A Late Start to Respectful Parenting

Self PrideSometimes (often!) we discover new parenting strategies that resonate with us. Especially when we start respectful parenting later in our children’s lives, it’s easy to wonder if we’ve caused any issues or habits by doing things the old way. In the Facebook group RIE/Mindful Parenting, Jenny talks about what it’s been like for her and her family since she’s shifted her parenting to the principles of RIE, a respectful parenting philosophy started by infant expert, Magda Gerber. Jenny describes how she has implemented the basic principles of respect, neutral observation, trusting the child’s natural development, and avoiding judgment and generic praise, and how her children have blossomed:

“I stumbled across RIE back in November and a lot of it really struck a chord with me. Better late than never, I thought, and started to try and implement some of the principles with my 5.5 yo and 2.5 yo. Boy, was it HARD. Hard for me trying to unlearn/relearn this parenting lark, and really hard for both of them who suddenly had a mum who was behaving in an entirely new way. Our routine changed dramatically with regards to screen time, play, discipline, and talking about emotions. A big learning curve.

“Anyway, today I took my (now) 3yo to a playgroup that we often visit. There are a range of free choice activities before tidy-up time, singing, water, biscuit, etc.

“I don’t know why, but today it really got to me. Everywhere I looked were examples of parenting that made me feel really sad. A young girl came and sat eagerly at the jigsaw puzzle table. She was just about to grab the first piece when, ‘Come here X! Look, there’s playdoh,’ said mummy, and off she was whisked immediately. ‘No, not like that, like this,’ said another mum to her young son, who was building a tower. He had picked up a two-piece brick and was trying to attach it to a one-block tower. When MUM finally finished the tower, she said to him, ‘Well done, you did it!’ I must have heard ‘Wow!’ or ‘Good job’ a million times.

“I just felt sad. For the children. For the parents. And also for myself—for the parent I used to be—and for my children, for thinking about the lack of respect I showed them and how I really hope it isn’t too late.

“It also reminded me of why I am still working hard at becoming the parent I want to be. I stayed close to my daughter, engaging, watching, responding, and participating as necessary. She seemed particularly thoughtful today and was watching everyone a lot. And, for some reason, she wanted her photos taken… Photos of HER towers—carefully balanced with different sized blocks without any help/direction from me whatsoever, even when the first 10 attempts collapsed. And photos of HER playdoh cutoffs, after a long time experimenting with the thickness of the playdoh and the pressure to apply to the shapes to get the cutouts she needed. After each of these she loudly declared, ‘Look Mum – I did it! I knew I could do it!’ And I smiled back at her and told her how much I had enjoyed watching her build her towers and play with her playdoh.

“And at the end of the session, as we were packing away, she threw her arms around my neck and said, ‘I love you Mum. Thank you!’, and gave me a squeeze. I squeezed her right back and said, ‘Thank you,’ right back at her. She’s only just three, but I knew exactly what that thank you meant.”

Have you implemented any new respectful parenting strategies with your older child? How did it work and how long did it take before you noticed a difference?

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