If I could sum up the RIE® method in one word, it would be respect.
I know what you are probably thinking. “Of course I respect my baby!”
Maybe you take offense that I would be suggesting otherwise.
But when we stop a consider the concept of respect a little more deeply and how it relates to our children, we may be surprised that our parenting journey is not as respectable as we think.
For example, have you ever picked up your infant without giving them a heads up first?
Have you interrupted your toddler while he’s playing so that you can show him the “correct” way of doing something?
Did you ever tell your child, “You’re okay” when obviously she wasn’t?
Or aggressively grab their arm when they weren’t paying attention to your instructions?
It may seem like no big deal but our every day actions, especially in the earliest years, literally shapes our child’s brain, personality and worldly outlook.
If we treat them with these seemingly innocent moments of disrespect, what message do we send them?
That they are passive beings that do not deserve to know what’s happening next.
That what they are doing isn’t important and that our way is better or “right.”
That big feelings are not to be expressed and must be brushed off, buried and dismissed.
Or that their bodies are subject to other people’s frustrations and anger, open to be touched without permission.
I know this isn’t the intention of any parent and while we are all trying to make it through the day and do the very best we can in these hectic, stressful, modern times, I ask you for just a moment to reflect.
How would you define respect?
For me, it means eye contact, full face attention, honest communication, witnessing, being fully present, not rushing, offering empathy, being patient.
Magda Gerber says, “It’s love plus consideration.”
In regards to parenting, it’s accepting and enjoying my child as she is, not expecting her to do what she isn’t capable of doing, always giving her a heads up about what is about to happen next.
Respect means I try to understand her point of view, believe in her competence and recognize while dependent she isn’t helpless. It’s setting clear boundaries and expectations, never demanding behavior (especially affectionate behavior) that isn’t wanted or genuine.
It means that I acknowledge and hold space for her moods and feelings, even if they aren’t positive and pleasant and honor that she too has a need for self-expression and communication.
It’s understanding that children have their own style, tempo and choices, many of which don’t always match our own.
Respect means that I take care of and nurture myself too. I honor my boundaries and stand firm in my truth. It’s remembering that I am in charge, leader of the pact, and I get to decide to rules and framework within which my child lives and functions. I am the one steering in ship and I’m responsible to practice enough self-care so that am rested and peaceful enough to hold space for the vast array of emotions my kid experiences on any given day.
Because here’s the bottom line. No matter what age you are, when you are respected, when you feel respected, you also feel empowered, understood, valued, acknowledged, supported, validated, connected, secure, accepted. You feel seen.
Can you just image the transformation that would occur within ourselves and in our children if we could make respect the cornerstone and main tenant of our relationship?
Sounds simple but it’s not always easy.
Luckily, RIE® method reminds us that respect needs to be the base of support for everything else to rest upon. It’s the literal foundation from which we can function, grow and evolve from.
And just worth noting. None of us are perfect. We will all have our moments when respect is not the what we feel like showing our tantrum throwing, cranky kids. But that’s why RIE® method is a practice, an ongoing attempt to be the best version of ourselves for ourselves first and our kids as well.