Now that I covered the principles and key components of RIE®, I wanted to share my personal experience with it. I think it can be easy to know and teach the concepts but integrating and living it is a whole other level.
Let me start by saying that I was lucky to be introduced to RIE before my daughter was born. That gave me some basic understanding and familiarity with the approach even before giving birth. This was so helpful for me because I was able to practice RIE from day 1, from my daughter’s earliest days.
That being said, my daughter is only 2.5 years old so that’s the extent of my experience. I can’t speak on how well this applies to adolescents or even for the teenage years but I can say I’ve applied RIE to my marriage and my other adult interactions with great results. Generally speaking, Magda Gerber created RIE for babies 0-2 but I find the core aspects work well for any relationship regardless of age.
As I am sure you already know, I am really into RIE. Obviously I wouldn’t share about it if I wasn’t but I actually truly love it. I am far from perfect and fall short often. But truth be told, RIE isn’t about being stiff, rigid and dogmatic. I use it as more of a guide, a framework to parent within, a way to be in relationships that allows for flexibility and fairness along the way.
During the Level 1 Foundations course that I took this summer, I remember being upset because of how much I wasn’t practicing RIE – even though I thought I was. But Deborah, the insightful and most loving teacher, reminded me that parenting is an ongoing practice, one that requires tremendous patience but even more so, self-forgiveness. She encouraged all of us to remember that competency develops over time, for both our children and ourselves as caretakers, and that we actually get better by weathering the storms and being in the trenches together.
So I dropped the pity party and just accepted that I am doing the best I can, aiming to be as thoughtful and intentional as possible, using the RIE principles as my core. I came to realize there is no grand test at the end of all this; no one is going to judge me on how closely I followed RIE and to what capacity I was able to adhere to it. Plus, I don’t want to ever feel trapped or stuck in a box of rules and regulations that didn’t allow for adaptability and change.
Despite my own feelings of inadequacy, it is clear my daughter is thriving from having grown up in a RIE environment. She is respected, authentic, independent and curious. She is honored for her interests and accepted for her wide emotional range. I, too, feel balanced in the relationship (most of the time) because I can also be honest with her about my boundaries, let go of the need to entertain, rescue or save her and find ease in knowing I can trust her to be exactly who she is.
I also love RIE because it encourages a deep sense of self-awareness and sensitive observation, something I was into BEFORE becoming a parent. In order for me to remain centered, calm and neutral with the capacity and patience to hold space for my daughter, I must know my triggers, my boundaries and my lines and stand firm and at times fluid in them. RIE helps me keep perspective that we are all entitled to our feelings and that it is absolutely essential we are validated in them. I know there is an invaluable gift of seeing my child and myself as we are not who we pretend or wish to be. My husband and I work together to maintain our home environment with an authentic atmosphere that is safe, accepting and encouraging of self-expression.
RIE has helped me be more attentive during care-taking activities, savoring the intimate face to face time with my child, without feeling rushed or pressured to complete a task. I’m a huge fan of independent play and still stand amazed when I watch my daughter create a world of imagination with books, blocks and her babies. I would have never knew that it was ok to let her be and instead would probably have ended up mothering with suffocation, direction, overly guiding and forcing. I would have definitely become a “no no no” mama instead of just trusting her to explore with independence. I’ve come to wholly believe that it is ok for her to take the lead, that I don’t have to teach her anything other than to relay on her own inner agenda to figure out this world. (I mean, let’s be honest, I still teach her things but knowing RIE, I really try to let her figure stuff out without interruption).
At the end of the day, it’s made me a saner mom, more grounded, less neurotic and more peaceful. I found it incredibly helpful to have a framework to parent within that offered insightful guidance around how to treat babies and children. I think we can agree that our parents’ ways were a bit outdated, unconscious or just didn’t work well given that so many of us suffer from traumas and wounds from unresolved childhood emotions and faulty programming. It’s worth a shot to break generational and ancestral patterns though I’m fully aware that no matter what we do and how conscious we are as parents, we can still mess up our kids and be blindsided by what has affected them negatively. But in the long run I find RIE, with it’s foundation in respect, authenticity, observation, consistency and trust, serves as my parenting compass as I tread these uncharted waters. It’s like having a map to figure all of this out and one that can be tweaked as the path unfolds.
I should also add that my husband has been on board since day 1 so it is helpful that it’s been a team effort. My daughter benefits too because she sees us as a unit, consistent and cohesive in our approach to raising her. It’s helped us be more mindful of our language, more respectful of her personal space and more attuned to her needs, a win-win for the family unit. For example, it’s given us the confidence to let her problem solve at the playground, make art in her own way and decide when she is done with a mealtime. It’s reminded us not to force, manipulate, bribe, distract or disrespect her even if it’s with the best intentions. Because if we honor the most fundamental principle of RIE which is respect than it becomes crystal clear what aligns with that foundational base.
In essence, RIE is my parenting yoga practice. My ongoing commitment of self-study, a dedication to something greater and intention to living in alignment with my highest values that I aim to uphold in all areas of my life. RIE keeps me in check so I can better handle the ups and downs of toddlerhood without totally losing myself and my mind in the process. It is the reassurance that my child is competent and capable, so much a part of me but also so separate and not always what I want, expect or wish her to be. Being a mother has become my emotional and spiritual practice with so many lessons embedded within each day. I choose to use RIE so I can better embrace this chapter of my life with the tools for my own inner development.
Maybe you feel called to RIE, maybe not. Maybe you love the idea of having an approach that offers some sort of guide, maybe you think it’s absolute nuts to have a set of principles to raise children. I’m sharing because it’s worked and is working for me and my family and if I can make your life a touch easier, than it’s worth writing all these blog posts. Ultimately, it’s up to you and every parent to decide how to care for kids and what works best for each individual family but RIE, in my opinion, is a powerful contender worthy of consideration.
For me, RIE was the way the made the most sense, resonated the deepest, seemed the most reasonable and has yielded the greatest results. It’s given me the permission to do less, taking so much pressure and stress off, while encouraging me to enjoy this experience more. As any parent can attest to, these days go by so fast and what’s the point if we aren’t enjoying any of it?! I’ve really been able to savor this experience simply because with RIE, I have been able to slow it all down and see mothering for what is really is, an opportunity for deep connection.
At the end of the day, the heart essence of RIE and all it’s principles, the point of this entire approach is the RELATIONSHIP. And that’s exactly what I want for me and my child, to be in an evolving relationship that is mutually beneficial, respectful and thriving. I want her to be emotionally fueled by intimacy and my full, unhurried attention, to be given ownership of her own life and cultivate a sense of competence and independence and most of all, to know that I see, accept and love her for the person she truly is. I see no greater gift and one that has ripples way beyond these early years.
But don’t take my word for it. Practice it and see for yourself why RIE is one powerful way to parent.