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Examining The “Hands Off” Approach To Parenting

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A Newborn Baby (Credit: Michel Porro/Getty Images)

A Newborn Baby (Credit: Michel Porro/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS 2) – Raising a child is changing for some parents. Many are turning to a “hands off” approach to parenting babies and toddlers. CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports toddler students at Chicago’s Waldorf School are creating their own mid-morning snack by using regular utensils, including a knife. There are no high chairs and no sippy cups. In fact, they drink from regular glassware.

Michelle Turnermangan is the mother of 6-month-old Luke and 2-year-old Hannah and her children attend activities at Chicago’s Waldorf School, “They really want to do what the adults are doing. It’s just an environment where you’re giving them a safe place to do what you’re doing.”

The Waldorf way is similar to another movement called RIE, which stands for “Resources for Infant Educarers“. RIE babies are encouraged to explore their environment and to roam freely so they can build self confidence.

Julie Papadopolous is raising her son this way, “He has high freedom to get up if he doesn’t want to eat. I learned he doesn’t need to be contained in a chair.” So that means no high chair for 16-month-old Elias because he has his own little table.

RIE’s fundamental philosophy is for parents not to “baby” their babies, and that includes no baby talk. RIE moms said they show respect to your child by explaining what you’re about to do, like changing the child’s diaper.

Deborah Solomon is the Executive Director of Resource for Infant Educarers, “We would never pick up an adult and haul him into the other room so why not afford the same respect to a baby?” When it comes to a crying baby, RIE supporters state don’t jump right in and hug them. Wait for the baby’s cue to be cuddled. Solomon said, “Sometimes I feel as though it’s more about comforting themselves because they’re really uncomfortable with hearing their child cry.”

When parents do less and observe more, RIE believes little ones learn how to work things out on their own, building independence.

Erin Peter is raising two daughters, including 10-month-old Gwendolyn, following RIE techniques. Peter said, “She’s learning a sense of control and being able to feed herself. Why not give her a spoon and let her try it out? Why not give her a glass? And see how that works. By not doing that, I think you’re teaching them that they can’t.”

Child development experts that spoke with CBS 2 agree that it’s fine if you skip the highchair, let your child discover things on their own, and don’t talk “baby talk” to them. But they are concerned with not picking up a crying baby and said this could have long-lasting emotional effects.

They also thought busy families might not be able to follow RIE techniques.

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