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"How did you get her to talk like that?" an inquiring woman wanted to know as my daughter and I shared conversation over a puzzle at the library.

"I'm not sure I necessarily got her to do anything," I kindly replied, "but I've always talked to her like she is a person."

Both my husband and I bypassed baby talk and spoke to our young children in words they could understand, in a voice that is our own. I recall a moment when questioned why I was responding to 9-month-old babble, why I would engage in a conversation with no translation. At that time I did not fully know what my captivated child understood, but I believed that offering him my attention and being present in the dialog was more beneficial than it was harmful.

My parenting beliefs continuously evolve from my experiences as a mother, through studies in the fields of psychology and education, in reading research, engaging in discussion and attending to intuition. I choose not to follow one path of parenting but value many aspects of various styles. There exist recognized parenting styles such as authoritative, neglectful, permissive, and authoritarian, amidst many other perspectives of parenting.

I was recently introduced to a philosophy of parenting called RIE, Resources for Infant Educarers. Some of the ideas resonated with me, many of the practices I had already been doing without realizing that there was a name, label, or respected viewpoint.

Here's what I've learned about this practice.

What is RIE?

Magda Gerber, an early childhood educator with a passion to care for young children, created the RIE philosophy alongside pediatrician Emmi Pickler, who shared the vision that young children will reach their full potential when viewed in ways that allow them to be active participants in their own lives.

It is my interpretation that the basis of this philosophy is respect, to treat a child as a human being and not an object. By the way we look, listen, and learn from others, we demonstrate our reverence for their uniqueness. The goal is to develop an authentic child who feels secure and able.

How to implement RIE

The RIE method is guided by trust in a child's capacity to learn and is executed through observation. When we pause with awareness we can notice subtle expressions and behaviors that serve as cues for communicating needs and desires. We can then choose to actively teach a lesson or intentionally allow one to transpire. Gerber considered that children thrive when encouraged to independently explore in safe and supportive environments.

Here are a few practices related to the RIE method.

1. Allow space for safe struggle and feelings of frustration.

Intentionally stepping back to watch an infant try to reach a toy that is slightly further than arm's reach can be difficult to witness, but the joy that transpires when the goal is finally accomplished is significant in developing confidence and independence. Offer support through acknowledging the effort, maybe say, "I saw you work so hard!"

2. Establish clearly understood and consistent boundaries that communicate expectations with care.

This can be communicated through sharing details rather than demands. Instead of shouting, "Stop that, because I said so" try calmly and clearly saying, "Please choose something else, that is not a safe choice."

3. During an activity, encourage a child to be an active participant rather than a passive recipient.

This is possible by being fully present, offering interaction, and generating mutual enjoyment. An example of this might include telling a baby what you are doing before you do it. "I am picking you up to change your diaper."

4. Honor a child’s unique path.

We may want to tie a young child's shoes because it is faster and we do it the "right way" but in the spirit of learning, if the shoe gets tied does it really matter how? There will be a time to refine skills, while there is also a time to realize abilities.

5. Watch from a distance, and let them be.

There are moments to engage and moments to allow self-directed play, both equally essential for development. This can be difficult as guilt creeps in and we wonder if we are doing too much or not enough. We can check our intention here and ask ourselves, are we seeking to ignore behavior or encourage being?

6. Recognize that as much as we do not like being interrupted while working or doing chores, they do not either, and play is their “work.”

Instead of demanding "come here now" simply say "choose one more thing to do, then please come here" communicates honor and models respect.

What REI is not

One criticism of this philosophy is that it is too hands-off. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but as guides of our children, we must discover what works best for them, the relationship we share and the moment we are in. I believe that allowing a frustrating experience to happen with the intention to learn is beneficial as long as we know that comforting a crying child is essential.

Although there is a strong emphasis on independence, this philosophy is one of parenting with awareness. Above all, RIE revolves around respect. A young child is placed in a safe space with soft boundaries intended for discovery and growth. When we offer children the freedom to discover in a supportive atmosphere, they seek, see, and strive.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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