PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Treating babies more like adults might sound strange, but it’s actually an old parenting philosophy that’s becoming popular again.
It’s called RIE, which stands for Resources for Infant Educarers.
Experts say children develop much of their problem-solving, curiosity and confidence before their second birthday.
Some parents are going back to the RIE philosophy, with classes held in New York City and Los Angeles.
“Essentially, the focus is respect for the child, relationships, allowing children to be in control of their own interest, developing curiosity,” Dr. Roberta Schomberg, the head of early childhood education at Carlow University said.
She said the RIE philosophy treats babies and toddlers like little people. They may actually understand more than we realize.
“If a young toddler is running around with shoes untied, we’ll just start tying them, rather than saying, ‘Can I fix this? Let me help you.’ That’s the courteous thing we would do with an adult or older child, but we tend not to do that with babies. We tend to act on them rather than with them,” Dr. Schomberg said.
Magda Gerber developed this philosophy 30 years ago after studying babies in orphanages in Hungary. She believed in a more hands-off approach by letting babies teach themselves.
“You have to try and fail and that’s what babies are ready to do, are happy to do, can do, and do, do. And this is one of the things we so often, with the best of intentions, do not let them do,” Gerber said. “Learning to fall, get up again and move on is the best preparation for life.”
While this all sounds wonderful, the practical implications are not always easy in today’s world. The RIE method advocates no exersaucers, walkers or even high-chairs. The method believes those items make the babies feel passive, helpless and less confident. Electronic toys and sippy cups are not allowed either.
Some parents at Kathy’s Kindermusik class in Mt. Lebanon like the philosophy, but said they’re not sure how realistic it is.
“I don’t know how much it’s realistic to let my kid eat on the floor or let him go not sit at a table and drink in a big cup because we’ll have more of a mess than anything,” Paula Byers of Scott Township said.
However, some parents, like Ashley McCullar of Bellevue, are trying to go back to basics like the RIE approach.
“We are not a fan of toys, such as exersaucers and restrictive things, that keep them in one place. Whatever I’m doing in the day, I just scoop her up and bring her with me,” McCullar said.
Dr. Schomberg said using things like high-chairs and exersaucers aren’t bad in short time periods. It’s when they’re used for hours that they can be harmful. There’s a balance between keeping kids safe and letting them explore.
One other emphasis of the RIE philosophy is to just slow down. That may be one reason it’s becoming popular in today’s fast-paced world because we could all use a reminder to just slow down and enjoy the process, and sometimes it takes babies to teach us that.