Examining The “Hands Off” Approach To Parenting

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.

  • Bob

    I am 61 years old and can still remember how I felt when my parentsneglected me as as a baby- it changed my whole outlook on life as a 6 year old and resulted in years of anxiety, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive behavior ever since, resulting in a life filled with fear and depression.
    Babies and toddlers cry for reasons- it takes parental care and concern as well as a little tlc to stave off psychological damage later in life. If you don’t want to love and care for your kids- use condoms , but don’t neglect them. after birth. Exceptionally bright kids are hurt the most by parental neglect- the parents should handle their responsibility to raise their kids in a mature and loving manner.

    • janetlansbury

      Bob, I couldn’t agree with you more! How incredibly irresponsible and ignorant the producers at CBS were to characterize the RIE approach as unresponsive to babies when it is exactly the opposite. (And how strange to juxtapose that misinformation with clips of moms and dads in a RIE class comforting and cuddling their babies!)

      I understand the need to find something shocking to wrap a news story around. But please, CBS, not at the expense of a non-profit organization dedicated to respecting infants as whole people…and inspiring parents, educators and child care professionals around the world to do the same. We’re the good guys. http://janetlansbury.com

  • FNL fan

    Giving a 16 month old child the high freedom of leaving the table if they don’t want to leave is paving the way for this child to grow up with rude and arrogant tendencies. If they’re going to go this far, then they ought to be teaching them about accountability and that actions have consequences. This is ridiculous.

  • Evergreen

    Glassware and knives in preschool, huh? Genius.

  • J.C.

    Are you kidding? Can you imagine what these kids will be like when it’s time for them to go to school and interact with others in a structured environment? By that time, they will already have become self-absorbed little brats who only appreciate getting what they want.

  • annie

    I love holding babies. They are the most precious things God has given us. Specially younger women who are unable to have children and are waiting for the adoption process to take place. It takes at least ten years to have one adopted. If lthe babies parents are druggies or love to drink a lot then the babies will be born with defects.
    My baby interacts with others specially with the sisters who shower her with all attention.
    Please, parents do not treat babies like dolls. Never shake them like you shake an apple tree. They could be damaged for life and you will regret for the rest of your life.

  • Max

    This is probably the most misinformed, misleading piece of journalism I ever encountered. In fact it’s glaringly ignorant and the article itself proves it. In the clips, the crying infants are being comforted and cared for – not ignored. In the video you see the parents interacting with the children at all times, treating them with respect and letting them try things out while they are observing. There is scientific evidence that babies learn by imitation, which is what’s taking place here. Yes, it does require a lot of attention and is very time consuming – children deserve your time and dedication! Even if you are a working parent you can do this, to the best of your ability. It’s also about knowing your child, reading their cues, etc. For example, my daughter may cry if she wants something and can’t reach it…but instead of giving her what she wants right away, I give her the opportunity to experience the joy of achieving it on her own. I am sure that her joy at achieving something is much greater than if I’d jump to quiet her and gave her what she wanted immediately. There is so much more I could say I could say about this article, but it would require too much writing. So I would encourage people to do more research on RIE and Waldorf and NOT to take this newspiece into consideration.

  • D. Marie

    I don’t think these particular alternative styles of parenting advocate ignoring babies’ cries. To me it is an invitation to slow down, tune in, and respond to the needs behind the cry rather than just jump in with a knee-jerk consolation or hushing of a child when perhaps it might just be a brief expression of frustration. if a child is crying and needs soothing and loving attention, by all means use common sense… practice compassion! Children are wired to learn by copying their caretakers. It makes sense to me that indifference fosters indifference (or worse) and compassion fosters compassion (or better). Great topic!

    • Miven Trageser

      That’s a lovely way to describe many of the alternative parenting approaches, like RIE and Waldorf. They do have slowing down in common, but by no means do they advocate neglecting or “not responding” to an upset baby or child in my experience with these approaches. I work with kids’ emotions as a child therapist, so I have some basis for saying this.

  • Melani

    This type of reporting simply demonstrates the sensationalism that is associated with all news stories, but it still disappointed me to see how flagrantly this CBS affiliate station mischaracterized the Educaring Approach, even confusing the organization with Waldorf education.
    Nothing in RIE advocates for a “hands-off” approach to infants and toddlers; it is simply about slowing down, paying attention, and treating children as individuals. Simply put, it is about developing meaningful relationships with children. For more information about what RIE is really about, please visit the website, http://www.rie.org.

  • Miven Trageser

    Look at this contradiction: comments above veer between accusing this approach of child neglect, and of raising overly indulged, entitled brats. Those are diametrically opposed. So is anyone really responding to the specific approach (RIE and Waldorf both have rich histories, subtle nuances, consideration for child development), or are we more responding to a sensational quote or two that frees us up to vent about parenting we don’t like in broad strokes?

  • Suchada Eickemeyer

    I’m saddened that CBS characterized RIE as a parenting philosophy that is time-consuming but at the same time neglectful. I’m new to RIE, but the overall characteristic of it is respect: respect a child as a whole person, and treat them as the capable people they are. What I’ve learned from RIE is that a crying baby needs attention, acknowledgement, and comfort. I hope that anyone who saw this story would be curious enough to learn more, and see the truth about what RIE really teaches.

  • http://changingstation.cutebabytips.com/examining-the-%e2%80%9chands-off%e2%80%9d-approach-to-parenting.html Examining The “Hands Off” Approach To Parenting | Baby changing station

    […] creating their own mid-morning snack for the use of regular tools, including a knife. Read more on CBS Chicago OSC today: Business, relationships come first As Baby Boomers are leaving the corporate workplace […]

  • http://artworksdesign.wordpress.com Jason Greenberg

    I would like to echo the many comments above that these approaches to childcare require more in-depth research for an adequate understanding of the practice.

    The Waldorf model of education supports the independence of the child without neglecting them. In fact, you can see in the CBS2 News video segment how much the parents are interacting with their children: sitting at the table with them, helping them while they make their own bread for snack and even assisting them while they use a butter knife to butter their own bread. There is nothing “hands off” about this approach…

    I’d urge everyone to learn more about the Waldorf Parent-Child program at: http://chicagowaldorf.org/school-life/parent-child/

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