The Surprisingly Positive Results of Respectful Parenting – 5 RIE Baby Basics

“We not only respect babies, we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.”                                                                 – Magda Gerber

There are parents who believe children should earn our respect by respecting us first, but these parents often discover (all too late) that our kids usually only reflect what they’ve been taught.  The way we treat our babies is what they know and will eventually reciprocate, so it only makes sense that respect must flow from parent to child from day one.

Raising children with respect takes mental effort and heightened awareness, often requiring us to think before we act. One of the most surprising positive results of our thoughtfulness and restraint is that our job (and, therefore, our lives) becomes much easier. Respect not only works beautifully for our babies, it benefits us, too.

Arsy, a new mom I spoke with about respectful parenting a few months ago, recently sent me an update describing her exciting surprises and discoveries. Since Arsy’s experiences so clearly exemplify the rewards of practicing some of the respectful care basics recommended by Magda Gerber (and her non-profit organization RIE), I thought them worth sharing here:

1. Invite babies to participate actively in their care

“I wanted to give you a quick update on Indyanna, now 6 months old…

Diaper and clothing changes have become one of my favorite times with her. For a while now she has helped and been cooperative during these times. As of the last couple of weeks, she has really started to understand our words. When we ask her to lift her bed, she does. When we ask her to put her legs down so we can snap her diaper closed, she does. When we ask if she could help put her arms through please, she punches them right through. When we tell her we are going to pull her shirt over her head, she closes her eyes in preparation. I know she is only 6 months old, but it’s like she dresses herself!”

2. Encourage self-directed, uninterrupted free play

“She hated tummy time — we tried it with her at first before we had read Magda’s books. Now that she gets there on her own, she is all smiles and she seems so pleased with herself.”

Uninterrupted play has been working like a charm! It took some time for her to get used to it. She still fusses from time to time and needs to be held, particularly since she’s teething now.

Generally, she plays in the corner of her room that we have blocked off. I am able to do work at my desk, right near her.”

3. Move your life outdoors as much as possible

“My husband and I love the outdoors and I believe it is a human need.

Yesterday, Indyanna was being fussy. She wasn’t hungry, was rested, had a clean diaper and I had offered her teething toys, but she wasn’t interested. It then occurred to me that we had been indoors all day. I decided to take her outdoors, which I don’t think I would have thought of as something she needed prior to RIE. But when my husband and I are indoors too much, we say we are going stir crazy, so why would she feel any different? Anyway, I set her up to play on her back under the magnolia tree. She was so happy. She played for 1.5 hours. She would have played even longer!

Here she is under the magnolia tree yesterday. Now, does that look like a fussy baby?” (Photo above)

4. Respect

“Like many people, I thought babies’ needs were very different from ours. We are given that message by almost everyone (including experts) as new and expecting parents. We are given that message so much that we forget that infants are human and have all the same needs that we do. Even the amazing lactation nurses that were such a huge help told us that babies liked to be swaddled tight, rocked, ssshhh-ed and jiggled to sleep. All things that would make adults scream, but we are told that babies love and need these things.

A dichotomy exists in our culture between the needs/wants/desires of babies and adults. When you stop to think about it, it is so counterintuitive. I would watch many of the well-intentioned people I know come place a toy right on Indyanna’s stomach when she wasn’t mobile enough to move it easily and walk away. I would think, “Would you like it if someone placed something right on top of you, and you couldn’t really move it?”  I would just slide it off of her in an unnoticeable manner, but my husband would directly say to them (just to people close to us), “Would you like it if someone did that to you?”

5. Trust

“The phone consultation we had with you when Indyanna was 2 months old has been so helpful to me. It clarified many things that I had misinterpreted about the RIE philosophy when reading Magda’s books (as a sleep deprived new mom). During that call, you told me to “trust my daughter“. Those words changed everything. They started guiding my day-to-day decisions. I started seeing Indyanna as a competent, whole person. It was like I just knew what to do, as long as I trusted her. Parenting became much easier!”

(Thank you for allowing me to share your note and photo, Arsy!)


For more about Magda Gerber’s RIE approach, please check out her books Dear Parent and Your Self-Confident Baby and my new book: Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting.
Here are some excellent online resources:

Magda Gerber – Seeing Babies With New Eyes

Regarding Baby by Lisa Sunbury

Mamas in the Making by Anna Banas and Nadine Hilmar (and their individual blogs: A Pikler Experience and Every Moment Is Right)

Educating the Heart



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

  1. Hi Janet,

    I love your posts and R.I.E.’s philosophy so much. It basically is the childcare practice I have been doing all along. One of my childcare directors used to call me, “An old-fashioned mother”, because I let my 1 year old toddlers take their time and didn’t rush them or get upset if something spilled. She noticed my classroom was almost always calm and she enjoyed coming in. She told me at first she thought it was the group of kids, but then noticed it was always a calm place to be.

    It is so nice to have a name to put to this philosophy and to “fine tune” the process. It’s great to be able to explain the process to my daycare parents.

    I thought you’d like to know I put the exersaucer out in the trash. It will be picked up tomorrow. I never used it much, and the babies are much happier on the floor. It’s easy when needed to gate the playroom for the moments (like a nature call!) when I can’t watch them for a moment. I still can’t part with the baby swing, but again it doesn’t get used much. Sometimes it is good to “put your mind in neutral” for a few minutes.

    I just love caring for children in my home. It’s great to have the control to use the child rearing/teaching method I feel works best for my little ones. By the way, I never have more than three children at a time. Babies and young children are happier in small groups. Most of the time only one or two children are here.

    “Aunt Betty”
    “The loving home away from home.”

    1. Thank you, Aunt Betty. I love the dumping of the exersaucer…so wonderfully symbolic of trusting babies to play their own way.

  2. BTW Arsy, I love how you are letting your daughter “help” with her care. It’s so much fun being with the kids when we relax and let them “help” and explore naturally.

    1. Thank you, Aunt Betty! We are really enjoying how engaged she has been able to be at such a young age. It’s so fun learning about how capable babies are.

  3. I learned about the value of outdoors thanks to the quiet example of my father. I always knew how drawn he was to the outdoors, but I saw the effect of nature in action when I had my first baby. When he held babies, he almost always walked outdoors with them, particularly if they were fussy. “Here’s the sky,” he’d point. “That’s a tree over there, you’ll be running on this grass in no time,” he’d gently tell a newborn. Their eyes would get big and they’d look around calmly. I started to follow his example. If I couldn’t figure out a baby’s troubles, I’d wrap him or her up warmly and out we’d go to look at the stars in the middle of the night or to lie on the grass during the day. Nearly always worked.

  4. Hi Janet! Do you have any RIE contacts in London? Thanks!

    1. Hi Simone! I don’t personally, but I know that there are many in London who practice Magda Gerber’s approach. Please consider joining the community forum here: There have been many postings from Londoners!

    2. Hi Simone,
      We are in London and I have been looking for other RIE parents in London for the last year and a half. I have found one mummy friend whose daughter is the same age as mine and also practices RIE, but we have not found any other families as of yet in our area. Where are you located? We are in SE London in North Dulwich. My friend is in East Dulwich.
      If you have found other parents, and/or would like to meet up, my email is

    3. Charlotte says:

      Hi Simone
      I am going back to London from LA and want to meet feelow RIE parents as I can’t find anything similar. Did you have any luck in London?

  5. Thank you for sharing our story, Janet! And for providing such great parenting insight for us all to learn from!

    1. Arsy, I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to share…and that gorgeous girl of yours…WOW!

  6. So happy to have found your site and all your fabulous articles and inspiration. We are definately kindred spirits as a lot of what you are explaining is how we raised our 5 children but did not put into words. We really value getting outdoors with our children and all the calmness and other abundance it provides

  7. Janet- I’ve been trying to find a post about sleep. We currently co-sleep, and I love it, but I’d like to hear a RIE perspective on sleeping. Our boy is 12 weeks, and seems the most mobile at night. He has a wonderful way of “sidewinding” expertly to my side. He could easily maneuver himself to the breast from birth! I just recently discovered RIE thru you, (from Pinterest!) and would like to know more about sleep from you, especially for a baby falling asleep. Thank you!!

  8. Hi Janet,
    I’ve recently stumbled across your site and have read many of the articles. I am based in Scotland in the UK and can’t find any classes like yours nearby, which books would be the best place to start to learn about this way of life? I’m due my first baby early next year and would love to get off to a good start.

    1. Hi, I am in Scotland too. Where abouts are you? I would love to find other parents who are practicing RIE! No idea when this comment was made…of if you will see this, but thought it was worth posting a wee message. I live in Glasgow and have a 2.8 year old and an 11 month old. San

      1. Hi Sanna- I am also in Glasgow and would love to meet more RIE minded parents- I have a 6 year old and a 6 months old if you are interested in meeting up or even having a chat on facebook or smth?:-)

  9. Sue Martin says:

    Thank you for your wisdom and insight. If seems a strange thing to say, particularly that I am not usually considered a disagreeable person, but I have recently been banned from a Facebook page for suggesting that various strategies for’ managing’babies are disrespectful. Here I feel at home!

  10. Sobia faheem says:

    Your posts are so informative iam benefitting alot!

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