded in real time.

Oh my.

Yes, real life moves fast, real life is full of distractions…but real life can also have RIE. The more you practice this intentional work, the more naturally it will come to you…and to your children.