An Introduction to Parenting

I am adding “parenting” to the range of topics here, and this is an introductory post on the subject.

About a year ago my wife and I became parents, and one of our goals early on was to find a parenting philosophy or approach that was compatible with our own values.

As Objectivists (Objectivism being the philosophy of Ayn Rand), we wanted an approach that was aligned with our goal of raising a child to become an independent, productive and ultimately happy human being. We want our child to have a vast array of chosen values and pursue them passionately. We want him to become independent, think for himself, and have the ability to become successful in his chosen ventures. We want him to be in touch with his emotions and know how to deal with them effectively, and we want him to be able to think rationally.

Luckily, we found an approach that meets much that criteria with Magda Gerber (191?-2007), founder of RIE and author of such books as Your Self Confident Baby and Dear Parent. RIE is the name she gives her approach and is the name of her organization.

What is RIE? RIE is a parenting framework for infants and toddlers (up to about two years old–after that, not all of the principles apply, but many do). Its core tenant is “respect,” which means respecting a baby as an individual, and as a human being.

What does that mean in practice? It means not treating babies as objects. It means always telling your baby what you are going to do to him before you do it. It means not expecting your baby to do more than he can—nor less than he is able. It means talking to your baby as a person, not a baby. It means not forcing your child to “share.” It means providing your child with an environment he can engage in on his own terms and at his own pace. It means looking at the world from his perspective and taking full account of his context in all your interactions with him.

There is, of course, a lot more to the RIE approach, and I encourage every parent (especially new parents) to read Gerber’s Dear Parent and Your Self Confident Baby.

RIE does not have an explicit philosophy, which can lead to different interpretations of Magda Gerber’s ideas (even the core idea of “respect” can mean different things depending on whether one is an altruist or an egoist, for example). Any misrepresentations of Gerber and RIE are, of course, my own.

For explicit philosophy I turn to Ayn Rand, and in this context I recommend starting with her views on self-esteem.

It is with this post that I wanted to set some context for future posts to come. Hopefully a father’s perspective in the parenting blogosphere will be refreshing, and I hope my thoughts on parenting–as both an advocate of RIE and as an Objectivist–will prove intriguing.