The RIE Approach
By Itamar Kubovy
Do you find your infant needs constant stimulation? Do you think the "baby rat race" has gone overboard with planned activities and programs? Do you want your child to be self-confident, autonomous, and live a more authentic life? Many people who answered yes to these questions found an alternative approach to child rearing in RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers(tm)), Magda Gerber's method focusing on the first two years of a baby's life.
Based on the late Hungarian pediatrician Dr. Emmi Pikler's method, which transformed institutional childcare in Hungary during World War II, Gerber has developed and refined the philosophy to serve the Western nuclear family. Above all, RIE urges parents to develop respectful relationships with baby within the first weeks of an infant's life. Rather than teach your child to grow by pushing him into structured activities and performance-oriented situations, RIE adherents believe parents should stay out of the way and trust that baby can learn more by exploring on his own. Moreover, Gerber argues, the baby who is allowed to discover and learn on his own will be an active participant rather than a passive recipient in the learning process, and thereby grow into a more confident and self-reliant person.
To begin practicing RIE, Gerber suggests parents spend time watching and reacting to their infants, learning to read their gestures, sounds, and expressions. "Crying," Gerber writes, "is a child's language. It is her way of communicating her needs...Rather than trying to stop your child from crying by distracting her, try to figure out why she is crying so that you are able to help her."
Contrary to what some believe, RIE is far from a "hands-off" approach. Creating a safe, respectful environment in which you can effectively communicate with your child requires considerable thought and attention to detail. Also, learning to interpret your baby's behavior by exercising keen judgment in every aspect of the parent-infant relationship, from breast-feeding to sleep schedules to changing diapers calls for sensitivity and consideration that aren't always obvious to parents in today's rushed and achievement-oriented world.
Interest in RIE is on the rise. Two large corporations, Mattel and Universal Studios, offer RIE daycare programs, and many new parents are reading the literature and enrolling in classes throughout the country. Over the past few years, Gerber has published two books, one of which is Your Self Confident Baby
, and a collection of essays, Dear Parent
. To learn more, contact the RIE Center in Los Angeles. The center offers the literature, instructional videos, a newsletter, and information on how to find the RIE fellow nearest you.