Monday, November 24, 2008

Great article that reminds us to slow down

I re-read this every few months or so to remind myself to slow down and involve my child in his care. Some are stronger followers of RIE than I am. I just like the theory of engaging the child,but I'm still going to do some stuff for him. Enjoy and take what you need from it =)

The Hottest Trends in Infant Programs Discover a new parenting approach that's
all about slowing down and enjoying your baby. By Gail O'Connor
The scene: a skylit, carpeted studio in Santa Monica, CA,
where parents are beginning to arrive with their babies for
their very first class. Teacher Hari Grebler invites the five
moms and one dad to join her in a circle on the floor,
where she's spread out some sheets. The parents place
their infants, all about 3 months old, on their backs. Each
baby then gets his first classroom "play object," a
colorfully printed cloth scarf, pitched tentlike beside him.
Twenty minutes pass, and since no infant has reached for
the scarves, the parents start to shift expectantly. Finally,
the father speaks up: "Are we waiting for other parents
Grebler gives a big smile. "This is it," she exclaims. "This is the class!"
It's hard to blame the parents who are new to Grebler's classroom for being confused. But
Grebler, an instructor with Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), is used to curious
reactions from newcomers. RIE (pronounced rye) is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit
organization that teaches its childcare philosophies to parents and caregivers. Unlike most
other parent-infant programs, RIE doesn't require parents to physically do much besides
relax with their babies.
Claudia Fried-Jenkins
Respect for Children
In RIE classes, which are intentionally kept small, parents are encouraged to observe
their babies at play more -- and interrupt less. "There's no discussion of 'When did she
start to sit up?'" says Grebler. "That's not as significant as observing how the babies
Respect for infants is the central theme. "If you were wearing glasses, I wouldn't come up
to you and snatch your glasses off your face, but so often we just pick up a baby or grab a
sock off an infant," says Carol Pinto, president of RIE's board of directors. "Respect is
getting down to your baby's eye level and telling him what you're going to do." When
you say to your baby, "It's time to change your diaper now," you're setting the foundation
for a two-way communication that involves your child, says Pinto. Even though an infant
might not understand your words, he'll begin to associate your tone of voice and gestures
with a pleasurable activity.
Until now, RIE has been a well-kept secret outside the Los Angeles area. Founding
director Magda Gerber, who also wrote Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect
and Your Self-Confident Baby, contained its growth so that new instructors could be
closely mentored in RIE's teachings. But word is getting out. As parents are told more
about things they should do -- and buy -- to help their children keep pace with the pack,
RIE's advice to slow down and enjoy one's baby has become a welcome antidote.
The classes draw an eclectic group. With Hollywood nearby, a RIE class is as likely to
include celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Annette Bening, and Jason Alexander as
attorneys, nurses, and at-home moms. What draws all these parents is the belief that
babies are amazing little individuals who develop best naturally.
"RIE gave me a keen understanding of how much my children can be self-directed," says
actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who found out about RIE when her son, Tom, now 5, was an
infant. "I learned how to get out of the way of their direction and impulses and have seen
the results every day in my children," says Curtis, who still sings the praises of her
teacher, Elizabeth Memel. "My only regret is that I didn't find out about RIE when my
daughter, who's 14, was a baby."
Some parents who've attended other programs relish RIE's relaxed atmosphere in
particular. "I've learned to take cues from my son and not ask every five minutes, 'Do you
need this? Do you want that?'" says Claudia Buchanan, who lives in Los Angeles and is
the mother of 18-month-old Wilder. "Other classes tend to be less about the kids and
more about the parents. The parents want the kids to play with the right things. It's more
Putting Philosophy into Practice
There are about a half-dozen centers in the Los Angeles area and a handful of "educarers"
around the country who are teaching RIE-influenced classes. In 1979, Magda Gerber, a
former child therapist, cofounded RIE after moving to the U.S. from her native Hungary.
There, Gerber had studied with the late pediatrician Emmi Pikler, M.D., who believed
motor development varied among children and encouraged caregivers to allow babies to
develop at their own pace.
The danger of pushing children to do things before they're developmentally ready is that
it can lead to a sense of failure and disappointment, Gerber believes. She also counsels
against putting a toy directly in a baby's hand. If a child is interested in a toy that's been
placed within his reach, she says, he'll try to grab the object himself. This teaches a baby
to be independent and curious. Above all, it makes a child an active partner in the
learning process, not a passive participant.
Similarly, RIE advises parents to wait a bit before rescuing crying infants. If your baby is
upset because her ball is stuck under a chair, wait and see if she can solve the problem
herself. Make sure you're close by so that your baby knows you're available to help,
advises Pinto. You can offer encouraging words ("What can you do to get it out?"). "By
waiting," says Pinto, "you're giving your child the chance to experience mastery and to
learn by doing."
Today, many more experts are finding wisdom in these methods. "RIE teaches you to
respect your child as an initiator of learning," explains Peter Mangione, Ph.D., codirector
graduate school in the 1970s, that wasn't the common point of view." Back then, many
experts believed that parents needed to provide a lot of stimulation in order for their
children to learn. But in recent years, experts have refuted that notion.
Ultimately, of course, "babies are very individual, and there is no one-size-fits-all
approach," says Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, who teaches at the Columbia University Parent-
Infant Program in New York City. "You have to take the time to know your baby and
what he likes."
And that's what parents seem to really appreciate about RIE's philosophy. "It takes the
pressure off to be Supermom," says Claudia Buchanan. "I think I would have had the
inclination to say, 'Let's go to 10 classes and let's go here and let's do that.' Now, I just
enjoy my child a lot."
G ail O'Connor is an editor and writer based in Santa Monica, CA.
Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the March 2002 issue of Child

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Couldn't you just eat this one up? Did it not wet your appetite? What are you craving next? Let me know!