Magda Gerber’s caretaking and parenting philosophy, which she named RIE , is explicitly intended to be applied to children from birth until about two years old. Discovering and applying RIE with my young children is without a doubt the best thing my wife and I have done as parents, and we are huge advocates of Gerber’s philosophy. (Click here to read my introductory post about RIE.) However, often the question comes up: what do I do with my kids after RIE? Do the ideas still apply?
First and foremost, it is important to divide this issue into into two separate categories: philosophy of education and parenting philosophy.
RIE recognizes that education and parenting follow the same approach until toddlerhood. That is, in fact, part of its brilliance. But there is no “one-solution” post-RIE prescription. Some of RIE is no longer relevant (diaper, for example, merits significant attention in Your Self Confident Baby and Dear Parent, but is no longer relevant once the child no longer wears diapers). However, the core principle of “respect” — which means respecting a baby as a capable individual — certainly does apply all the way up through adulthood.
At some point, especially as the child becomes more conceptual, he or she will need a more formal education. In the parenting department, conflict resolution and limit setting becomes more complex as the child gets older too.
In the education department, my observation is that most RIE parents are attracted to either Waldorf or Montessori. Much of a parent’s decision on these issues involves a lot of personal context as well — one must choose from schools and options that are available and accessible. My personal preference (at this point) is more aligned with a Montessori approach, but many Montessori schools do not implement Montessori’s philosophy properly or are some altered version of it. I would probably choose a good Waldorf school over a mediocre Montessori, for example.
For more on Montessori, see the LePort Schools blog, which is generally excellent. They represent the Montessori approach well (based on my limited knowledge). If readers of this blog know of a good resource on Waldorf, please post in the comments below!
For some, this is a big question and debate. One of the core principles of RIE is to not “teach” your infant and allow him to discover the world and develop on his own at his own pace. That means no tummy time before they can roll over on their own, no walkers, no sitting the baby up before he can sit up on his own, etc. Most of debate of Montessori vs. Waldorf seems to stem around the question of when the child actually needs a more formal or structured education — Montessori is more structured from the start while Waldorf is purposefully less so.
Homeschooling is not something to rule out, especially if you are willing to put in the time to do it. Most RIE parents are mindful and deliberate about their approach to raising their children, so in many cases this might actually be an ideal solution.
Parents are drawn to RIE for whole host of different reasons, and a bit of introspection is in order to help you think about how you will proceed in the parenting department. As an Objectivist, I come from a very individualistic and pro-rational self-interest philosophy, so I am attracted to RIE because I believe it helps foster these values the best. And it does. The amount of self-esteem, confidence, authenticity and autonomy my near-two year old is pretty amazing.
But there are also many deeply religious parents, and communists, or even a-political or a-philosophical parents attracted to RIE for many different reasons. Some are attracted to RIE because it produces children who share much better than usual. And it does do that (see my blog post “Sharing Is Not A Virtue” that discusses this in further depth). Naturally, those attracted to RIE for this reason may have a very different approach to education and parenting at post-RIE ages than I do.
There are a lot of books that RIE associates and parents recommend for beyond toddlerhood. The most common I have seen recommend are How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Siblings Without Rivalry, as well as P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training). These are all great recommendations. See also the work of Alfie Kohn (who spans both parenting philosophy and philosophy of education; see his books Punished By Rewards and Unconditional Parenting, and various YouTube videos).
I have only skimmed the surface of some of these resources, so I am not necessarily endorsing them all. But they are of interest and from what I’ve seen thus far they definitely offer some value and points of view to consider. I believe P.E.T. has a movement behind it (similar to RIE in that sense) so parents can find classes and other resources as their kids get older.
There is no one right solution, at least not according to RIE. You have to think about your values and your goals as parents to find the best approach that fosters the values you want to instill and expose your children to.