I have found the basic tenets of RIE philosophy to be very intuitive. I naturally see my 5.5 month son as an independent and individual human being who is, for the time being, dependent on me for his basic needs etc. He and I are each other’s daily companions, and we have fallen into some lovely routines that have mostly emanated from a mindful approach to his moment-to-moment experience. I try to do things at his speed so that the day makes sense to him, too.
We spend lots of time exploring on the floor with simple age-appropriate elements for him to seek out on his own accord. But this is where I begin to have questions about RIE implementation: I am not sure how to encourage the more self-directed play. When I place him down on the floor first thing in the morning or after a good nap, he may start exploring independently- but once he & I make eye contact it’s basically over and he wants to engage me completely. I have trouble disengaging and helping him fall back into a self-directed mode.
I’ve tried sitting next to him, kind of fake reading one of his books so that he knows I’m there but can’t make eye contact, I’ve tried sitting by him & quietly smiling with light verbal encouragement when he looks to me. I’ve tried quietly straightening up the room or putting away laundry, and I’ve tried leaving the room (although spying on him from around the corner isn’t what I hoped for with respect to RIE baby observation). If I don’t make eye contact I sense that he feels stressed, & if I do I feel too drawn in – like I’m interrupting his blue sky time. Needless to say, I’m feeling like I’ve hit a rough patch and would appreciate any insights you could offer about this part of RIE implementation.
With gratitude, Eden
What do you do when he makes eye contact and wants to engage? I would advise acknowledging him right away, not trying to avoid his gaze or making too little of it. He can’t get comfortable if he senses (and he does) that you’re avoiding eye contact.
Stay seated on the floor (if you’re there already) and wherever you are, respond without hesitation and be really honest. “I see you there (doing such-and-such).” If he cries, come close, but don’t feel like it’s a call to action. You don’t need to instantly pick him up. Begin by talking to him. “Oh, I hear you crying. What’s the matter? Are you tired? Uncomfortable?” You might even lie down next to him and caress him. Calm yourself so that you don’t overreact, but don’t resist responding either.
If he continues to cry with you right next to him, ask, “Do you need a little break from playing? Do you want me to pick you up? Okay, I’m going to pick you up.” Then hold him on your lap, preferably in a horizontal position rather than upright. If he’s not used to being held in a horizontal position, he might resist until you hold him upright. That’s okay, but stay seated while you hold him, so that it doesn’t become a big rescuing kind of thing.
If he seems to calm down you can ask “Do you want to play again? Okay, I’m going to lie you down.” And then do it very slowly and gently. I think you might be worrying too much or trying too hard to make it work, and perhaps he’s picking up a little anxiety from you. This will pass. You are doing everything right. When his need to make eye contact sometimes (and complain a little) is not a big deal to you at all, he’ll get over the hump. At least that’s what I think from what you’ve told me!
Please let me know if there’s more…or if I’m missing something…
(Photo taken at the RIE center by Jude Keith Rose)