What is RIE anyway? And, what does it look like in practice?

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(Photo courtesy of Philippe Put, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy New Year, amig@s!

As I was brainstorming for the first blog post of the new year, I realized that, although I’ve written a lot on certain aspects and parts of RIE parenting I have never taken the time to explain its core tenets.

So, I thought why not kick off 2017 with an overview of what RIE is and what it looks like in the day-to-day life of our family?

Before continuing, let me be clear that RIE is not the only respectful philosophy of childcare that exists, nor is my family practicing it “perfectly” (whatever that means anyway). Rather, RIE is an approach to caring for young children that deeply resonates with our family and which has brought us immense joy, freedom, and personal growth.

Be encouraged, friends.

Continue reading

A “yes” space: an update one year later

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(Photo courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last winter, I wrote about how the creation and regular use of a “yes” space transformed both my parenting and E.’s independent play. In case you’re unfamiliar with the RIE concept of a “yes” space, you can read about it in depth here.

Today, almost a year later, I’d like to follow up that post with an update to give you an idea of what the “yes” space has meant for our family.

According to the RIE philosophy, a “yes” space is a 100% safe, gated play space where infants and toddlers regularly spend their time. A young child ideally would spend all of his indoor non-caregiving (diapering, bathing, meal times, naps) time in this space. Its nickname “yes” refers to the idea that a child, while in her play space, is free from the “no’s” of “Don’t touch that!” or “Stop doing X!” It is a place where a child can move, explore, and play freely. It is physically safe (furniture is bolted to the wall, outlets are covered, etc.) and safe from adult interference in the child’s play and safe from an adult’s frustration because a child dumped over the trashcan or knocked the dirt out of the plant in the living room.

And, although it may sound contradictory to many (it did to me at first!), the child’s play space is gated to ensure his physical and emotional freedom (Montessori’s concept of “freedom within limits”) and to invite deep and imaginative play. Continue reading

What we’re reading, November

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(Photo courtesy of Christopher, Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy early Thanksgiving (to my American readers)!

The crisp, cool weather is finally upon us and with the shorter days, I have found we’re spending lots of our indoor time reading. No complaints here!

Here are a few of our favorite reads lately, books for both children and parents.

Enjoy!

Continue reading

MY “sleep training” story

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Baby J. is almost five months old. And, it’s right around this time that I begin to hear chatter among parent friends about…

Sleep training.

Probably the most divisive term in parenting today.

To some in conjures associations of “cry it out” or “abandonment” or “undue stress” or “cruel and unusual punishment.” As if babies were helpless victims of undeserving torture.

You swing to the opposite extreme, and it’s used to talk about babies like, “you have to sleep train that baby,” or “they’re going to have to learn some day,” or “while they cry, just drink some wine and put on some headphones.” Pitting “us parents” against our adversarial “them, the babies.”

Yet, I would ask, must the topic of young children and sleep really be framed between two negative bookends? Does sleep for infants necessarily imply that either the child or the parent suffers in order to reach a certain goal?

Is it really all or nothing?

Is there any middle ground? I think so.

First, as with everything in parenting, it requires a reframing of our mindset, how we view the whole notion of sleep. And, how we view babies.

Babies.

RIE has challenged me to reconsider how I view babies. To respect them as whole human beings from the day they are born.

Sleep.

Perhaps it is more productive – and respectful – to discuss infants and sleep in terms of learning, a process, something organic and fluid. And, to trust that children are competent to learn how to sleep on their own (without a parent’s interference).

So, instead of sharing baby J.’s sleep learning story, I’d like to share mine. Continue reading

It all begins and ends with me: the heart of parenting

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(Photo courtesy of Barbara W, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last Thursday I had to excuse myself from E.’s bedroom. “Necesito un descanso,” I told her. I need a break.

What I didn’t tell her was why.

But, I could feel the anger swirling in my stomach. My muscles were tight. I needed to step away. I needed to take a few deep breaths. I needed a time out.

“Was that okay?” I asked myself. 

Processing the situation later, I realized, “yes, of course! It’s always okay, when you sense you’re about to lose your temper, to take a break.” 

I also realized that there was more going on.  

Because in parenting there’s always more. So much more. Continue reading

Community and support: Online parenting forums

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(Photo courtesy of Sean McGrath, Flickr Creative Commons)

Two facts I know to be true about parenting:

It’s hard.

It’s not meant to be done alone.

That’s why community is vital in our growth as parents.

Community can come from our extended family helping us as we transition to life with a new baby. Or, from being part of a church, or synagogue, or mosque, or a tight-knit neighborhood.

Community support can also be virtual, on-line.

And, while I know that many parents are skeptical of taking advice from strangers in a parenting Facebook group, and while I recognize that some on-line forums have a reputation of drama, chaos, and lack of focus, I’d like to share with you all a curated (very curated because I have indeed had to remove myself from some “high drama” groups!) list of Facebook groups and pages that I recommend you check out.

They are divided into two major categories, Facebook groups and pages. Within”groups,” there are three sections: respectful parenting, educational philosophies, and multilingual parenting.

The titles with * are my top favorites, ones I recommend with zero reservations, ones that I personally turn to and participate in for constructive advice on parenting with respect.)

Be encouraged, friends. Continue reading

What does play look like for a newborn?

 

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(Photo via Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr Creative Commons)

Recently during a Facetime chat with baby J. and his abuelos, grandfather, noticing J.’s play space, remarked, “¿Qué? ¿No le compráis juguetes? (Don’t you guys buy him any toys?)

Con E., siempre la teníais en la taca taca, o con un juguete colgado en el cochecito. (With E., you guys always had her in the baby walker, or with a bunch of toys hanging in her stroller.)

So, what’s changed for us the second time around?

Thanks to Magda Gerber’s philosophy of respectful infant care, as well as the work of play advocates like psychologist Peter Gray, preschool teacher and blogger Teacher Tom, child delopment professor David Elkind, and RIE associates/bloggers Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury (among others!), I have come to understand what play really is and why it’s important for children of all ages, including a newborn.

Wait, what?

Newborns…play?

Yes, from the day they enter the world!

So, what does play look like for a newborn? And, what is a parent’s role? Continue reading