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Original RIE Manual

Time Alone

The mother of a three-month boy: “I clean house and set him up in his infant seat and take him from room to room with me. However, he still gets fussy and I feel guilty for cleaning instead of playing with him. Am I letting him demand too much of me?”
This mother’s problem represents the trap I feel too many mothers fall into, the trap created by books and advisors who say that a baby needs to have his mother near him at all times. As a result, mothers keep their babies on kitchen tables, bathroom floors, and other unsafe places. To keep them safe, they are strapped in infant seats, where they can hardly move. Children learn best through involvement, both with their environment and with others. All a confined baby can do is kick his legs while his mother works. But if the child could have a pleasant place to play, where he could move around on his own, exploring his environment, and, in turn, freeing his mother to do her own work, both the mother’s needs and the child’s needs could be met. A baby can learn to spend time by himself. It is important for him to discover satisfaction and joy in his own independence. And, when the mother finishes with her own time, she can come back to her child and be able to fully concentrate on interacting with him without distraction. No infant needs constant attention; what he needs is to feel secure. Certainly being shuffled from room to room is not security-inducing. An adult way of life is not a child’s way of life; and when adults try to do their own work while trying to pay attention to their children, both parent and child end up feeling frustrated. Both need time for themselves. It will help make the together times all the more rich.

The RIE Manual for Parents and Professionals Part I: Practical Suggestions for Parents
Copyright © 1979 Magda Gerber

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Black and white ink drawing of an infant laying supine and reaching towards an adult hand which is reaching back to the infant

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