Takeaways from RIE in the Wild

First off, a hearty welcome to the newsletter to all the new subscribers! And a heartfelt thank you to Janet Lansbury for the shout-out on Facebook this week. Thank you!!

This newsletter is meant to be a little slice of RIE…maybe a story or my musings on a RIE idea, or maybe it might have some interesting webinars or books I think you might like to check out. Sometimes I even ask you, outright, for suggestions and recommendations to share…but even if I don’t ask you outright, it’s always meant to be a little bit of a conversation. If reading this sparks something in you, I’d love to know about it.

In fact, that’s kind of the inspiration for today’s theme. If you’ve been in class with me, you’re familiar with my wrap-up question for parents…what are you going to take away with you today? I want to know what resonated, what is something parents might try to do at home or to look for in their child (or themselves) over the coming week. I always say it doesn’t have to be profound, but it often is. I thought you might like to hear a little sampling of some of the takeaways parents had in classes this week:

  • Slowing down. In particular, it’s important to slow down when children are struggling over a toy. Sometimes simply coming close and letting children struggle will let the situation resolve naturally…and slowing down in general. Life encourages us to rush through to the next thing, rush to solve problems, but sometimes when you slow down, things just work themselves out. (Note from me…and quite often they work themselves out far better than what you were aiming for.)
  • Going to try going deeper with language…instead of just ‘be careful,’ speak to what you want children to notice…there’s an edge there, you’re up pretty high, that looks a little wobbly….
  • When two children have a conflict over a toy, they both have a valid point of view. The child that’s holding it doesn’t want to let it go. That’s okay. The child that noticed the toy wants it. That’s okay, too. Both points are valid. And there are lessons for both children in that moment.
  • Seeing the spark between two children when they both had the same idea at the same moment and RECOGNIZED that the other was thinking the same thing, and then joyfully acting on it together. (Of course, that idea was to run away as fast as possible to the far end of the park…but still, to see the moment that it really clicked was amazing.)
  • Stay with the feeling when a child is crying. As Magda Gerber famously says, in that moment they don’t feel okay. Yes, in the grand scheme, they are okay, or they will be, but while they are crying, they aren’t okay. Stay with that: “that startled you! You fell and bumped! Oh my, yes, you are upset, I hear you.” And then, as they start to calm down, you can talk about what happened “You were climbing and you fell, right there. It startled you and you cried, but it looks like you’re feeling better.”
  • In one class that has been meeting for just over a year now, a couple of parents marveled at how they can see that the children in the group are really FRIENDS now…they really know each other, they really play with each other and seek one another out. Sure, they’ve been playing together in our space week in and week out for a year, but it’s been a gradual shift from parallel play to cooperative. And because they’ve known each other for so long, their play can go deeper.
  • And as children get older, the negotiations around their play objects gets trickier. I never solve children’s conflicts, but I do narrate them and help children state what they want. In this class that has been together so long, I tried a new technique from Susan North’s The Opposite of COMBAT*, where I asked each child in the conflict if they knew what the other person was asking for. It’s the next level up from pointing out what the other person in a conflict is experiencing (e.g., she’s really holding on and crying) and it offers a little more buy-in to the conflict. Seeing that in action was something a parent was taking home to try.
    *Coincidentally, that’s one of the books we’re reading in my weekly bookclub...it’s not too late to join!​
  • Another parent is going to start getting down on his daughter’s level when he’s setting boundaries. Not only will it feel less threatening (when someone stands over you, it triggers our nervous system as a threat), but it will also really communicate intention…for both parent and child.
  • There was a very sweet interaction between two toddlers after snack one day this week. A boy gently reached out and stroked a girl’s arm, looking into her eyes and smiling. The girl looked back and smiled, then paused and thought for a moment, and then pushed his hand away, frowning. She didn’t like it. Just like two children have valid points in holding and wanting toys, two children have valid points in touch. We don’t always want to be touched. It’s okay to decide that for yourself and to communicate it.
  • One mother went to incredible lengths to get to class…her battery died, but she didn’t let it stop her…she Ubered herself and her daughter across town to get to class. And another parent was able to take them home! She is going to sit with her own resourcefulness and flexibility to roll with life as it comes (and I’m going to sit with the knowledge of the lengths people will go to in order to reach class!)
  • The last one’s a twofer, from two different families, coming at it from two different angles, but getting to the same conclusion: RIE is a process, a practice, and it’s always in progress. Whether you go away from classes for a while and lose touch a little, or you come regularly and realize your questions and observations change as your child grows up and you learn more…you realize that RIE IS a practice. It’s a state of being, a way of seeing the world, a lifetime journey of learning.

That’s a lot, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg because absolutely, RIE is about the journey. And I’m so happy to be on this journey with all of you.