“I have relaxed so much as a mother and as a wife. I can enjoy my kids without having to live up to anyone else’s standards. I have learned how to actively listen. To do less. And observe more. I’m happy. I’m proud of being a mother. I love learning and can admit when I have more things to learn.” – Tracy
The beauty of Magda Gerber’s Educaring Approach (commonly known as RIE) is that the results are as helpful and exciting to parents as they are beneficial for children. Recently, in a RIE – inspired discussion group, parents shared their positive experiences and discoveries in response to a question from a parent new to the group: “For those of you who have been implementing RIE concepts for a while, would you care to share an example of how your children are different (in a good way), and which RIE tenet you attribute that success to? I’ve organized the responses in categories that reflect RIE’s focus and benefits.
1. Natural Motor Development: Fosters agility, grace, self-confidence and a love of learning, while also bringing joy to parents and kids.
Erin: My son just turned one, and I’ve watched him develop on his own without all the coaching, propping, walking, and devices that I’ve been encouraged to use by conventional doctors needing to mark a box showing my son was “on time” for certain milestones… He’s so confident when he starts doing anything. It’s remarkable to observe. I have friends stressed out about whether or not their kids are walking, and my energy is spent watching him try.
Emily: What has been huge for us is natural gross motor development – not propping babies into sitting, doing tummy time, or “walking” them by hand. I did things the conventional way with my first child for the first year, then RIE from the start with my second child. It’s been amazing and wonderful watching them develop their skills, muscles, and problem solving without props, “aids” or devices.
Teagan: Like Emily, natural gross motor development has been a big one for us, too. Watching my now nine-month-old learning to roll, crawl, walk, and now run and climb all on his own brought him and us so much joy. He moves with such confidence. I have observed that both my son and my friend’s 12 month old who has also been raised with a RIE approach both move with ease and grace. They have very few accidents (actually, my son has never hurt himself whilst learning to walk!) and do not have a false sense of security when it comes to things like steps and uneven surfaces etc.
2. Self-directed play: Develops physical and cognitive skills, fosters creativity, imagination, psychological health, a strong sense of self, and gives parents time off!
Jinny: For me, the benefits of RIE are so numerous, but the one I love most these days is listening to my 3.5-year-old during his morning play. The conversations he carries on with his toys are music to my ears. His focus and imagination are delightful to witness. It’s my favorite time of day, and I attribute this benefit to over three years of making space for independent play, which involves setting up a safe play space with open ended objects and consistently giving my son the time and space to explore these objects without my leading or entertaining.
Kesha: In addition to enhanced gross motor development, I particularly enjoy the self-directed play of my 11-month-old. He is able to entertain himself for up to an hour or more as long as he knows where I am if he needs something. This is good for his mental and emotional development, but also a huge perk for me to be able to have time for myself.
I will add that at one year old, my son also very frequently receives comments about how happy he is or how “good” or “well-behaved” he is. I think his personality type (being emotionally sensitive) might not receive comments like this without RIE’s influence in teaching me to respect him and allow him self-directed play.
Erin: All around my son just seems well adjusted and capable, and people comment on how happy and alert he is. I think that is due to me learning to communicate every step of the way and not giving him mindless toys. (I actually discovered RIE while pregnant when I was researching NOT giving your children too many toys). He’s paying attention to the world, not a screen or a piece of plastic shouting music notes at him.
3. Modeling rather than forcing manners: Encourages authenticity.
Tracy: I have a four year old daughter and an 11 month old son. I’d say my daughter can play independently. She takes initiative. Gets ready with minimal direction. Treats people kindly and with respect. Yet it’s never been demanded from her. We only model. Yet she says please, thank you, excuse me, and you’re welcome.
Lucy: I haven’t ever told my child to say thank you or please, just modelled it, and although she doesn’t say those words at the moment (and a friend’s baby says ‘ta’ every time they touch something), I feel so proud that my little one shows genuine appreciation for things and wholehearted generosity at times. I much, much prefer rare, genuine gratefulness than ta by rote.
Rachel: I had several spontaneous kisses from my 18 month old son tonight, unprompted. I make a special effort not to force kisses FROM him. Tonight, I felt this was him being particularly affectionate (not sure if it was, but I like to think it was more than a game!). Before RIE I would have probably made kisses/affection towards one another more routine (hope that makes sense!)
Erin: My one year old son is able to show affection because he wants to, not because we force it (we caught him kissing the dog the other day, and it melted my heart).
4. No need to micro-manage sibling struggles
Kaitlin: The sibling dynamic is another big thing for me. Seeing their genuine relationship form is so rewarding. They are so authentic with each other because they have never been forced to show affection or apologize. They already work things out on their own, and I don’t have to referee. And the unprompted affection melts my heart.
5. Respectful limits: They are freeing.
Kate: It’s not just about the kids. It’s a win-win kind of philosophy for me in so many ways. It’s given me the confidence to choose and set effective limits, and the words and actions to do it. Having these limits helps my three year old feel loved, safe, and calm, even if he needs to flip out about it first. It’s given me space to do my stuff while my boys enjoy their own company (even the four month old), and it’s given them freedom to do that. It’s also given me the gift of trust in my children and who they are becoming, and a little more trust in myself as a parent. All of these things on a good day. On a bad day, it gives me the tools to analyse what went wrong and the inspiration to start again.
Erin: Choices! I learned that setting limits is important, but giving choices is too. I have been able to develop ways to safely let my son have freedom while at the same time creating the safe boundaries that he needs to be able to learn and explore. I could go on and on!
6. Trust in our children’s competence is as much of a blessing for us as it is for them.
Kaitlin: In addition to all the things mentioned, I think a big thing is that I feel so much more relaxed about the long-term. I mean, I still have hard moments just getting through the day and keeping my cool sometimes. But I trust that these little people will learn what they need to and make their own choices. I don’t feel responsible for filling them up with the right information or experiences. I trust them so much and love watching them learn how to make good decisions
7. Accepting and acknowledging feelings: Fosters psychological health and emotional intelligence.
Kasia: My son is now almost 4 years old. I have an amazing friend/RIE resource person who lives nearby and has been a mentor to me concerning parenting. I was introduced to RIE when my son was born and loved it then and still now. The biggest thing I can appreciate and that serves my son is allowing him to have his feelings. By giving him space to cry and even have big tantrums when they come, his feelings are heard and for the most part supported (I do also make mistakes and lose my patience at times, but mostly try to support him). I have noticed over the past six months especially that if he is able to let his feelings out, be heard and supported through that process (instead of going to time out or me yelling), he is able to “recover” and get on with his day. He doesn’t have melt down after melt down all day long. My son does have off days for sure, and when he’s sick or extra tired it’s not easy. But I see so much support and respect though RIE. Especially being a “boy”- it is important to me that he learns about feelings and how to recognize and handle them as he gets older. Most importantly, that it’s okay for boys to express themselves.
Tracy: Both of my kids can read people very well. Acknowledging and accepting all feelings (good, bad, and ugly) has allowed my children to develop an emotional IQ that might even be higher than mine.
Ryan: There are numerous benefits as everyone has said, and I have observed these qualities in my kids, but also — articulation of self-confidence and feelings. My kids are three and five and a half, and they will come and say, ” I’m feeling really frustrated, I need some help;” or when someone is trying to tell them how to play with something, “You can choose to play with it that way, but I’m going to choose to play with it this way, and that’s ok because it’s my choice”.
Anna: My son recently turned two. We’ve noticed that his emotional reactions (eg. when upset or even injured) tend to resolve quickly, and then he moves on completely. We believe it’s because we offer genuine acknowledgement and comfort without trying to downplay his experience or distract him. He doesn’t need to over-exaggerate his feelings to get our attention, because we’ve never made him feel that only certain things are “worth crying over”. We also appreciate his spontaneous gratitude, affection, sharing, and cooperation. RIE principles have not only helped him to have these traits, but have also helped us as his parents to notice, appreciate, and enjoy them.
Rebecca: My daughter is three and a half. I’ve grown much more comfortable with her various ways of expressing her feelings. It was so freeing to let go of the need to fix negative feelings. And it seems odd to say to you that these moments of supporting her in her negative feelings are so rewarding, but it really does feel like this is what the parenting relationship is all about.
“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.” – Magda Gerber, Your Self Confident Baby
I share my own experiences practicing Magda Gerber’s Educaring Approach in
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting (now available in Spanish!)