Watching your child achieve their milestones in those early years must be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Each one gets carefully recorded and cameras are always on hand to capture those priceless moments when your baby first smiles, rolls, sits, laughs, crawls, walks and so the list goes on and, as they occur, a parent can breathe a sigh of relief that their child is indeed on track.
For some though, that desire for their child to accomplish these milestones is so great that they take measures to assist and guide them through the process of achieving them, unwittingly restricting valuable opportunities for learning countless other skills along the way. I used to be one of these parents and can now attest to the enormous benefits of restraining from assisting and instead, allowing natural development.
With my first child I did all the ‘normal’ parenting tricks thinking it was perfectly fine and in fact helpful for my child to be aided with props or myself. I used cushions to help her sit, I put her in a bouncer, a jolly jumper and a swing, each time delighting in the huge smiles she would give in return. When her peers were beginning to crawl or stand, I was on hand to give her a push in the right direction. She was a fast learner and was standing at furniture at 7 months, crawling at 8 months and walking at 10.5 months. Of course her first experience of walking was by me holding her hands above her head whilst she awkwardly stumbled forwards followed soon after with pushing a walker around the house. But in all the assistance I was providing her, I was denying her of the chance to develop these skills herself. She would not slowly become aware of her body and its abilities like she should have been allowed but rather, be given a false sense of security when the time came for her to try things out independently.
Soon after my second child was born, I was introduced to RIE. I soon learned that my child did not need to be shown how to do anything. She was a capable being who had the natural instincts to want to achieve her milestones in her own time. She would roll when she was ready, she would sit when she felt she could do so safely and she will walk when she builds up her own confidence to do so. And unlike my first child, she is totally content with her capabilities in the present moment and does not cry out easily in frustration as though she should be doing more than she can. I have never expected more of her than she is capable of doing and as such she has developed patience and contentment in her own body.
A pleasant side to this style of parenting has to be the sheer joy I now find as I watch my baby connect the dots. I have delighted in her determination to stand without any assistance or guidance and never once have I been concerned that she will fall after she has pulled herself up. I know that not only is her mind ready to make the step up but her body too has been given the right amount of time to strengthen the appropriate stabilising muscles and neuron connections to keep her safe.
One of the funniest reassurances of this method came not so long ago when my baby was about 10 months old. I had made the decision, in line with this natural development style, that I would not give her a walker to push to practice her walking. I knew she didn’t need one and I knew that when the time came she would be ready to walk. I had to laugh though, when one evening, I was standing on one side of the kitchen bench when the highchair started moving across the kitchen floor as if by a ghost.
You see, I couldn’t see the bottom of it and when I moved to see what was happening, there was my baby walking along pushing the highchair in front of her. She was obviously ready to start practising and she now pushes any object she can get enough muscle behind to move. When the time comes, I will once again watch in amazement at the sheer brilliance of my child who has mastered one of life’s most fundamental skills without coaching, steering, guiding or pushing, but rather, all on her own! Until then, I am happy to watch her contentedly move around the house by other means, blissfully unaware that she should need to do anything else!