May 19,2020

RIE parenting – show your babies some respect

Today we are going to take a look at yet another somewhat controversial parenting method – RIE (which stands for Resources for Infant Educarers).  This method was developed by Magda Gerber – famous early childhood educator. And since we are an educational foundation, the concept of “educaring” has certainly got our attention as we are hoping it also got yours.

I am pretty sure some of you have heard about “boss baby” – fun movie where babies have their own corporation, run meetings and basically save the world (I haven’t watched the movie fully so not entirely sure about the saving the world part). Well, while some of you might think this is just a movie and real babies are mainly preoccupied with crying and sleeping – RIE method will tell you that babies are to be treated with proper respect and are in fact very independent.

How independent babies should be is hard to say – my first thought was that they are running their own corporation as they did in the movie but apparently that kind of information wasn’t mentioned in any RIE -related articles so I am guessing I am a little bit wrong. What was mentioned a number of times though -was that babies need to have their “play alone time” and parents don’t need to be baby-entertainers 24/7. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Parents finally getting their free time while infants are busy doing their own stuff.

Well, before we decide if RIE parenting is actually good idea or not, let’s dive into the concept a little more. After reading a few articles I learned that the main “keyword” in RIE parenting is respect – and, you know, I have to agree with this. No matter how parents decide to show the respect to their child they certainly should have it – after all, children are their own people who might not be fully functioning in the society yet, but are also not just some “product” that needs to fulfil parents’ dreams and wants. But where do we draw the line of independence? Should we encourage babies do their own shopping and sign up for LinkedIn to kickstart their baby careers?

What RIE parenting suggests is communicating to your baby what you are going to do (this way you are showing respect to the infant as opposed to bluntly doing whatever you want to do). For example, if you want to feed the baby or change his diaper you need to let him know before actually doing so. This way baby is getting used to be treated with respect from the very young age. What is more, you should let infants participate in the process as much as they can (i.e. letting baby take down pants before changing the diaper once he is able to do so). When it comes to learning how to sit up, climb or crawl – RIE parenting method suggests that babies should learn how to do everything basically by themselves. Parents are there to observe and encourage their kids to help build up children’s confidence. And even if the child is really struggling to reach the toy or ends up crying – parents shouldn’t help him. But once baby achieves his goal (of reaching a toy, let’s say) – parents should be there with their kind words and validation of baby’s effort. This is how real boss babies are brought up.  Babies become active participants in their life rather than “passive objects”.

We have covered the “letting the kids cry” strategy a lot in the article about Ferber method but let’s come back to it for just a second. RIE parenting also suggests that letting the babies cry without soothing them is okay as long as babies’ diapers are changed, they are fed, etc. As we have previously discussed, this is rather controversial since there are two sides to it – you may be helping the kids to become more independent, but you may also make babies feel abandoned when they still want the soothing feeling they felt in the womb.

The other topic that we have already briefly discussed in this article is letting the kids play by themselves. This is a very important part of being a proper “educarer” for babies. This way, again, infants learn to be independent and start to use their imagination and discover new skills. But – just my personal thought here – aren’t some babies more sociable than others? After all, adult people also have different social needs and not everyone enjoys spending a lot of time by themselves. And what is clearly important when letting the children play by themselves is providing them with a safe environment (I have to say, this is crucial for any parents, not just the ones who choose to follow RIE parenting style). Magda Gerber (the founder of RIE) is also against most modern toys as it goes against the natural development of the child – “Rattles are an adult idea: you pick up something, and it makes noise. Why does it make noise? Because some adult put something into something.”

RIE method enthusiasts suggest putting ourselves in the place of the babies (meaning to imagine ourselves as people who have trouble communicating with the world) and think if we would want some respect from the outside world or not. Well, let’s go for it, shall we?


Playing alone time? That’s very fun! I can finally throw the toys around a little bit! Okay, I got bored. Hey, anyone wants to play with me? Okay, I will sleep a little.

I am feeling a bit lonely since I haven’t even learned how to read yet or and no one has played peekaboo with me for the last 30 minutes. Anyone wants to watch “Peppa Pig’ with me? No? Okay.

But I like how everyone finally gives me some proper respect.

And I know for sure that as a baby I certainly appreciate a little heads up before someone tries to change my diapers – after all, this is a very private moment and I would want to know what’s going on. I am a very independent baby. If you want to change my diaper, please inform me (by email or in person).

All in all – thumbs up to RIE method from a baby!!!

Okay, I am back to being adult. Being a baby was fun, but I also need to give this article some substance. So, I think it’s time to take a look at some research.

Generally, when I read RIE parenting articles I mostly found positive feedback. It says that respectful parenting helps in developing children’s natural abilities and positive qualities such as persistence, trust and, of course, respect for themselves and others. There are some disputable points though – many don’t agree with the notion of Crying-It-Out (when parents don’t react to babies’ cry) as well as rather controversial belief that babies are independent from birth. But there is another interesting detail that I have come across – apparently, Magda Gerber and her followers believe that physical connection with a baby is not very important (that’s why ‘respectful parenting’ advocates become ‘observers’ in their children’s life and don’t give out little cuddles and unnecessary tickles as much as other parents do or maybe even abandon tickles all together). At the same time a number of studies (i.e. “Touch therapy” by Tiffany Field) prove that touch is an important part of building connection and ensuring baby’s psychological health. But while RIE parents stop being all touchy-feely with their babies they also abandon the “baby talk” that many parents do. And this is possibly a pretty good part of being a RIE parent. After all, over usage of cutesy nonsense words can hinder baby’s proper language development.

To put it simply, I feel like RIE parenting definitely has some good ideas which most parents can use (such as respecting their baby) but if we go into the details, there are some things that still leave a lot of space for debate. I guess that’s when parent’s intuition comes in handy, right?

And as the end of my article is approaching – In my usual fashion I’d like to ask you about your thoughts on the idea. Is RIE parenting style a good choice for your family?



1) RIE Parenting explained –
2) Good website for those who do want to implement RIE parenting in their family –
3) Magda Gerber’s book “Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities from the Very Start”
6) problems with RIE –
7) nice article about parenting –

Image source:   – Smith1727