If you’re wondering what the RIE parenting method is, today you’ll learn everything you need to know about this popular approach to parenting!
Parenting is the world’s hardest job and that’s not an exaggeration! There are so many things every parent needs to think about such as changing diapers, feeding, choosing from a wide array of crib mattresses, and so on.
Another essential thing that parents need to focus on is finding the right parenting method which might be challenging for both parents and caregivers given that every child is unique and requires a different approach.
Choosing the wrong parenting approach can be devastating for a child’s development and can prevent them from reaching their full potential. For example, if you have a strong willed child, authoritative parenting is not an option.
Sometimes, you need to try out different approaches to figure out which one is best for your child and that is where this “parenting jewel” comes in!
The RIE parenting method has caught the attention of many celebrities such as Penélope Cruz, Helen Hunt, Felicity Huffman, and Tobey Maguire. Evidently, this parenting approach is becoming more and more popular.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, you might also fall in love with this popular parenting method that focuses on raising independent children!
What Is RIE Parenting?
RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) is pronounced “rye”.
The RIE parenting approach revolves around nourishing a child’s independence and uniqueness.
The core of this “Educaring” approach lies in the ability of the parents and caretakers to trust that their children are capable of playing and doing their own thing without constant intervention.
By doing this, parents are encouraging their little one’s independence and building their confidence. Being overprotective can negatively affect young children’s overall growth.
The RIE parenting method creates the right balance between overprotective and authoritative parenting.
The main goal of this parenting philosophy is to focus on seeing and treating your little one as a unique human being and an active participant in their activities. This method focuses on parents carefully observing their little ones and acting accordingly.
In other words, a parent shouldn’t immediately play rescuer and intervene when something happens, but rather give the child some space to figure it out on their own.
The emphasis is on intervening ONLY when it’s necessary and letting your child participate in different activities from diapering to feeding.
For example, if you need to change their diaper, you can ask your little one to help you by raising their legs while you’re diapering them. In time, they will learn to do such things on their own without your directions!
8 Basic Principles Of The RIE Parenting Method
1. Provide a safe space
There is a phrase that one of my favorite YouTube content creators mentions at the start of every single one of his videos: Safety is number one priority!
Indeed, when it comes to childcare, the most important aspect is safety. You should organize your home or a safe space for playing so that the child can move freely with very few or no restrictions.
Given that RIE parents encourage independent play for their little ones, toys and furniture have to be appropriate for a child’s age and completely safe if the kid were to be left alone.
Deborah Carlisle Solomon, author of Baby Knows Best, explains the RIE philosophy in the following way:
“Remember Magda’s definition of a safe play space? It’s one where if your baby was left on her own all day, she would be hungry, upset, and need a new diaper when you returned but she would be physically unharmed.”
2. Encourage your child to play alone
Many parents cannot imagine leaving their child to play alone, not even for a few minutes. But, if you create a safe space for your child to play in with no restrictions and no potential danger (like choking hazards), there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Because babies learn through play, constant redirection and interruption can prevent them from fully focusing on the process of learning.
That is why the RIE philosophy focuses on promoting independent play and as such, the toys shouldn’t be too complicated – toys for fine motor skills development or Montessori toys for babies are great options.
To encourage your baby to play alone, first spend some time with them (sitting next to them while they’re playing). After a while, explain to them that you’ll be doing something in the bathroom, kitchen or wherever else you will be.
Let them know that you’ll be close by and that it’s now time for them to play alone. And then, leave them to play. In addition to independent play, you should also allow your child to play and interact with other children of the same age.
3. Observe their behaviour and discover their needs
The main focus of RIE parenting is on sensitive observation which includes listening and discovering the child’s needs instead of only directing them.
RIE proponents suggest that parents shouldn’t immediately jump at their child’s every move. Of course, if it’s something serious and alarming, you should intervene, but in non-threatening situations, you should leave your child to cope with the situation on their own first.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t provide comfort if they are crying. You should talk to them, observe their body language and ask them something like, “What happened? Why are you crying? Is everything okay?”
What you shouldn’t do in these situations is try to comfort them with pacifiers such as your breast or their bottle.
If the reason for your baby’s tears is hunger, then it’s reasonable to feed them. But, you shouldn’t use food as a main coping mechanism in other situations because this prevents healthy development of a child.
Instead of learning to cope with their emotions, they will instantly seek solace in things like food and other things that provide temporary comfort.
Also, rather than focusing on punishment, you need to figure out what motivates your child. This will inspire them to perform better in the future.
4. Let your child be an active participant in different activities
Magda Gerber’s RIE approach also suggests including children in different activities. This could be caregiving activities such as diaper changes and so on.
For example, if your child is too little to actively participate in a certain activity like a diaper change, you can engage them by explaining the entire process as you’re undressing them and taking off their diaper.
You can start with something like, “I understand that you’re busy playing now, but I need to change your diaper, so I am going to take you to the changing table.”
Continue explaining the process with things like, “I will need to take off your pants and then I will wipe you clean and replace your diaper with a new one.”
As your child grows, you can give them tasks such as taking off their pants or something similar so that they become active participants in these everyday activities.
5. Stay consistent
The youngest infants need consistency in order to establish their own rhythm. Consistency also leads to establishing and maintaining a feeling of safety.
In order to do this, you need to create a pattern that you will consistently follow every day and night. In other words, you need to create a schedule for what time of day your child will eat, play or sleep.
If you’re a feline lover, you have probably noticed that cats have their own routine and they don’t like changes to it. By following the same pattern, they feel safe and protected.
The same thing applies to children.
Having a schedule and their own routine makes them feel safe and in time, all these activities will become a necessary part of daily life and there will be no room for questioning it.
One of my cousins really struggled with her little one, because he refused to eat primarily because he didn’t have a routine. He would play and eat at different times everyday which made him feel confused, so he never knew what he ought to be doing at specific moments.
That is why consistency is the key to happy parenting!
6. Incorporate a lot of communication with your little one
One of the most important things when it comes to parenting is communication. Many parents focus solely on baby-talk, but RIE parenting emphasizes the importance of having an adult conversation with your child.
In contrast to helicopter parenting which primarily revolves around overpraising and over-testing of children, RIE philosophy is more realistic because it includes the narration of different activities (remember diaper change), feelings, wishes, and so on.
By constantly communicating with your child in an adult way, you are making him/her an active participant in their activities. We already said children learn through play, but they also learn through modelling and communication.
7. Encourage your child to express themselves
Dear parents, encourage your children to express themselves. By rushing to silence a crying baby, you are sending them the message that it is not okay to cry or feel upset about something.
Children mainly express themselves through different crying patterns and every single one of them has a different meaning.
The RIE parenting approach accentuates the importance of letting your child feel their true emotions.
That means you shouldn’t see every cry or tantrum of theirs as an emergency where you need to start panicking and looking for different pacifiers, whether it be rocking or feeding them (even though you already fed them not so long ago).
Babies who are constantly silenced are at risk of growing up to be repressed adults who will not know how to accept or deal with a wide array of emotions.
8. Be a role model
If you’re a first time mum or dad, here’s the most helpful parenting advice you’ll ever receive: Be the person you want your child to become!
Children learn through modelling of their parents, so one of the most effective and easiest ways to raise your children is by focusing on your own words and deeds.
Be a role model on a daily basis. For example, if you’re eating, make sure to keep your cell phone away from the table and your child will remember that rule in the future.
Actions speak louder than words. Whatever you’re doing (or not doing), you are the example to your children, so keep that in mind.
Advantages Of RIE Parenting
• Parents are more relaxed about doing things for themselves
How often have you needed to brush your teeth or do something else but you didn’t because you were too scared to leave your child unattended? I bet far too often, just like the majority of parents out there.
But, RIE parenting enables parents to meet their own needs without worrying or feeling guilty about it. Because the focus is on children’s safety and independence, parents are able to do their own tasks and be more productive on a daily basis.
• Less stress because parents don’t feel the need to be 24/7 entertainers
Another advantage of the RIE approach is that it is less stressful for parents given that they don’t need to be 24/7 entertainers because this parenting method focuses on independent play of children.
This doesn’t mean, however, that parents should never play with their children. They should, just not too often. Spending some time communicating and playing with your child before you let them play alone is a good way to create balance.
• Allows the little one to feel empowered
Since the RIE way allows a child to be active participants in their activities, this helps them grow into a self-confident baby and adult. In order to feel empowered, children need to feel as though what they’re doing is important and helpful to their parents.
By teaching your little one to take off their pants when diapering, they develop a sense of duty which makes them feel responsible and important. As always, you should start with simple tasks and gradually shift to more complicated ones.
• Strengthens a parent-child bond
Observing and communicating with a child in an adult way strengthens a parent-child bond. It gives you the opportunity to learn how your child functions, to understand their needs, cravings, and other things that play an important role in their development.
Drawbacks Of RIE Parenting
• Promotes independence too early
Many critics claim that imposing independence on children too early is not good for them because they still need to feel the closeness of their parents.
Given that kids have spent a lot of time in a mother’s womb, they still crave the same soothing environment only in a different setting – the world’s womb.
• Too rigid
Other critics claim that such a parenting style might be too rigid in some aspects. For example, when you leave them to play alone, little babies are not able to change their positions while playing which might result in feelings of frustration.
Every child prefers different positions and sometimes, if their parents are not around, they are not able to express that. Some critics also find the idea of not jumping at their every cry and seeing it as an emergency to be too rigid.
• More crying
If you’re used to silencing your child’s cries with different pacifiers, when you shift to this method, there will probably be more crying.
The RIE approach works on the principle of “crying it out” which can be frustrating to some parents, at least in the beginning. All you need to do is keep in mind that crying is how babies communicate, so silencing them literally means telling them that you’re not willing to listen to them.
Letting your child express themselves should be your priority, but if you still don’t feel ready for this approach, you may need to look for an alternative.
• A distracted parent
When you leave your child to play alone and focus on doing your own things, you may end up becoming distracted.
For example, let’s say that you needed to do some chores after which you started listening to Janet Lansbury’s ‘Unruffled’ podcast about parenting and you unintentionally ended up being absent and distracted for a great deal of time. This may result in your little one feeling neglected or unimportant.
Also, electronic devices such as cell phones may start consuming you and all this might result in a distracted parent which is not healthy for a child. No matter the parenting style, keep in mind that babies need their parents to talk to them, read to them and so on.
The RIE parenting method revolves around nourishing a child’s independence and treating them as little adults.
As with every other parenting method, there are pros and cons related to it that need to be considered before you decide to implement the above basic principles into your parenting regimen.
If you’re not feeling comfortable with some of the RIE parenting techniques, you can always improvise and come up with your own ideas.
Also, you can search for free parenting classes which will teach you some effective parenting strategies and boost your overall parenting experience.
Additionally, here are two great books by Janet Lansbury about parenting that other parents have found helpful:
These two books will teach you everything you need to know about seeing babies as unique human beings, the development of their cognitive and motor skills, healthy communication, and other things that are essential for raising a happy and healthy child.
I wish you happy parenting and hope that you enjoy every moment in your role as a parent!
P.S. Remember that no matter what parenting method you use, if you notice any sudden changes in your child’s physical or mental behaviour, make sure to consult with your pediatrician.
Gerber, M. (2012, May 1) Magda Gerber’s RIE Philosophy – Basic Principles.
Solomon Carlisle, D. (2015). Baby Knows Best: Raising A Confident And Resourceful Child, The RIE Way. Little, Brown and Company.
We love honesty! Find Your Mom Tribe is an Amazon Associate and we earn from qualifying purchases through affiliate links at no extra cost to you. Please see our full Amazon Affiliate disclosure for more information.