Relationships Are Hard. This Unusual Parenting Theory Can Help.


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This is one of those episodes I feel I need to sell. Because on one level, it’s about an unusual theory of parenting known by the acronym RIE — for the nonprofit group Resources for Infant Educarers, which promotes its principles — that I’ve become interested in. But this isn’t a parenting podcast, and I know many of you don’t have young kids. The reason I’m doing this episode is that I think there’s something bigger here.
RIE is centered on the idea that infants and toddlers are whole people worthy of respect. It gets attention for some weird recommendations, like how we should ask babies’ permission before changing a diaper or picking them up and how we should avoid distracting toddlers from a tantrum or seating them in a high chair. But underneath all that is something profound. A theory of how to build a relationship based on respect when words fail or are absent. A view of what it means to treat others with respect when we can’t count on respect being returned. And a recognition that in any interaction with another person, all we can really control is ourselves — the boundaries we draw, the energy we carry and the values we express.

This is a profound way to think about adult relationships. And it’s a profound way to think about political relationships, too, if you extend the teachings outward.

Janet Lansbury is a RIE educator and the author of the books “No Bad Kids” and “Elevating Child Care.” She also hosts a popular parenting podcast, “Janet Lansbury Unruffled.” It was through her work that I learned about RIE, so she was the perfect person to invite on for this discussion.

Ezra’s conversation with Alison Gopnik

Book Recommendations:

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect by Magda Gerber

Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

The Hurried Child by David Elkind

Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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