Trust Your Baby…It Works (A Note From My Daughter)

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Raising babies with trust and respect can be scary. As “right” as Magda Gerber’s approach always felt to me, I had moments of doubt in the beginning. Is it really enough to let babies and toddlers develop skills naturally and independently without our nudging? Is it truly okay for young children to self-direct their play and learning, and then continue to choose their extra-curricular activities as they grow? Can they really be trusted to know themselves and their needs better than parents do?

I see the positive effects of Magda’s recommendations in my children every day, but it was especially gratifying for my husband and me to get this surprise seal of approval from our college freshman…

Dear Parents,

I’m just writing to tell you both that I love you! Today in my ‘Constructing Childhood’ rhetoric class we were discussing parenting, in response to reading a segment of Amy Chua’s book about Chinese mothers – maybe you’ve heard of it… Anyway, while listening to various anecdotes from my classmates, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I clearly had the most wonderful parents out of the 15 of us in the class. I guess I was just a bit surprised that considering we’ve all made it to (the topnotch university she attends), no one else’s parents seemed to have raised them nearly as carefully as you have raised, and continue to raise me.

So, of course when it was my turn to talk I bragged about you a little. I said that although I would never consider my parents permissive in any sense, my hobbies and pursuits were always left up to me. And even though the rest of the kids in my class were either forced to play a sport or instrument when they were younger, or wish they had been forced to so that they could be really good at it by now, I couldn’t relate. Regardless of whether or not I maybe could have been more talented had I been made to hone a particular skill as a child, I am the happiest because of the respect that I have for my parents, the sure sense of independence they gave me, the trust we have in one another, and the loving friendship that has become of our relationship.

I’m motivated almost entirely intrinsically because I was never taught that I needed to get straight A’s to please my parents. And at the same time, I do know that they care for me deeply, and conversely I love them to death.

This is nothing I didn’t already know, but it was just a nice moment of clarity that I had in class. I love you Mommy and Daddy and please never forget that all that I am I owe to you. You are, quite honestly, the best parents in the world.

Never ever doubt it.

Miss you guys! See you soon mum!



I share more about parenting with trust in 

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting




Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. How beautiful. I too recently had my 21 year old, college junior, watching home videos with her sisters. I heard them laughing over and over from the other room as I read in bed. The next day my oldest said how great the videos were and that she really had a perfect childhood. What better compliment than this from your child. The observation and reality that we have done a thoughtful and respectful job of raising our precious children.
    I often mention to new parents to enjoy this fleeting time as there are no “redos” in raising children.
    Thank you for sharing this lovely letter!

  2. Elanne Kresser says:

    How wonderful! What a treasure to get a letter like this from your grown daughter. I was just watching my baby girl so focused on getting a toy (a CD cover) that she wanted to play with. It was on the floor just out of reach and although she can’t crawl yet she kept scooching and rolling herself along the floor, reaching and often pushing it further away. She persisted with great intention until she got it. Not once did she look to me to help her, nor did she complain. She simply kept at it and enjoyed it when she got it. It brought me profound joy and delight to witness this. Again so thankful for the teachings of Magda, RIE, you and Lisa Sunbury for the shared wisdom and encouragement to parent her in this way. I feel blessed and have faith that she will grow into a woman with a strong sense of self as your daughter obviously has. There’s nothing I want more for her.

    1. Elanne, I have no doubt that your wish for your daughter will come true… Yep, this CD cover persistence (and you’re encouragement of it) bodes very well.

  3. What a beautiful gift to receive from your daugter and motivation for those of us trying to learn how to raise their kids in a respectful way.

  4. That is very touching! The very fact that she wrote it speaks volumes. I don’t know what I wish more — that my daughter will someday feel that way, or that I felt that way about my own parents.

  5. Whew! What a relief! Now I know I don’t have to put Julian in clarinet lessons! Hopefully, if I continue with the principals you are guiding us with, I will have such an amazing relationship with my kids! Thanks for posting…

    1. That’s right, Ann, they work! And, personally, I think Julian is more the guitar or bass player type…or maybe a jazz singer…a young Michael Buble. Of course, it’s a little tough to tell since he’s not even 2 yet. My love to both of you!

  6. Janet- Awww….brought tears to my eyes. I know you already knew how wonderful she is, and that this kind of parenting raises terrific kids, but how nice to get this articulate appreciation from your wonderful daughter! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Dr. Laura, thank you…your appreciation means a lot.

  7. This must have filled you up to bursting, Janet! My own 15-year-old has started to become aware of how different many of her friends’ relationships are with their parents, and been able to express appreciation for us for how she is being “raised.” Reading this really buoys me. I like knowing it can stay this way. I know what we’re doing as parents and teachers is supported by a century or more of research, but at some level we’re all always doing what we’re doing based on faith and hope, and in that there is always some doubt. Thank you for this peek into my own near future and this boost of confidence to keep trusting my child. Yay!

    1. Yay, indeed, Tom! Yes, this filled me to bursting and my hope was that it would inspire parents and educators like you to stay the course of trust and respect. Thank you for you leadership in this regard… Trusting children really does work.

      1. As a young (meaning new) parent (E is 3 years, O is 4 months) it’s inspiring to hear the success stories of people who are a little further down the road. Thank you, Janet and Tom, for sharing your stories (and to your daughter, Janet, for agreeing to let her letter be published here. I think a lot of people will benefit from it!)

  8. Janet, what a wonderful affirmation of your hard work! It is so hard to have a different type of parenting style, but this is exactly the type of relationship I want to have with my boys. I am so blessed to have found your site and know you, and reading this just makes me excited to be a parent all over again.

  9. I also forgot to add how wonderful I think it is that she’s sharing the RIE experience with her peers, from the perspective of a child. It’s amazing to learn about RIE as a parent, but how exciting that influential young people are being exposed to it and talking about it (and maybe even spreading the word). I would imagine that a testimony like one your daughter gave is something that might stick with them, for them to draw on when they become parents themselves.

  10. Janet. What a wonderful letter to receive. I have been a Montessori parent/infant educator for 20 years and have raised my children in a very RIE based way. My daughter is 12 and I find myself confused about how much to get involved as she learns to set boundaries and moves into some teenage friend drama, etc. She’s always been so mature and diplomatic that there’ve never been issues. I find myself wanting to give her advice and even hearing myself dictate that she “be kind no matter what” but none of what I’m doing feels right. Were you really able to “RIE” parent through the whole 18 years? Let her make her own decisions? I was such a confident parent of babies!!! Kate

    1. Kate, congratulations on 20 years as a Montessori educator! Yes, the RIE approach has seen me through the years so far with all three of my children. As they have grown older, I have continued to be grateful to Magda Gerber for the amazing foundation she guided me to build in the first years. Sometimes it has just been a matter of figuring out how the approach translated… For example, with adolescents (like your daughter) and teenagers, the boundaries became very important again…and also the autonomy, just like in the toddler years. Cell phones make this a little easier. The children can go to the movies or just hang out with their friends and be picked up afterwards starting at 12 or 13 (or even younger). My teenagers went through phases of being very critical and rejecting of me and I understood that, but didn’t put up with it. For example, we might be getting ready to go somewhere (like shopping) together and if my child was treating me in an unkind manner, I’d turn the car around and take her home. I’d calmly say, “I don’t hang out with people that treat me that way.” These are healthy pulling away periods and they pass when we are not judgmental or rejecting, even when our children are. As the adult in the relationship, I rose above it. My love was always unconditional.

      Regarding the friend drama (or boyfriend drama), it’s usually about restraint and listening, just like with babies. Even when my children complain about their friends, I have to refrain from agreeing too much, joining in the criticism or trying to fix the situation. I’ve learned to give advice only when asked and then give it very minimally. I have reminded myself to be quiet and listen, listen, listen and that has allowed me to remain a trusted confidant. The vast majority of the time, I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my children. They are very good people.

      1. Lindsey H says:

        Janet – just wanted to say that your examples clarify things so much. So simple. Thank you!

  11. Amy Appel says:

    Janet, what a beautiful and touching testament to you and your husband! Thank you so much for sharing.
    Along those lines, I also wanted to mention a book by Alfie Kohn called _Unconditional Parenting_ that I just started reading. It’s amazing! If you haven’t read it already, I would definitely suggest checking it out and possibly adding it to your recommended reading list.

  12. I want this letter from my Emma in 18 years 🙂 How sweet! The sports and music, how would you approach that with young children? Wait for them to express a serious interest in something? Put them in something and see how it goes? I hear so much about the positives of kids learning music or being on a team, but at such young ages I have to wonder if it even matters?

  13. What an absolutely beautiful affirmation of all your efforts over the years. <3 I can only hope my own daughter (15 months) will grow up at least a little like yours.

  14. Wow! Janet, you’re such an inspiration…

  15. Wow …maybe you will not believe me but for a couple of days i was thinking,that i would like to hear your child to give as(your fans☺) the words like this. Thank you and your daughter for this☺

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