Pete Holmes explains the bizarre RIE parenting method, you treat kids as equals

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Pete Holmes is a comedian with a popular podcast called You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. He also stars in the HBO show, Crashing, which I plan to watch after seeing him on Late Night. Pete talked to Colbert to promote his book, Comedy Sex God (the title should be read as though it has commas in it, ala EAT PRAY LOVE). While on Colbert, Pete talked about life as a new father, having just welcomed a baby with his wife Val seven months ago. Pete discussed attempting the RIE parenting method with his new baby. RIE believes in “Educaring” in which the parent respects that the child is a fully formed being and should be treated as such. It’s kind of the opposite of Helicopter Parenting, I think. Let kids figure life out on their own, no matter how harsh the lesson. According to Pete, it didn’t go so well at his house:


The part about RIE is at 2:53, this is what he said:

What is the RIE Method?
It’s basically this thing where you teach your children – I’m not an expert – like equals. If your kid is crying, don’t say, ‘it’s okay.’ If you do the RIE method, it’s like, ‘that negates their reality. Don’t say it’s okay, it’s not okay. They are in despair, do not tell them it’s okay.’ Which is weird. So I was giving my daughter a bath and some soap got in her eyes and I was like, ‘it’s okay,’” because that’s what you do! I’m not crazy. ‘it’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay!’ But if you’re on the RIE Method, you say – this is real – “’Soap is happening. Soap has occurred in your eyes. Despair is a real reality.’ Because you want to honor their reality. But this is crazy.

I have no idea if this is a proper example of the RIE Method but I think I could so get on board with just adding “…is happening” onto anything that sucks. Pete’s right, in LA folks will suggest anything and everything, whether you want advice or not. I remember the one and only Mom’s Group meeting I attended, an Attachment Parent and a Sleep Trainer Parent almost came to blows. I think the subject was about ice cream or something – it was nuts. Let me state up front that I believe there is merit in most methodologies. But you have to find the one that works with your own beliefs. I like the RIE principle that you leave the child to play on their own, encouraging them to explore on their own terms. That’s great. But primarily, RIE runs contrary to my Type A tendencies. That and I can over-explain a piece of bubblegum, so I’d need to be muzzled to make this work for us.

According to these two child-centric websites, the RIE method has done wonders for some moms’ exhaustion and ability to let things go. Those websites also talk about famous parents who subscribed to the RIE Method. Among them was Felicity Huffman. I’m guessing she must have misplaced her RIE worksheet someplace along the way?

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59 Responses to “Pete Holmes explains the bizarre RIE parenting method, you treat kids as equals”

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  1. Erinn says:

    I think like most parenting methods it really does depend on the kids. And I get the whole idea of it – and I think in SOME ways I’d use some of the process. I think, especially with raising girls, we really have to look at not negating their feelings. They get so much of that from every aspect of life. I’m not saying we should encourage freak outs or tantrums or what have you – but maybe instead of always saying it’s okay we could be a bit more mindful at times. “I’m sorry – that must really hurt. Let’s fix it” instead of the automatic “it’s okay”.

    I think most modern parenting methods come off as fluffy BS – but I think the basic idea of a lot of them are something worth considering incorporating. Maybe don’t go full hog – you’re still the parent, they’re still the child. But I think we could all do with more people in the world who acknowledge how others are feeling.

    • ccsays says:

      I can totally get on board with this and try really hard to do it with my own kids. It calms down freak outs a lot quicker if you can say something like “you were trying to run to the slide and the you fell over and got hurt and now you’re upset that your knee is scraped. It’s not nice when you hurt yourself is it? Are you feeling sad just now?” rather than run with the tendency to go “you’re fine, it’s ok, it’ll get better, you don’t need to cry”. IME trying to rush them past their feelings just makes it worse.

    • Alissa says:

      it’s a fine line with my stepson. he was prone to tantrums, so we wanted to curb that, but I also wanted to make sure that he knew that it’s perfectly fine for boys to cry. so we’d have to go over that sometimes it’s okay to be sad, but not necessarily have a full-blown meltdown. and sometimes it’s okay to be really upset and have a good cry. it’s a fine line with all kids I think.

      • HelloSunshine says:

        Yep, we feel the same with our toddler. We want him to know it’s oksy to cry but he’s also really good at having very loud meltdowns lol we use the phrase “it’s okay to be sad/mad/whatever emotion but it’s not okay to scream/hit/etc. He’s still pretty young but I really think it helps!

      • Scal says:

        This is also something we work on with our boys. We have 2 sets of grandparents who are already starting with the ‘big boys don’t cry’, and telling me not to coddle him to much when he falls and cries. Even when he fell at the playground and needed stitches. “He’s cried for 5 minutes, you really should put him down now. The doctor gave him a painkiller shot already’”

        Come on. He’s under 5. He’s allowed to be hurt, cry, want comfort, be upset about things and communicate that in reasonable way. Stop trying to toughen up my preschooler.

      • Betsy says:

        All three of my sons are or were prone to really huge outbursts, crying for half an hour, etc. I’m fine with boys crying, but there comes a point when I declare enough.

    • Meghan says:

      My first instinct is to hold my son and say “it’s okay” and then I let him cry for a second and kind of ask what is going on “you bonked your head? You hit your arm on the table?” And then be like “ow I know that hurts” kiss the boo-boo then he usually runs off and 25 minutes later it’s rinse and repeat.

      My grandparents watch him while i am at work and my grandmother is a hardcore GASPer when he falls down or hits his arm or something. Half the time he goes “I’m fine!” or he just wants a kiss for the boo-boo, but if she gasps then he is all hysterical. I really need to work with my grandmother on the gasping thing because it makes him react differently than he does around me.

      • A.Key says:

        I remember my grandparents being the same when I was a kid. The whole sudden inhale of air, face of despair and shock, it totally scared me. So they turned something innocuous such as me bumping my head into a full on drama. Their reaction scared me even more and made me think something terrible would happen to me now because I had hit my head/had slipped/fallen.
        Ridiculous. People who make a big deal out of kids playing and being kids turn their kids into incompetent idiots. It’s kinda what happened to me because they would never let me do “dangerous” stuff like headstands, cartwheels etc. It made me feel inadequate and somehow “less” than other kids.
        So know that whenever someone gasps crazily around your son just because he fell and he starts bawling, he’s most likely not crying because he’s really hurt but because he’s scared of the GASP reaction that occurred.

    • Yup, Me says:

      We’ve been doing our own version of RIE and attachment parenting with our son (along with some guidance from Gabor Mate and his teachings (especially on stressed parenting)). Our kiddo was an amazingly easy baby so he probably would have turned out great no matter what we did but, based on our experience with him, we’ll be doing a lot of the same with our next baby. He’s extremely self possessed, centered, intelligent and affectionate and, in almost 10 years, we haven’t ever had issues with him.

      I think the most important thing is to do what you can do, really embrace what works well for you and don’t torture yourself and your kids trying to do what doesn’t work well for you or them.

  2. Emily says:

    >> “I remember the one and only Mom’s Group meeting I attended, an Attachment Parent and a Sleep Trainer Parent almost came to blows.”

    Omg somebody needs to make a trashy TV show where different types of dogmatic parents fight it out. 😂

    I have a toddler, and I’m always reading random parenting books and articles. My own approach is to pick and choose advice from different sources that appeal to me and ignore the rest. Every parent/child is different and it’s rarely a good idea to be too rigid with parenting philosophies.

  3. tempest prognosticator says:

    I think landing somewhere in between RIE and helicopter parenting is your best shot at good parenting, but who knows.

    • Alissa says:

      I agree. I think pretty much any form of parenting style has pros and cons. this one wouldn’t work for me because kids are not actually fully formed yet, that’s kind of the whole point. but I do agree with not telling them that some things okay when it’s not, and letting them figure things out on own sometimes.

    • The Dot says:

      I think you should treat kids like the little humans they are, and recognize they have their own wants, feelings, and frustrations. But you’ve also gotta realize that you’re the parent for a reason, and provide structure, support, and guide them while letting them be their own persons. Beyond that, I don’t care what label is slapped on it.

      • elimaeby says:

        Exactly this!Kids don’t come fully equipped; they need guidance. But they are their own beings. It’s a balancing act, like most things.

    • noodle says:

      Didn’t read all the comments but from what I have seen and understood about the RIE is basically that there are times of the day when you are 100% focused on the child and their needs, e.g., changing diapers, feeding/nursing, dressing. You are absolutely immersed in it and connecting with them. The rest of the time they are benignly neglected if you will. The idea is to let them learn to be with themselves instead of mom/dad entertaining them. I don’t think they mean that the child raises themselves. Just that parent is not hovering. Parent goes about their day with the child always being near – baby in a comfortable safe spot on the floor or wherever else is considered safe based on circumstances, small child playing nearby etc. That’s all. I don’t see anything extreme about it.
      As for when they get hurt, simply not to distract them. Let them get the emotions out and acknowledge it and move on with the day. As long as the parent is there to support the child, that’s what matters I think. Enough with the suppressing negative things cuz they make others uncomfortable.

      Off topic, I’ve heard also a new term – lawnmower parent: removes any obstacle in their precious child’s (also may be called snowflake) way.

      • Other Renee says:

        Yes, Noodle, my daughter introduced me to the term “lawnmower” parent just two days ago! I’d never heard it before. She works as an athletic coach… ‘nuf said.

      • Betsy says:

        Oh, my lazy-ish parenting has a name? 😂 My kids (8 and under) are so into their own play now that when I ask to play, they generally don’t want me. Downside: ouch. Upside: they’re great at independent play.

  4. Gaby says:

    Parenting is one of the hardest things to do in the world. There’s no perfect way. Every method can have its pros and cons, and they don’t work the same way with every child. Everybody does the best they can but at the end of the day, we are talking about a little human, full of needs and emotions that they can’t explain yet so it’s frustating to both parents and kids.

    I do encourage my kids to be independent and when something is wrong, I do my best to understand and respect their feelings intead of brushing it off as something silly (however silly it may actually be) because to them it obviously matters. Maybe I can change the “It’s ok” to “it’s going to be ok”? Like it will pass? I don’t know. Hahaha. It’s difficult hearing your child cry and not say that.

  5. Becks1 says:

    LOL at Felicity Huffman.

    I do think that “honoring their realities” is important for kids – if they are upset, telling them “its okay” isn’t necessarily going to make them feel better. And I think encouraging independence is important too. But like all things, its going to depend on the child and how they respond to a parenting method.

  6. LoonyTunes says:

    I didn’t even know it had a name! My kid is 15 now, but from day 1, I promised myself and him that I wouldn’t lie to him. So if he hurt himself, I wouldn’t say “it’s okay,” I’d say “that hurts, eh kiddo? Let me see if I can make it better?” Even if “better” was just a cuddle or a kiss. It works for us. And now he knows I’ll be honest with him about everything (sports and academic performance, etc.) and knows when I say I’m proud of him or he did a good job, I mean it.

  7. T.Fanty says:

    I don’t get why everything has to be a ride-or-die method these days. Part of this sounds sensible – it’s important to let one’s kids fail. I taught my kids very early on, for example, that I’m not going to force them to do their homework. Their reality is that if they don’t choose to do it, then they have to explain to their teacher why. I also probably micro-manage parts of their life. There’s no formula for getting it right. Just try and get through and not shout too much. That’s the goal.

    • Esmom says:

      Agreed. I think a lot of intuition is involved, too, which can’t be distilled into any single method. I feel like I’ve done an okay job with my younger son, who is self-sufficient and takes responsibility for himself, his work (or lack thereof) and his actions. But I have been somewhat of a failure with my older son, who is on the autism spectrum and is really struggling to manage his life independently. Sigh. The worries never end.

    • Yup, Me says:

      T.fanty- I’m curious how your kids are navigating the homework thing? Have they taken on the responsibility for themselves or do they sometimes do their homework sometimes not?

    • Betsy says:

      Insecurity. People are ride or die because of insecurity. Nothing makes a better zealot than self doubt.

  8. Ali says:

    If my kid is crying because he has soap in his eyes, I’m going to try and get some water in there while saying ouch that hurts and it’s “going to be” okay. I give lots of hugs. I believe in acknowledging reality with compassion.

    I really don’t understand the need to let little kids “tough it out”. There is a big difference in trying to fix every pothole in the road ahead versus offering a hand and hug when they step into one.

    Life is hard enough. Life will teach you consequences. *cough* Felicity Huffman *cough*

  9. Babyswans says:

    I guess I’m the opposite. My daughter is overly dramatic. I’m not. She was thrown off her horse and broke her arm this week. I did say, “It’s going to be okay.” As in the pain is okay. You’re suppose to feel pain. If you didn’t feel pain, that’d be weird. Plus your arm isn’t going to be cut off, it’s just broken, but it’s still okay to be upset about that. I really do think we over think every little thing we say and do when we parent. Saying okay to her didn’t dismiss her feelings, but when they were on hysterical repeat for everyone at the ER to hear, at some point you have to be quite and let them take your X-Ray🤷🏻‍♀️

    • manda says:

      I think that being calm like that helps. I think if mom is hysterical then kid is too. It would be hard for me not to be hysterical. I would feel so bad for her for the pain she was in. I’ve only ever cracked a rib and that really hurt a lot, so I’m sure a full break would be beyond my pain threshold.

    • A.Key says:

      Funny you mention horses because that’s exactly who I thought of while reading this. When a horse gets scared and is being overly dramatic you absolutely cannot get scared as well and give up control over to the horse. The only way to calm him down is for you to remain calm and in control. You have to get them to be comfortable again and relax for their own and your own good. You do that by not panicking and staying calm.
      Same thing with kids.

  10. manda says:

    Pete Holmes’s stand up is SO funny. I highly recommend seeking out some of that on pandora or spotify or whatever. He also has a ton of videos online where he plays, like, a doofus batman, and they are also very funny. I feel like he had a short-lived talk show a few years back on like TBS or something. I really like him. I don’t, however, love his show, which made me sad because I really wanted to. (Same with Barry, which people also love.)

    • Adrien says:

      His laughter is so infectious. I don’t find his jokes that funny, not terrible just okay but then he breaks into a hearty laughter even before the punchline and that’s a cue for me to laugh too. He’s like a funny Jimmy Fallon.

    • Sue Denim says:

      I really liked Crashing for all of the cameos w major comedians. And his You Made It Weird podcast has been a godsend, his laugh alone has helped me so much the past few years.

  11. minx says:

    I certainly often said “it’s okay” when comforting my kids. It was an instinctive thing. They are both adults now and survived the trauma of a mother telling them that things were okay 🙄.

    • The Dot says:

      Right?! Like telling someone things will be alright is dooming them to a life of trauma and therapy. 🙄

      It’s fine to tell your kid things will be okay because for most of the situations small children are dealing with (ouchies, frustration, boredom, general meltdowns) things WILL be okay!

    • AmunetMaat says:

      I have a 2 yo and I often use it’s ok because he’ll stump his toe and do overly dramatics. In reality it is ok and it will be ok. I try to add something like, “it’s ok I know it hurts and that sucks but it’s ok.” And then think of ways to make it a little bit better. Who knows if I’m doing this right.

    • Veronica S. says:

      I think, for the most part, it’s fine as a soothing gesture. However, I do live with an autistic child with limited verbal skills who sometimes uses “Okay” to be mean “Not Okay” (communicating that he’s upset), so we’ve learned to be careful how *we* use it in order to make sure he doesn’t feel his needs are being ignored. It’s probably more accurate to say there’s no one great overarching technique that works for every child. Being a parent is knowing your kids well enough to calibrate things to their needs. Some kids need to be told their emotions are valid. Others need to be talked off the cliff into better self-regulating.

    • Betsy says:

      Mine too (though mine are not adults yet). It’s generally a form of providing comfort, not dismissing pain and we’ve been using it for a while. Dismissing pain or unhappiness would be “it’s nothing, get over it.”

  12. Junebug says:

    He’s got the wrong end of the stick where it comes to RIE. It’s about acknowledging feelings and not telling kids not to feel what they’re feeling. It’s about modeling appropriate emotion regulation.

    Somewhere on the internet some RIE practitioners are freaking out hard.

    The idea that Felicity Huffman practised RIE is hilarious!

    • Kate says:

      That sounds totally sensible! Similar to a book my pediatrician recommended to me called “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” which is basically that theory that you have to acknowledge and empathize with your kids’ feelings before you can really expect them to recover. It’s framed practically, like if you want your kids to be mostly happy and cooperative little humans who you aren’t in constant battle with then you have to first meet them where they are. They’re going to have lots of emotional reactions b/c they are developing emotional regulation during childhood so you can either be yelling at them all the time or forcing them to “get over it already” or you can be empathetic and then help them learn how to manage the emotions once they are over it. Like problem solving together. It’s a very non-preachy book and has lots of real life examples of parents trying to figure it out and showing how it works.

  13. Aenflex says:

    My son is 4 and he’s in despair about 20 times per day. Letting kids be kids means allowing them to feel what they feel, and teaching them coping mechanisms and self awareness.

    I will never understand the popularity of these parenting fads.

    Children are not fully formed beings. Scientology subscribes to this idea as well, quite unsuccessfully I might add.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      I thought of Scientology when I heard about this RIE thing, too. Respecting boundaries is a good practice, but assuming kids are basically adults is delusional.

  14. Anastasia says:

    I’m on the other side of raising a kid (done for years now) and it REALLY depends on the kid, though I do think helicopter parenting is fairly unhealthy, since it’s based on fear and anxiety.

    Know your kid, do what works best. <— my bestselling book on child-rearing

  15. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I just finished reading up on this REI I thing. Much of it is absurd like no toys, no pacifiers, no swings, basically nothing intended for infants and babies because they’re intended for infants and babies for the sole purpose of shutting them up for our sake. In raising three, I can tell you it’s worth it to cherry pick things which work, when they work.

    I held long-winded, one-sided convos with my infants not because I read it somewhere, but because it was natural, and completely like me, to go on and on about everything I was doing to a quasi captive audience. The boys loved their baby toys every bit as much as my kitchen pans. They enjoyed their plastic, noise-making monstrous enclosures as much as an empty lower kitchen cabinet while I’m making dinner.

    Most of us mothers become geniuses at misdirection. We know our kids best. I think most of us end up utilizing a plethora of methods raising our crews. The mistake would be behaving in a manner which goes against your grain simply because it doesn’t fit some outline or parenting brief.

    • Nicole76705 says:

      I’m going to have to look into this REI concept. No pacifiers and swings because it’s merely to shut them up for our sake? That seems rough. What about learning to self soothe and encouraging coping mechanisms at an early age?

      As a sufferer of anxiety, my coping mechanisms get me through the day and recognizing that my 9 year old is showing signs of anxiety too, why would I discourage self soothing? In fact, I regret taking away the pacifier from my youngest. He was 2 and a half, well past the “appropriate” age to have one (according to society), but I now feel like I robbed him of a security blanket and his method for soothing in an overly stimulated world.

      To each their own, I suppose.

      And I giggled at your comment of long, one-sided convos with infants. *raises hand* I did that too :D They’re no longer willing participants, so the dogs usually get the pleasure of humoring me.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        I let them cry at times. I guess my parenting revolved around situational tactics. Because in the end, what works one day might not work another. And then as toddlers, you gotta pick your battles. And sometimes, yes, they need pacifying. I made the choice early on to let them decide much of their timelines. My youngest loved his binkies, so I didn’t interfere and eventually he decided he was too old. It’s all about what you’re able to handle and put up with and what you think is important.

      • Emily says:

        Pacifier battles are one I’m not willing to fight. Starting at 2 I tried to limit it to sleep time, long car rides, or if they’re just really having an emotional time. Maybe they’ll all need braces but I’m just not going to go through this one.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        @Emily, One of mine sucked his thumb forever, the last sucked a binky forever… Perfectly straight teeth! It’s a myth, or so it was in our house lol.

  16. Goldengirlslover34 says:

    Parenting is a balancing act. Sometimes I can calmly ask my 3 year old twins what’s wrong. I can say “you are having a bad day huh” or let’s talk it out when the tantrums are crazy and it works. Other times I’m losing my hair, screaming I quit this job at the top of my lungs and going to the bedroom for alone time while my husband takes over. Who knows what’s working. But number two does allow me a one hour break and I come back refreshed. Kids seem okay and no one has fired me from motherhood yet. 🤷🏾‍♀️

  17. Emily says:

    I read about RIE when I was having young babies years ago. Some of it makes sense, but then some of it is just silly. Like, I remember you’re supposed to to get them out of bed and say “I’m going to change your diaper now, is that okay? Look, here’s the wipes, I’m going to use them on you.” That seemed fine. But other stuff was like…if they won’t let you buckle them in the car seat you should just try to tell them that you need to leave and they have to wear their buckles and…that’s just never going to work on some 2 year olds. Or like, every time they cry you have to have a 20 minute discussion until they calm down. That’s silly; sometimes you just need to let them cry. BUT! Every kid is different.

    • AryasMum says:

      When I was a new nurse I worked in pediatrics, and the parents always made everything worse. Bribing, negotiating, arguing, begging for over an hour to take their medicine. When parents weren’t there it would go like this if child resisted: I’m sorry, but you need this medicine, open up. Here’s something to eat/drink to make the taste go away.

      When you build it up into an optional thing and surround it with tremendous drama, of course the child is going to refuse. In fact, I refused to take Novocain for my fillings when I was little. I’m pissed to this day that my mom and the dentist allowed this. I have a massive dental phobia.

  18. Faithmobile says:

    It feels like some parents say “it’s ok” to assuage their own feelings of stress and empathy when witnessing their child get hurt. But that’s the reality of parenting, balancing your emotions with theirs, role modeling healthy reactions to life. If I had a nickel for every time I sang a Daniel Tiger song to myself(“when you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to 4”)…

  19. Cay says:

    It sounds kind of like how Scientologists believe in raising their children as “equals” and shouldn’t be talked to to as children because they are adults in small bodies.

    • AryasMum says:

      I remember what a diva little Suri Cruise was during Tom, and what a sweet little girl she seems to be now. Children thrive on rules, boundaries, and limitations.

  20. Nicole says:

    Hi, I rarely post but I have to say this guy has got the RIE principals REALLY wrong and giving it a bad name. It isn’t bringing your child up as an equal as they are not your equal but you can raise them with respect. RIE is about giving your child respectful boundaries and consequences. A good example is if you child is playing with LEGO and they are tipping around the floor or throwing it at their siblings the RIE method advised not to get angry and yell them but rather say. Why are you throwing LEGO at your sister? I can’t let you hurt your sister so if you throw the LEGO one more time I will pack it away and then you follow through. I found the RIE technique particularly helpful as both of my kids were runners so when we went somewhere fun I would say as we arrived if you run away we go straight home…there was a lot of times we would arrive places just to leave. Janet Lansbury has a great practical book on how to apply the principals call No Bad Kids parenting with respect.

    • Tanya says:

      Right? RIE is about the parent as a calm, confident leader, including self care as needed for the parent to accomplish this. They are respected equally, but that means they are treated as adults. Rather, their developmental stages are understood and appropriate boundaries and scaffolding are provided. What’s bizarre about meeting your child where they are and treating them with respect and compassion?

  21. Marianne says:

    I think if I got soap in my eye and someone just said “Yup. You got soap in your eye. This is real”…id be like “Gee, thanks I didnt know”. Like, people want to be comforted you know?