Hollywood's Latest Baby Cult?

This child-rearing system, beloved of stars like Tobey Maguire, the Huffman-Macys, and Helen Hunt, is all about "showing respect for a baby's experience." It sounds dubious.

The "RIE" system — short for Resources for Infant Educarers and pronounced like the liquor — doesn't just sound suspect because its name involves a fake word. Rather, because any doctrinaire system of childcare seems, well, hard to carry out save in a vacuum. (In fairness, maybe Hollywood is one?) RIE purports, in the words of the Daily Beast's Gina Piccalo, to

eschew the conventions of American infancy from baby strollers, high chairs and battery-operated toys to excessive praise, forced sharing, and even lullabies. The end result, advocates say, is not just more competent and self-aware children, but a more peaceful world. This month, the method goes mainstream as RIE teaching materials arrive at 1,700 federally funded Early Head Start programs for families with infants and toddlers nationally.

So, what's the issue? There's certainly nothing wrong with cutting down on the baby industry — or world peace for that matter. We can certainly get behind the limited toy kit, composed of things like patterned scarves and simple kitchen implements; young children do not need fancy gadgets to stimulate their imaginations. And the babies improving their consciousness on their website are super-cute. It's the "guidelines" that worry some critics: no singing and no rocking, for starters. And while some of it seems intuitive, other things just sound like something out of a Woody Allen movie, if Woody Allen's characters cared about kids:

"Doing RIE" generally means showing respect for a baby's experience. Parents narrate the action around the child-loud noises, new faces, movement from one room to another-to help the baby have "a thinking, feeling part of whatever you are doing to him and for him," as the movement's original manual states. A crying baby isn't shushed or distracted but is allowed to release the tension of feeling, and asked why he or she is crying.

Parent-wise, you're not supposed to take babies on errands with you — it must help to have a staff — and, if you're really committed, "the more devoted parents are encouraged to take RIE training, where adult students experience what it feels like to be hand-fed, to be criticized while playing on the floor, to be ignored or over-parented." (It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that the method was devised in 1978.)

"There's definitely a cult of it here," wrote one friend of mine who's heavily involved in the Brooklyn stay-at-home mom scene. "And plenty of it's fine. But that's also the stuff that's most intuitive — talking to your baby, describing the world, limiting crazy-parent-pressure. But no singing? That's like the same red flag I saw when I learned Atkins was no-fruit. When it starts to go against my instincts, I'm out. But hey, if it works for people? Raising kids is so hard, I don't begrudge anyone anything."

That's advice we can get behind.

But you tell us! Have you "done RIE?" Are you a convert? Skeptic? We're curious!


The Secret Celebrity Parenting Craze
[Daily Beast]
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