I first discovered Janet's awesome podcast "Unruffled," and that really led me down the rabbit hole of respectful parenting. (If I were to come up with words that describe me right now, "unruffled" would surely not be one of them, and that's something I really want to change.) After more and more of my friends linked to helpful articles from her comprehensive blog, I knew there was something here. I didn't realize just how mind-altering it would be.
I started to slowly learn about Janet, RIE, Magda Gerber, and this whole respectful parenting approach. After enjoying several episodes of Janet's podcast, I wanted to delve deeper, which brought me to her book, Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting.
I really, really liked this book. It built upon a lot of the lessons and themes I learned about in How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. And what's great about the audio version (narrated by Janet) was that I could hear in her voice how she delivers the various lines to the kids she works with. Tone is such an important part of communication, and hearing it straight from her makes it really clear what she means.
As a floundering, lost new parent, I have been finding myself making all the classic, rookie mistakes: being overly neurotic about every detail, constantly worrying about preventing crying and maximally entertaining/stimulating, and "investing" in way too many pieces of "developmental" toys and equipment. I find a lot of parallels between meditation (Zen and mindfulness) and respectful parenting: letting go, accepting, doing less, observing more, and just breathing and being there. It's also so hard for me to stop trying to DO or FIX and just listen and acknowledge; this immense difficulty i feel is exactly the reason why I think doing this work and learning these things is exactly what I need.
Besides trying to be less of a micro-managing parent, the other major area I struggle with is trusting in my child's natural development. At each stage of growth, I constantly find myself worrying, "He's not doing X!" And then a month later, "OK, he's doing X, but he's not yet doing Y! Oh no! How do I get him to do Y?! Kids that are N months younger are already doing Y!" Stopping this monkey brain inner dialogue and learning to trust in his natural development is really tough for me because I'm used to doing everything unnaturally/artificially/manually: anything I want to see done as an adult takes active, willful, constant effort and programming (especially writing computer programs). But I'm slowly learning that my son is not a computer to be programmed by me. He is a person with his own mind and body, and he already has genes that will dictate how he develops and becomes his own person in his own way (as long as I get out of the way). Easier said than done, but at least now I know what to strive for. Before reading this book, I didn't know what I didn't know. Now at least I know and can see all the ways in which I can improve and calm down as a parent. And now the real work begins....
Awareness of baby's perspective
Observe and acknowledge as unique people
Give space to be who they are
Be self aware and not jump to conclusions
Don't always need to pick up fussy baby. Have feelings they need to share and will work through them themselves with a little support
Differentiate child signals from our projections
Awareness of habits we create
Communicate authentically. Real words about real things happening now.
Asking baby question and giving plenty of time to respond and acknowledge communication
Invite babies to actively participate in caregiving tasks like diaper changes, meals, bathing, bedtime ritual and give them full attention during it
Uninterrupted self directed play. Just observe and trust his play choices are enough.
Allow them to develop motor and cognitive skills naturally according to their unique timetable by offering them play and movement opportunities in an enriching environment rather than limiting or restricting. Role in development is primarily trust.
Value intrinsic motivation and take care not to overpraise. Trust children to know themselves better than we know them. Let them choose own activities rather than projecting own interests.
Encourage them to express emotions by openly accepting and acknowledging them
Kids need confident leaders and clear boundaries but not shame punishment or time out
Allow children to problem solve and deal with age appropriate conflicts with our support
Understand power of our modeling and kids learn from our every word and action. Learn about their place in world from us.
1 what your baby can't tell you
Put self in baby's shoes and treat as wish to be treated
Self fulfilling prophecy about how we view babies in terms of their independence/helplessness
Deserve same respect as give adults
Tell me what's going to happen to baby before you do it and invite them to participate
Give me undivided attention. Encourage to pay attention to body procedures like doc appt or diaper change not distract from what's going on. Hear me not just fix me. Don't shush and pacify all my cries just to stop tears. Relax. Feels good to just to have u listen to my feelings.
Let me create and initiate my own activities. Quiet safe place to have uninterrupted thoughts and daydreams. Don't make me follow you all the time when want to explore so much. Notice the things I like to do. Don't interrupt me when I'm busy for diaper change.
Trust me with the truth. Don't have to smile when upset. Be honest.
2 connecting with your kids
Don't rush feelings through or try to immediately stop the crying or invalidate feelings like saying that didn't really hurt
Meet children where they are. Listen patiently and acknowledge. You're so upset we have to leave. I said we have to go and you really want to stay longer. This is terribly upsetting to you.
Distraction is not a form of connection. Let kids know all their feelings are acceptable even if tough to listen to them cry.
Simple, truthful, empathetic responses
Trust child and appreciate what they're capable of instead of teaching what not capable of. Meet children where they are. Appreciate what doing now. Ditch agendas and value what is.
Have patience for exaggerated unreasonable behavior. Need to be accepting and understanding even if really annoying.
Don't rush caregiving duties. Each diaper change and meal and bedtime is good time to connect and slow down.
Meet your child where he is even if u don't agree. Oh did that hurt you? You ran into each other. Ouch.
Pay full attention when you care.
Don't hesitate to express love gratitude or appreciation or apologies even if child doesn't seem to be listening
3 key to your child's heart
Acknowledge feelings even if seem wrong
I know how much you want ice cream like your friend even though we'll be having dessert later
Acknowledging can stop tears and tantrums
Acknowledge that he is hurt and what happened
Daddy left and you are sad
Use words upset or bothered when not sure of exact feeling
Did it make you mad when X did y
Did the dogs spark fright in you or just surprise you
You want me to keep playing this fun game with you but I'm too tired
Acknowledge the situation and ask questions
Simply acknowledge the struggle
Instead of you can do it: you're working very hard and making progress. That's tough to do.
You pulled those beads apart. That was hard.
Let child's inner joy be self motivating instead of saying good job
4 how to love a diaper change
Now I will lift your legs. Now I will put the diaper under you. I think you will like it here. Pause after each statement so can respond and anticipate
Set the tone for a respected beginning
Wait for a break in child's play
Woolf you like to walk to the changing table or shall I carry you
Give undivided attention
Explain each action before doing
Be open to changes
Ask for cooperation but do things his way
Imagine ways child can be participatory
5 good grief
Don't cover up grief or crying rather than deal with it productively and allow it
Keep behavioral limits intact while allowing for all negative feelings
Separation anxiety or new sibling
Our job is to facilitate the loss and simply let them grieve no matter how insignificant the loss seems to us
6 babies and sleep
Replace sleep with rest
Easily overstimulated and overtired
Our choices as parents become their needs and habits
If changes in routines need to be made, communication and respect are imperative
Sleep training is actually untraining bad habits
Develop a communicative relationship. Talk as if they can understand. Regularly ask are you ready for me to pick u up and wait for a response. Ok I'm going to pick u up now.
Inform babies simply and honestly about changes we are making.
Supporting acceding and acknowledging feelings. You're upset. This feels very different. I know. Ur used to X and now y. I hear how upset you are. Ur having a hard time relaxing but u will soon.
Sleep requires letting go. Establish conditions allowing them to let go of world at bedtime. Calm presence. We need to let go too.
Predictable bedtime routine. Recapture the day describing what u did together. What we think is unimportant is important to a child: what ate, whom saw. Can also mention what will happen tmrw to connect past to future.
7 sitting babies up: the downside
Allow them to discover sitting on own
Don't prop up. Allow to discover naturally. Sense of accomplishment.
Natural gross motor development. Learns how to learn through persistence.
Sitting up prematurely restricts movement and further learning. Falling only way out of position which doesn't encourage security or confidence.
Habits. Will begin to expect and want it. To break habit there will be an adjustment period where baby gets comfortable on back.
Delaying/skipping milestones. Don't restrict movement with equipment. Don't help roll or sit. Has innate knowledge to move through milestones in way that's right for him.
Flexibility posture form. Better on all these when discovers by himself how to sit.
Loss of transitional postures. Reclining on side position/male centerfold.
What's the rush. Babies feel confident when appreciated for what they can and choose to do.
8 how to build child's focus and attention span
Bad to constantly interrupt infant. Not valuing what they're doing.
Minimal entertainment and stimulation.
Kids don't get bored. Entranced by body movement.
No tv or videos for first 2 years.
Create a safe yes place
Simple open ended toys
Observe and don't interrupt
Baby gets to choose
Don't encourage distraction
Tiptoe and peek before saying hi
9 infant play. Great minds at work.
Don't worry about keeping them busy
Make sure can move freely on back
Outdoors preferable whenever possible
Later puzzles, board books, climbing structures
10 doctors dentists haircuts
Babies can look forward to these routine events by honestly preparing them for the situation beforehand
Tell baby what's happening to him and what about to happen
No need to trick or entertain or distract
11 calming clingy child
Parenting brings feeling of unfreeness
Clingy periods during mental development towards independence or life transitions in family
Have basic trust in babies
Don't overreact. Don't scoop up immediately. Go down to his level and say you hear and understand and ask if wants to be picked up.
Separate with confidence. Say confidently that leaving and will return. I hear you, you don't want me to go, but I'll be back. Don't try to change or judge child's feelings. Don't shush, district, or tell child he's ok. Just support as he grieves. Keep acknowledging and offering hugs.
Give confidence building opportunities to separate and return to home base. Let kids initiate separations. Find a seat and stay put.
Accept clinginess readily. Release expectations of less clinginess in social situations. Let clinginess be. Welcome it. Just let child sit with u and watch. Coaxing redirecting only makes worse. Give in wholeheartedly and imagine day he doesn't want to spend time on ur lap.
12 magic word for parenting
For readiness and him to show you what he can do
Readiness is when they do it
For problem solving and frustration. Encouraging words and support. Pick up to give break then put back to keep trying.
For discovery rather than showing how new toy works.
For conflict resolution with peers.
For readiness to introduce new activities and experiences
For a better understanding of needs when they cry.
For feelings to be fully expressed so child can process them.
For ideas from kids before offering suggestions yourself. It's hard to know what to do sometimes. I know you'll think of something.
13 allowing toddler to succeed
Observe play with minimal interaction or response
When toddler hands u something it indicates they trust u.
Resist automatic impulse to solve problem for kid
14 therapeutic power of play
Play helps kids process tough experiences
Let go of judgments expectations play agendas
Child is director and lead actor. You are set designer. Let him mess it up and redesign as he wishes.
Take it outdoors whenever possible. Safe play space with table and chair nearby where you can relax and work. Move ur life outdoors. Nurture self directed play habit.
Watch learn and appreciate.
15 myths of independent play
Babies can't do it. Helpless. (Dependent not helpless)
If baby cries when put down, she doesn't like playing. (Introduce new experience gradually with honest communication.)
Play means doing something. (Most productive often just still. Refrain from speaking to children until they initiate eye contact.)
Gated areas are jails. (Safe space important free of no)
Play means leaving kids alone. (Can do so briefly to do chores but can also observe and respond. Relax, stay put, and trust in child.)
When children frustrated we should solve problem for them. (Allow frustration, give verbal support, let go of results. Maybe help in very small way so child doing much more than we. Reflect and ask questions when they ask us for help. Give ownership to child. Allow activities to be left unfinished.)
It's our job to entertain and play with our children. (Wh n they invite only)
16 nourishing healthy eating habits
Relax and enjoy feedings. Be mentally present. Engage and ask to participate.
Tune in and try not to overfeed. Tune in to fullness signals and don't worry about ounces in bottle.
Be careful with comfort food. Drink only when thirsty and eat only when hungry.
Small portions and no one more bites.
Highchair free. Before can attain sitting position alone, feed in parents lap reclining. Then when can sit put in special chair low on floor with little table so can touch floor with legs and get out whenever done eating. Like breakfast in bed tray with footstool. Baby can sit on floor then later stool. Gives them independence. See YouTube video of babies with table manners at RIE for example kidney table.
Sit down while eating even if just for snack. Prevents choking and is good manners and behavioral boundary.
Eating and playing separate. Keep toys away from table.
Be calm while eating.
Model healthy eating.
17 best ways to encourage talking
Not about chattering as much as possible
Just interact and communicate naturally
2 way communication from beginning
Use authentic voice and first person
Talk about real meaningful things
Wait for eye contact before narrating
Read books and tell stories responsively. Let them stay on a page for 5 min or read upside down or not read. Describe what's on page. Go with child's readiness. Tell made up stories at end of day.
Relax and be patient. Trust inborn time table.
Don't test. Trust and respect. Don't make them perform.
Babbling is talking. Don't babble back. Instead say ur telling me something. Are u telling me about the cat? U have a lot to say today.
Don't correct mistakes in very early language or discourage their attempts. Like dog vs cat.
Don't Invalidate thoughts and feelings. Oh are you saying you want X? Oh and X is fun to say.
18 nurturing creativity. How I learned to shut up
Trust in child's creativity
Not in a craft kit or dance class
Best when undirected
Don't judge positively or negatively
Never draw for a child
19 sportscasting child's struggles
You're working very hard on fitting that puzzle piece. You seem frustrated.
You're trying to do X. I will keep you safe. I won't let you fall. I won't let you hit your brother.
Doing less makes kids think and do more
Can transition to interview mode. You both want that ball, what can you do.
Can move on to suggestions. Did u notice there's another ball in the basket? You might try just placing one foot down that step first.
Check in. Is that ok with you? You can say no and move away.
What do you want to do with X? What can you do about that?
I'm here and support u but feel confident u can handle the situation
Not afraid of child's feelings of loss or anger. Patiently acknowledge both. You are still really upset about X. It feels y when z happens.
Don't judge or take sides
Instead of word took, you had X and now z has it
Encourage kids not to identify as aggressor or victim
Teaches language and understanding of situations
20 toddlers and sharing
Sportscast rather than intervene
Model generosity. You're reaching for my crackers, here I'll share some with you. Let's share this umbrella.
Acknowledge generosity. It was kind of you to share those blocks with X.
Be patient and trust child will learn to share in time. Allow the social learning experience to teach them.
21 trouble with potty training
Not about treats and rewards
Should be led completely by child
Child will show when ready and then master it easily
Don't coax to use potty
Relax and let child tell u each time when wants to go on toilet on own
22 no bad kids
Acting out is call for attention or stricter limits or sleep not punishment or shame
Honest direct leadership
Begin with predictable environment and realistic expectations
Daily routine. Majority of time at home not classes or mall.
Don't take misbehavior personally or be afraid. Instead of labeling action with judgment just disallow it nonchalantly. Try not to get annoyed. Not that dislikes u or bad child. Asking u for limits he's not getting.
Respond in the moment calmly like a Ceo. Simple matter of fact. I won't let you do that. If you do it again I will take it away. React immediately. Put hand to block.
Speak in first person
No time out. If acts out in public might be tired and can be physically taken away to flail and calm down in our presence. No gimmicks.
Natural consequences of behavior. Throwing food, mealtime over. Not getting dressed, not going to park today. Fairness.
Don't discipline for crying. Emotional responses encouraged. Give pillow to punch it needs it.
23 struggling with boundaries
Too much freedom bad
Clear about house rules
Limits not just for safety reasons
Show honest feelings
24 what toddler thinks of discipline
Make me your ally. Don't trick bribe or shame me. Stop me way before you get mad. Tell me politely and show me.
I hear you want to leave but we won't be going until class ends.
Don't be afraid of my reactions to limits.
Tell me the true in simple terms and may need reminders while learning.
If behavior keeps repeating then unresolved for me. Patient calm brief responses.
Acknowledge my point of view even if ridiculous. Let me feel what I feel.
I don't want to be in charge.
Give me lots of yes time with ur full attention to appreciate what I do.
Let me be a problem solver.
25 toddler discipline that works
Treat like people. Teamwork.
Redefine quality time. Let them have meltdowns in your presence.
26 let your kids be mad at you
27 easily forgotten gift
Pay full attention to intimate caregiving moments
Give real attention
28 I think I know why ur yelling
Need to take care of yourself. Know ur limits and personal needs. OK for baby to cry for a few min while go to bathroom.
Need personal boundaries for u
Don't try to distract.
Don't feel responsible for kids emotions. Once I've fulfilled child's basic needs, my only responsibility regarding feelings is to acknowledge them
Expectations need to be reasonable. Toddler must run and jump and explore.
Set limits gently with respect
Don't engage in power struggles. Not their peer. Give choice for autonomy. Keep agreeing with child feelings as long as it takes. Take hand calmly and walk. Thank you for letting me know you needed help. Bad behavior is request for your help.
29 never too late
Keep faith in older kids competency. Intervene as little as possible. Let them make choices.
Not parents job to enrich kids lives or get them ahead.
30 parent I might have been