Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIEA Way

Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIEA Way

by Deborah Carlisle Solomon


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Raise self-confident, self-reliant children using the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) Approach.

Your baby knows more than you think. That's the heart of the principles and teachings of Magda Gerber, founder of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers), and Educaring. Baby Knows Best is based on Gerber's belief in babies' natural abilities to develop at their own pace, without coaxing from helicoptering or hovering parents. The Educaring Approach helps parents see their infants as competent people with a growing ability to communicate, problem-solve, and self-soothe.

Baby Knows Best is a comprehensive resource that shows parents how to respond to their babies' cues and signals; how to develop healthy sleep habits; why babies need uninterrupted playtime; and how to set clear, consistent limits. The result? More relaxed parents and more confident, self-reliant children.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316219198
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 145,262
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Deborah Carlisle Solomon is an infant/toddler educator and speaker. She works with parents, caregivers, early interventionists and other professionals to help them to "see infants with new eyes," and to create relationships with babies and young children based on understanding and respect. She was RIE Executive director from 2006 to 2014 and has addressed national and international infancy and early childhood conferences workshops. Deborah lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

Read an Excerpt

Baby Knows Best

Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way

By Deborah Carlisle Solomon

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2013 Deborah Carlisle Solomon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-21920-4


The RIE Way

Our goal is to help parents learn to live and let live with their infants and later with their older children. Such insight cannot be "taught." Long-term learning is a slow process. It must happen organically—allowing for time in which the seeds of understanding may sprout, grow, bloom, and bear fruit.

—Magda Gerber, Dear Parent

Enter an RIE Parent-Infant Guidance class or the home of an RIE family, and you'll find a gated-off area that has been created as a safe space for the babies to play. For young babies, a thin, firm mat made of foam, covered with a cotton sheet, has been placed on top of the floor or rug to ensure a safe and clean play surface. It's a no-shoes area for both adults and babies.

At RIE Parent-Infant Guidance classes, parents sit around the perimeter of the room on small cushions or Back Jack floor chairs with their babies in their laps. When parents and babies first arrive in class, they take the time to "warm in," or transition, to being in the gated-off play space together. The parents quietly talk about their week and may ask the RIE facilitator for guidance on issues that came up at home since the last class. When a baby shows interest in being on the mat to be near the other babies and play objects, his parent lays him on his back on the mat, or he moves toward the floor on his own to explore.

The play objects arranged around the room are simple; they don't have busy patterns or shiny sparkles. You won't see the latest faddish toys that promise to be entertaining and educational. The objects don't light up. They don't make sounds, unless a baby hits the object on the floor or against another object. To an adult, the play objects may look downright boring. And aren't some of those objects—measuring cups and colanders—from the kitchen cupboard?

For young babies, there are tented cotton napkins and just a few objects of various materials to mouth and chew on, such as metal frozen-juice lids, silicone pot holders, and wooden rings. For crawling babies, there are additional objects such as cups made of wood, metal, and plastic, or balls that are bumpy or smooth and made of cotton, rubber, or plastic. For toddlers, who often like to collect and sort things, there are also buckets and bowls.

After the warming-in period, the RIE facilitator asks the adults to sit without talking for a period of quiet observation. Except for the sounds of babies gurgling, cooing, and babbling, their sounds of exertion and effort, and the possible clatter of objects, the room is quiet as the adults observe the children for twenty minutes or so. They observe as six-month-old Eli crawls across the room to reach a plastic colander full of balls. As Adrianna lies on her back, mouthing a wooden ring, Aidan scoots over and takes it from her. Across the mat, Miles and Keesha are sitting up, facing each other. Miles picks up a small metal cup, and for a while he and Keesha pass it back and forth between them. Then Miles taps the cup against Keesha's head, and she immediately begins to cry. Parents stay seated while the facilitator moves close to the babies and says to Miles, "Keesha's upset. If you want to bang the cup, you can bang it on the floor." She gently strokes each child's head, saying, "Gently. Softly."

When the structured observation time is up, the facilitator may ask, "What did you observe about your baby or someone else's baby? What did you observe about yourself?"

Eli's dad says, "Eli spotted the colander all the way across the room and worked hard to get to it. He was so pleased when he got there and finally had it in his hands. I have to work on my own impatience because sometimes I just want to hand things to him."

Adrianna's mom says, "When Adrianna was lying on her back, playing with the ring, I was anxious when Aidan crawled over to her. But then I noticed that she didn't seem to mind at all, and when he took the ring from her, she just looked around for something else to play with. That surprised me."

Miles's mom says, "When you moved in close and said, 'Keesha's upset,' Miles really seemed to listen. You brought a peaceful presence that helped both children to calm." Keesha's mom says, "My first instinct was to come close to comfort Keesha. But she didn't even look to me. You gave her what she needed."

In Parent-Infant Guidance classes, parents observe their babies, come to appreciate all that their babies are doing, and trust in their baby's individual timetable for achieving milestones. By learning to hold back rather than quickly intervening to rescue or problem-solve for their babies, parents are often surprised to see just how competent their babies can be. Over time and with practice, parents become more confident in their parenting skills, and the babies become confident, self-reliant, and resourceful, as both take pleasure in just being together without any sort of agenda.


Attachment or attachment theory refers to the developing connection between a baby and the significant other who cares for him—most often his mother or father. The nature of the attachment relationship is largely formed by the sensitive responsiveness of the parent to the baby and the overall quality of the baby-parent interactions. In secure attachment, the parent helps the baby learn to self-soothe and also encourages and takes pleasure in the baby's independent exploration. Learning when to hold close and when to let go is a skill that parents are called on to employ throughout their child's life. Magda's genius was in helping us to see the world from the baby's point of view and showing us practical ways to respond to babies with care and respect.


Magda Gerber said that "we should educate while we care and care while we educate" and coined the terms Educarer and Educaring to describe the ways in which caring and educating are intertwined. She taught that the intimate caregiving activities of diapering, dressing, bathing, and feeding are not only relationship-building opportunities but also opportunities for learning. Her approach is based on a set of basic RIE principles that inform all parent-child interactions.

RIE Principles

In addition to respect and authenticity, seven basic RIE principles form the foundation of the Educaring Approach. They are introduced in this chapter and expanded on in greater detail throughout the book. These are not a rigid set of principles that must be doggedly enforced and followed but rather can serve as guideposts to support you in building a respectful relationship with your baby. These principles will help you respond confidently to the inevitable parenting challenges that will arise. Parents who practice the Educaring Approach discover how flexible it is and often remark that it makes parenting easier and more enjoyable. The Educaring Approach guides parents to create a more harmonious and peaceful life at home with their babies. And who doesn't want that? Here are the RIE principles, exactly as Magda wrote them.

1. Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer, and a self-learner

"An infant always learns. The less we interfere with the natural process of learning, the more we can observe how much infants learn all the time."

When you trust in your baby's competence, you can relax, secure in the knowledge that he will let you know when he needs you and that you don't have to push, prod, or teach him for him to develop fully, happily, and well. This kind of trust develops over time, as you observe your baby to get to know him better, understand his cues, and notice what interests him. All babies are naturally curious and motivated from within. They don't need us to instruct or teach them. Give your baby the opportunity to discover and try things out on his own and allow him the time he needs to develop at his own pace. There may be times when you feel impatient or anxious, but trusting in your baby's unique developmental timetable will serve you both well.

1. An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing

"Contrary to what many people believe, a gated room is a safe room which gives infants freedom to move and explore in safe and familiar surroundings."

Magda defined a safe space as one that if you got locked out of the house or apartment for many hours, you would return to find your baby hungry, upset, and needing a new diaper but unharmed. A safe play space allows you to fully relax, knowing you don't have to be on guard to ensure your baby's safety. It also gives your baby the freedom to fully explore in his play area, never hearing you say, "Don't touch that. Don't climb on that. That's not safe." Provide a safe space for your baby—a separate room or a gated-off area—with no potential hazards. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. Experience the environment from your baby's point of view. Are the bookshelves securely fastened to the wall? Are the outlets covered? Could your baby crawl up onto the sofa and topple off the back? If so, your baby is not safe alone in the space. Make the play area safe so that it works for both of you—so that he can be free to explore, and you can relax knowing there's no potential danger.

A cognitively challenging environment provides opportunities for exploration and learning with developmentally appropriate play objects. A plastic jar with a lid for unscrewing is appropriate for a toddler but will provide too much challenge for a young baby. Balls can be fun for a crawling baby or toddler who can retrieve the ball when it rolls away, but not ideal for a baby who is not yet crawling and does not have the ability to pursue the ball himself.

In an emotionally nurturing environment, your baby can relax and trust that you will be available for emotional support when he needs you. He can enjoy independent exploration and also initiate playful interactions with you as you appreciate and take pleasure in his play.

1. Time for uninterrupted play

"The less we interrupt, the more easily infants develop a long attention span."

All babies know how to play. They don't need us to teach them. It is natural to play with your baby, but let him be the one to initiate the play. Babies can learn to play happily on their own, in their safe play area. When babies are given the opportunity to explore and experiment independently, they discover their own inner resources and what interests them.

When your baby is playing, he's not just fiddling with an object. He is learning about that particular object, making discoveries about cause and effect, and how he can impact the object. Let your baby decide if he wants to play (perhaps he'd prefer to lie on his back and watch the dust particles in the sunlight), when to play, what object to play with, what he'd like to do with it, and for how long. Giving your baby time for uninterrupted play every day helps to preserve a long attention span that many babies are born with. It also helps to promote concentration, self-reliance, and problem-solving skills.

1. Freedom to explore and interact with other infants

"Whereas others often restrict infant-infant interaction (such as infants touching each other) for fear of their hurting one another, Educarers facilitate interactions by closely observing in order to know when to intervene and when not to."

Babies are fascinated by other babies. It's wonderful for your baby to have the opportunity to play and explore with a small and consistent group of babies of his own developmental stage, with you or another attentive adult nearby to provide emotional support and safety.

Your baby will learn about himself and others through interacting with his peers. There will be times when he may choose to sit in your lap and observe the other babies rather than venturing out. At RIE, if a child wants to remain close to his parent for the entire ninety-minute class, that's just fine. There's no agenda stating that he needs to move away from his parent or play with an object. Just as your baby will roll over when he's ready, he'll also indicate when he's ready to move off your lap to explore, without any coaxing or urging from you. Readiness will depend on your baby's temperament and his developmental stage. When he is ready, your baby will engage with objects and other babies in ways that interest him. In the meantime, he may enjoy sitting on your lap, observing the other babies and parents.

1. Involvement of the child in all caregiving activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient

"The natural time to be wholeheartedly with your child is the time you do spend together anyway—while you care for your baby. Think of these 'taking-care-of' routines as very special, the 'refueling' time for both of you—time for intimate togetherness."

Caregiving times are not just about accomplishing a particular task like diapering, bathing, or feeding. They are intimate, relationship-building opportunities that can be pleasurable for both of you. They are activities that you do with your baby rather than to or for your baby. You can invite even the youngest baby to participate in his care. From birth, when you diaper your baby, you can say, "Will you lift your bottom for me?" as you gently touch your newborn's bottom. When that touch and those words are followed by lifting your baby's bottom, he will come to understand their meaning and participate when he is ready. Caregiving times also provide rich opportunities for language learning and offer possibilities for participation, cooperation, and delight. So slow down, take your time, and enjoy these intimate moments together.

1. Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs

"The more we do, the busier we are, the less we really pay attention."

By observing your baby, you will come to understand him better and appreciate all that he is doing and learning. The bottle or breast may always quiet his cry, but what if he's not hungry but sleepy instead? Slowing down and taking the time to pause and observe your baby before rushing in can help you to respond more accurately to his needs. You may be thinking, "I never take my eyes off my baby!" But observing is very different from looking and watching. It requires you to quiet yourself, pause, be patient, and try to see your baby as if for the first time. This takes practice because we often see only what we expect to see. By quietly observing your baby—in his crib, in your arms, or while he's playing on the floor—you will get to know him better and appreciate all that he's doing with much more detail.

1. Consistency and clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline

"A positive goal to strive for when disciplining would be to raise children we not only love, but in whose company we love being."

Setting limits clearly and following through on them consistently help a child to feel secure because he learns what is expected of him. If you don't want your toddler bouncing on the sofa, let him know and offer an alternative, suggesting something else that he can jump on. Sometimes we have to repeat a limit over and over again until a child finally internalizes the limit and becomes self-disciplined. Patience is key. Of course, an authoritarian parent may get the desired result more quickly, but at what cost to the child's sense of self and the parent-child relationship? It is not necessary or wise to punish, chastise, or use time-outs with a baby or toddler who repeatedly tests the limit.

In addition to the basic RIE principles, the following concepts support the Educaring Approach.

Excerpted from Baby Knows Best by Deborah Carlisle Solomon. Copyright © 2013 Deborah Carlisle Solomon. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

1 The RIE Way 13

2 At Home with Your Newborn 33

3 Caring for Your Baby 53

4 Sleep 91

5 Free to Move 115

6 Play 137

7 Learning Limits 173

8 Toddlers 197

9 As Your Baby and Family Grow 217

10 Child Care 231

11 Parenting Support 243

Afterword 249

Acknowledgments 253

Resources 257

Notes 263

Index 267

What People are Saying About This

Jason Alexander

RIE gave us a loving methodology for how to do the most important thing in the world—understand and nurture our babies. It fostered a communication and interplay that we've built upon all their lives. This was invaluable and loving knowledge. - Jason Alexander, actor

Gustavo Dudamel

RIE has been a blessing in our lives, giving us the chance to learn that our baby can teach us best when we observe carefully. We've learned to respect him as he expresses his needs. - Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and his wife Eloísa Maturén

Hank Azaria

My greatest fear as a parent was making mistakes. I wanted some kind of rulebook that told me how to handle every situation with an infant. RIE is the closest thing that I have found to this 'Holy Grail.' How to be attentive but not intrusive, loving but not smothering, kind but not indulging, guiding but not controlling, strict but not rigid--all this wonderfully laid out in RIE's Educaring Approach. We are raising an independent being that I can feel incredibly close to. Thank you Magda Gerber and all the wonderful infant educarers! - Hank Azaria, actor

Jamie Lee Curtis

The RIE program is the single most relatable, intuitive and common sense approach to the modern day conundrum of parenting. Baby Knows Best is the guidebook. It helps you get back to basics and makes you a better, more confident parent as you learn that Babies do indeed Know Best. A must-have on yours and your baby's library shelf. - Jamie Lee Curtis

Alicia Lieberman

This book will be an invaluable contribution for parents and for anybody who cares about young children. RIE is a pioneering approach to care giving that anticipated what science now tells us: that babies and young children thrive with sensitive care that is responsive to their signals and developmental needs. For parents who often feel torn between multiple demands, RIE offers a gentle, supportive approach that fosters their self-confidence and helps them rediscover the joys of raising a child. The RIE approach is a refreshing departure from the didactic, overly prescriptive books that seem to dominate the parenting literature. I strongly recommend the publication of this book, which will occupy a special niche in the literature on early care giving. - Alicia Lieberman, PhD, author of The Emotional Life of the Toddler

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