Based on a caregiving approach brought to the U.S. by Hungarian infant-development expert Magda Gerber in 1973, the philosophy -- which focuses on respecting the needs of the individual child -- has a devoted following of parents, including Jason Alexander, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jerry Seinfeld. "We don't set goals. We believe that infants are self-motivated," says Eileen O'Sullivan, a member of RIE's board of directors.
While this isn't exactly a new concept in infant development, the group has created a program to put this way of thinking into action for children 6 weeks to 2 years of age. "We want to help babies have a strong sense of self. The payoff is children who are resourceful, confident, and independent," says O'Sullivan. "They understand that they're valuable and worthy of our attention." Here's how to "respect" your child, according to the RIE philosophy.
? Allow your baby to participate in childcare. Tell your child what you'll do before you do it. Informing him about what will happen next -- like a diaper change -- can help him feel more secure and lead to two-way communication down the road, says O'Sullivan.
? Honor what he can do physically. The group suggests not putting a baby into a position he can't get into himself, such as propping him up with pillows in a sitting position. Healthy babies will invariably reach these developmental milestones, argues RIE, and rushing the process may frustrate them and even lead them to feel disappointed in themselves.
? Sit and observe. To see your child for who he is and witness small development changes as they occur, RIE advocates that parents watch their child play, without distractions or planned activities, ideally for at least 15 minutes three times a day. Occasionally, the parent should comment nonjudgmentally about the child's activity -- "sportscasting" in the RIE lingo.
? Follow your baby's lead. During playtime, let him choose a toy or a new place to explore. That means making your home baby-safe is critical, so your child can have more freedom to wander. In the spirit of doing less, RIE asserts that a child who is frustrated by, say, a ball that has rolled under a chair shouldn't be helped immediately. Finding his own solutions can make for a more valuable lesson.
? Turn off the television. Playing without the distraction of the TV lets your child decide what interests him and may even help him develop concentration. For more information about RIE, visit www.rie.org or call 323-663-5330.