Friday, December 9, 2011

Using the R.I.E Philosophy at home

 R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to your baby!

Let me start off by saying that I have not had any special R.I.E training. I didn't teach at a school which used the R.I.E philosophy and am not an expert. I did teach preschool for 10 years. In the state of Texas preschool teachers are required by the state to have 15 training hours a year of continuing education. I have been to a lot of trainings, but my favorite by far have been training which involve the 10 R.I.E principles.

 "Be careful what you teach.
It might interfere with what they are learning." Magda Gerber

R.I.E stands for Resources for Infant Educarers and is a philosophy of care giving that comes from Magda Gerber.  Magda Gerber designed these principles based on a philosophy conceived by Emmi Pickler, MD, in Hungary and is well known in part of Europe.

10 Principles of Care giving

1. Involve infants and toddlers in things that concern them. Don’t work
around them or distract them to get the job done faster. Allow them to be
active participants rather than passive recipients in all interactions.
2. Invest in quality time, when you are totally available to individual infants and
toddlers. Trust and intimacy can best be developed during routine care giving
3. Learn each child’s unique ways of communicating (cries, words,
movements, gestures, facial expressions, body positions, words) and teach
them yours. Don’t underestimate children’s ability to communicate even
though their verbal language skills may be non-existent or minimal.
4. Invest in time and energy to build a total person (concentrate on the
“whole child”). Don’t focus on cognitive development alone or look at it as
separate from total development.
5. Respect infants and toddlers as worthy people. Don’t treat them as objects
or cute little empty-headed people to be manipulated.
6. Be honest about your feelings around infants and toddlers. Don’t pretend
to feel something that you don’t or not to feel something that you do.
7. Model the behavior that you want to teach. Don’t preach.
8. Recognize problems as learning opportunities, and let infants and
toddlers try to solve their own. Don’t rescue them, constantly make life easy
for them, or try to protect them from all problems.
9. Build security by teaching trust. Don’t teach distrust by being
undependable or often inconsistent.
10. Be concerned about the quality of development in each stage. Don’t
rush infants and toddlers to reach developmental milestones.

These trainings were burned in my memory as this "Ah HA!" moment. No longer could I view a child as any thing other than a complete human being, not an empty pot to be filled. I wasn't shaping this child. I was allowing this child to discover for himself the wonderful things he could do.

Babies don't need us to teach them how to roll over, or how to sit up. They just need to the freedom to learn how to do it on their own.

I remember sitting in a room full of other educators chatting away as we waited for the facilitator to set up. With out a word she grabbed a grown woman by the arm and yanked her out of her seat, walked her over to another chair and placed her down in it. Each one of us was aghast! But how often do we treat our babies this way? How often do we take away a toy with out a word or pick a child up to change a diaper with out warning? How would you feel if a doctor or nurse performed some sensitive procedure with out telling you what they were about to do first?
Before I pick him up to change a diaper, I tell him, "I'm going to change your diaper now." When we think of them as complete people, not just little dolls, it's easy!

The facilitator then had us divide in to pairs. We were given a bowl full of apple sauce and instructed to feed the other teacher the way we might feed a baby who didn't want to eat. I remember gagging as the woman in front of me pried my mouth open to shove a huge spoonful of applesauce down my throat. But how many of us have employed what ever means necessary to get a picky eater to eat?

I am no longer teaching in a preschool setting but the lessons learned in these trainings have stayed with me, and I try to incorporate them in to how I raise my own babies.
Instead of spending all of your time telling toddlers what they can't get in to, give them an environment where they are free to explore.

I use a tool called "sportscasting" when talking with Bug. Sportscasting involves offering observations in a situation with out offering opinions. A conversation may go something like this;

"You have a green bucket. You are putting the red lego in the green bucket. You are putting more legos in the green bucket. You picked up the bucket. You put the bucket on the shelf."

You don't need to do this all day every day, but you don't need to offer opinions  all day every day either. The R.I.E philosophy believes that children are self motivated.

 Babies and toddlers need the freedom to explore with out being judged. This means they need a safe place to explore.

They do not need us to say, "You have a pretty green bucket! Yay! You put the lego in to the bucket! Way to go! Good for you!" When you teach them to be motivated out of a need for praise or reinforcement from you, you deny them the freedom to simply explore their world. You undermine the self motivation.

Give babies the freedom to see what they can do. Give them a chance to learn to trust their own bodies.

Now I will never claim to be using 100% R.I.E philosophy 100% of the time. Any one who has seen photos of Bug will notice he uses a passie. (I never shove it in his mouth when he cries, I hand it to him and he picks it up and puts it in his own mouth) You may also notice that I do strap him in a highchair. I just couldn't figure out dinner any other way.

I do try to incorporate as many of these philosophies as I can in our day to day routine. I look back and see things that I could have done differently, but I am learning as much about the R.I.E. philosophy as I can with the hope that I will be raising a self motivated, confident child.


  1. What a great explanation. I am in the same boat as you- no formal RIE training but when I started teaching college courses, I was given a text based on this approach and that was my Ah-ha moment! I may have to send a link to this post out to my parents.

  2. Wow, thanks! I hope they find it helpful.

  3. Nice, clear, simple introduction! Will be helpful to many parents new to Magda Gerber's ideas. Love the pictures. Will be sharing! Nice to meet you Kristin! Found you on Facebook, thanks to Janet Lansbury.

  4. Joanna (mom of 3 boys under 5)December 9, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I am going to write this on our chalkboard wall - I have never heard if RIE.

  5. Lisa, I am so glad you found me. Your site looks like one I will have to spend a great deal of time looking through.

    Joanna, If I could get these tattooed on my heart, I would! If you would like to learn more. Lisa's sight Regarding Baby looks like a wonderful place to start. Also check out Resources for Infant Educarers and Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare.

    Thank you both so much for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Kristin I find this fascinating! I have never heard of RIE but when mine were little, I just instinctively thought of them as little people. I talked constantly and would include them in every process. I so enjoyed watching them do for themselves and discover their abilities. Their confidence soared and today they are amazingly self sufficient with everything from making their lunches to managing their school work and extra activities at the ages of 9 and 12. Its interesting to see some of the studies coming out on kids of helicopter parents that are stressed and struggle to get through the day because everything has always been done for them. Good info girl! Keep up your amazing work!

  7. I recently was told about RIE when I was explaining how becoming a Certified Educator of Infant Massage has really given me a chance to share how important respect for babies and toddlers is to me. Thank you for sharing this in such simple and clear words. Being introduced to RIE has been like coming home to where everything feels right. I'm excited about exploring it all in more detail!

  8. Wonderful post! I totally agree with you. And I voted for you on Statesman Social award. Congratulations!

  9. Hello Kristin - this is a lovely post, a wonderful explanation of RIE. So clearly written, with lovely photos. Glad I found you (via Janet Lansbury's fb page). Anna @ Every Moment Is Right.


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