RIE: Is Hollywood's Latest Parenting Trend Wacky or Smart?

There’s a new parenting trend in Hollywood, and for once it has nothing to do with giving your child a wacky name or parading her around town in a stroller that costs as much as a car. RIE, short for Resources for Infant Educarers and pronounced like "wry" (ironic!), is all about getting back to basics and creating an infant-oriented environment devoid of blinking, beeping, buzzing toys and parents who are inclined to swoop in at the first sign of tears. (Famous followers reportedly include Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Hunt, Tobey Maguire and Felicity Huffman.) The RIE approach, proponents insist, helps raise children who are competent, confident, curious, cooperative, cheerful and aware.

Of course, RIE isn’t new. It was founded in the 1970s by an infant educator and a pediatric neurologist and, admittedly, lots of things about the parenting approach make sense. For instance, followers eschew fancy gadgets, pointing out that busy toys produce passive children who are destined to become tiny TV addicts. Instead, RIE-approved playthings include simple objects babies can use imaginatively in multiple ways, like stacking cups, empty water bottles and wooden spoons. Once the child is engaged, parents are taught to watch and respect the way he or she chooses to interact with a toy and not direct the play. Daily parenting duties -- think diapering, changing, feeding -- are viewed as opportunities to engage and instruct, not tedious roadblocks to playtime.

On the other hand, there are some aspects of RIE that could make it challenging to execute flawlessly. For instance, parents are encouraged not to immediately console a sobbing tot but to view a baby’s cries as intelligent, meaningful communication in need of deciphering. Which is all kinds of enlightened and fabulous in theory -- until you’ve got a career-making conference call or other children sleeping nearby. Similarly, while I agree that the RIE motto “never disturb a contented baby” makes a nice wall plaque, when you’ve got to get another kid to soccer practice, dinner is burning on the stove and the UPS guy is banging on the screen door demanding a signature, sometimes baby’s precious contentment is going to have to be disturbed.

There isn’t much opposition to RIE, save for a few claims that some advocates take the approach to extremes (No singing? No dancing? Didn’t these people see what happened when they tried to ban those in Footloose?), and that even in moderation, notions like “never disturb a contented baby” can be wildly inconvenient. Sort of like parenting in general.

What do you think about the RIE approach to parenting? Chime in below!

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