I absolutely love RIE, an approach to infant care developed by Magda Gerber based on the work of Emmi Pickler. I found in RIE a simple, practical, and effective path for helping my baby navigate the rough waters of his first years of life. One of my favorite aspects of RIE is the belief that a child deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and his feelings need to be acknowledged. Here’s a great article that goes into more detail, courtesy of one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Janet Lansbury.
Since reading about RIE, I have gained a new awareness of young children’s emotions. Recently, I have noticed several people telling Zachary “It’s ok” or “You’re fine” when he cries after falling down or bumping his head (which happens often, now that my little daredevil is standing upright!). With his cries, he is most definitely letting us know that he is NOT OK; it’s hard to know if he’s telling us that he’s hurt, scared, or frustrated, but we have a responsibility to acknowledge his message and try to understand it. Surprisingly, being able to verbalize the situation by briefly “sportscasting” what happened and providing gentle reassurance has made me feel less useless as a parent while my child cries. I think that’s why most adults say “It’s OK“; we don’t know how to fix the problem, and so we want to make it go away!!
Browsing through Maria Montessori’s book The Child In the Family, I came across this passage and realized that Dr. Montessori had the RIE thing down many decades ago!!
To say to a child who has experienced something unpleasant, “It’s nothing!” serves to confuse him because it negates an impression of his own for which he sought confirmation. Our participation, on the other hand, gives him the courage to encounter other experiences and, at the same time, shows him how to relate to them. They must not be denied, or talked about too much, or analyzed too deeply! A tender and affectionate word is the only consoling response. Having had this, the child can continue his observations and experiences by himself, freely, and his physical development will benefit greatly.
RIE and Montessori mesh so well together… My child and I have both benefited from the work of these pioneering women and I am so grateful to them!