What I learned this week

I had my RIE win all planned out for this week…I planned to write about the gratitude I have for children for showing me how beautiful this world we live in really is. I find that when I look at the world through their eyes, I find beauty in simple things like the string of a banana peel or the trajectory of a ladybug…and that rubs off on me in the rest of my life. I find I look for beauty now, and I love it. I may come back to this theme in a future email, but instead, I feel like I need to write about something else a child showed me this week…a reminder to slow down.

Who me?

Yes me! Read on…

If you’ve been in a RIE class for any length of time and your child is old enough to sit up, you have watched a RIE snack. We start with nothing but an upturned dish-washing bin or breakfast table and gradually transition to a low table, and then a table with stools. It is a long progression, but eventually we get to a place where children come to snack, help set it up, wash hands, choose and wear bibs, help peel the banana, eat fairly peaceably, and pour and drink their own water. It’s a thing of beauty. This is not to say, of course, that it is all smooth sailing.

In fact, the first thing I tell parents when I introduce snack for the first time is: ‘the snack is not about snack. It’s not about eating.’ No, snack is actually an opportunity for me to demonstrate limit-setting. While it is completely up to a child as to whether or not they want to come to snack, if they do decide to join, they have to follow some rules. Those rules are: you must have your hands washed, you must wear a bib, you must stay at the table while eating and drinking, and the glassware (and banana!) must also stay at the table…and there is no climbing on the table.

Yes, during pretty much every phase of snack involving a table, I have one or two children who become interested in climbing on it…maybe because they see me lean all the way over it when I’m fastening on a bib or pulling a stool close…or maybe because they are simply really into climbing right then…whatever the reason, though, it’s my opportunity to demonstrate some gentle, but firm, limit setting: “Please keep your feet on the floor. I don’t want you to climb on this table.” Or “I need you to come off the table. The table is for eating. If you want to climb, I can clean you up so you can use the triangle or the mats.”

The thing is, children often need to be physically helped off of the table once they are on it. I need to gently guide them backwards until their feet touch the floor again. Or, if they were really quick and have gotten all the way to standing on top of the table, I need to lift them off and place them on the floor. I usually say, “I’m going to help you get down.” But here’s where I’m rushing…you see, somewhere along the way I have started saying “I need you to come off the table” as I’m gently removing the child from the table. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until last week when a child I was doing/saying this to said “Stop pushing me!”

I was floored. He was absolutely right! I was pushing him!!! Yes, I was gentle, but I was pushing him backwards!! Not okay! I want to model the behavior I want them to use…if he was pushing a child off the climbing structure as he was saying he wanted space, I would totally intervene! And yet, here I was, doing exactly what I would ask him not to do!

I apologized and immediately backed off. And you know what? Since that wake-up call, I have had several more classes and several more opportunities to slow down…to say “Please put your feet on the floor; I don’t want you to climb on this table” and then to pause…and you know what? In each and every case, children have climbed down on their own…I haven’t had to help them.

Thank you, P, for reminding me to slow down and to trust.

Have a wonderful weekend…look for beauty and look to see what your child might be showing you.