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  • How To Raise Kids Using Montessori, Piaget, Or RIE Parenting Approaches

    Your child-rearing style can be a combination of all three.
    by Thumby Server-Veloso .
How To Raise Kids Using Montessori, Piaget, Or RIE Parenting Approaches
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Hananeko_Studio
  • It’s a good thing many great minds have developed parenting methods and practices to guide parents, psychologists, educators, and other people who care for children.

    Among the many are three crucial figures whose child-rearing methods have resonated with many parents even today.

    Jean Piaget parenting approach

    Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who in the 1920s worked at the Binet Institute, translating English Intelligence tests to French. But he became famous for his research on the cognitive development of children.

    Using his own children as his subjects, Piaget helped us understand how children’s intelligence and thinking develop. He came up with the following assumptions about children’s intelligence:

    Children’s intelligence differs from an adult’s in quality rather than in quantity

    To Piaget, children do not think the same as adults and see the world in different ways. Sometimes, a parent and child could be looking at the same object, but they may say very different things when asked to describe it.

    Take one of my colleagues’ students. Her student looked at a small circle on top of a bigger circle and identified it as a hat. He explained it looked like a Mexican hat if you looked from above when my friend prodded further.

    Children actively build up their knowledge about the world

    Instead of viewing children as an empty slate waiting to be taught everything they need to know, Piaget viewed children as active learners who gathered knowledge in everything they do. As babies, they learn by using their senses, which is why they touch and taste practically anything they can get their little hands on.


    The best way to understand children’s reasoning is to see things from their point of view

    If your child gives you an answer that you think is “wrong,” take the time to figure out why your child came up with that answer. For Piaget, it will give you more information on how your child thinks, and you might be surprised by the result.

    From Piaget, we realize that children are learning as they grow older and their brains mature. They also learn from each experience they have -- both the exciting and mundane.

    For instance, there is so much a child can learn from a trip to the beach. They learn about the texture of sand, the taste of the sea, and the sound of the waves). Staying at home and eating a bowl of corn flakes, kids discover food textures and flavors.

    What to remember about Piaget parenting method

    The more children explore the world around them (through play or interaction with others), the more knowledge they gain. This belief is actually at the heart of many progressive schools.

    Piaget also teaches us to recognize that children’s thinking is still developing. So adults should not get frustrated or discouraged by children’s reasoning or answers. Instead, investigate the logic or thinking behind them to see the level of your child’s cognitive development.

    Maria Montessori parenting approach

    Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. In 1907, she established Casa Dei Bambina or Children’s House in Rome. Montessori designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn and provided the freedom to choose materials independently.

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    The children in Montessori’s program thrived, and by 1910, Montessori schools could be found throughout Western Europe. Today, there are thousands of Montessori schools worldwide.

    Montessori child-rearing is based on six principles


    In Montessori, the environment must be set up so that children can do things for themselves and that adults avoid helping their kids with tasks. In Montessori, this independence increases self-confidence.


    Parents need to sit back and watch their children see how they explore, express, and enjoy themselves. Through observation, we can figure out what the kids need and help them fulfill it.

    For example, if your baby keeps climbing up furniture, then he needs gross motor activities that allow him to climb, or if she keeps throwing toys, then offer her a ball and a basket.

    Following the child

    Dictating to a child what he needs to play with is not the Montessori principle. Instead, you allow them to fulfill their needs in safe ways. You let your child choose the activities, but you can present them with options(“Do you want to paint or build with blocks?”).

    Following the child means you limit the amount of intervention you do, which also allows children to practice their independence. This involves planning materials and an environment where they can explore safely on your part.

    Correcting the child

    Mistakes are a natural part of life, so there is no need to raise one’s voice in situations like spilled drinks, mispronunciations, and the like in Montessori. A calm reaction and sometimes a quick suggestion on how to remedy the problem will be more effective than angry words in this style.


    Being mindful of your reactions to mistakes makes a significant impact on your child’s attitude towards mistakes and learning. For Montessori, allowing your child the chance to fix his errors helps him feel safe and gives him a better attitude towards learning.

    Prepared environment

    In Montessori schools, the environment is vital and carefully planned out. The rooms are set up to allow the children freedom to move, choose, and learn freely and safely. The environment is the link for a child to learn from adults.

    You can have a carefully planned play space or bedroom for your child at home, where you layout materials for them to choose from. Make things accessible (open shelves, low table, and chair) and organized (bins, trays, and baskets) so that the children can work with independence.

    Absorbent mind

    Based on Montessori’s observations, she believed that children under the age of 3 do not need lessons to learn because they absorb everything around them simply by experiencing. By allowing them to “work” (explore materials and be busy) in your carefully prepared environment, you are actually helping them learn.

    What to remember about Montessori parenting method

    In Montessori, parents need to provide an environment where children can be safe exploring and choosing what they would like to do. Preparation of the space is best done through careful planning and observation of the needs of our children.

    Allowing children to make their own choices and complete tasks independently give them more knowledge about the world and build their self-confidence.


    Magda Gerber parenting approach

    Magda Gerber was an early childhood educator born in Hungary, but in 1957 emigrated to the United States. Years before moving to the U.S., Gerber met Emmi Pikler, a pediatrician.

    Gerber was so impressed by the respectful way Pikler talked to Gerber’s daughter and the cooperation Pikler elicited from her child. Pikler inspired Gerber to get a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and mentor and friend.

    When Gerber moved to the US, she became famous for developing relationships with highly disturbed children. Gerber claimed her success was due to being observant and adjusting her expectations.

    In 1978, Gerber and Thomas Forest, a pediatric neurologist, founded RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) in Los Angeles. Gerber taught parents how to observe their children, as well as when and how to intervene. RIE’s mission is to improve the lives of infants and young children through respectful care.

    The basic principles of the RIE approach are:

    • Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer, and a self-learner.
    • An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing
    • Time for uninterrupted play
    • Freedom to explore and interact with other infants
    • Involvement of the child in all caregiving activities allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive recipient
    • Sensitive observation of the child to understand her needs
    • Consistency and clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline

    What to remember about the RIE parenting method

    Parents who use the RIE approach say that they get much-needed confidence in setting up boundaries and planning a safe space so that they are not terrified to do so when they have to do something away from the child.


    RIE parents also feel that they don’t always have to be constantly entertaining or keeping their children busy. In fact, a big part of it is observing the child. Other remarkable aspects of RIE include allowing your child to go at their own pace and choose to play or do things.

    Another reported benefit is they teach parents to take care of their own needs without feeling guilty. This aspect of self-care for parents is something many parents need to be reminded to do. When parents are relaxed and have the time to observe their little ones and see that they are happy and busy, they also enjoy a better relationship with their children.

    Whether you follow Piaget, Montessori, or Gerber, or take lessons from each parenting method, is up to you. But one of the great things about being a parent today is there are so many different beautiful ideas on child development that we can learn from. We can choose what fits best with our personal beliefs, personality, or family values.

    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby in her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby in her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center in Jupiter Street, Makati, where she teaches the Baby and Me Class. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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