RIE is a real…paradox?

This week, I’m thinking about paradoxes because, truth be told, RIE has a not a few of them…I’m not sure how I didn’t think of this before, but in conversation with a RIE Mom this week, I realized it’s true…

It’s started with a discussion on the phrase begin as you wish to proceed. Indeed, that’s a phrase near and dear to my heart because I once wrote a whole article about how that is kind of the essence of RIE. My idea is that if I want to be in relationship with children, them living their best lives and me living mine, that I have to start by looking for their competencies, allowing them space and time, and being present with them. I have to start by being in relationship with them, from the beginning.

But I can see that phrase being used in another way as well…as in, I expect my child to always say ‘please and thank you’ and to listen and obey my every word immediately.

And it goes along, hand in hand, with Magda’s classic phrase, what children get, they come to expect, and then need. This is a phrase I’ve shared readily, especially around babies who’ve been placed into a sitting position regularly (you may know that in RIE, we wait for children’s development to unfold naturally. That means we don’t offer tummy time, we don’t walk children, and we don’t sit them up until they are sitting up themselves), but I’ve also talked with parents around this when it comes to sleep and pacifier use…the idea that we habituate children into patterns, that we create ‘needs’…but I think I’m going to edit the phrase a little, going forward (sorry, Magda!). I’m going to start saying what children get, they come to expect… and leave it there.

Because what is actually true is that while you can both (you and your child) get into habits, you can also break habits. (I used to be in the habit of getting up at 4 in the morning most days…that was a rather easy habit to break, ahem…what’s a little more challenging is to break the habit of skipping our evening walk!) We are humans, and while we are susceptible to training and habituate easily to routines and predictability, we are more than our behavior.

Let me say that again: we are more than our behavior.

I sometimes think that parents feel like they have to make the ‘right’ choice and that they’re failing when they deviate from their planned path. But truly, it’s okay to make the ‘right for right now’ choice and make changes later, especially when it comes to things like children’s sleep and soothing…and when it comes to breaking habits like having a popsicle for breakfast every day or being placed in a seated position when you can’t get there on your own. Yes, there may be some upset and discomfort for both of you as you make the change, but as long as it is done with communication and connection, it can be done.

And that’s where I think the paradox starts to dissolve a little because RIE is not black and white, it is shades of gray. The practice comes down to slowing down, observing not only the actions and the behavior, but actively looking for the humanity, the point of view behind the behavior.

That’s where I would choose to begin.

I have some more thoughts on this, but I’ll save them for a future post…and if you have thoughts on this, I’d love to know them. What keeps this newsletter alive is the conversations and observations I have with parents in classes each week…RIE is meant to be lived and breathed.