7 Benefits of RIE Parenting

“I have relaxed so much as a mother and as a wife. I can enjoy my kids without having to live up to anyone else’s standards. I have learned how to actively listen. To do less. And observe more. I’m happy. I’m proud of being a mother. I love learning and can admit when I have more things to learn.” – Tracy 

The beauty of Magda Gerber’s Educaring Approach (commonly known as RIE) is that the results are as helpful and exciting to parents as they are beneficial for children.  Recently, in a RIE – inspired discussion group, parents shared their positive experiences and discoveries in response to a question from a parent new to the group: “For those of you who have been implementing RIE concepts for a while, would you care to share an example of how your children are different (in a good way), and which RIE tenet you attribute that success to? I’ve organized the responses in categories that reflect RIE’s focus and benefits.  

1. Natural Motor Development: Fosters agility, grace, self-confidence and a love of learning, while also bringing joy to parents and kids.

Erin: My son just turned one, and I’ve watched him develop on his own without all the coaching, propping, walking, and devices that I’ve been encouraged to use by conventional doctors needing to mark a box showing my son was “on time” for certain milestones… He’s so confident when he starts doing anything. It’s remarkable to observe. I have friends stressed out about whether or not their kids are walking, and my energy is spent watching him try.

Emily: What has been huge for us is natural gross motor development – not propping babies into sitting, doing tummy time, or “walking” them by hand. I did things the conventional way with my first child for the first year, then RIE from the start with my second child. It’s been amazing and wonderful watching them develop their skills, muscles, and problem solving without props, “aids” or devices.

Teagan:  Like Emily, natural gross motor development has been a big one for us, too. Watching my now nine-month-old learning to roll, crawl, walk, and now run and climb all on his own brought him and us so much joy. He moves with such confidence. I have observed that both my son and my friend’s 12 month old who has also been raised with a RIE approach both move with ease and grace. They have very few accidents (actually, my son has never hurt himself whilst learning to walk!) and do not have a false sense of security when it comes to things like steps and uneven surfaces etc.

2. Self-directed play: Develops physical and cognitive skills, fosters creativity, imagination, psychological health, a strong sense of self, and gives parents time off!

Jinny: For me, the benefits of RIE are so numerous, but the one I love most these days is listening to my 3.5-year-old during his morning play. The conversations he carries on with his toys are music to my ears. His focus and imagination are delightful to witness. It’s my favorite time of day, and I attribute this benefit to over three years of making space for independent play, which involves setting up a safe play space with open ended objects and consistently giving my son the time and space to explore these objects without my leading or entertaining.

Kesha: In addition to enhanced gross motor development, I particularly enjoy the self-directed play of my 11-month-old. He is able to entertain himself for up to an hour or more as long as he knows where I am if he needs something. This is good for his mental and emotional development, but also a huge perk for me to be able to have time for myself.

I will add that at one year old, my son also very frequently receives comments about how happy he is or how “good” or “well-behaved” he is. I think his personality type (being emotionally sensitive) might not receive comments like this without RIE’s influence in teaching me to respect him and allow him self-directed play.

Erin: All around my son just seems well adjusted and capable, and people comment on how happy and alert he is. I think that is due to me learning to communicate every step of the way and not giving him mindless toys. (I actually discovered RIE while pregnant when I was researching NOT giving your children too many toys). He’s paying attention to the world, not a screen or a piece of plastic shouting music notes at him.

3. Modeling rather than forcing manners: Encourages authenticity. 

Tracy: I have a four year old daughter and an 11 month old son. I’d say my daughter can play independently. She takes initiative. Gets ready with minimal direction. Treats people kindly and with respect. Yet it’s never been demanded from her. We only model. Yet she says please, thank you, excuse me, and you’re welcome.

Lucy: I haven’t ever told my child to say thank you or please, just modelled it, and although she doesn’t say those words at the moment (and a friend’s baby says ‘ta’ every time they touch something), I feel so proud that my little one shows genuine appreciation for things and wholehearted generosity at times. I much, much prefer rare, genuine gratefulness than ta by rote.

Rachel: I had several spontaneous kisses from my 18 month old son tonight, unprompted. I make a special effort not to force kisses FROM him. Tonight, I felt this was him being particularly affectionate (not sure if it was, but I like to think it was more than a game!).  Before RIE I would have probably made kisses/affection towards one another more routine (hope that makes sense!)

Erin: My one year old son is able to show affection because he wants to, not because we force it (we caught him kissing the dog the other day, and it melted my heart).

4. No need to micro-manage sibling struggles

Kaitlin: The sibling dynamic is another big thing for me. Seeing their genuine relationship form is so rewarding. They are so authentic with each other because they have never been forced to show affection or apologize. They already work things out on their own, and I don’t have to referee. And the unprompted affection melts my heart.

5. Respectful limits: They are freeing.

Kate: It’s not just about the kids. It’s a win-win kind of philosophy for me in so many ways. It’s given me the confidence to choose and set effective limits, and the words and actions to do it. Having these limits helps my three year old feel loved, safe, and calm, even if he needs to flip out about it first. It’s given me space to do my stuff while my boys enjoy their own company (even the four month old), and it’s given them freedom to do that. It’s also given me the gift of trust in my children and who they are becoming, and a little more trust in myself as a parent. All of these things on a good day. On a bad day, it gives me the tools to analyse what went wrong and the inspiration to start again.

Erin: Choices! I learned that setting limits is important, but giving choices is too. I have been able to develop ways to safely let my son have freedom while at the same time creating the safe boundaries that he needs to be able to learn and explore. I could go on and on!

6. Trust in our children’s competence is as much of a blessing for us as it is for them.

Kaitlin: In addition to all the things mentioned, I think a big thing is that I feel so much more relaxed about the long-term. I mean, I still have hard moments just getting through the day and keeping my cool sometimes. But I trust that these little people will learn what they need to and make their own choices. I don’t feel responsible for filling them up with the right information or experiences. I trust them so much and love watching them learn how to make good decisions

7. Accepting and acknowledging feelings: Fosters psychological health and emotional intelligence.

Kasia: My son is now almost 4 years old. I have an amazing friend/RIE resource person who lives nearby and has been a mentor to me concerning parenting. I was introduced to RIE when my son was born and loved it then and still now. The biggest thing I can appreciate and that serves my son is allowing him to have his feelings. By giving him space to cry and even have big tantrums when they come, his feelings are heard and for the most part supported (I do also make mistakes and lose my patience at times, but mostly try to support him). I have noticed over the past six months especially that if he is able to let his feelings out, be heard and supported through that process (instead of going to time out or me yelling), he is able to “recover” and get on with his day. He doesn’t have melt down after melt down all day long. My son does have off days for sure, and when he’s sick or extra tired it’s not easy. But I see so much support and respect though RIE. Especially being a “boy”- it is important to me that he learns about feelings and how to recognize and handle them as he gets older. Most importantly, that it’s okay for boys to express themselves.

Tracy: Both of my kids can read people very well. Acknowledging and accepting all feelings (good, bad, and ugly) has allowed my children to develop an emotional IQ that might even be higher than mine.

Ryan: There are numerous benefits as everyone has said, and I have observed these qualities in my kids, but also — articulation of self-confidence and feelings. My kids are three and five and a half, and they will come and say, ” I’m feeling really frustrated, I need some help;” or when someone is trying to tell them how to play with something, “You can choose to play with it that way, but I’m going to choose to play with it this way, and that’s ok because it’s my choice”.

Anna: My son recently turned two. We’ve noticed that his emotional reactions (eg. when upset or even injured) tend to resolve quickly, and then he moves on completely. We believe it’s because we offer genuine acknowledgement and comfort without trying to downplay his experience or distract him. He doesn’t need to over-exaggerate his feelings to get our attention, because we’ve never made him feel that only certain things are “worth crying over”. We also appreciate his spontaneous gratitude, affection, sharing, and cooperation. RIE principles have not only helped him to have these traits, but have also helped us as his parents to notice, appreciate, and enjoy them.

Rebecca: My daughter is three and a half. I’ve grown much more comfortable with her various ways of expressing her feelings. It was so freeing to let go of the need to fix negative feelings. And it seems odd to say to you that these moments of supporting her in her negative feelings are so rewarding, but it really does feel like this is what the parenting relationship is all about.

“A respectful beginning is an investment in the future of the relationship between your child and you, your child and others, and in your child’s exploration of the world.” – Magda Gerber, Your Self Confident Baby

 

I share my own experiences practicing Magda Gerber’s Educaring Approach in

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting (now available in Spanish!)

 

(Photo by Manu Praba on Flickr)

12 Comments

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. avatar Urvashi Ahuja says:

    Janet,

    Just like earlier posts, I absolutely love this too. I recommend this style of parenting to my friends who are mothers. I think I have became a brand ambassador of your blog and RIE 🙂

    RIE works magically with my 3 years old daughter. Her cries go away immediately as I acknowledge her feelings. And she completely knows her limits. One such incidence happened today morning. My daughter wanted to see a video on my phone. I told her I will give her the phone in the evening because its time to get ready. She politely requested “Mamma, only one please”. I could not decline the way she asked. And she gave me the phone back as soon as the video was over. I love the way she knows and understands her limits. Thanks Janet for all that you write and help us learn.

    Thanks and Hugs,
    Urvashi

    1. I love it, Urvashi! Well done, and thank you for sharing! x Janet

  2. Janet,

    I continually love reading your posts including these which, through reviewing the tenants of RIE, ground me further in practicing RIE parenting-thank you for this post!

    While I love and appreciate all tenants of RIE, I believe number 2 reigns well in my home. I used to feel as though I had to be the entertainer of sort and as such, if I wasn’t the entertainer, I felt compelled to allow more screen time than ever needed. As I learned how children develop on their own, I began to allow my children play more and have less screen time. In fact to help me learn and not forget how powerful growth can occur in children to play and develop, I printed off this statement from one of your blog posts on bright yellow paper, laminated it and posted it prominently in our play area in the home.

    “Extended periods of independent play don’t happen unless we cultivate them. A child’s play space becomes the comfortable, therapeutic, and imaginative place where dreams are born. – Janet Lansbury”

    It resonates within me daily seeing it.

    Thank you!
    Sherra

    1. Hi Sherra! Awww, thank you. I’m thrilled independent play is working so well for you. It’s kind of a miracle, isn’t it? The no-need-to-entertain aspect of RIE was my first big A-ha! (I tell the story in my post Blue Sky Thinking.) I really resonated with the reflection Jinny shares about play in this post. Whether I was observing my children’s self-directed play, or in another room overhearing it, it always brought me such deep joy. This is a phase of parenting that does end, unfortunately! But I still get a rush out of observing infants and toddlers inventing play every week in my classes.

    2. avatar Aunt Betty says:

      It has to be so rewarding for you Janet to know you are making a huge difference in shaping the relationship between children and parents.

      I know it is for me. Is there a certification program to be a R.I.E. Educator/Facilitator ?

  3. I would like to add an extra benefit I see in RIE. I was part of a RIE playgroup last year (when my daughter was between 8 and 16 months). We no longer attend because we had to move over an hour away. My daughter just turned 2 and I still consistently see this benefit: she is not overly focused on possession of toys when she is with other children. Sometimes she makes it clear to another toddler that she is currently playing with a toy and does not want to share, which is fine, but she also often gladly gives toys to other children. I have only seen her get into a genuine toy squabble once, when she was already really needing a nap. I attribute this to never forcing her to share when she was young, and really letting her explore those give-and-take interactions with other babies. She never learned to focus on who gets what toy, and instead really grew in her social abilities. I still see this benefit when she initiates play with other toddlers by offering toys. She is genuinely interested in learning to play cooperatively, and I attribute that to RIE and learning to let babies play without inappropriate adult interventions, like forced sharing.

    1. A million times, yes, Melissa! “I attribute this to never forcing her to share when she was young, and really letting her explore those give-and-take interactions with other babies. She never learned to focus on who gets what toy, and instead really grew in her social abilities.”

      This aspect of RIE has been so hard to get across to parents through my writing… It’s so much easier for parents to see this week to week in the classroom! Babies and toddlers are seldom as interested in the toys as they are in trying to engage with the other child! And even if they do want the toy, they are far more capable at working this out then most adults think. We are the ones who teach them about the importance of “stuff” — “taking” and “sharing” and “giving it back”, etc., and sometimes from a very early age. And then our interventions undermine our children’s confidence in these situations and obliterate precious opportunities for social learning.

      Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Janet thanks for this. I identify with most of the experiences that these parents are sharing but I have found that acknowledging my daughter’s (2 years old) feelings a bit fraught in the last few months and am not sure whether I’ve got the language/tone right. For example, whenever she hurts herself I go over and sit next to her and say something like “you bumped your head on the table, it looks like that really hurt/gave you a surprise” or I’ll ask if she wants to tell me what happened and she will scream at me to go away or say no no no if I try to describe what happened or what I imagine she might be feeling. It’s the same when she’s angry – I might say that she seems frustrated or that it can be hard when certain things happen and she will yell “no frustrated! no hard!” and yell at me to go away. I just go with it and say something about how she doesn’t seem to want me to talk about it and after a while she’ll ask for a hug. She is much more likely to talk about things afterwards but really doesn’t want it in the moment. Am I right to just go with this or have I somehow made her upset about acknowledging or feeling her emotions? Thanks 🙂

    1. avatar Aunt Betty says:

      Your daughter sounds like me when I was a young child. Sometimes I said no even when I really wanted the acknowledgement of my upset feelings. (I didn’t grow up in a home that accepted negative feelings so no comfort would be given in the moment or later.)

      So for my daycare children I sportscast and add, “When you are ready for help with your angry feelings let me know. The kids always approach me in a few minutes. It takes some of us time to process what happened and the accompanying emotions. There are also times you want to just experience the negative feelings before being soothed.

      Sounds like you are going about accepting and helping your daughter with her feelings in the proper R.I.E. way.

      WTG!

  5. It’s nearly 3am here and I’m suffering from insomnia while my busy two year old is peacefully sleeping, so I have been enjoying getting inspiration again from your book. My buttons have been a bit too easily pressed lately! Anyway, it struck me as I realised just HOW different this approach is from anything I experienced as a child or anything I thought or learnt about how to treat children since then that perhaps it could be summed up as “we should behave like adults to our children (by this I mean with the calm wisdom and maturity that shines through the book and inspires me so much I can’t get back to sleep!) so that adults will not have to behave like children towards each other”. With waves of sleepless gratitude for your work!

  6. Hi Janet
    First of all excuse me because of my English language l am from a non English country. I can read berry well but my writing skills are not good enough.
    I have read a lot of your posts about respecting to children and more. I really enjoy your thoughts and following every post . My son is 15 months old. I have one question l have understood that l shouldn’t teach my son how to play with toys but l have difficulty to act for example l have bought one shape sorter for my son l gave it to him and started to explain that for example it is a red square and l put it in its place I don’t correct him but I do the right thing to be followed. Am I right? Or maybe l shouldn’t touch the objects. I’m completely overwhelmed.can you guide me how to play with him for some toys that they want to learn something.
    Again I’m so sorry for my writing and so happy to find your site

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