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What is the RIE Parenting Style?

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When a child is first born, it can be hard to see them as independent entities. For the first few months, newborns are so reliant on you as the parent for nurturing and sustenance that it can seem like your two lives are one and the same. The RIE parenting style encourages caregivers to abandon this belief. RIE, or Resources for Infant Educarers, is a philosophy developed by infant specialist Magda Gerber that instructs parents to treat their children as unique, individual human beings from birth.

“RIE parenting is centered around perceiving an infant as a whole person from the very beginning,” says Janet Lansbury, RIE parenting expert.

By treating your baby as his or her own person, the RIE philosophy says you are on your way to raising an authentic child who will feel secure, autonomous, and complete. This begins with involving the child in their caregiving.

“We recommend talking to babies right away; telling them everything that’s happening with their bodies, what we’re doing with them. Every time before we pick the baby up, we tell the baby, ‘I’m going to pick you up.’ We wait a few moments. We look at them. We start to wait for a signal that they’re ready. We might even say, ‘Are you ready?’ And then we slowly and gently pick them up,” explains Lansbury, who was mentored by Gerber.

The parent essentially narrates their activity with the baby as a way of accomplishing a few things.

First, it is a method of showing respect to this new, little person in their care. When you bathe your baby or dress them, they will be unable to offer input for quite a while, but the idea is to get in the habit of including them in their caregiving. The RIE parenting style works to show respect to the child through conversation, instead of just doing these daily activities to the child as if they were a passive recipient.

These small, intimate conversations between parent and baby also act as bonding opportunities. Not only are you physically spending time with your child, but you get to know their subtle ways of communicating before they are able to verbally speak.

Additionally, talking to the child is a way of teaching and setting a foundation for independence by making the routine predictable. As the baby develops into a toddler, they will start to recognize their care activities and be able to take on certain parts of their routine on their own. Allowing graduated increments of independence, based on their developmental stage, is how RIE parenting believes parents show trust in their child’s ability. This is key for promoting a child’s self-confidence and autonomy.

“One of the real popularities of RIE is [that] it’s real empowering to kids,” says RIE parent and actress Alysia Reiner.

In some circumstances, the RIE parenting style feels it is best to let your child figure it out on their own and not intervene. When they accomplish what they were trying to do without parental help, that success will encourage them towards independence and bolster confidence.

“From the very first days, we believe that they come into the world with their own personalities, with their own likes and dislikes, and the ability and desire to participate in relationship with us, and to participate in their own learning,” says parent educator Lisa Sunbury, MA.

When parents approach their style of parenting with this perspective, Sunbury says “It gives the child the experience of joy in mastery, and gives the child the joy of learning.” Since its conceptualization by Magda Gerber, the RIE parenting style has been taught and promoted by numerous parents and educators– including some of our own parenting experts at Kids in the House. To learn more about RIE parenting style and to see if it is right for your family, check out what else our experts have to say here.

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