12 Things RIE Moms Do That Every Mom Should Try

Ad failed to load

About 80 times a day, my toddler wants to do something that could potentially hurt or kill him. That means about 80 times a day I have to set a limit of some kind (“Hold hands with mama while we cross the street,” “I'm going to move this chair so you can't climb on the table and throw glass”), and 80 times a day he gets mad and throws a fit. After learning some things RIE moms do that every mom should try, I figured out how to stay much calmer in those moments, so they're over faster and my son (hopefully) learns that he can deal with disappointment and frustration.

RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers; say “wry”) is an approach to caring for children pioneered by Magda Gerber, who advocated for treating children like the whole, autonomous people they are from birth. It fits in well with a lot of peaceful, authoritative parenting styles, because RIE is about letting kids grow up whole, healthy, and well-adjusted by treating them with patience, empathy, and respect, rather than using shame, misdirection, manipulation, threats, coercion, or force to shape their behavior.

Most parents don't think our actions toward our kids fit that description, but because things like shaming and threatening kids for their behavior (“What is wrong with you?” “Quit whining before I give you something to cry about!”) is incredibly common, it often seems more normal and less destructive than it actually is. Especially for folks who are trying to overcome our own histories with toxic parenting, learning more about RIE and putting respectful parenting into practice can be a life-saver. We could all learn a lot from things RIE moms do, like:

Ad failed to load

They “Sportscast” What Goes On During Tense Moments

GIPHY

Instead of projecting their own feelings, doubts, or judgments onto kids when they're struggling to solve a problem or having big feelings, RIE moms “sportscast” them by narrating what's happening in neutral terms. Super useful for folks who are trying to overcome a bad hovering habit, or avoid shaming kids.

They Create “Yes” Spaces For Their Kids

GIPHY

Rather than just baby-proofing a space for their kids, RIE moms create “Yes spaces” that are not only safe, but accessible enough for kids to play independently, get things for themselves, and explore without adults telling them “No!” and “Stop!” all the time. It's great for their development, and a total sanity-saver for moms who are sick of hearing “Mom! Mom! MOM!” requests and entertaining their kids all the time.

They Have Developmentally Appropriate Expectations About Sharing

GIPHY

What we call “sharing” often means “give away the thing you're not done playing with to some other kid.” Most babies and toddlers aren't up for that, for a lot of totally legitimate reasons. (We wouldn't put up with that, either.) Also, what often looks like snatching and fussing to us is actually one of the ways very little kids learn to play with each other. RIE moms let babies and toddlers sort out their own issues with toys, and learn important social lessons in the process.

Ad failed to load

They Let Kids Resolve Their Own Conflicts

GIPHY

We're not always going to be around to solve our kids’ problems, so they have to practice doing it for themselves. RIE moms listen, give support, and keep a watchful eye to make sure no one gets hurt, but they don't swoop in and fix every situation for them.

They Respect Babies’ And Toddlers’ Bodies During Diaper Changes/Potty Training

GIPHY

Instead of referring to babies’ “Stinky!” diapers or interrupting them to yank on their underpants (often exclaiming “peeyoo!” or some other statement about how much the child smells), RIE moms don't make a fuss over full or soiled diapers. They let the child know what's going to happen before and during diaper changes and trips to the potty. Shaming kids over bodily functions isn't respectful, nor is interrupting them or touching/exposing them without warning or the opportunity to consent.

They Respect Boundaries And Consent More Generally From Birth Onward

GIPHY

Even babies communicate when they are and aren't OK with how they're being handled. RIE moms respect kids’ boundaries. They don't give kids unwanted physical affection, or require them to be affectionate with others. They also explain what they're doing during bath times and other moments.

Ad failed to load

They Let Kids Play Independently

GIPHY

RIE moms give even babies opportunities to play on their own. (And before anybody has a heart attack, please note that independent play doesn't mean “unsupervised” play.) Independent play builds confidence and self-respect (and teaches kids not to bug their parents all the time to entertain them).

They Take A Shame-Free Approach To Discipline

GIPHY

RIE moms don't shame their kids for having problems. After all, kids are people and like all people, they're imperfect. It's much easier to learn to do the right thing when you don't feel like you’re inherently bad just for being who you are.

Set Limits Without Bribes Or Threats

GIPHY

It is so tempting, especially with toddlers, to bribe or threaten so we can get them to cooperate with us without throwing a tantrum. But most of the time — especially with bribes — the real issue is us trying to dodge their feelings, not the fact that they'll have them. RIE moms recognize the need to get OK with our kids’ expressing negative feelings. They're human; it's only human to be disappointed and upset with what we're saying sometimes, even if the limit we've set is a fair one.

Ad failed to load

They're Honest With Kids During Tough Moments

GIPHY

Real talk: it sucks to deal with things like getting shots or experiencing death and loss. But lying to kids about things like that just makes their world scarier and less predictable for them, and teaches them they can't trust us when they inevitably find out the truth. RIE moms explain how whatever hard thing works (“Shots are an important part of staying healthy. It might hurt for a little bit,”) and empathize (“but I'm here to help you get through it.”) instead of trying to sugarcoat it.

They Stay Unruffled During Tantrums (Whenever Possible)

GIPHY

Our reactions determine a lot about whether or not our kids will repeat some of their toughest behaviors. If we freak out, that reaction can scare our kids or give them the sense that their outbursts have too much power, causing them to act out more so they can figure out where the boundaries are on their power.

According to RIE leaders like Janet Lansbury, staying “unruffled” in the face of challenging behavior, we convey that we're in control and let our kids know that we plan to keep whatever limits we've put in place.

They Help Kids Deal With Hard Feelings Instead Of Distracting Them

GIPHY

It's uncomfortable to be with people when they're upset or disappointed, especially when they're babies and toddlers and all they can do is scream. But habitually distracting them so they stop crying robs them of opportunities to learn how to actually deal with their feelings and see that they can move through them and come out OK on the other side. Instead, being available to cuddle or help, and talking them through it (“You dropped your ice cream, and now you upset and disappointed”) makes them feel supported, and gives them emotional language they can use to identify their feelings later.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}