“What are some things to say to a baby when he is upset for no clear reason (fresh diaper, fed, not too cold/warm, not tired, etc)? My husband and I have gotten into the habit of saying ‘You’re OK’ to our 3 month old. We say it more as a reassurance that he is indeed safe and secure (which we frequently also say) rather than to negate his feelings. I’m at a loss for other phrases to use but don’t want this one to become any more of a habit, especially for when he is older.”

“I see you as the separate little person that you are. You know and feel things that you want and need to express. You want and need to be heard. You have a lot to say. I see you. I hear you. I’m listening. I want to hear and understand who you are and what you have to say. Tell me. I am here for you.”  This is a conversation and relationship that begins at birth and evolves over time. You convey this message to your young baby through your words, through your touch, through maintaining an attitude of curiosity, openness, and respect.


R and me

“Remember, crying is a baby’s language—it is a way to express pain, anger, and sadness. Acknowledge the emotions your baby is expressing. Let him know he has communicated.

For example, you might say, ‘I see you’re uncomfortable. And hearing you cry really upsets me. I want to find out what you need. Tell me. I will try to understand your cues…’… Then think out loud. ‘Could it be that your diaper is wet? I don’t think you are hungry because you just ate. Maybe I’ve been holding you long enough and maybe you want to be on your back for a while.’ This is the start of lifelong, honest communication.”  Magda Geber

I remember the first time I held my girl as if it was yesterday, even though that was two and a half years ago. She was just a few weeks old. As soon as she was placed in my arms, she began vocalizing. This was something that everyone present would notice and comment on over a period of four months, during the precious one hour visits we were allowed weekly. “As soon as she is in your arms, she starts “talking”.



This is still true today, although now she has words. She lets me know how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking, in a very clear way, always. We don’t always agree.  I’m not always able to make things better or easier for her. Sometimes, all I can do or say is, “I hear you. This is hard.”  Sometimes, I have misunderstood, and gotten it wrong. But we have always been and  are always) in conversation with each other and my goal has always been (and still is)  to try to listen and understand, and to allow her to feel heard, seen and accepted for exactly who she is. It’s an attitude and a belief as much as anything else. “I am interested in hearing what you have to say and trying to understand who you are and what you need.”

Early on, I said things like this:  “What do you want to tell me?” “Tell me more.”  “You are so upset.”  “I’m listening.” “I’m here.” “You have a lot to tell me.” “You seem uncomfortable.” “I wonder what you’re trying to tell me?”  “It’s OK to cry.” ” I wonder if you would like to go outside for a walk?”” I wonder if you are tired and need to rest?” “Would you like me to sing you a song?” “It’s hard to be a baby sometimes, isn’t it?” “I’m trying to/want to understand what you’re telling me.”

Enter into the conversation with your baby. Let her know that what she has to say is important to you, and that you are trying to understand. Ask her questions and wait for her response. Be with her in her experience as fully as you are able. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship, and a lifetime of conversation.


The Gift in Slowing Down to a Child’s Pace

May 24, 2014

Tabitha writes, “I wanted to share an experience from my family’s first vacation. I just returned form a two-week stay in Mexico with my husband and 15 month old daughter. The first week was shared with my entire extended family as we celebrated the wedding of my younger sister. I was extremely excited to introduce […]

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No Ifs, Ands, or Buts: Setting Limits With Empathy

April 12, 2014

Calmly setting and holding to necessary limits can be trying for parents, especially in the face of a toddler’s strong feelings of displeasure or upset. One of the most frequent questions I receive from parents is “How do I set or hold  a limit when my child is upset?” For instance, “It’s time to get […]

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Is Tummy Time Important For My Baby? (My Final Answer!)

January 4, 2014

      “Is Tummy Time important for my baby?” (Read more here: No Tummy Time Necessary, and here: Tummy Time Baby’s Way.) The above video is courtesy of Kids In The House, which is a (still) new web site that was launched in April 2013, and is a tremendously valuable FREE resource for parents. The site’s creator, Leana […]

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The Cat in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!

January 1, 2014

(With thanks to Janet Lansbury for the title!) I actually took this picture of R’s play space about three weeks ago, but it seemed appropriate to post here, today. R had been playing, and then went for a nap, and I went to tidy up her play space and happened upon this scene, which just […]

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On Our Way, With a Little Help From Our Friends (A Christmas Miracle)

December 21, 2013

As many of you know, I am in the (very long, painfully slow) process of adopting  my niece R from the foster care system, and to that end, I  have been required to remain in the state of Florida (where she was born) throughout this past year. On December tenth, R and I received a ruling […]

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Toddler Testing: Problem or Opportunity?

October 8, 2013

“Go slowly and with great patience.” Magda Gerber Emma writes: “I really struggle with a particular issue at meal times with my 11 month old son. He is awesome with washing hands, but pulls away, pulls at the cloth, and tries with all his might to throw it on the floor when I wipe his […]

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RIE From The Start- 2 Simple Things You Can Do to Support Baby

September 19, 2013

“Slow down, and then slow down some more. Indicate, and tell even a child who doesn’t understand verbal communication yet, “I’m going to pick you up.” And then comes my magic word. If people only remember that one word: Wait. Then you wait and the child gives a signal, most likely. It depends on the age. […]

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Trusting Baby To Be A Problem Solver

July 12, 2013

“Trust your baby’s competence: she wants to do things for herself, and she can do things for herself. You also know that your child does need help, but try to provide just that little amount of help that allows the child to take over again. Let her be the initiator and problem solver. We can […]

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RIE Foundations – Coming to Chicago This Summer!

May 13, 2013

Many parents and early childhood educators have contacted me expressing an interest in deepening their understanding and practice of RIE philosophy through participating in formal RIE training. Traditionally, there have been very few opportunities to do so without traveling to Los Angeles, CA.,   but this is slowly beginning to change as Magda Gerber’s  approach […]

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