I think any parent would agree with me that you will try your very best to prepare an environment that is both stimulating and conducive for your baby’s learning. Won’t you?
So when I learned that I was pregnant with Ellie (our first-born), I came across a thousand books, readings and researches about infant development and parenting. Being a preschool teacher and college professor of child development proved to be an advantage but at the same time, it was quite a challenge to really narrow down all the knowledge that I have.
As a new mom, I was so eager to finally get to apply everything that I have read, studied in college and grad school, and practiced for the past 10 years to my very own daughter and not anymore to other parents’ children. I mastered all the energy I have (despite being pregnant) to craft a curriculum and prepare materials that I can “teach” to Ellie once she was born.
But I think I was missing the point. I was missing that important principle of understanding my baby’s needs. I thought that I was prepared and equipped with the knowledge in welcoming Ellie into this world but honestly, I forgot to take a step back and to reflect on what is it really that she needs.
It was my mentor, Kathy, an infant and toddler specialist (I met her when I did my grad school internship in her school in Burbank, California) who reminded me about these things. When I told her that I made a curriculum for Ellie, she smiled at me and told me graciously to read on RIE (which stands for Resources for Infant Educarers). This actually prompted me to set aside the curriculum I made for Ellie and to begin to see her with new eyes.
Magda Gerber pioneered RIE and she advocated for the “educaring” philosophy. According to Magda, educaring means “we educate while we care and care while we educate” our babies. This approach is highly rooted on the value of respecting babies as individuals. After reading Magda’s best-seller book, “Dear Parent” and continued my research on RIE, I wanted to immediately apply it to Ellie.
“Relax and enjoy the wonders of infant development”
I learned 5 major lessons as inspired by RIE and these are the following:
1) Babies need to be respected;
2) Babies need to be trusted;
3) Babies need parents who are sensitive observers;
4) Babies need a secure and consistent caregiver and
5) Babies need time.
We (my husband Mike and I) first applied RIE to Ellie when we were doing our caregiving activities with her. Caregiving activities include changing her diapers, feeding, bathing, and putting her to sleep. RIE enables us to see these caregiving activities as an intimate time and relationship-building opportunity between you and your child rather than seeing it just as a chore. By not picking your baby up without telling her beforehand, by talking directly at her and not over her and by waiting for her response first, we send a message to our baby that he or she is a valuable person who has the right to be respected by others. I personally learned to observe more my child, to enjoy more her development rather than hurrying her up to do this or to do that.
It wasn’t easy at the start but later on, as it became part of our routine, we saw the benefits for our family. We observed how cooperative Ellie was (even when she was a newborn) towards our caregiving activities with her and even others noticed it too. (We continued applying the same approach with our second child, Julia.)
I’d like to say that I just started my journey towards respectful parenting and there are still so many things to learn and to unlearn. There are days when raising a toddler and a preschooler can be a handful and honestly, it’s so much easier to turn off that “respect button”. But when I think about how respecting my children will have a lasting impact on them later on, I choose to stay on this path.
Perhaps you can relate with me? Let me encourage you with one of my favorite quotes from Magda, “a respectful beginning is an investment in the future of the relationship between your child and you, your child and others, and in your child’s exploration of the world.” God Bless on your parenting journey!
If you want to know more about Understanding your Baby’s Needs, I’ll be conducting a seminar on November 19, 2016, 11:00-12:00 pm at Mommy’s Best Christmas Village brought to you by Project Mom and The Parenting Emporium. See you there!