Getting Started With Respectful Parenting

Getting started with respectful parenting is easier than most people think. Luckily, it’s not about following a set of rules or memorizing phrases to say (phew!). In this article, we’ll chat about how to start simple respectful parenting practices that will bring more ease, joy, and connection to your family.

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The number one question I often get about respectful parenting is, “where do I start?” So many of us think we need to get it perfect and sing this song all day, or it won’t “work.” 6 years later, and 2 years into my RIE® training, I have learned that it’s never about perfection. It’s truly all about doing our best to connect with our children in meaningful ways. And listening to Beyonce too, if you’d like. ;)

I’m here to share a few simple ways to do that.

Slow Down. Way Down.

Parents and people in general are busier than they ever have been before. I sometimes hop onto social media and feel a twinge of guilt that my kids aren’t signed up for all the extracurriculars that are out there.

But then I observe my children on our slow days, and I see how relaxed and happy we all are. We have time for child-led play, diaper changes without the stress, and simple pleasures like riding bikes and staring out the window. My children get bored, and then invent a game from scratch, or an art project out of popsicle sticks and glitter glue. The ease and flow is all so good.

I also notice less tantrums and more time for my own self-care. It’s truly a win-win for all.

See Independent Play As Normal

This one is big. I know many of us want our children to happily play without us. But then we might feel an urge to teach something, or connect with them through the ways we liked to play as kids. This is not wrong, and there are times when we all enjoy it.

But because I know you and I are open to learning a new way, we can observe them while they play and discover that many times, they do not need our well-meaning interference. When given the opportunity, they can happily invent their own ways to play with toys. They can find a unique way up a park play structure and make their own choices. They can even problem solve their own toy struggles after some initial frustration.

The key here is to take a step back, observe our children play, and wait before we chime in. I usually watch play twice a day for 15 minutes, both in the morning and in the evening with a cuppa. It’s our favorite time to be together. If you’d like to learn more on how to do this at home, I have a free email mini-series where I show you exactly what to do. It’s super easy and fun!

Make Caregiving Times Count

You might be thinking, “If I’m not playing with them, when do we bond?” I think of caregiving times as the times I literally connect soul to soul with my children. Even when changing a poopy diaper. Especially then!

You might need to think of it this way: it’s the perfect time to slow down, make eye contact, chit chat or communicate back and forth, and touch with gentleness.

The number one way to get more cooperation is to see caregiving times as a beautiful time to be together. We can ask for a baby’s help when putting on pants, “can you stick your foot into this pant leg? Thank you!” We can also wash hands with extra TLC. Make bath time an unhurried and special time without cell phones. I even try to change diapers with as Dr. Emmi Pikler called, “ceremonious slowness” because we both enjoy the time together (at least most of the time right?).

Accept The Big Emotions, Even Our Own

So many of us want to raise resilient children. You and I both want our children to have the grit to get through the sometimes craziness of life and rise strong. Studies are telling us that resilience doesn’t come from denying our normal human emotions. It comes from accepting them. Children also need to feel accepted and loved, even when they are experiencing negative emotions, like sadness and anger.

The next time you sense a toddler tantrum, resist the urge to distract it away, or punish it with a timeout. See it all as normal, and very healthy to let out. Stop the negative behavior (“I won’t let you hit. I’m going to stop you.”) and sit quietly and listen. Sometimes I say, “you sound really upset, I’m here for you.” You may notice as I so often do, that afterwards our children are calm, more understanding, and even joyful when the big stuff is released.

Are you someone who can let out your own tears and feelings? Journaling, shedding tears, and admitting to yourself, “I’m friggin’ angry!” has been huge for me in living a less artificial life. I feel more in touch with myself than ever before, and I’ve become a less anxious person.

“I’m Going To…”

If you want to start one respectful parenting practice right now, start telling your baby or child what you will do before you do it. Then, give a few moments of wait time before you do it. Waiting just a bit is so wonderful for allowing a child to ready themselves, and creates more connection and trust between the two of you.

Before you pick up a baby, resist the urge to scoop them up in a hurry. Instead, get close and hold out your arms to signal them. Say what you’re about to do and why, “I’m going to pick you up. I’d like to change your diaper.” Now, wait a moment. Pick them up supporting their neck and head, and acknowledge any upset if there is any.

If you’d like, you can give a few more minutes to finish playing. This might help with even more cooperation.

I hope you enjoyed this post! For free respectful parenting + self-care resources and gifts, sign up for the Weave In Wonder newsletter. If you’d like more inspiration, connect with me on Instagram where I share child-led play inspiration and self-care rituals. And if you’d like more direct support and community with like-minded people, come join the Bay Area Whole Child Activities group.

Sending so much love to you,

Jesse