It seems like every few years, a new parenting guru emerges on the scene complete with catch phrases and three-step solutions to problems (mostly the ever-elusive newborn sleep cycle) that have plagued parents for decades.
Today's latest trend is no exception. There are even some celebrity parents, namely Tobey Maguire, Helen Hunt, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason Alexander, Felicity Huffman and husband William H. Macy, who have jumped on the bandwagon.
The trend, called RIE, short for Resources for Infant Educarers (pronounced “wry,”) is an about-face from battery-operated toys, baby genius videos, and forced playdates. Instead, advocates of this Los Angeles-based program aim for more peaceful and relaxed childrearing that takes life at baby-speed.
Following RIE principles generally means showing respect for a baby’s experience. At the weekly baby group meetings (not playdates), parents sit to the side listening to a certified RIE instructor share experiences on child development issues while babies and toddlers crawl around in a large, open room playing with RIE-approved toys.
Babies aren’t placed on their stomachs to build strength, a practice known as “tummy time,” because RIE’s late co-founder Magda Gerber insisted that babies should not be put into positions that they can’t independently get into or escape from. A crying baby isn’t shushed or distracted but is allowed to release the tension of feeling, and asked why he or she is crying.
Personally, I like the idea of relaxed parenting that focuses less on forced sharing with pint-sized playmates and more with parental involvement in a child's experiences. I also like the idea of respecting a child's experiences, but I do question some of the RIE principles because I wonder how they work in real-life situations.
For example, I can see where they are coming from in not wanting parents to "shush" a child, but I think they may not realize that the "shh, shh, shh" sound that most parents make when comforting a baby is not a "hush, be quiet," sound; rather, it's a "there, there, mommy's here," sound. It's not controlling, it's comforting.
What do you think? Do you think RIE parenting gets it right with a gentle approach to parenting? Or does it miss the mark?