This is for everybody – stay at home mamas and working mamas. It will look differently for everybody, but the idea is to be intentional with your children! For us, I worked full-time as a teacher until my children were 2.5. But that afforded me ample time off throughout the year and a good daytime schedule. During that time, we were blessed with a nanny who was willing to learn with us. I have since been able to quit my job and stay home with the girls. The bottom line is that your kids are going to grow and form and shape into something, and you want to be the one sculpting that art!
We have intentions for our children: eternal, earthly long-term, and earthly short-term. We see parenting as an ebb/flow between preparing our children for this life and the next. The main goals we have are both spiritual and practical. We want our children to know Jesus as their savior, to hear Him calling, to respond to Him without hesitation, and for us to not hinder any of that! We want them to have a sensitivity and compassion to others and to be able to love people wherever people are at in their lives/situations. We want our children to know the deep abiding love and satisfaction of Christ that is beyond any circumstance they may find themselves in. I could go on, but I hope that offers the flavor of what we intend. (If you’re unsure of how to reach God yourself, check out my note on letting your life count.)
In that vein, then, we are interested in the heart, not simply behavior. We believe the heart flows to behavior, so if we can shape the heart, then behavior will automatically follow. Another important point is obedience: we aren’t wanting our children to obey simply because we are in charge and lording over them. Not at all. We want them to learn to submit with a soft heart to an authority because ultimately, that is where their relationship with God will start and flourish. They need to be practiced in doing this. So, them obeying us is no kind of power trip on our part – it is a practical application of a spiritual principal we want to instill. And some of you may cringe at the word obey, so to clarify: we mean it in a sense of abiding with what is set out as best for them.
I’m deleting a lot of stuff on this page and adding new stuff because as my children have grown, so have I. Basically, we have adopted a RIE model (Resources for Infant Educarers) started by Magda Gerber. I explored it well over a year because initially I felt it offended my Christian sensibilities. It IS morally ambiguous and on the surface *sounded* like it took away parental authority. In fact, it does NOT take away parental authority at all. What RIE does do is elevate little ones as actually receiving love and gaining self-confidence and independence in a way I do not see other ideas actually doing. This is a complicated idea to explain, so I’ll leave you to explore it. Remember, it took me a good year of being immersed in it to finally get it.
Here’s a look at some basic RIE tenants from Janet Lansbury.
What prompted me to even explore RIE was tantrums. My children are lovely and joyful and love Jesus. But tantrums and exhausting fussing started when I would deny something. I was not willing to bend on whatever I denied, so what could I do? I desperately started employing some of the RIE methods I found on Janet Lansbury’s website and wow, they were so helpful! RIE didn’t actually change my children – it changed me! It gave me the education to see clearly and accurately what was actually transpiring in their little hearts. I was able to understand development and respond to where they were instead of seeing every single issue as a spiritual issue. I am not taking away character and Jesus and spirituality at all. But I am allowing more for childhood than I did before. There’s a lot of freedom in it and more room for me letting Jesus work now! It’s beautiful.
So, let me point out two things we do:
Firstly, we are training/preening/shaping/modeling/discussing character and social things with our children all the day long. Not only do I model respectful interaction, but I explain it in various contexts for them. We look at God’s word to see how He wants us to be in the world and why. We read stories and discuss what was going on. I am constantly equipping them with lots of tools and ways to go so that….
Secondly, when they are in crisis/temper tantrum/fussing: I can simply state what is going on without interfering and they can choose from one of the tools I’ve equipped them with! They get to actually practice choosing a coping mechanism and applying it! They do not do this perfectly. Neither do I. But we are getting better. And their little hearts are maturing and growing and even though RIE doesn’t offer Jesus as the root of this, our family does.
An example (not exhaustive) of some ideas from RIE:
1. Babies/toddlers/children are deserving of respect. Period.
2. I seek to equip them to be independent so they can also gain self confidence in that independence. If they are not able to do it themselves, then they don’t do it (getting into a bouncy, being on their tummies, swinging at the park, etc.). If they are able to do it themselves, then (barring extenuating circumstance), they do it themselves (feeding themselves, using the toilet, washing their bodies, getting dressed, peeling a clementine, etc.)
3. I sportscast (this is soooo irritating to me!). This means, I just say what’s going on. “You want that toy but your sister has it. You wanted that toy and you took it from your sister. She’s unhappy about that.” Etc. So I’m giving a voice to what’s going on, but not interfering. (except safety)
4. Tarry time – I’m allowing time for them to process. Did they hear something? Was it Mom? What did she say? How am I going to respond? And toddlers need ample tarry time! We’ve specifically been working with them in NON-CRISIS times to acknowledge what I’ve said with a simple, “Okay, Mom/Dad.” The other night, my daughter was playing with blocks and we called her to supper. She didn’t budge. But after 30 seconds, she said, “Okay, Dad. I’m finishing my blocks and I’ll be right there.” YES! She acknowledged him and even said what she was doing instead of just saying no. And this is part of the respect thing – letting her finish what she’s working on. As an adult, if I come to your house and say, come sit in the living room with me while you are doing dishes, it would be very rude for me to tell you that, and then grab your arm and lead you into the living room leaving your dishes undone. Instead, you would probably say something like you would love to, just let you finish the dishes real quick. I do not allow this to go on and on. Just like I would’t wait for you to do the dishes and then clean your entire kitchen, I wouldn’t allow her to keep playing blocks endlessly and then get into other toys. And if that were the case, then I would have to intercede and say, “It is time for supper. You’ve had time to finish up your blocks for now. Please come to the table. Would you like to walk there or would you like me to carry you there?” But in the situation that did occur, my daughter was allowed to plan and strategise her own stopping point.
5. No reward/punishment – these aren’t natural. I’ve even searched God’s word for where this would happen outside of eternal punishment and I can’t find it. We only allow for natural consequences. For example, we do not force our children to eat or taunt them with “one more bite.” They know if they are hungry or not. In fact, they were born knowing that! But we do say, “This is your supper to eat so that you have a full belly to sleep on. If you don’t eat now, you may wake up hungry in the night and there will not be food to eat until the morning.” And then if they do, in fact, wake up hungry at 3am, we must hold fast to the natural consequence and remind them of it. Nobody will be happy with that scenario at all. But I’m sure it would only occur a handful of times before they learned to eat their supper.
6. Cry away! These are new people learning and experiencing new emotions all the time. As a forty year old woman, I sometimes need a good cry when situations are overwhelming. So I understand! We do not have a problem with letting our children cry or be upset. We also do not send them away on their own. If their crying is interferring with something, then one parent will take the child to a private area and let them cry, “Saying, I’m here for you if you want.” It’s been amazing to me that having a good 2-3 minute cry clears up whatever they were distressed about and then they usually want to have a brief conversation with whichever of us is with them and that’s it! And as they learn more coping skills and become more sophisticated in emotional nuance, these fits will become less frequently occurring.
7. No Shame – I do NOT shame my children into behaviors I find desirable; nor do I shame them for an undesirable behavior.
RIE is not without boundaries – it offers a way of putting in place boundaries in a gentle and respectful manner. I’m definitely NOT an Attachment Parenting mom, but out of desperation and lack of knowing how to put boundaries in place, I fell into AP practices. That really stunted a lot of growth in my children and me and caused strain on our marriage. I’m still learning, but I sure wish I had learned this philosophy prior to having children! RIE has allowed me to have the closeness of relationship without the burden of martyrdom to my own self. I’ve been able to equip my children so they are confident in themselves and examining of motives.
These are only some examples of some parameters, certainly not all! Check out how RIE shows up in our home.
Visible Child from Robin Einzig (my absolute favorite!)
Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
Elevating Childcare: A Guide to Respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury
Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child by Deborah Carlisle Solomon
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp – only because I mention it above and I DO think he gets his communication part right. But I strongly depart from his ideas on spanking – I find them in complete opposition to how the Lord relates to us. In fact, while I don’t care for Jesus, the Gentle Parent, I DO think it’s a necessary read for parents concerned about whether or not spanking is Biblical.
Effective Parenting in a Defective World by Chip Ingram
Parenting with Scripture by Kara Durbin
No Ordinary Home by Carol Brazo
Mom Heart – Sally Clarkson’s website