I started reading your blog several months ago, and have managed to read most of your posts, and a couple of Magda Gerber’s books too. I have 2 children, Caleb is now 3 1/2 years and Bella is 7 months. I really struggled looking after them both after Bella was born. I had been unwell for the entire pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum), so had no time to really recover before the sleepless nights kicked in. Dealing with our lovely and spirited son’s intense feelings and behaviors throughout this transition made each day full on!
I was exhausted and tried everything to cope (including a naughty step, I’m ashamed to say). I reached rock bottom a few months later. That was when I started reading your blog. I read it in every spare moment, and it made so much sense to my husband and me. We felt a real heart change in ourselves, and quickly decided to start making small changes.
We noticed a huge difference within a couple of days. I felt more relaxed, peaceful and accepting about the struggles. We started making comments like ‘I can see you tried really hard at that’ and ‘you did that by yourself’ and ‘you must be feeling really proud of yourself’..
The most obvious sign of something changing was that Caleb’s tantrums stopped straight away, and he became much more confident and happy.
Things have just blossomed for us as a family. I’ve been loving doing RIE from the early days with Bella, and she is thriving on it. Caleb has recently started to come and tell us when he’s feeling sad or angry — and why, which is new for him. I’m really excited about this journey we have started together.
The only thing that is proving to be a bit tricky is when I spend time with my friends who are parenting in different ways from me. Caleb is very determined, and will grab toys he wants off other children, and the other parents will say ‘share‘ or ‘take turns’. It’s difficult to not feel under pressure to ask him to give the toy back (as their child is usually bawling), when I just want their child to go for it and grab it back, and us to stay present as they work it out between them. I’d love some wisdom on that if you have time… I think I’m concerned about how Caleb’s actions will come across to people who don’t understand what I’m doing.
One more thing: I feel so passionate about RIE and would love there to be a support network for parents in the UK. I can’t find anything happening here in the UK, and I wondered if you knew anyone here I could get in contact with? I would love to do the RIE Foundations Course. I am a nurse, but this has become something so close to my heart that I want to learn as much as I can and grow as a family in it, and also see others have positive changes in their lives too.
Thank you so much again for everything!
Thank you so much for your warm and exciting note! I’m thrilled to know that RIE is changing your life in positive ways as it has certainly changed mine…and continues to guide me beautifully with my three children. The relationships I have with my children are intimate, supportive and extremely rewarding. And they are a source of great pride. My 20 year old tells me I’m her best friend (and she has many!). You will never for one moment regret this path you are on.
A very common struggle many RIE families face is when friends and family aren’t on the same page and might not understand your parenting approach. I know how isolating that can be, but it gradually becomes easier after children turn 3, because practices like talking to children respectfully and encouraging independent play stand out less as children become more verbal.
Regarding Caleb taking toys, I’d begin to intervene a little bit more at his age in order to help increase his consciousness and learn more socially acceptable ways of engaging with other children. Is the toy taking occasional, or do you see it becoming a pattern? Either way, if you happen to be close enough, I would gently try to stop him, particularly around people who do not understand the value of allowing children to learn from each other.
For example, as he’s reaching for the toy in another child’s possession, place your hand in the way (calmly, always calmly) and ask, “Are you interested in the __? It seems Sarah is holding it right now.”
Stay there, stay calm and WAIT. Often the children will work something out at that point. Sarah might turn and move away or say ‘no’ or offer Caleb the toy. If he reaches for it again, try, “You seem to really want that __. Is there another way you can ask Sara to use it?” Again, staying calm, and with no pressure implied (pressure that Sarah should now give it to him, etc.). If he continues to try to get the toy, keep your hand in the way and acknowledge, “I see you’re very determined to use that toy, but I will not let you grab it. You will have to wait until Sarah is done.” This might seem wordy and labor intensive, but if you are calm and consistent, he will stop doing this very soon.
If you don’t get there in time, I would simply reflect the feelings of the children without shame or blame: “Sarah, you were using that and now Caleb has it. You seem upset.” But again, if you feel pressure from the other parent, you might need to ask Caleb, “Can you please return the toy to Sarah, or will you need my help?” Again, this is not going to be as helpful to him as the shadowing…and know that the shadowing will just be for a brief phase if you are calm and unemotional about it.
If the playdate is at your house, you can help Caleb feel more in control by asking him beforehand which toys he’d like to share when his friends come and then putting the rest away.
Thanks again for your note, Alice, and please keep in touch!
Thank you so much for your email and the helpful ideas – things are changing, Caleb is responding, seems to be adjusting and enjoying playtimes more. Your relationships with your children sound wonderful. What I really love about RIE is that it’s a journey and very much about starting out as you mean to go on. Friends of mind talk about the difficulties they’re having with their children, using incentives, sticker charts, rewards, and how things will get easier when they are a bit older… It all sounds so strange having been thinking about the RIE approach for a while now. You really are laying things down now for the future, and I love that!
Many thanks again!