RIE: The Latest in Parenting Crazes

Is dirt an RIE approved toy?

Tobey Maguire does it! Helen Hunt and Felicity Huffman do it, too!  The “it” is an approach to parenting called RIE (Resources for Infant Educators).  Described as a “back-to-basics” approach, RIE and its celebrity parents reject enrollment in swim and dance classes in favor of quieter times shared by baby and parent at home and, you know, in RIE classes.

RIE sounds like a touch of Montessori mixed with a smidgen of Waldorf in its attention to quiet, order, and common sense in early childhood education. Up until recently it’s been mostly local to LA, but now they’re ready to roll out into 1,700 Head Start classrooms and into your local bookstore. The latter must be why we’re hearing about how some celebrities are raising their kids.  So what’s it all about?According to a story in The Daily Beast, RIE supports child development babies through RIE approved toys — colander (check), spoon (check), scarf (really?). Parents are encouraged to honor a child’s feelings and discouraged from running errands with baby in tow. Assuming there’s someone else around to watch my kids I, personally, don’t need a class to discourage me from running errands with kids in the back seat.  If there isn’t anyone at home but me, though, then what’s a parent who wants quiet and space and milk and juice to do?

Be that as it may, RIE teaches parents to try to understand their babies’ experiences, and babies are encouraged to have them.  RIE seems to want less distraction from things like mobiles and more focus on a baby’s encounter with her world.  All of which sounds good in moderation and oppressive when applied 24/7.

That could be just me, though. I don’t like going whole hog about much of anything — particularly if to do so I have to buy a bunch of  products that will help me bring more simplicity (and clutter) into my family life.

In all fairness, from the description of RIE, it sounds like a relatively reasonable approach that many people could adapt to their lives.   What’s too bad is that once any approach in endorsed by celebrity parenting, it seems like whole hog is the only way to go. RIE might want to discourage helicopter parenting, but replacing it with a strict adherence to RIE can’t be the way to do that.  We’ve all got to take what works and find our way.  Don’t you think?

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