Have you heard about RIE parenting (Resources for Infant Educarers), a new trend on raising kids Euro style? It is the new parenting trend in Hollywood.It all started with Pamela Druckerman‘s Bringing Up Bébé, a book about French parenting –which expanded into a series– instructing parents to ignore their kids and discipline them to do chores and eat fancy food. Next came Deborah Carlisle Solomon‘s Baby Knows Best, a book laying out the RIE philosophy: saying no to constant overpraising, overindulging and over testing.
The RIE method, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in praise. Instead it has one big rule: Parents — or “educarers” — need to treat kids more like adults.
Parents should respect infants as if they were fully functioning: spending quality time with them, learning their individual ways of communicating, involving infants in the things that concern them, being honest with them, and allowing them to try problem solving without adult interference.
I lived in Argentina before becoming a parent and I was raised this way. My mom (a French descendant) and my dad (of Basque descent) spent time with me and my brother but never stopped traveling and enjoying their adult lives. I was being raised with the help of a nanny and a grandmother –taking on the “it takes a village” mentality.
I wasn’t raised to use high chairs, sippy cups, Baby Einstein or bundled in a baby bjorn. I wasn’t raised to be co-dependent. All the must-have baby paraphernalia didn’t exist back then. Toddlers were taught to eat at the main table using a fork, a knife and a regular glass or cup. They were also left alone to play and be kids on their own without adult interference. Everything was learned naturally, through failure and through imitation. I was fortunate to travel with my parents and sit at different restaurants around the world, enjoying the food and the ambiance, because I was disciplined and talked to as an adult.
When I had my own babies here in the US, I remember being overwhelmed… not so much by the kids, but more by the parenting books, friends advice, the baby shower gifts, car seats, baby chairs, diaper genies and the dizzying array of products I was told were needed to be a good American parent. I was shocked at this billion dollar business of parenting. I realized I should have spent all of that money on someone to give me a hand a couple of hours a day during those first few months.
So here’s how you can raise your kids according to the RIE method (European style):
- Feed your kids four meals a day – Breakfast, lunch, 5 o’clock tea (or afternoon snack) and dinner are organized ways of feeding your kids. Don’t give them snacks all day. Do not force feed your kids all day long. Let them get hungry. They will enjoy their food better and be more satisfied.
- Feed them adult food. Kids menus do not exist in Europe – Why is it always the same of everything? Chicken fingers, burgers, fries or mac & cheese? How about fish, lasagna, steak, sushi and Chinese? Kids love variety and they need it for their nutritional value. Kids do not need to choose. They are too young for that. They need to eat what is put in front of them. Believe me, no choice means peace at the table, no tantrums and an easier life for the Mom.
- Kids don’t need juice. Give them water – Why are American kids always given apple juice, fruit juice or unnatural colored juice? It’s bad for their teeth and they’re full of sugar. Give them water instead. Remember, no choices when it comes to kids!
- Respect your family meal time – Everyone needs to help set the table, sit down, watch their good manners and enjoy their meal time together. No TV, no iPhone, no iPad, no video games and no distractions of any kind. This is a sacred time for the family to share ideas, thoughts and experiences, as well as food. When was the last time your family did this?
- Once the meal is over, there is no more eating – If your kids are still hungry because they didn’t eat their food at the table, they will learn the lesson for next time. Remember, they won’t starve!
- Learn to say NO and explain why – Kids are smart. They understand. If you say no to candy, chocolate oreos or McDonald’s, explain why. Tell them what happens to their teeth and their bodies with excessive amounts of candy or junk food. Explain what it is and why it’s bad. Show them videos, pictures or show them science articles. Kids love to learn why things are the way they are. Make them explore further with a bit of science. If they still complain, just tell them the basic fact: Until they are 18, they have to do what you say. That’s it.
- Have the kids help in the cooking process – Get them to peel vegetables (they’ll be fine), chop, mix, knead and prepare ingredients. Kids love to participate and love to eat food that they helped prepare. In the meantime, they learn about where food comes from. A lost art.
- Enjoy the food with the kids – Eating should not be some mechanical act of nourishment. It should be enjoyed. Talk about the food, the ingredients and compare likes / dislikes.
- Let your kids learn by failing and by making mistakes – Don’t underestimate their smarts. They can use a real glass, a real fork and knife. Just let them do it
- Always tell them the truth – Don’t come up with white lies or fairy tales to explain an unexpected event. Children are very smart. Their instincts are strong. Sometimes the truth hurts, but in the long run it helps them become resilient and honest.
- If you love somebody, set them free – I know this is the hardest for a US parent. But let them roam. Let them explore. They have the ability to deal, more than you think. Let them figure it out, on their own. You will be surprised at the social skills they will master.
Consuelo Lyonnet firstname.lastname@example.org