Teaching children is more hands-off than you may think. More and more early childhood centers have begun to adopt the Resources for Infant Educators (RIE) method as a way to develop the children in their program.
The RIE method generally promotes the idea that children are capable of being treated like fully-formed human beings, and that dumbing down or providing strict boundaries for kids can ultimately be detrimental to them as they get older.
Also known as the Magda Gerber’s Educaring approach, it allows parents and caregivers “to focus on what matters most: the connection between themselves and the baby in their care.”
When Christina Sbarra, the director of Orange County’s Sea Star Village, opened the school, one of the first teachers she hired had experience with the RIE method. Interested in how the approach would work with children, Sbarra worked with the teacher to fully integrate the philosophy into the school curriculum. Now, it’s one of the things the school is known for.
“Parents who follow RIE allow their children to discover their capacities on their own, often just observing without either restricting or teaching them,” Sbarra explains.
“It appeals to many parents because it provides something we are all craving: a rediscovery of the benefits of slowing down, being fully present with each other, and enjoying more unscheduled time.”
One of the school’s teachers, DeeDee McCroy, is a RIE-certified infant and toddler consultant, and in addition to putting the RIE method into practice as a teacher, she also tested out the philosophy on her own children. “I can’t imagine my children’s lives without the RIE approach,” McCroy shares. “They are certainly not perfect, but they share a deep level of compassion for and understanding of others. They possess high emotional intelligence and are great communicators (even as teenagers)!” Initially reluctant to look into the RIE method when a friend invited her to a class during her first pregnancy, McCroy says it became her lifeline and is the best decision she’s ever made.
What draws many followers to the philosophy is that participating in a class as an adult can better your relationships not only with your own children but also with other children and adults. The entire approach is based on the ultimate goal of developing a respectful partnership based on mutual trust. After putting it into practice you may start seeing elements of the teachings bleed over into other areas of your daily life.
While changes are made slowly, some might be a little confused on what actually happens when the RIE method is put into practice. One of the examples Sbarra gives is as simple as when your child wants to sit up on their own. Instead of propping up the infant to the seated position yourself, the RIE method would suggest giving the child time on the floor so they could work out how to roll over and sit up on their own.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to be present and observe as their child picks up skills in a safe and supportive environment.
Adults are encouraged to offer affectionate touches and supportive words as the infant follows their own innate, physical wisdom and begins to trust their own abilities and independence. “At first, some parents might think that RIE is too hands-off,” McCroy states. “However, once they see the benefits to their child’s confidence and trust, they are reassured. Give it time to sink in. Many things in life that are true and genuine take time and are found in the quiet, the being, and the undoing. The moment you observe your child and see it working, you will be transformed!”