Resources for Infants Educarers (RIE) is a parenting style based on the idea that parents and caregivers should have respect for even the youngest of infants. First developed by Magda Gerber in the 1970s, RIE encourages parents to trust their babies and toddlers to participate and play with minimal parental intervention.1 Parents remain aware of children’s behavior and needs while allowing them to explore and grow.
What Is RIE Parenting?
RIE parenting urges parents and caregivers to interact with their babies as unique individuals, offering as little intervention as necessary. For example, if a baby encounters an issue while exploring or playing, parents won’t jump to help the child. Parents provide the space necessary for the child to figure out solutions on their own. This philosophy believes that allowing children to have independence builds confidence as well as competence in them.5
This parenting style was first introduced by Magda Gerber in 1978. The term “Educarer” comes from a philosophy that children should always be respected, no matter their age. RIE parenting claimed that early parental trust in babies and toddlers allows them to explore, play, and learn on their own. Children will flourish and become independent, competent individuals as they grow.
RIE Parenting Methods
RIE parenting can be seen in various ways. Methods may include asking for permission to do something for a child or respecting their space when playing. Further, parents teach children that their bodies are theirs to govern by avoiding forced physical touch.
Below are the methods of RIE parenting:
Providing Safe Environments
Safe environments allow babies to explore the world with minimal restrictions. These experiences are conducive to their growth and development. However, providing opportunities for exploration does not disregard the importance of baby-proofing safety measures. Rather, the focus is placed on the development of a baby’s cognitive and emotional needs. This can be done through the activities and toys parents provide which will look different for each family.
Making Time for Solo Play
When children learn to play on their own, they develop a sense of confidence. During this time, parents are encouraged to simply observe their babies as they play rather than be involved. These sessions can last between 15 minutes to three hours, depending on the family. Parents may let a child know help is close by if needed before allowing them to solo play. Proving simple toys, like blocks, help children learn to play on their own and solve matters as they arise.
Acknowledging Your Child’s Needs
As parents, acknowledging your child’s needs supports their development. Children communicate through their behaviors, such as crying. With the RIE parenting method, crying should be observed and acknowledged, but not stopped immediately. Parents learn what their children need by observing and listening.
Honoring Your Child’s Choices
Letting children make their own choices can be hard, but this helps them develop self-confidence. Honoring your child’s choices shows them that decisions have both positive and negative outcomes. Their autonomy and confidence as individuals grow as they experience challenges.
Consistency in parenting is crucial. It helps children know what to expect from their parents and feel safe in the world. Parent-child bonds built on trust allow children to gain confidence and continue to grow. This may look like setting a feeding, walking, or playtime routine a child can rely on and anticipate.
5 Benefits of RIE Parenting
RIE parenting fosters autonomy and confidence in children. This parenting method encourages children to respect themselves as well as others. Parents can also reap the benefits of this approach, such as lower stress and positive interactions with their children.
Below are five possible benefits of RIE parenting:
- Increased parental autonomy: RIE parenting can provide parents more room to tend to their own needs while also nurturing their children. Because children explore and play on their own, parents don’t feel pressure to always engage with them. As a parent, tending to your own needs ensures that you can regulate your emotions and be available for your child when needed.4
- Increased child independence: RIE parenting helps children feel more independent and self-reliant as they grow. Parents promote this by creating a safe space for them to explore. Children feel empowered to identify their feelings, learn on their own, or experience new things. As kids get older, parental consistency shows children that they can count on their parents.
- Building communication skills in children: Parents utilizing RIE parenting communicate with their children in ways that support their autonomy. Parents ask permission to do certain things, explain what is happening during a situation, and support their children when needed. This healthy modeling of communicating is important for young children. As the children age, they will most likely communicate the same way their parents did.
- Parents not feeling pressured: Parents often feel pressure from society, family, and themselves to be “perfect.” RIE parenting promotes a child’s autonomy, which reduces the pressure to fix a child’s every problem. This can make parenting situations feel less stressful and interactions more positive.
- Children have choices: Utilizing RIE techniques provides age-appropriate choices for children at a young age, preparing them as they age for future decisions.
Possible Cons of RIE Parenting
There may be potential drawbacks to RIE parenting for some families. Before beginning, consider whether the principles of RIE parenting fit your own parenting philosophy. Doing so will help you feel comfortable and confident as you practice these skills.
Possible drawbacks of RIE parenting include:
- Developmental needs may not be met: Children of all developmental ages have different needs that must be accounted for. For example, babies thrive from touch and boundaries. If they do not receive crucial elements at the appropriate age range, the impact may affect them later in life.2
- It requires a lot of patience: Using RIE techniques requires parents to resist responding to a child’s every behavior, including crying. This can be hard for many parents.
- It creates distance between parent and baby: Because RIE promotes autonomy, parents might feel that this parenting style creates distance in the parent-child bond.
- Asking for permission can be challenging: As children get older, asking the child permission to do certain things, such as changing a diaper or brushing their teeth, can become an issue. Asking a toddler to do any of these can result in an automatic, “No.” As a parent, having their requests denied can be stressful.
- Parents utilizing the time for technology or work: With less parental attention needed, some parents may utilize the extra time to use technology or work longer hours instead of paying attention to their child. Parents who misuse this opportunity will not have the same understanding of their child’s needs.
- Not being consistent: Inconsistent parenting behaviors will create uncertainty for a child which can result in emotional dysregulation.3
Is RIE Parenting Right for My Family?
RIE parenting may not be a good fit for everyone, but parents can try to incorporate elements of it into their approach if they find it useful. Exploring parenting options can be stressful, and it’s essential for parents to get support when they need it most. Therapy can be beneficial when determining a good parenting style that fits your own values and beliefs. Many parents find online therapy options to be a good choice for fitting therapy into busy schedules. Parenting can make individuals feel uneasy about their techniques, so finding the right therapist can be a way to get valuable support.
“Some considerations for adopting the RIE method include the phase of family life cycle; providing a safe and undistracted trusted environment; offering adequate time for learning for the infant; the caregiver’s ability to practice patience; and not multi-tasking during infant training. My suggestion is that RIE should be continued as a method of approaching the child’s needs for learning and growth, and remain appropriate for their developmental phase and capacities. There are many parts of the method that can be tailored and adjusted to benefit the caregiver-child bond.” – Bahareh Sahebi, PsyD, LMFT
Practicing parenting techniques that work well for the uniqueness of your family is important. Parenting is not the same for everyone, so families should find suitable tactics for their own needs. RIE is an example of a parenting style that can be beneficial for some families. Finding a parenting style that feels right can be overwhelming at times, and having support is essential, whether from family, friends, or a professional.