We receive a lot of questions concerning how to interact with infants and young children.
Richard and I promote something similar to the RIE method when it comes to interacting with this particular population. We tell parents that it is important to talk to your newborn with calm, soothing “baby talk”; tell them what is around them what is about to happen (e.g., “daddy is going to take off your diaper”, “mommy is going to pick you up.”) Studies have shown that there are many benefits to this gentle, conversational and respectful approach to babies.
To help you better understand this approach we asked Elsbeth Martindale, PsyD, a Portland, Oregon-based psychologist with over 25 years experience in clinical practice and author of “The Things to Know Before You Say “Go" book and deck, to help us explain.
“Giving children the message that their environment is predictable and engaging helps them learn to trust that they can interact and connect in ways that are safe and non-threatening. They aren't jarred out of their comfort by a larger human directing their life and actions. The respect of this approach is based on a humanistic trust. When infants are treated with this respect and trust they grow believing that the world around them can be safe and trustworthy.
Our son, now 15, grew up and learned about life with this method. He has become a very confident young man, trusting that he can get himself in and out of situations on his own without needing mom or dad to bail him out. He learned to trust his own knowing and sense of self. Our interactions with him were honest, forthright, and consistent. He's encountered others that don't operate from these values and he clearly makes choices to move towards those that give him respect and consideration. I think it's nearly impossible for young people to grow up confident in themselves when they are raised in families where they were asked to do things to please others without being asked to check in with themselves to see if this is in line with their own desires (e.g.: telling a child to "give uncle Bob a hug").
Of course, children are also need to be taught about social structure and cooperative living. If they are helped to see life from a meta perspective (e.g.: we need to work together to make sure that they table is cleared so our house is in order and ready for the next activity) and are encouraged to contribute to the well-being of a larger system, beyond their individual needs and desires, then collaborative living is organic and joyful. “
We at Parents “R” Talking encourage you to talk with your children right from the start; your “Babies “R” Listening”.
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(Editor's Note: The opinions in this article are those of Parents “R” Talking. The opinions are not medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician about any changes you are contemplating.)
(Programming change: Beginning next week, Parents "R" Talking column will run on Saturdays at 2 p.m.)