So, I have a lot of friends who took on attachment parenting. This doesn’t jive for us, as I’ve said. I don’t believe it is best for our lives or our child but I see why it is good for our friends. AP is one of those things that people seem evangelical about. It’s very popular with my friends who are SAHP’s, which I get. However, one thing our parenting friends are also practicing Magda Gerber’s RIE (pronounced “rye”) parenting. At first, I was convinced this was, again, something that was exclusive to AP and something we could not and would not do. But, like all parenting topics, before I decided to talk about it or have an opinion on it, I decided to read about it. It was then that I decided to adopt some RIE principles into our daily habits.
The best part of RIE is that any parent can do it. Finally a “type” of parenting I didn’t feel like I was excluded from as a parent who needs some sleep and works a lot! If you aren’t big into woo, I encourage you to continue reading because this isn’t evangelical woo. It’s not gimmicky, either. It’s a way to approach your kids and parenting. RIE is about respect but it’s not meant to take up a ton of your day or overhaul your parenting by scheduling more activities. It is here to simplify your life!
What is RIE parenting?
RIE stands for Resources for Infant Educarers. Magda Gerber developed this approach. It’s an approach that emphasizes respect of children as people, a trust in the fact that they have opinions, and that the best way to parent is to be sensitive to their needs. Janet Lansbury has a number of resources about getting started (I will link to her blog and books later). Here’s 9 ways to practice REI every day from her great blog. Basically, you trust that your kid knows what they need. They direct their own learning, they are active participants in the every day.
RIE parents talk to their kids a lot. I know I do. They talk to them slowly but deliberately when they are doing just about anything. Parents who practice RIE forgo baby talk for actual takl. They walk kids through what they are doing. I do this by talking my kid through diaper changes, my evening cooking routine, and her bedtime routine. If I plan to leave, I tell her. I even tell her when I will be back. Eventually, she will be able to communicate more. Still, even now, I feel like she better understands me. They respect the opinions and preferences of their kids and learn from this. It is clear that she views us as parents and her “safe space”. RIE parents don’t force their kids to give hugs or to share their toys. Janet explains why this is in greater detail.
Why embrace it?
RIE parenting is probably for you if you really want to emphasize consent, validation, and child-directed play and learning. We aren’t the overscheduled parents. We don’t have something planned every minute of the weekend and on the evenings. We think our daughter plays well on her own and we recognize her independence as a person with her own likes and dislikes. RIE parents embrace boundaries and validate the feelings of their kids. Embracing RIE is not for all, I’m sure, but it really supports our values. If you like to structure your baby’s day and always have activities scheduled, RIE may not be for you.
Is it something that can be embraced even with a daycare in place? Or as a working parent?
Yes, but it will depend on your situation. As a working parent, RIE is easy for me. I don’t think it is any easier or harder to implement for SAHP’s. That’s a real plus for RIE. Because it’s just about involving the child, talking to them like a person, and letting them direct learning and play preferences, it can be practiced by all parents effectively! RIE won’t make you do set activities, it’s not going to demand you devote hours and hours to homeschooling. It is quite the opposite approach!
Regarding daycare, this will depending on your childcare scenario. Our daycare doesn’t explicitly say “yes we do RIE”. Most probably won’t (they don’t around here) but some things to look for are an overwhelming amount of baby talk by caregivers, rigid schedules, and baby bouncers being overly relied upon. I feel like bouncers have their place and can really make play safe and happy in mixed-age environments. Gerber’s stricter rules would disagree and their may be some RIE childcare places that would, too. However, Ours doesn’t confine kids to bouncers on a schedule or as a demand but if the child wants a bouncer, they get one. We used ours basically as a high chair and to keep our kid out of trouble if we were doing something that required the gates to be open. But ours is on the market and we rarely used it. A large center not focused specifically on RIE will probably not work on RIE because they will have some specific and rigid rules about naps out of necessity. We have friends who prefer this to what our daycare does (read cues, let baby direct play and sleep). Like I said, it’s not for all. But if you ask questions, you can find out how into RIE principles a prospective facility is and choose from there. We got lucky when we found a daycare.
Note: while I incorporate RIE into my parenting, I am not completely devoted to every tenet and “rule” Gerber instilled. Most parents who use RIE strive for respect but would not be strictly devoted to everything Gerber did. For example, I would have been open to sippy cups (kid only wants a straw cup for older toddlers) and we used a bouncer. The amount of stringency to which you choose to practice is up to you!
It is simply “permissive” or “passive” parenting?
No. This is a misconception Lansbury addresses on her blog more holistically than I can. The short answer is RIE allows choices but these choices are limited and RIE very much supports boundaries. An example of this is in something non-negotiable – getting into carseats. Permissive parenting would be letting your child dictate “I will not get in” or “I will never leave my infant seat and want to be carried like a baby” (an actual thing that kept an acquaintance’s kid in an infant seat well beyond the height requirement). That’s not safe. RIE would stress that you offer a choice, “Would you like to get in your seat on your own or would you like me to lift you?” You would ask this of your child. Not getting in the seat is not an option. If the child fusses, you say “I understand you feel that way. However, we need to be safe. You see me buckle up. For you it is the same. We need to get in. How would you like to do this?”
Another good example would be the struggle for dinner. Parents loathe a dinner fight! But one of the struggles parents of toddlers, especially see is that of dinner. Kids can become dictators and demand you to be, as my mom said regularly, a “short order cook”. NOPE. A permissive parent would bend to the whims of their kid on every single food item or would, instead, let them terrorize the household. RIE would nope out on that hardcore. Children would be able to express their displeasure about food but would have to eat what the family is. RIE encourages kids to choose how much they eat and to choose what they eat from, again, a range of options. This means they don’t have to love it all and there are no demands about what they have to eat. Also, there are no bribes. With older kids, this may look different. A boundary we both had in our families was “if you would rather have a sandwich you can make it yourself” Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids explains the RIE approach to mealtime well.
Do I have to avoid sleep training?
No! A common misconception about RIE is it means you can’t sleep train at all. While doing hardcore extinction for hours on end is definitely something to avoid PERIOD, people who practice RIE are definitely not against getting a baby to sleep using good habits and boundaries. Respectful Parenting has a great set of posts about it. Eileen Henry also wrote a fantastic post about the topic. Empowering your child to soothe and sleep at an age-appropriate time is a priority in RIE. I’ve posted about our sleep training and how CIO is a real misnomer before. My post on the subject tried to explain why the “Cry It Out” method gets a bad rap and most journalistic accounts miss the mark.
You might be surprised, then, to know that a main reason FOR sleep training was reading up on RIE. But, we knew by reading our baby’s cues she was overtired. When we moved her bedtime up recently, it was due to her cues, again. She was saying, “I need more sleep and I need to go to bed earlier”. When we dropped to one nap, sadly, it was also her cues that stopped us from encouraging a morning nap. Right now, she’s napping probably due to a growth spurt and learning a new skill. I am letting her sleep. RIE definitely thinks it is better to read cues and help baby sleep than to use crutches that are just prolonging the agony of sleepless nights where baby is just freaking miserable and tapped.
What are some good RIE resources?
Magda Gerber’s page has a wealth of RIE resources and books
Janet Lansbury has a number of books and blogs
Respectful Parent is a blog I read regularly
Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids is another great blog
Again, I know RIE is not right for every parent. I get that. But, for us, it is a good strategy for our family and child. I particularly appreciate that I can do it and not feel excluded as a working parent. I love its emphasis on reading a child’s cues, accepting the have teir own feelings, and validating their opinions and desires for boundaries. I also love that it works both ways – your kid has boundaries but you have them, too. RIE encourages you to establish these in a respectful manner. And, most of all, I love how it requires you to treat your kids as human beings just like adults. For now, with a soon-to-be toddler already trying to verbalize her feelings and emotions and who lacks those words, implementing RIE is helping save my sanity.
I will be coming out with some more content this week. I apologize for the delay but, man, I’ve been busy and so has our family. Today, I’m home with the baby while trying to cook and clean but trying to appreciate the time with her I have. What gets done, gets done but she’s my focus today. However, she’s taking an unexpected morning nap and I can actually work on things!