We largely follow RIE at Tumbleweed and, in my opinion, it really boils down to respecting the children you work with just as you would respect anyone else you work with or meet. The relationship I have with them has to be built on trust and respect more than anything else. One of the biggest ways I can help them to trust me, trust themselves, and show them respect is to allow free movement of their bodies.
Often that freedom is simply letting them be on their backs. It's letting them choose when to roll over, when to sit up, and how to reach those end goals. It's remembering that the journey to the goal is so much more important than the goal itself. This is a difficult thing to remember as adults. It's difficult to remember what it's like to do something for the first time, as many of our firsts have come and gone. It's difficult to not anticipate those moments as parents and to not wish away the time because we are so excited for the next step. It's also difficult to not hurry or rush through these essential moments of self learning because we are short on our most precious resource: time. The difficulty of doing this makes it even more essential that we do. Something worth having is worth struggling for. It's important for us to allow the child to struggle as they learn to move and to allow ourselves to struggle as we wait for them.
"Giving infants... the freedom to move in accordance with their innate impulses may seem radical, but it is essential to their becoming persons with uncompromised self esteem." -Ruth Anne Hammond
Allowing the struggle makes that "Aha!" or "I did it!" moment at the end worth so much more. Above you see MR back in the day on the porch. She's swaying a little and looking down because she's just managed to climb on to the porch after trying a few times and not making it. This moment is all hers, though she's letting me share in it. The struggle was worth it because in the end she made it there on her own.
This isn't just true of infants, though. I feel Hammond's comment applies to preschoolers as well. Allowing them the time and space to test out their strengths and their abilities and to struggle helps build self esteem for them as well. It's even true for adults. There are many things that I could have my husband do with ease rather than struggling to do it myself, but allowing myself that struggle will only further build on my own confidence and my own abilities. It also teaches children that we believe in them. We believe they are capable of trying even if they fail and we believe they are capable of succeeding even if it takes a while.
"If respectful interactions during care are the first way she learns about her body and its various parts, the other equally important aspect of learning on the physical level is autonomous movement." -Ruth Anne Hammond
With RIE, we tell a child what we are going to do before we do it and ask for their active participation. In this way we respect the child by not simply doing things to them or for them. We are partnered with the child to meet their needs rather than just meeting them without checking in. It's a simple concept on the surface, but it's a difficult one that even with all of my experience with RIE I still regularly struggle with. It's so much easier to simply do rather than stop, talk, think, wait, then do.
This is especially true with movement. Often without realizing it I will swoop my 8 month old up and hold her while I'm busy with something else simply because it's easier than truly taking the time to stoop down and check in with her to see what's wrong in the first place. I have to admit I'm guilty of doing the same with my three year old son. I need to be somewhere, I need to be there ten minutes ago, and I need him to get in the car already. So instead of waiting and giving him that time to get there on his own I pick him up and put him there myself. This often results in a power struggle because of course he wants to do it himself. Honestly, who wouldn't? I certainly want to experience the journey of reaching my destination and not simply the destination. So how can I rob him of that same joy? It's easy to do, because we don't think about it in this way. We are hardwired to think of these small moments as being things that drain us of our energy.
This brings me back to the idea of time being the greatest gift we can give a child- or anyone at all, for that matter. We think of these moments as draining because we forget that for the child it's about that journey. A child moves slowly because they are taking in the world- they aren't running through it and taking it for granted as we so often do as adults, instead they are relishing each moment, drinking it in deep, and savoring every morsel of it before they let it go. This is so important to encourage- because I hope they never stop doing it. I hope they never turn their backs on savoring life.
On that note I will leave you with this picture of IS drinking in the moment. His eyes are closed and he is simply being as we sit together. It's hard to do- this just "being" stuff- but it's so very worth it. I urge all of you to find a moment today to just "be". Drink it in, savor it. It's one of the best lessons in life a child can give you.