Respectful Parenting is Not Always Easiest

RIE parenting lesson

For some time now I have been going against my own instincts and the advice of many friends, families and experts and instead following the path of RIE parenting. I firmly believe that the studies Magda Gerber conducted late last century were insightful, accurate and most importantly helpful to parents wanting to treat their children respectfully. By choosing this method of child rearing, I am confident that my husband and I are empowering our children whilst building a long-lasting, trusting and loving relationship with them.

In saying this, it has not been an easy road. This form of parenting is deliberate. It’s thoughtful. It requires constant self-reflection, patience and trust. It takes a lot of energy and mental effort to challenge your own instincts and go against the only real experience you can draw on when parenting, your own parent’s methods. This coupled with the fact that many of the techniques and philosophies proposed by Magda are completely opposite to the mainstream advice given or demonstrated on a daily basis through friends, family, acquaintances, mother’s groups and experts, ensures that it is quite easy to be discouraged.

As I watch children being helped to play, made to share, stuck in time out, assisted to develop milestones and picked up suddenly without warning I often wonder why is it me that attracts strange looks and even judgements when I do things differently.  Every now and then, however, I get this little niggle of doubt creep over me. I sometimes look at my children and think, if I am doing things so respectfully; if I’m communicating with my children and acknowledging their feelings and trusting them to learn in their own way and in their own time, then why are they still screaming, using rough behaviour and throwing tantrums? In all the social circles I mix, I have only one or two friends who have joined me in parts on this RIE journey and it seems as though among all my other friends very few of them have trouble with their children testing limits, expressing extreme emotion or following instructions. This has had me seriously questioning the parenting path I have chosen and made me wonder if RIE was really the right choice for our highly spirited toddler in particular.

Then something occurred to me, I have read countless articles as well as comments from parents and experts in RIE circles who speak about their children taking longer to crawl, walk, talk, say please, thank you, hi and goodbye etc because they have been allowed to work through these developments at their own pace through supportive rather than expectant parenting. Part of the RIE philosophy is trusting that our children are capable beings and will develop the skills they need in their own pace and at their own time. By not showing them how to do things, sure, they may take a little longer but along the way they will develop vital other skills such as independence, perseverance and problem solving and once they have achieved their goal, they have done so much more completely and authentically than had they been pushed to do so through assistive techniques. So it got me wondering whether it is the same for behaviours as it is for developmental milestones?

My 2.5 year old was introduced to RIE parenting quite late in the piece and well after her younger sibling bounded into her world taking with her her former peaceful life where sharing wasn’t necessary, parents were at her beck and call and her life was content. She struggled significantly in those early days with extreme emotion, disruptive sleep and limit testing. This is what encouraged me to seek help and led to my discovery of RIE. Upon absorbing everything we possibly could about parenting respectfully, we noticed a distinct lack of punitive discipline. So for the past twelve months, the girls have had limits set through the use of natural consequences balanced with a respect for their autonomy. They have been trusted to sort through their sibling struggles in their own way and time through neutral sportscasting and again trust and they have been encouraged to express unpleasant emotions as and when they need to. When my husband and I made the conscious decision to adopt this style of discipline, it never occurred to us that we might still be dealing with some of these problems a year later.

When I look at other children and consider their politeness, their obedience and their lack of regularly expressed emotion I can’t help but wonder is it genetics? Were we always destined to parent strong-willed children or has it got something to do with the parenting style we have chosen. Now I know this doesn’t sound like a great plug for the parenting method I have been passionately blogging about for 7 months but when I stop to consider the alternative we had at the time, I have to trust that we have made the right choice. I know I could make my daughter stop taking toys from her sister by sending her to time out. I am sure she would no longer be rough towards her if I smacked her as a consequence a couple of times. Using fear as a way to change a child’s unwanted behaviour can certainly be effective in providing that outcome. I could send my daughter to her room every time she tantrumed or needed to express emotion and I’m sure after a time she would learn to kerb those emotions and keep them to herself. I could insist she says please before I hand her her food and take it away again if she refuses to say thank you. She would no doubt learn quickly to say these words that mean nothing to her but everything to society. I could certainly make our lives much more serene here by parenting in a more mainstream way and maybe my children would seem more respectful and obedient and probably happy on the surface but that’s not what we signed up for.

I have realised that trusting a child to learn right from wrong through limit setting and modelling, without the use of punishment, means accepting that they may need more time to internalise appropriate and acceptable behaviour. The mantra I repeat regularly when I need reassurance of this is that the difficult behaviours being displayed now are not going to exist when my children are 21 years old. In fact I often say this when I am questioned about not enforcing manners or greetings. I am confident of the fact that my 21 year old daughters will use appropriate manners and greet people as necessary. I know they will not scream and yell and throw themselves to the ground when they don’t get their own way and I am sure they will ‘play’ nicely with their friends too. I certainly hope they will achieve these things well before they are 21 but that is the age that I picture them setting sail from my parenting and casting off into their own lives. By then I should have done all I can to prepare them for all life will throw at them.

So I am going to ride out this difficult time. I am not going to resort to using punishments that whilst more effective and quicker in the short term, could threaten to undermine my child’s confidence or demolish our trusting relationship. I’m not going to insist my children stop crying or screaming just to keep the peace. I value emotional welfare and I have seen first hand the effects of stifling children’s emotions and not supporting them when they are at their most vulnerable. I am not going to enforce social niceties just so my children don’t seem rude to others. Both of my children often now say please, thank you and sorry of their own accord and it is so much more joyful to hear then had I insisted it be said because I know they mean it and are beginning to be guided through our modelling. As for the limit testing, well I am learning that my eldest toddler seeks to push the boundaries whenever she can see a crack. It is my job to close that crack before she is able to push her way through. As I close one crack, she inevitably finds another one but I will be there to ensure that she is kept safely from making it through each one.

For more reading on respectful parenting head to these wonderful sites:

Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare ~ http://www.janetlansbury.com/

Lisa Sunbury – Regarding Baby ~ http://www.regardingbaby.org/blog/

Dr Laura Markham – Aha Parenting ~ http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog

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About Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Hi, my name is Kate. I have been a Physical Education/ Maths teacher for 12 years and am currently taking some time out to be a Mum. I have two beautiful girls aged 2 and 1 (13 month age gap). I have learned that there is so much more to parenting than 'going with your instincts' and treasure all the rewards my children present to me everyday. I have a passion for sports and have recently discovered an addiction to sewing. Thank you for taking some time out to read my ramblings :)
This entry was posted in Parenting Peacefully, Peaceful Discipline, Sibling Rivalry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Respectful Parenting is Not Always Easiest

  1. I too often question our parenting style. Sometimes I wonder, I am being respectful, I acknowledge your feelings and hear what you say but why did you still bite your sister, why did you throw dirt in her eyes, why do you intentionally knock down her blocks? And I need to remind myself , constantly remind myself, that I am the adult, with so very much more experience, and they are children, children who are still learning to navigate social situations and still learning how to express what they want. It is hard, but we keep on keeping on.

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    • It’s a hard slog, Kate. but like you say, we are the responsible ones and if we rely on modelling to teach the lessons its important that we stay focused on our job to remain calm and confident in these moments, whilst modeling more effective methods of interaction for then. A near impossible task that requires superhuman patience and a lot of support and encouragement from like minded people! Keep on keeping on – I like it!

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  2. Jennifer says:

    Sorry, what’s wrong with reminding them to say please and thank you?! How will they work out that on their own?

    Also, this way of parenting.: is there any 21 year olds that you know have been brought up this way? Just wondering how new/old this style is? ( I’m not belittling ) I’m just curious as for example the way we parent is so different from the 50’s 60’s and you can see that affect it had, just wondering how long this ‘movement’ had been going for, i must say I’m not keen, but I love reading your posts, you sound like a wonderful thoughtful person 🙂

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    • Poppy says:

      Jennifer, I have raised my daughter this way too. I never forced her to say please and thank you but she does this of her own volition now, at the age of four. She is frequently complimented on her manners by friends and strangers alike. The way she learned this was through my husband and I modeling. We speak respectfully and politely to one another, to our daughter and to the other people we interact with. It has simply and naturally become the way my daughter also communicates with others.
      Wonderful that you are so open to something that you are struggling with in theory!

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    • Robyn says:

      If you think about it, you probably don’t say “please” when you’re speaking to other adults. You most likely say, “Can I have this…” or “May I do this…” but you only use the word “please” when you’re asking (or ordering) someone to do something they’re not going to like doing. At work I make sure to use the word “please” in my e-mail but I am in upper management and asking (telling) someone to do something for me. In the real world, you don’t order your morning coffee as “I can please have this?” You simply ask nicely in a pleasant tone and smile. For that reason, I’m not making my kids say “please” anymore.

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      • Poppy says:

        I guess we’re all different! Personally I would definitely say please when ordering a coffee eg “I’ll have a long black please” or talking to another adult “Could you pass the salt please?” etc. I wouldn’t judge another person for the things they value or otherwise but I enjoy the please’s and thank you’s in my interactions 🙂

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      • Thank you for your comment, Robyn. I find myself occasionally forgetting my manners when I talk to my husband but rarely with others even if I am just ordering a coffee or a muffin. I definitely value the use of please and thank you so I am making more concerted efforts to model the use of these phrases when speaking to my husband, after all that’s the conversation my children hear most of the time. Whilst I am not ‘teaching’ my children to say please and thank you I am hoping they will eventually do so of their own volition. I hope I have clarified that a little for you.

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    • Thank you, Jennifer! That’s a great question. There is nothing wrong with reminding children to say please and thank you. I do it all the time. I just don’t insist on it and I rely more on my own use of these manners to ‘teach’ them through modelling, the polite way to receive something and ask for something.

      For example, when I hand the girls their drinks of milk, I always say ‘Thank you Mummy.’ pleasantly with no expectation that they need to do it or they will have their offering of milk revoked. Similarly, if Lucy says ‘I want dinner’ I will add ‘Please, Mummy’ to the end or even rephrase it for her to something like ‘Please may I have some dinner Mummy’. But I leave it at that. I let her digest it and trust that she will eventually come out with her own appropriate manners when she is ready – and she already is starting to do so.
      It is a commonly practiced RIE method but I also agree with it for the simple fact that it is one less ‘battle’ to fight when it has been proven over and over that it is not necessary in order for children to show manners. It just takes them a little bit more time to get there.
      I hope that answers your questions!?
      Kate xx

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      • Anna-Vera says:

        I am very new to RIE, but I am reading about it a lot and find the approach and ideas align nicely with how I try (and would like) to raise my daughter.
        The examples you give here are very representative of how I speak to my daughter as well – but that’s mostly because my field is in children’s language development. I model, model, model: I have always repeated what she says, expanding a little beyond what she can say on her own, even since before she could speak with her voice (we used signs from about 8 months until she started to speak around 12 months – then they just phased out on their own. If she signed ‘drink’ I would say ‘Oh, you want a drink, let me get you some water’), and even before that by seeing/guessing what she wanted and then verbalizing it (as in “you’re crying, it’s been a long time since you ate, I think you might be hungry” before nursing, for example). My daughter is 3 now and speaks very well in both Danish and English and is delightfully polite in both languages (we live in Denmark and my husband is Danish). I’m proud of her for that, and it can be hard for me not to respond with ‘good job’ when she does – but I realize that’s because it’s something *I* find important when dealing with other people. Lately I have tried to replace ‘good job’ with ‘that’s a nice thing to say’ or ‘that’s a good way of being polite’, but I don’t know if that’s any better?

        However, I do insist that my daughter lives up to societal niceties as best as she can – so when we have guests or when we visit someone, I usually prepare her ahead of time (“grandma is coming over today after you wake up from your nap”) and give her a choice of *how* she can express those social norms (‘The door bell is ringing! do you want to give grandma a hug when she comes in, or will you just say hello from here?’). If she doesn’t want to say anything, like when it’s someone she doesn’t know as well I tell her she can choose to wave or smile to the person instead, and then wait with her until she does. How does this align with RIE-thinking?

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  3. Wow. I could have written parts of this. And I so needed this right now as my 21 mo is exploring and engaging and examining how the world works and how relationships work. I just told my daughter this morning in fact, and then added my partner in the conversation, “I would like for us all to make an extra effort at this precious time in his life to help him learn a clear, loving way of communicating by each of us using our words and finding alternatives to hitting or hurting when we are angry, frustrated or upset.” “Ride it out” sounds about exactly where I got to recently when we entered this stage and I realized it was going to be All. Day. Every. Day. Even so, think of all the work we would have saved the world even if our children take a little bit longer to internalize kind, compassionate, creative living that they didn’t have to unlearn a bunch of beliefs and habits and ways of being…
    Thanks for writing this,
    ~sheila

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    • Thank you so much, Sheila. What a lovely (and important) conversation to have with your family. It can be easy to let the chaos of daily life take away the beautiful moments. I hope you are all able to support each other through these tough stages as they occur. It is truly worth it in the end!
      Kate xx

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  4. Laura says:

    I really like this post, i have a few thoughts tho 🙂
    Even when we respectfully parent a child whos strong willed, i we as parents are also strong willed but
    Havent had the best teaching of self regulation of emotions, see how we behave is a form of scaffolding there behaviours.
    My second thought is we crwate an almost coccooned environment that all behaviour is to be sorted out in there own time, what if theyre 20 and still chucking a wobbly cos things havent gone there own way, its not always caused by givibg in to what they want its not addressing the behaviour to that allows it to become normalised.
    I worry that because child rearibg became so strict and regimented that we are now swinging the pendulum back to far the opposite way, perhaps our instincts are the best to follow, leaving babies to cry it out for me felt unnatural and she slept on me during her day sleeps til a month ago but now at 14 months she does what her other 14 month old friends do it was like she just got it one day,
    But advising to say thanks ( not removing if not said tho) is helping them exist peacefully in society in the future… Sadly the world Is not respectful it has high expectation and has levels of behaviour which just arent acceptable and they arent acceptable early on in the piece.
    There many things i do most repectfully parenting, i do see value in setting clear boundries on key behaviours, that doesnt mean embarassing a child or being punitive it just doesnt mean allowing the

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    • Laura says:

      Allowing the child to manipulate the system to allow them to “work through” stuff as an excuse for just behaving badly.
      And i also wonder what the effect is as adults… Be i teresting to see independant studies on effect on adults, or if when it all comes out in the wash if its much of a muchness, i was told to say please and thank yiu by the way and i do it at age 32 yrs old because i mean it if i dont mean it i dont say it 🙂
      I lnow catergorically that children respond well to clear boundries being set, there environment is easier to trust cos of those boundries and feel freer to learn independantly. Sure a lack of negative reinforcement is good but you dont have to be punitive to set boundries 🙂

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      • Hi Laura, Thank you for your comment. I agree with everything you have said. It is completely normal to worry about how are children are going to behave as adults and we can only hope we are doing the best we can to guide them when they are young so they will be confident and capable when they are older (and still want to come home to see their Mum once in a while – haha!).
        I agree that it is necessary to set firm limits so a child feels secure and safe in your care. It is important also to provide a simple (age appropriate) explanation of why you are setting the limit. I think this can be done respectfully and am confident that a child brought up with firm limits put in place will not be ‘throwing a wobbly when they are grown up.
        I too believe saying please and thank you is important to create a respectful and functioning society. I firmly believe in the importance of manners and model this to my children on a daily if not hourly basis. I am happy to rephrase their demands of me in a way that is using these manners so they learn what is expected over time. I just don’t think it is helpful to enforce that my two year old use these manners in order to get what it is she is asking for. I know that hearing it used throughout the day from my husband and I as well as rephrasing demands or adding a pleasant ‘thank you, mummy’ when she is helped or given something is all she needs to become a polite adult and as I said in the blog post, she is already starting to show recognition of this concept through her own use of manners.
        I also agree with what you say about other forms of parenting delivering well- mannered, polite adults. I too was brought up as you were and am polite always (well mostly) and mean what I say. I just don’t think that a young child needs to learn the lessons of manners through explicit teaching. They will learn it just as well (and without making them feel uncomfortable) through consistent modelling.
        Lastly, my children are masterful manipulators, however, as the adult, I feel I am well trained to be able to read through manipulations and see what course of action is needed. If my daughters are using avoidance tactics (which they frequently do) to say getting ready for bed, I need to be sure that I give them enough warning eg You can play with your dolls for one more minute and then we will be going to get ready for bed. If there is still some protests at the end of the one minute I give the choice would you like to walk or be carried. If there is no move to walk then they get carried. In this way they understand that they can’t manipulate to get past limits. They can trust that I will ensure that what is best for them happens and learn over time what is expected of them in terms of their behaviour.
        I hope I have answered all of your concerns and perhaps clarified some of the issues you could see in my post. I should have explained a little better in my blog and I will look to add a little extra explanation at the end to tidy up any confusion. Thank you again for your comments.
        Kate xx

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  5. liz says:

    I love the idea of parenting this way, but my almost 5 year old has had a very strong will since day one and it has gotten even stronger since his twins brothers were born when he was 3.5yrs old. I never in a million years would have guessed that I would have turned into “that mom” – the one who yells at her kid and sends him to his room and even does what a lot of people these days say are the shameful time outs (which, by the way, I felt were shameful too before my twins were born). The problem I have now is I feel like my 4 yr old is running the house. He literally harms his brothers whenever he has the opportunity – purposely makes them cry by taking away anything and everything they have, screams and yells by their bedroom door whenever they are asleep and in general is just obnoxious, rough and rude whenever they are around. I know a lot of it is anger and jealousy that they are now in the limelight after it was all about him for 3.5years, and it has gotten a little better, but I think it has only gotten better because I have gotten better at keeping him at a distance from his brothers – ie: hiring in help that we really can’t afford. I started doing this almost immediately after the babies were born so I can spend one on one time with him in the afternoons after he comes home from school. But sometimes I resent the time because I just want to be able to have us all together without a bunch of drama. When I am alone with my 3 children it is exhausting dealing with keeping the babies safe and cared for because my older son just gets so annoyed that they are here and he starts acting out. I’m brand new to your blog and this type of parenting, but am very curious about what your opinion is on how to take care of my twins and keep them safe with this parenting style and make sure that my older son is being given the message that his behavior is not ok. I’ve been doing rewards when he is good, and that seems to work a little. I call it a star chart and give him stars whenever I catch him doing something positive (like being kind to his brothers). He gets to pick up a reward, and when he earns 12 stars we go and do/buy whatever that particular reward is. What I’ve been doing for bad behavior is 4 min time outs when he harms his brothers or is being destructive. It’s more so that he and I can cool off (mostly me). I allow him to have books or a small toy to look at during his time out. I also take away things that are important to him that he can earn back if he is being respectful. My newest technique (which I’m not proud of but it seems to work) is to take away treats he has in the house. I do this when he has repeatedly been harming his brothers and is just off the charts not listening or not willing to sit in time out. It seems to reel him in because he loves his treats, but I feel l terrible for doing this. My husband is to the point where he thinks spanking is the best solution, but I am extremely against this and have basically told him that this is setting the worst example we can possibly show him because it’s using violence to correct violent behavior! It just makes no sense and is cruel. Anyway, sorry for the long response. I’m just so tired of dealing with our situation and am so ready to find any ideas that work that will help all of my sons grow into confident and trusting men. Thank you for your blog.

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    • Wow, Liz, it certainly sounds like you have a lot going on! We too found our eldest child’s behaviours became disruptive, discontent and obnoxious after the birth of her sibling. It sounds to me that your son might have some pretty strong feelings that he is needing to express about his brothers’ existance. I am assuming that with twins much of your time would have been consumed by them when they were younger and he would have felt that and would have grieved for the loss of his former single child life. He may not have felt he was supported to express these feelings and has gradually built up a jealousy rage towards them and possibly you and your husband also. This is what happened with our daughter. We expected her to love the baby and encouraged little moments of affection whilst at the same time she would have been thinking why should I have to love them and take care of them and be nice to them, they have taken away the attention of my parents. When she lashed out at her sister and we scolded her or put her in time out etc this would have reinforced to her that we in fact favoured her sister over her and definitely led to an increase in the jealous rage she would have against her sister.
      It has only been recently for us that we have started to see some more calmness and acceptance come over Lucy. I recently phoned Janet Lansbury as I mentioned in this post to discuss how we could better manage this difficult and violent behaviour Lucy was displaying towards her sister.
      We had to do a complete rethink on how we were approaching these situations. We had to modify our words so that Lucy did not feel we were taking sides. It was important for her not to feel blamed, shamed or otherwise bad for her actions whilst at the same time letting her know she couldn’t hurt her sister.
      So… we started the process by shadowing, following the girls everywhere they went in their interactions. We could never leave them in the same room together and even if they were in seperate rooms we had to be vigilant to be present with them when they met up. Obviously the idea was to block the altercations physically as they occured to stop Penny getting hurt As Lucy would lash out and I would stop her I would state matter of factly ‘I won’t let you hit Penny’. Now this preocess was extremely tiring and wearing and my husband and I relied on each other a lot for support. THe dishes didnt get done, the washing stayed on teh floor and the house became comepltetely overrun with toys and bits and pieces. But by doing this Lcuy eventually backed off and finally understood that we were not going to let her hurt her sister.- a relief to her I think. After this we gradually gave them some more freedom but immediately tightened back up when things started getting heated again.
      We also became much more supportive of Lucys feelings. We let go of the determination we had that our children would be best friends and allowed them to have the negative feelings they had. We even encouraged it. ‘Lucy, you’re feeling rough towards Penny. You wish she wasn’t here. It can be really hard being a big sister sometimes. We understand and we want to help you. Its ok if you need to scream and yell. We will find a safe place for you to do this.
      If she yells or screams now, in fact I will often say, ‘boy, you’re really mad, it sounds like you really need to yell. Its ok to yell, we all feel like yelling sometimes.’
      Now, after supporting her emotions for the past couple of months, completely removeing the blame, shame and punishments, we are starting to see Lucy relax more around her sister. Its like she is starting to offload some of the major things that were consuming her and she is feeling much more secure with her place in the family. I hope that helps a little Liz. I’m sorry if there are some erros, I can’t read what I have written to check because the viewer screen is playing up so I hope it all makes sense. I would encourage you to read back over some of my older posts or head over to Janets website to get some more ideas on this stressful topic.

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      • Hang it there, Liz. It can be a long, tough road but it will get easier if you can make your eldest feel like he is supported unconditionally. Please message me if you need any further clarification or assistance. All the best.
        Kate xx

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      • Diane says:

        Hi Kate, I don’t mean to double up information with the AHA links, you’ve already given a great description in answer to Liz’ comment! It’s only that I find for myself that sometimes reading something over a similar topic but a slightly different angle suddenly helps the pennies to properly drop! Thanks for a great article!

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    • Diane says:

      Hi Liz, Just wanted to add a link… this immediately reminded me of a Laura Markham/AHA Parenting post! I find the very concrete ‘scripts’ handy, as its sometimes difficult to convert theory into practice!
      I don’t have time to reread and screen properly so I’ll let you choose … I hope its not bad form to post them here ?!

      http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/The_Best_Way_to_Stop_Sibling_Violence/

      http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/4-year-old-hitting-little-brother-sibling-rivalry?A=SearchResult&SearchID=7233634&ObjectID=2724442&ObjectType=35

      http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/curing-sibling-rivalry-with-angry-four-year-old?A=SearchResult&SearchID=7233634&ObjectID=4229178&ObjectType=35

      Wishing you all the best and the necessary strength and motivation to get through all that frustration… been there, still doing it, haha ;-P (I’m sure I’m on the right path though!)

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      • Thank you for taking the time to post the links, Diane. I love these articles too and definitely think Liz will enjoy reading them.
        My goal through my blogging is primarily to inform people that there is a way of parenting that offers children independence, confidence, trust and respect in a way that not many other’s do. I hope to inspire people to reflect on their own practices and continue to find ways to be more respectful to their own children. For that reason, I have absolutely no problem with articles being linked here to other parents and experts who have the same philosophies. I know we all have a common goal and that for me is more important than blogging etiquette!
        Thank you again for the links 🙂
        Kate xx

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  6. racheous says:

    I can relate in so many ways. I have found, however, as my son is getting a bit older (4 at the end of this year) that people who were skeptical are starting to realise the value in respectful parenting.

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  7. katepickle says:

    Can I tell you… in the nine, almost ten, years I’ve been doing this parenting gig… I have questioned my choices and ideals so often. Usually when things are rough, or I feel like I am alone in the way we choose to bring up our kids…. but when things improve I can usually see how our choices work for us in a positive way, so hang in there, don’t second guess yourself, even if others are.

    I remember when my twins were around 3 and an aunt had given them a gift and as soon as they took it she said to them “And what’s the magic word???” My girls looked confused for a second then one piped up and said “Abracadabra??” And in that moment I was 100% sure that I was ok with not forcing, or playing games to make my kids to say please or thank you.

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    • Thanks, Kate! That’s a great story. I know I question myself often but I still have this strong belief that the way i’m parenting can’t go wrong. Surely, if I am respectful at the same time as setting firm limits and acknowledging feelings, my children will turn out ok!

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  8. I loved reading about the reflections that are taking place for you as a parent. I think it’s so important for us, as parents, to reflect and reassess what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. As each family member grows and develops individually the family dynamic can change as do outside circumstances (e.g. starting school etc.).

    I don’t follow one particular philosophy of parenting. There are a mish-mash of parenting techniques taking place in our home and within our family, but I am also a big reflector. I look back on our day, and I think there are many things I’ve done ‘wrong.’ But my husband and I sit down at the end of the night and we assure ourselves that we are giving our kids a huge dose of quality time and love and that’s pretty important in the big scheme of things.

    Your determination and your goal in what seems like a trying time is to be commended because you are raising thoughtful children.

    I will add that my parenting styles (the mish-mash that it is) is heavily influenced by what I saw happening with families as a teacher. There is one child who is often at the forefront of my mind, His mother was very passionate about her parenting decisions. I had a number of meetings with her, in which she told me that she never forced her son to do anything, and that she encouraged him to question authority and why he as being asked to do something. It made life very difficult for him and his classmates in the classroom. He was only 8 years old refused to ever do any tasks, he never worked in team situations, he didn’t participate in any discussions, he questioned EVERYTHING I ever asked the class to do. He wasn’t rude or disruptive. He just sat there. It was really sad- especially the social aspect. My point is that when I listened to his mother talk about her decisions, they made sense to me, but they didn’t work in a mainstream, social situation. He was just a child and didn’t know how to cope with the freedom he had been given to make his own choices. So for me, this boy and his family taught me a lesson in providing your child with a balance- giving them the respect to learn and make decisions for themselves but also understanding that their are acts and roles we need to take on for social groups to work.

    Good luck with your parenting journey, It sounds like your children are very lucky to have you.

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    • Wow, thanks Jackie. I truly believe that every parent does the best they know how for their children at the time. Most will use the benefit of hindsight to realise they would do things a little difrerently next time around and many follow advice and try to use other people’s stories to help make modifications to their own. The mother you mention must have believed she was giving her child extra skills to make decisions for himself. I think that whilst a certain amount of automny is important for children, we are the adults who have been charged with raising them and so, it is ultimately up to us to set the limits our children need to function in society. My goal is to do this as respectfully and mindfully as I can whilst still encouraging inquistion when needed and that is the part that is tough!
      Thanks agan!
      Kate xx

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  9. beatdizzy says:

    I was raised by a woman who was raised by a malignant narcissist (no empathy). I found immense solace in finding out (too late not to be thought of as totally weird) the small social graces that helped me navigate social situations. Sometimes I didn’t figure out this stuff until my 20s & I’m still figuring it out. I say follow your gut and don’t follow a rule book.

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  10. Penny says:

    I loved Jackie’s comment and am pretty much on par with her. I’m a mish mash too and I think reflection as a parent is very important. RIE Parenting has lots and lot of wonderful parenting strategies. Not all of is for me but It’s been very helpful to my parenting to read more on it. Thanks for sharing your story. It was a really interesting read (including the comments).

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  11. Mel Morns says:

    My oldest is 17 and it does all pay off.. he is such a lovely considerate well balanced guy and when he was little so many people said ‘oh you are making a rod for your back’, ‘you’re spoiling him’, ‘he’s going to be such a brat’… and now I could not be more proud of the amazing man he is turning into 😀 If you treat them with respect they learn to treat others with respect and have respect for themselves ❤

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  12. Nae says:

    I don’t force pleases & thank you’s either, just gentle reminders in saying it myself as I give him something & when I respond to him- my son now 4 often gets told how polite he is.
    I totally agree with this post.
    It’s so difficult
    I struggle to respond gently all the time instead of react; you’ve really got to be on the ball & evaluate the situation before dealing with it.
    I do think behavior is some what inherited, my partner says our son acts just as he did as a kid, eg: he’s a real tester, likes to push buttons to get a reaction & is a ‘s@!t stirrer’ as we call it, he doesn’t ease up or stop something no matter what’s said/done until he’s succeeded which is exactly as my motherinlaw explains my partner as a kid-
    it drives me crazy 🙂 & I’m still working on that but it doesn’t mean I’ll be changing my parenting to punitive measures

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    • Nae, it sounds like you have a very strong-willed son. He is very lucky to have you patiently parenting and guiding him as you can be sure that one day he will thank you for it. Gentle reminders for pleases and thank yous is a lovely way of describing it. There is no need to include expectation or disappointment in the reminder because we know that they will soon make the association for themselves and when they are ready they will use their manners beautifully with our gentle reminders. Thank you!

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  13. Anna-Vera it sounds like you are indeed a loving and respecful parent. It is so nice that you have been able to communicate with your daughter so confidently from such a young age. It sure sounds like she is blossoming!
    When my children use their manners, I refrain from praising as I feel it is simply part of the conversation they are having with me and shouldn’t need acknowledgment. If they say thank you for something I simply reply ‘My pleasure, sweetheart’ or ‘You’re welcome’. My eldest is now starting to say you’re welcome to me when I thank her for doing something. I always think, it would sound odd to praise a friend for using their manners when speaking to me and so I try not to do it with the children. Does that make sense?
    As for preparing my children to use their manners, I guess this is a call you have to make. If it is very important to you that they produce their manners to certain family members then that is up to you. Personally, I think it would make my children feel extremely uncomfotable at their young age to be put on the spot to have to smile, hug, wave or say thank you whilst everyone is waiting. I never insist mine greet people even if they greet her but inevitably they will gesture that they are welcoming them by either climbing on their lap with a book or asking to be picked up by them or simply offering them one of their toys. This is age appropriate and helps their self- confidence grow as they are able work within their own comfort zones whilst they process the social expectations over time.
    I hope this answers your questions, please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any others
    Kate xx

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  14. Chelsea says:

    Love this post – as the mom of two very active boys I often have to consider if I’m giving them “too much” freedom. I think kids learn so much through observation and repetition – and I always hope that I’m teaching my sons to think about others instead of being forced to follow rules. It’s definitely the long way to go about it, however!

    Like

    • Thank you, Chelsea. I too have found it a fine line to tread between too much freedom and not enough. Lucy is quite good at letting me know that I have given her too much freedom as her tantrums amp up and she is more persistent in her limit testing as though she needs to be sure of my commitment to her well-being. It is a much longer road but so much more is learnt along the way.
      Kate xx

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  15. What I find hardest about parenting is my lack of control. Ultimately it is my children’s hearts that matter, and it sure is hard to change hearts, so that wise lives may be lived. Thank you for sharing honestly about your parenting struggles.

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    • I hear you, Pauline! Controlling ourselves is one of the biggest challenge in our quest to be respectful parents. Once we have lost control it can be very difficult to remain respectful of our children’s emotions and feelings.
      Thank you for following my journey.
      Kate xx

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  16. I think it’s so important to be reflecting on our parenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t. In many ways that is what makes us good parents.

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  17. I really enjoy and find it thought provoking to read about your parenting approach. I’ve read some REI blogs for awhile now, and I try to incorporate parts of the approach into our home life, although not all aspects feel right for us. And I think it is pretty normal to reflect upon your parenting, check in on how it is going, I think that is all part of the parenting process, and shows a commitment to our children.

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    • I totally agree, Kelly. You have to find a balance between what works for you and what seems ‘better’ on paper. We have taken a long time to be convinced of many of the practices of RIE because they didn’t seem to suit our family. It’s funny how we keep seeming to convert to them though when we hit hurdles along the way and something we have thought was best is no longer working for us. It has been so nice to have something to fall back on and give a chance when we’ve needed to.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment
      Kate xx

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  18. I really enjoyed reading your reflections about your RIE parenting journey. There are many RIE strategies that resonate with me. Like all parents, I am constantly reflecting on and evaluating our parenting approach and open to learning more about alternative ideas.

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    • That’s great, Elise. The main thing I enjoy about RIE is the practical strategies they offer with that-makes-sense theory behind it. It fills me with confidence that we have chosen a good parenting method for our family.
      I am glad you enjoy reading my reflections. It is great that we are able to reflect in this way in our endeavour to bring our children up the best way we know how.
      Kate xx

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  22. maria says:

    As an outsider (someone who is not raising their children under the RIE method), I’m just curious at one point you do step back and start to encourage your kids to say ‘please, thank you, etc.’ My family is pretty upset with the behavior of my nephews over the holidays. They are 3.5 and 5.5. They rejected presents without even a thank you; called their grandmother stupid as well as telling her they were ‘sick and tired of her telling them what to do’; were disruptive at the table; and there just seemed to be no consequences to any of it. It was really not fun to be around, so I’m doing some research trying to understand my brother’s thinking. I understand a lot of the RIE theories as they applied to babies, but I am really struggling with my nephews at this age. How can a 6 year old be so openly rude and it be ok? It seems like from your story and the comments here, most kids are picking up on it naturally around the age of 4. He seems to be getting more disrespectful each year. Is there a point where you step back and try something different?

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    • Hi Maria, Great question!! As my children are still quite young I can’t give you a solid answer to this. Much of what my children do is a direct result of the behaviours I model. For example, I believe greatly in the importance of showing appreciation to gifts being given so when my girls are opening their presents I am sure to be with them and always exclaim how great the present is and thank the bearer. Often my children repeat what I say (as most toddlers do) Eg ‘Wow! This is great! Thanks so much X!’ I found that this year my nearly 3 year old did a lot of this off her own bat. There were a couple of occasions she opened a present when I was with her sister and heard her say ‘Wow! Look at this Mummy. Isn’t it great!’ Often she had no idea what the item even was but has picked up on the social etiquette of showing appreciate from my modelling.
      As for being directly rude at age six, I think I would be saying something about that if it were my children. It is possible to set expectations for manners respectfully. Eg. ‘You seem to be having some strong feelings about grandma at the moment. It is not ok to call someone stupid. Would you like to tell me some more about your feelings? Lets go to the bedroom and talk.’ Again, children respond strongly to modelling but if behaviour is testing then it is time for a limit to be set. “I know you are feeling upset about what grandma did but I won’t let you talk to her rudely. You will need to spend some time away from her (in your bedroom) if you are finding it hard to talk nicely.’
      I hope this clarifies a few things for you. It is a common misconception that respectful/RIE parenting is the same as permissive parenting and breeds spoiled children. This is most certainly not the case and a huge part of what founder Magda Gerber believed in was setting limits for children when they need them.
      Thank you for taking the time to learn more!!
      Kate

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