Navigating Challenges: Embracing Learning Moments

Life is filled with struggles—it’s part and parcel of living. Initially, I didn’t quite embrace this idea. It wasn’t until I discovered the Educaring Approach that my perspective shifted. Now, I firmly believe that struggle is an inevitable aspect of life. Frustration, surprisingly, is an essential emotion; it propels us forward and nudges us to try doing things differently.

Today, when guiding parents in my RIE Parent-Infant Guidance classes, I encourage parents to accept and embrace the struggle; it is not always easy. In one of these classes, a parent asked me, “I’m willing to embrace it, but what do I do when my child is struggling?”

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Take a slow breath: Regulate yourself first.
  2. Empathize with the child’s struggle.
  3. Narrate what you see: “I see what you are trying to do. You’re attempting to open this lid, and it’s stuck… Ufff… struggles with the lid Ahh, it won’t budge.” When you narrate – you are helping the child process information and bring some of the energy down. Sometimes, this is all that is needed.
  4. Wait. If your child persists in their effort and struggle, just wait. Be there, but refrain from saying or doing too much.
  5. If your child asks for help, start with the least intrusive options:
    • Make verbal suggestions – make sure not to bombard the child with tons of them.
    • Physically hold the item, allowing the child to adjust their grasp or angle: “Maybe I can hold the jar and you twist the lid.”

The most important thing is to avoid becoming too anxious for your child to complete the task. The more anxious you are, the more anxious your child may become, making it harder for both of you to tolerate the struggle. Let the moment be!

Sammy’s story

Let me share an interesting observation involving a toddler, Sammy, and his mom. Sam and his mom attend my RIE Parent-Infant Guidance class. In the class each time Sammy spotted a little jar with a screw lid, he was determined to open it. He struggled, he grunted, cried out loud, and expressed his frustration. Sam demanded Mom’s help by pushing the jar into her hands. His mom did everything I suggested—she empathized, narrated, and held the jar while Sammy tried to open it. This pattern repeated for weeks.

Then, one day, something went differently. Sammy discovered a set of jars and lids left out at the entrance to my class. Without any coaxing, he sat down and started working on the lids. Usually, I’d gather all the children in the room and close the entrance gate, but this time, I encouraged Sam’s mom to wait and watch. There were no other families around, just the two of us inside the room, and Sammy at the entrance.

For ten focused minutes, Sammy worked on the jar lid without asking for help or showing any frustration. And finally, he did it—Sammy opened and closed the lid! When he walked into the room, he had the widest grin. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was easier for Sammy to concentrate without feeling the weight of our high expectations and a bit too much encouragement.

As Magda Gerber used to say,

“There is dignity in the struggle; it gives our soul’s muscle.”

Learning to struggle equips us with the skills to navigate life.

Let me know if you need more information about RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes.

Wishing you all the best in this difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!

Warmly,

Teacher Kira

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Parent-Infant Guidance™

Visit us at www.RIEpasadena.org or contact Melissa Coyne at melissa.coyne@rie.org

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Facilitated by a RIE® Associate, small groups of parents and babies come together in a relaxing, infant-friendly environment to make friends and enjoy learning together.

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