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Parenting by Talking to Your Children Like They’re Adults

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In the past few years there’s been a backlash to helicopter parenting that advocates treating children like adults. Celebs like Penelope Cruz and Tobey Maguire have embraced Resources for Infant Educarers or RIE parenting. Former White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers gives this endorsement, “I think RIE should be a national program so that parents all over the country can have the opportunity that my family had.”

Although it’s had a recent surge in popularity, RIE isn’t new; it was founded by infant education expert Magda Gerber in 1978. This approach is based on treating babies and children with respect — allowing them to do things at their own pace without a lot of coddling. In the words of Magda Gerber, “All children accomplish milestones in their own way, in their own time.”

Parenting with little ones

Adult reading with child
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Gerber’s philosophy — “Observe more, do less. Do less, enjoy more.” — doesn’t mean raising kids who run wild and do whatever they want or letting them learn knives are sharp the hard way. She also didn’t expect parents to to speak to their kids exactly like adults (sarcasm, profanity, etc.). Instead, even if they’re too young to understand, she advocated explaining what you’re doing and why as well as allowing them the freedom to develop their own tastes at their own pace. The goal of RIE parenting is to raise more authentic, confident kids who aren’t afraid of trying new things and are able to stand by their decisions.

A Different Approach

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Adventure playgrounds are also a growing trend among parents who want their kids to grow up with more autonomy. The Land in North Wales, one of the most well-known, looks more like a junkyard than a playground with kids scrambling over piles of tires or building sculptures from discarded chairs. There are many more of these spaces in Europe —most American moms get agita just reading them — but there are a few in the U.S. such as Adventure Playground in Berkeley, CA. If you want to find out more about RIE parenting or other views on treating kids like adults, check out Baby Knows Best by Deborah Carlisle Solomon or Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman.

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