elevating child care

RIE Parenting Basics (9 Ways to Put Respect into Action)

In recent weeks, several readers have asked me to write a post they can share with family and friends to explain the RIE basics. Admittedly, ‘simple’ and ‘succinct’ aren’t my specialty, evidenced by the hundreds of 1000+ word blog posts I’ve written, all conceived to be under 700 words. With that caveat, I will give it a try. (Feel free to skip to the bullet points at any time.)

RIE parenting could be summed up as an awareness of our babies. We perceive and acknowledge them to be unique, separate people. We enhance our awareness by observing them — allowing them the bit of space they need to show us who they are and what they need.

RIE parenting also makes us more self-aware. Through our sensitive observations we learn not to jump to conclusions; for example, that our babies are bored, tired, cold, hungry, or want to hold the toy they seem to notice across the room. We learn not to assume that grumbling or fussing means babies need to be propped to sitting, picked up, or rocked or bounced to sleep. We recognize that, like us, babies sometimes have feelings that they want to share and will work through them in their own way with our support.

We learn to differentiate our children’s signals from our own projections. We become more aware of the habits we create (like sitting babies up or jiggling them to sleep), habits that can then become our child’s needs. These are artificially created needs rather than organic ones.

In short, RIE parenting asks us to use our minds as well as our instinct, to look and listen closely and carefully before we respond.

Sensitive observation proves to us that our babies are competent individuals with thoughts, wishes and needs of their own, and once we discover this truth there’s no turning back. Then, like Alison Gopnik, one of several psychologists on the forefront of an exciting new wave of infant brain research, we might wonder, “Why were we so wrong about babies for so long?

Practiced observers like RIE founder Magda Gerber weren’t wrong. More than sixty years ago, Gerber and her mentor, pediatrician Emmi Pikler, knew what Gopnik’s research is finally now proving: infants are born with phenomenal learning abilities, unique gifts, deep thoughts and emotions. Pikler and Gerber dismissed the notion of babies as “cute blobs” years ago, understood them as whole people deserving of our respect.

Gerber’s RIE approach can perhaps be best described as putting respect for babies into action. Here’s how:

1. We communicate authentically. We speak in our authentic voices (though a bit more slowly with babies and toddlers), use real words and talk about real things, especially things that directly pertain to our babies and that are happening now. We encourage babies to build communication skills by asking them questions, affording them plenty of time to respond, always acknowledging their communication.

2. We invite babies to actively participate in caregiving activities like diapering, bathing, meals and bedtime rituals and give them our full attention during these activities. This inclusion and focused attention nurtures our parent-child relationship, providing children the sense of security they need to be able to separate and engage in self-directed play.

3. We encourage uninterrupted, self-directed play by offering even the youngest infants free play opportunities, sensitively observing so as not to needlessly interrupt, and trusting that our child’s play choices are enough. Perfect, actually.

4. We allow children to develop motor and cognitive skills naturally according to their innate timetables by offering them free play and movement opportunities in an enriching environment, rather than teaching, restricting or otherwise interfering with these organic processes. Our role is development is primarily trust.

5. We value intrinsic motivation and inner-directedness, so we acknowledge effort and take care not to over-praise. We trust our children to know themselves better than we know them, so we allow children to lead when they play and choose enrichment activities, rather than projecting our own interests. We encourage our children’s passions and support them to fulfill their dreams.

6. We encourage children to express their emotions by openly accepting and acknowledging them.

7. We recognize that children need confident, empathetic leaders and clear boundaries, but not shaming, distractions, punishments or time out.

8. We allow children to problem-solve and experience and learn from age-appropriate conflicts with our support.

9. We understand the power of our modeling and recognize that our children are learning from us through our every word and action about love, relationships, empathy, generosity, gratitude, patience, tolerance, kindness, honesty and respect. Most profoundly, they’re learning about themselves, their abilities and their worth, their place in our hearts and in the world.

Note: these are not Magda Gerber’s official RIE principles (which are found HERE).

The outcome of all this? I couldn’t agree more with the promises stated on the RIE site: “RIE helps adults raise children who are competent, confident, curious, attentive, exploring, cooperative, secure, peaceful, focused, self-initiating, resourceful, involved, inner-directed, aware and interested”.

But what I’m most grateful to Magda and RIE for is the deeply trusting, mutually respectful relationships I have with my children. Respect and trust have a boomerang effect. They come right back at you. As Magda promised, I’ve raised kids I not only love, but “in whose company I love being.”

 

To learn more about RIE parenting, check out these resources:

Books

Your Self–Confident Baby by Magda Gerber and Allison Johnson

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect by Magda Gerber

The RIE Manual

Pikler Bulletin #14 by Dr. Emmi Pikler

Respecting Babies – A New Look at the RIE Approach by Ruth Anne Hammond

My books: Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame (both available on Audio)

Blogs

http://magdagerber.org

http://regardingbaby.org

http://mamasinthemaking.com

http://peacefulparentsconfidentkids.com

My posts, especially Magda Gerber’s Gift to Grown-Ups and 9 Parenting Words to Live By

Videos

http://rie.org

My youtube channel

 

 

(Photo by Mark Evans on Flickr)

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26 Responses to “RIE Parenting Basics (9 Ways to Put Respect into Action)”

  1. avatar Sherra says:

    A simple hearty huge THANK YOU for this clear concise post!!! Excellent!

  2. avatar Andy says:

    It would be great if you could give some real situation examples if each? Thank you!

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Andy! In the opening sentence of each of the bullet points there are links to posts with specific examples. For most of these topics I written many, many posts, so you might want to check out the drop-down under “Parenting” on my toolbar, or use my search function or tag cloud.

  3. avatar Helen says:

    Thank you Janet – the timing of this post couldn’t be better as my Bradwell Baby Cottage group is gaining ground! An exciting time for me. Sometimes I think you’re a mind reader with your posts!

    • avatar janet says:

      How exciting about your group, Helen! Your so welcome…and I’m glad to hear that the mind reading lessons are working! ;)

  4. avatar Melanie says:

    Thank you so much for this.

  5. What a lovely post. I resonated with the basic, “We encourage babies to build communication skills by asking them questions, affording them plenty of time to respond, always acknowledging their communication.”

    In my music practice, many parents bring with them a pressure to perform or make their babies perform. That assumed pressure sometimes tempts them to fill in the gaps for their babies. To relieve this, I like to encourage “purposeful silence” where the parents listen delightedly, with no expectations, even if the baby makes no sound at all. Thanks for the reminder that this is a basic communication skill!

    • avatar janet says:

      I love the “purposeful silence”, Ekanem. It sounds like our “quiet observation time” in RIE Parenting classes.

  6. avatar Meagan says:

    This is perfect. I usually don’t bother to direct people here unless they’re looking for advice on specific things like independent play or clingy babies… It’s too hard to explain and usually a single post doesn’t necessarily give a good idea of what it’s “about.” Could you permi-link this in your sidebar?

    • avatar janet says:

      Thanks, Meagan, that’s a good idea… I’ll ask my webmaster.

  7. avatar Danielle says:

    Thank you for posting this!

  8. avatar Bence Gerber says:

    Janet, I can hear my mothers voice when I read your blog. Your understanding and ability to clearly express Magda Gerber’s ideas is paramount.

    The amazing children you have raised are as lucky as I am. Clear and kind words of this and your other blogs read by your huge list of followers does more to spread my mothers wisdom than anything or anyone else. I am forever grateful to you.

    bence

    • avatar janet says:

      Wow, that is the highest compliment, Bence, thank you! Sharing the extraordinary, life-changing gifts your mother gave me is my goal. Feels like my mission in life.

  9. avatar Sarah says:

    Thank you janet. Thanks a million! I work with infant and toddlers and their parents. This is such a great guide. A lot of hobg kong Chinese are beginning to come around to RIE. I will be directing them to your page too. What adifference we can make in the lives of many families here!

  10. avatar Leslie says:

    I am just learning about RIE and this post is extremely helpful to me. My daughter is 6 months old and I made the mistake of jiggling her around to soothe her. Now, she won’t take rest on me. She has learned that when she’s with me, she should be bounced or moved about in some way. Interestingly, she snuggles with her nanny with no problems. Any suggestions on how I can break the pattern I created?

    • avatar janet says:

      Babies are able to make these kinds of changes with us, as long as we communicate clearly and support them through the transition, allowing them to express feelings like, “I want it the old way!” They have the right! Our confidence, clarity, communication, and acceptance of our children’s feelings are essential to making respectful adjustments. I would consider how you want sleep to go, and then make a gradual change toward that, beginning by doing a little “less” than you are doing.

  11. avatar Jennie A says:

    Which of Magda Gerber’s two books you recommend is the better to introduce to new parents who aren’t already familiar with these ideas? Dear Parents or Your Self-Confident Baby?

    • avatar janet says:

      I recommend either of those books, Jennie. Dear Parent has more of Magda’s “voice”. Your Self-Confident Baby is a bit more comprehensive and includes several parents’ reflections.

  12. avatar Juliet Wright says:

    what does RIE stand for?

  13. avatar phew! says:

    This all makes so much sense to me, but I was raised the EXACT opposite of this and it is not easy to retrain my brain. Most of this comes naturally to me, but I need lots of work in other areas. Thanks for the great post… it keeps me inspired and moving in the “right” direction with my toddler and infant :)

    • avatar janet says:

      I’m so glad to hear that. Your perspective is shared by many of us here. Welcome!

  14. avatar Ruth Mason says:

    Janet, Wonderful, as always. I would love to see you share the Sensory Awareness Bulletin on Emmi Pikler as a resource. As far as I know, it’s the English language publication that has the most material translated directly from Pikler’s writings. I love it.

  15. avatar Kim says:

    Great post! We do most of these things but we have gotten into the habit of talking in a different tone to our daughter. As much as it comes out of affection, I want her to feel respected. Do you think she will react negatively if we stopped?

    • avatar janet says:

      Thanks, Kim! No, I don’t think she’ll react negatively… but I would acknowledge any changes you make, so she doesn’t wonder what happened. :)

      Remember that babies are ultra-aware and hear the way their parents speak to each other and everyone else, so it won’t be new for her…it will just be different from what’s usually directed towards her.

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