Tag Archives: Natural development

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in Our Baby.

How RIE Helped Diagnose a Potentially Serious Condition in our Baby ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI have always known how incredibly rewarding and useful Magda Gerber’s parenting approach is for bringing up our children with the respect and peacefulness they deserve, but I never thought it would also help us to diagnose a potentially serious medical issue in our one year old daughter.

When my daughter was only four weeks old she was hospitalised with an undiagnosed condition which presented as a uni-lateral facial paralysis. It was a stressful time for all of us and in the absence of a similar case to hers, we were left wondering whether this was a long term condition; one that would impact upon her development, her sensory function or her overall brain function.

We were told that it was a matter of ‘wait and see’. As the months went by, she hit every milestone bang on cue and sometimes even earlier than the guidelines. Although a slight weakness of her face still remained, we became much less concerned about her growth and progress and quickly concluded that whatever it was that had impacted upon that area of her face, it had not affected anything else.

To confirm this, she underwent an MRI at eight months of age, along with hearing and vision tests. Everything came back clear and normal and with much relief we went back to enjoying watching our baby blossom into a sweet, curious toddler who loved to interact but also loved to be left in her own solitude; happy to explore and experiment with just a couple of items she was provided with.

It was around the time of her MRI that I discovered Janet Lansbury’s blog  and learned of the importance of connected caregiving. It had been common for us to use distractions with our 20 month old when changing her nappy, feeding her or after her bath when she needed to be dressed.

We thought this was the best way to ensure these events went smoothly andour daughter quickly learned that she didn’t need to be involved with these processes, she demanded distractions and took no interest in wanting to help put her legs in the holes or lift her bottom etc when needed.

Miss 8 months on the other hand, never really got to the stage of needing distractions before we discovered RIE. So when she started becoming a little restless on the change table we knew that distractions were not the answer (Read my previous post: Changing the Change Table Relationship).

We had been talking her through the processes of dressing and changing for a little while and the only thing we really changed to help at this stage was how much we let her do for herself. For example, I would say to her, “We need to put your legs in these holes” and then wait for her to respond.

She would then lift her legs one at a time and point her toes towards the holes of the pants whilst I gently pulled them on. Knowing she could now understand simple instructions, I used a similar ‘ask and wait’ strategy on just about everything I needed her to do. There was rarely a time that she wouldn’t respond positively or show understanding of what was being asked.

Then, not long after her first birthday, my daughter started showing signs of rebellion. It coincided with the onset of a very heavy cold. She would ignore me when I asked her to lift her bottom at the nappy change or put her leg in the hole whilst getting dressed and instead squirm to roll over and sit up.

When I would ask her to come to me when she was walking off, she would ignore me and keep walking and then crack it when I physically intervened. Initially I thought it was general irritability from being sick but when it continued I concluded that she had entered a new stage of development. This type of defiance was what I was used to from my two year old, so I thought it was just a stage she was going through and that as her cognition was developing, her need to test boundaries was also increasing.

Wanting to stay calm in my parenting and resist the use of distractions, I started being even more involving in the process of changing and dressing her. On one particular day, she was ignoring my verbal requests to put her legs in her pants, so I picked up the pants and held them in front of her as she squirmed on the table, she immediately stopped and stuck her leg out.

I was a little perplexed but proceeded to dress her without a fight, each time holding up the article of clothing to her so she could see it before telling her what I needed her to do. For the next few days, I tried to use the same technique but sometimes reverted back to simply using verbal cues when asking her to put on her pants etc.

After a while, I realised that she never responded to me when I only spoke to her and would always protest when I would try to dress her in this way, but was cooperative and obliging when I combined visual with verbal cues.

As the days went on, some cogs started turning in my head and following a conversation with a friend it suddenly dawned on me that the reason she was so objectionable when I used words only was that she couldn’t hear me!

I suddenly had that sinking feeling; the one that feels like you are free falling. The more I spoke about it the more obvious it became to me that her hearing was impaired. She hated having books read to her when sitting on my lap facing away from me. She startled when approached from behind and ignored warnings not to touch certain objects, tantruming when I had to physically restrain her from doing so.

These were all things that were not usual behaviours for my daughter. I had no doubt in my mind that she could not hear. I started to think that maybe her earlier condition had caught up with her and was now affecting her inner ear in some way.

I organised an appointment with a specialist who confirmed that she had some impairment of the movement of her eardrums in both ears. She had a follow up test a month later to check that it was an ongoing issue and it was explained to us that her symptoms were more closely linked to blockages in the ear canal due to fluid build up rather than a central processing issue.

Frequent ear infections is a common cause (from which she did suffer) and grommits were subsequently inserted to drain the fluid and open the canals.

Often, babies with these hearing issues are not detected until they set off warning beacons on the speech and language development radar, by which time they have already missed out on a lot of vital foundation work in this area.

I am so grateful that the communication I have with my daughter is real and is two-way. She listens to me and I listen to her in return. I do not ‘do things to her’, she works with me to get the jobs done and now, in hindsight, I can see how easy it really was to pick up this medical condition and follow up quickly with the correct treatment.

Had I not been doing this, had the communication been one-sided, it may have been many more months or even years before I realised that she could not hear.

Knowing how important these early years are for developing speech and language skills, I am extremely appreciative that we got onto this quickly thanks to the help of a beautiful style of parenting.


Rebuilding a Child’s Confidence

As an infant, my daughter could have been considered a very confident baby. Not a lot phased her, she rarely objected to strangers holding her and in play group settings, was very interactive with other babies and seemed happy to explore her environment with plenty of confidence to try new things. She has always displayed exceptional intelligence and physical ability and has a beautiful heart, but somewhere along the way, my little girl’s confidence has been knocked.

Rebuilding a Child's Confidence ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

No longer is she always such a happy, carefree girl, and although this shift in confidence has been gradual and is peaking just as she approaches the age of two (a tough developmental stage), I can’t help but think that maybe there were some areas of my parenting that in some way contributed to my daughter’s change of nature.

I have decided to break it up into the four areas which I think may not have been ideal for supporting the confidence she was innately born with:

1. Putting her into situations she was not ready for:

Builing a Child's Confidence ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI used to have so much fun taking my daughterto the park when she was just a small baby. She seemed to love being pushed in the swing and being slid down the slippery slide. I would also help her climb up large structures by supporting and boosting her up. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that by putting her into situations that she could not get into herself, I was unwittingly conveying the message that her actual abilities were not good enough.

Then, it was a little like a perpetual roundabout that was difficult to get off. The more we did this, the more she wanted to do it and the more she would become frustrated when she couldn’t.

In a previous post, I spoke about my natural desire to want to see my child achieve her milestones. I would try to aide her rolling by helping her onto her tummy or back when she was clearly trying to do this herself but not quite making it. I believe this may have kick started her ‘frustration squeal’ as she learned to depend on me to get herself into positions she didn’t have the muscular control to do herself and in doing so made her question the confidence she had in her own ability to do things, as well as making her feel she was inadequate because she couldn’t do it.

The same happened when she was thinking about crawling. On hands and knees, I would gently guide her hand forward, followed by her knee to show her the motions. It wasn’t long before she realised that she couldn’t crawl by herself when she wanted to and so the screams continued.

Then came the walking and so on. To her, it seemed that what she was capable of doing in the here and now was never good enough and my pushing her into things she wasn’t ready for was only fuelling this thought.

2. Playing too well with her:

When she was younger, I loved playing with her. It was like I was reliving my own childhood. I loved to build her towers that she could knock down and then help her to build her own.

Rebuilding a Child's Confidence ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsWhen we played with play dough, I would be right beside her playing too. I would make lovely shapes and figures and tell stories with them whilst my daughter looked on with her big ball of mushed play dough.

When she would colour with her pencils, I would enjoy colouring in myself, being sure to stay neatly inside the lines. Little did I realise that  by engaging with her play in this way I was undermining her confidence. She would see what I was doing and when she realised she could not do it as well as I could, she would give up.

In hindsight, she communicated this to me well before she could speak. If she was building blocks beside me and was having trouble stacking more than three blocks, whilst I was easily building a great tower she would aggressively knock both hers and mine over with a yell of frustration and move onto something else.

Her reaction with the playdough was very similar and when we would colour, if she stopped to look up at mine, she would see how neat it was and then quickly scribble over the top of it and tear her own page or throw her book on the ground. She knew there was no way she could complete the tasks to the standard she thought she had to, so she would vent her frustration and then destroy my creations, maybe trying to tell me I was expecting too much.

I was teaching her how to do things properly but I hadn’t realised that, in a child’s eyes, there is no such thing as properly until you show them there is.

3. Helping too much when frustrations set in:

It is so instinctive to want to jump to the rescue of a child who is crying out for help. It is an easy fix. You solve whatever problem is ailing them and then they’re happy, you’re happy because they’re happy and everyone can go on happily playing. Problem is, when you do this, you are giving them the message that they can’t do it on their own. Therefore, when the same or a similar situation arises, the child will continue to cry out for help, lacking their own confidence to work it out for themselves.

When I think about it, I helped my daughter from early on by handing her the toy she was searching for, just out of her reach. As she grew older I helped her with puzzles, shape sorters and other toys that required problem solving. I would unhook her pram when it got stuck on something as she pushed it in an effort to prevent her shouts of frustrations and turn her posting cards around the right way for her so she could post them into the box easily.

I thought I was helping her through her struggles; I was showing her how to do things so she would quickly learn and not have to struggle anymore. Problem was, she wasn’t given the opportunity to work things out for herself and by helping her through her frustrations, I  was conveying a message that she was incapable of doing it on her own.

4. Providing her with too many electronic toys:

Rebuilding a Child's Confidence ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsComplex in their design but simple in their operation, electronic toys gave my daughter a false sense of her ability. With many of her electronic toys, she could simply press a button or pull a handle and something amazing would happen. It was so easy for her that when given an inert toy that did not have a button to push or lever to pull, she had unrealistic expectations of what should happen with these toys. When she could not get something to perform for her easily, she would give up and question her ability to work it. She had little perseverance for problem solving type toys. preferring the cheap entertainment of the flashy toys.

Where to From Now?

Following RIE philosophies, I am now in the process of re-building my daughter’s confidence. As I undertake this task, I am mindful that this is not a quick fix and will take a great deal of dedication, patience and reassurance.

I now refrain from my own desires to play with my child and when I do, I am always careful to allow her to guide the play and tell me what to do, rather than the other way around. Electronic toys are a thing of the past and she is now able to engage in skill building, problem solving and open ended toys for longer periods of time.

If she cannot climb it, jump it, get into it or on it then she doesn’t get any assistance from me other than gentle support with comments like: “I can see you’re trying really hard. It’s difficult to climb over that climbing frame. If you’d like to keep trying I will stay right beside you for support.”

By substituting the old methods for these new ones, I am slowly starting to see a return in the spirit of my little girl and I hope she will go on to climb mountains, full of confidence that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to in life.

You might also enjoy reading

Allowing Children to Play For Their Age and Stage ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Could Young Children be Better Served by Not Teaching Them ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Toys Fostering Creativity and independence in Children ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Could Young Children be Better Served by Not Teaching Them?

Could Children be Better Served by Not teaching Them ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsHaving been a teacher for 12 years, I had always thought I would have a distinct advantage over other parents who had not trained in this area in giving my children a leg up in their education. After all, I knew all the little tricks for learning, I knew what needed to be learned (or I thought I did) and I knew how hard it could be for a child who was behind in their work and could never seem to get on top of things. I was determined that my children would begin their schooling half-educated and ready to hit the ground running, not having to struggle through.

So after the birth of my first daughter, even though I had switched to mother mode and was to take a year’s leave from teaching, I just couldn’t quite separate my role as a teacher from that of a mother. I religiously read to my baby, showed her flashcards naming all the objects, got little foam letters for the bathtub to spell out her name, went through all the shape names as we poked them through the shape sorter and on it went. I even went so far as to order the ‘Your Baby Can Read’ program and for a little while, plonked my baby in front of it as if it would somehow miraculously teach her to read. Oh dear, how wrong I was!

I have since learned that teaching is not in the role description of a parent – at least, not explicitly. I am not employed by my babies to teach them the alphabet, maths, or even how to walk, talk or eat their food. My role is as a guide only. I am here to provide them with an environment which provides them with safety and security as well as the experiences for them to learn for themselves.

My children are best served by me sitting back and observing. Showing them how to do things instead of trusting them to work it out for themselves, insisting they point out the red sheep in the book we are reading together, involving myself in their play by showing them how tall I can build a tower of blocks or interfering in their daily struggles and challenges not only pressures them to do more and know more than they already happily do but also robs them of the opportunity to develop even more important life skills such as perseverance, hypothesising, resilience, forming conclusions, risk taking, cause and effect and the list goes on.

Like Magda Gerber once said:

“Be careful what you teach, it might interfere with what they are learning.”

A child who is not taught, gains the opportunity to experience the self-pride and confidence which comes when an achievement is made all by themselves. This can only serve to foster a lifelong love of learning which is paramount in arming our children for the lifetime of formal learning they will gain at school or in the workforce.

There is one thing we can be sure of with our children and that is that they are all born with an innate desire to learn. If I don’t show my children how to walk, will they never take those first steps in their lifetime? If I never teach my child the alphabet, does that mean they will never learn it? The thing is, a child’s desire to learn is far stronger than our need to teach and when the time is right for them, our children will seek out the knowledge they wish to continue to grow and develop at their own pace.

I have also discovered that there is nothing more joyful than watching your child persevere through frustrations, only to eventually triumph and complete the task they had set out to do. Jean Piaget wisely pointed out:

“When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.”

And when you see the smile light up on your little one’s face when they make the discovery or accomplish a task you will soon realise the importance of Piaget’s message. It is especially affirming when they immediately re-enact a struggle they just made it through as if to reassure themselves that they can do it and will continue to be able to do it when they need to in the future.

I now know that being present whilst my, now two, children are at play is all I need to do to ensure they learn all the vital skills they’ll need to be well-equipped for their lifetime of learning. In doing this, I also realise that they’ll actually learn far more than if I had continued to try to teach them everything at every opportunity.


When my daughter climbed into this boat structure at the local playground earlier this week, I sat with her for nearly 20 minutes whilst she struggled to work out how to get back out. She tried going backwards and forwards on her tummy and then tried standing and holding on whist stepping down. Each time she would cry out in frustration and look to me for help. I was solid in my resolve and simply sat right near her and calmly acknowledged her frustrations and let her know that I would help her if she really needed me to. Each time I spoke this to her, she would look away from me and have another attempt. Although she was whinging, it was clear she didn’t want me to interfere. Eventually she got down by wriggling backwards feet first. It was then time to leave the park. I was back there today and you can guess where she made a beeline for when we arrived. Yep, the boat. She climbed straight up and then came straight back down, head first this time, within about 10 seconds. She then repeated this several times, alternating between going head first and feet first. Not a whinge to be heard but plenty of beaming smiles 🙂

The Joy of Natural Development

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. As they occur, a parent can then also breathe a sigh of relief that their child is indeed on track.

The Joy of Natural Development

For many parents, 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. This may not seem a big deal but in doing this parents unwittingly restrict valuable opportunities for learning countless other skills along the way. What’s more, it also sends a message to the little ones that what they CAN do is not good enough; they need to do more.

I used to be one of these parents. I did not trust in my daughter’s capabilities to learn things for herself, nor could I curb my impatience for her to achieve milestones so I could show her off and revel in her achievement. Since studying and implementing Magda Gerber’s RIE approach I have made adjustments to my thinking about a child’s development and can now attest to the enormous benefits of restraining from assisting and instead, allowing natural development for my second daughter.

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 she was showing small signs of wanting 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. This was 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. I was taking away that opportunity for her to own her achievement and be proud of it. She would not slowly become aware of her body and its abilities like she should have been allowed to. Rather, she developed a false sense of security in her ability and when the time came for her to try things out independently, she often had accidents and mishaps.

The Joy of Natural Development

Soon after my second child was born, I was introduced to RIE. I learned that children did not need to be shown how to do anything. Children are capable beings who have natural instincts to achieve milestones in their own time. I learned my daughter would roll when she had naturally developed the muscles and neurons to enable it, she would sit when she felt she could do so safely and she would walk when she was ready.

And  she is now totally content with her capabilities. She does not cry out quickly in frustration when she is not able to do something. 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 suddenly started moving across the floor.

When it had moved about 5 metres I could see my baby walking along pushing the chair 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 for her to take her first unaided steps, 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!

You might also enjoy reading:

Allowing Children to Play for Their Age and Stage ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Don’t Stand Me up ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

Sitting Baby Up: The Downside ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

9 Reasons Not to Walk babies ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

Baby on the Move: What Infants Can do When We Let Them ~ Kelly Meier (Respectful Parent)

For more information about RIE parenting I’d highly recommend reading the following books (affiliate links):

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition)  ~ Magda Gerber

Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities — From the Very Start
~ Magda Gerber

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting  ~ Janet Lansbury

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury

The Joy of Natural Development