Feb 11, 2011

Parents of Differing Stripes

The media spins circulating about parenting styles go round and round. The latest hot controversy (WSJ Jan 8, 2011) has been a great topic for RIE class discussions lately! What's undoubtedly true is that not much real selfhood results from those oppressive ways of raising driven performers, children with false selves. I believe that those hovering, controlling fear-based relationships diminish everyone, adult and child. Again and again answers lie in the RIE principles. The first one, "basic trust in the child to be an explorer, an initiator and a self-learner" seems to be fundamental to so many issues of childhood development, such as emotional intelligence and mind-body connections, as well as the current uproar of parental power and use of control.

What does it mean to allow a child to become? Can the parent look within the child for answers to the child's being? Fearful that the child won't want to reach unless pushed, the parent teaches learned helplessness. And, in fact, a young baby can and will develop the outreached hand to grasp at something. With her "observe more, do less, enjoy more" mantra that points to both short and long-term effects, Magda Gerber counseled against putting a toy directly in a baby's hand. "If a child is interested in a toy that's been placed within reach, she says, he'll 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 recipient." (Child magazine, Feb 2002)

If this idea seems radical to your friends and family, you can quote the enlightened popular journalists/authors of Nurture Shock whose investigations ruined many assumptions about children's development and parenting. "The old assumptions we once had seemed to be nothing but a projection of wishful thinking. Once we overcame the initial shock, we found ourselves plugged into children in a whole new way."

I think of families learning, living and growing in a whole new way with the RIEtm Aproach; their mostly, (RIE isn't about perfection at all), well-considered authentic choices steering away from "The Race to Nowhere."

"It may be a more peaceful world we could create," are Magda Gerber's ending words on one of RIE's important educational films, "Seeing Infants With New Eyes." (recently purchased for use in 1700 Early Head Start programs nationwide). "When allowed to unfold in their own way and in their own time, children discover, manifest and inspire the best in themselves and in others," as RIE's Vision states.