Montessori Parenting

January 26 2017

Montessori Parenting Parenting is complicated, important and even sacred work. It's a lifelong enterprise, as long as we are alive, once we become a parent, we'll always see ourselves as one. The role changes; we go from hands-on parenting when the children are young, to mentoring as they reach adolescence and finally to guiding as they become adults. There is a learning curve to being a proper parent, and maybe that's why we become better grandparents. We become tuned into our grandchildren and allow them to experience life versus the anxiety of being a parent. We take our job of steering our children's destiny very seriously. There is a danger in this. We have to be able to watch ourselves in our struggles with our children and know there will be things we wish we did differently. It's best to take a learning perspective as our children bring us their challenges and struggles. What are we learning about ourselves? It is helpful to remember that the human spirit is resilient and flexible. Human beings can adapt to any culture, environment and climate and to changes as long as the security of a loving family remains intact. In Montessori education, we are said to be "following the child." It seems like a simple statement, but it conceals a task of continuous study and preparation on the part of the adult. It is our responsibility to understand the unfolding of human development in its successive stages. In The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori said that the adult needs to prepare themselves on all levels, spiritually, mentally and physically to serve the unfolding of the human spirit. Through our love and growing understanding of the child, we discover human nature in its purest form. We gain a new appreciation of the significance of his spontaneous activity, a wider and more thorough understanding of his needs and a quicker reverence for him as the creator of the adult to be. The child needs the partnership of parents at home and teachers at school to support their development. We need to study, reflect and understand the role of both parent and educator as we work together in support of the dynamic development of the human being through all stages of development. The Child's First Society: The Family The family is the first society that the child experiences and is the structural unit upon which the community, the nation, and ultimately, all of humanity is built. The family therefore needs rules that are carefully thought through and that take into consideration all members of the family. It is so important to the child that the structure of the family be set up in a manner that can consistently maintained, keeping in mind the security and good of all the family. We want the child to recognise that each family member has a special place in this family society and is loved and accepted. The smallest child will find and appreciate her place and can witness the behaviour of the other members. She will notice the acceptance of the family rules and will begin to notice the relationships to one another and grow and develop within this loving, secure hierarchical environment. It gives the child comfort to know that their parents and elders are caring and looking out for them and that older siblings are modelling rules they will also be expected to follow. As parents, we are the gatekeepers of what comes into our homes and how it is used. This includes things as well as people. We are always modelling for our children our standards of acceptable interaction. We decide how many toys are available at any one time, how much and what technology is used. We need to limit screen time in favour of activities that are interactive with people and the natural world instead of too much time where they are passive and transfixed in front of a screen. There are many useful guidelines available for parents today on developmentally-appropriate uses of technology. It's our responsibility to search this information out and keep the standards we choose in our homes. Stages of Independence 0 to 6: Help Me Do it By Myself In The Formation of Man, Dr. Montessori said, "The task of the child is the formation of man, oriented to his environment, adapted to his time, place and culture. The role of the adult is to be of service to this life, to help bring it to its full potential." Providing a sense of order and consistency in the home environment allow the child to know where they stand in relation to their behaviour and to the family's responses. We help the child form acceptable human behaviour as she learns to take charge of her own conduct, through understanding and complying with family routines and rules. In the loving and secure family environment, the child can accept guidelines for inappropriate behaviour, for actions that would harm himself, others or the environment. The same behaviour that garnered a 'no' yesterday, needs to get the same 'no' today, and the same for the 'yesses'! When we don't help children conform to behavioural standards of our society, we are depriving them of a fundamental right of knowing how to fit into their society. This task of training the child's behaviour needs a gentle yet firm approach which recognises that part of becoming a loving individual means to will the good of the other. We do all that we can to help the child refine her movements so that she can gain control of herself. With family life going on around her, the young child is learning to construct and perfect her movements for creeping, crawling, standing and walking. The fine motor skills of grasping, holding, carrying and using the pincer grasp are also progressively refined at this stage. These movements can be explored through activities that involve care of the self and care of the household. The child is learning the behaviours of his society and how to control his movements within it. Our aim is to allow the child to attain independence, to become herself as part of her society. As part of the learned behaviour of her society, the child will acquire language from those in her environment. We can be proactive in speaking clearly and applying the real names for objects and living things in the environment. Reading aloud starting early in the child's life and continuing throughout childhood is a wonderful way to share interests and share quality time with your child. Guiding the child's language development also includes making her aware of the prohibitions of language. Just as there are rules for acceptable behaviour, movement and independence, there are also rules for what language is socially acceptable. Permeating all the developmental work of the child during this first stage is the importance of helping the child develop and maintain a sense of order in their environment. From learning the patterns and order of sentence structure in language, experiencing the predictability of family routines, establishing acceptable patterns of self-controlled orderly movement and to maintaining the physical order of furniture and belongings, developing a strong sense of order provides the basis for security and independence which makes it possible for the child to carry out by himself the simple acts of daily life. This in turn lays the foundation of knowledge of how life as a human being should be lived. The child has to make herself, we can't make the child become anything. She has to develop her own behaviour, her own movement, her own language and her own independence. And from the moment of conception the infant has the ability to carry out this plan of becoming her own unique individual. She is in need of our care, protection, security and love. Without these she will never fully function as an independent integrated human personality. 6 to 12: Help Me Think for Myself In this stage, the child needs to live and work both within the family and school community and beyond it. The child now wants to explore the wider society and needs to be assisted in this exploration by the entrusted adults in his life. They have a new form of mind at this stage that reasons and questions everything around them, not to be annoying, but from a perspective of genuine interest. The adult helps him to answer some of his questions and also leads him to find other answers for himself. The child may appear less loving toward the family at this stage - behave a little offhand or even rude. They maybe turning their attention elsewhere - but they still need our gentle corrections. We must explain why we want them to do something or not do something and give them our logical explanations for asking them to obey and follow rules. It takes time and a new attitude to be with the child in this new way. The foundation has been built in the first two stages of development of acceptable behaviour and self-controlled orderly movement, use of appropriate language and a sense of order. Within this foundation lies the security and independence which makes it possible for the child to be allowed more freedom and make more decisions in his life. He has received the foundation for knowledge of how his life as a human being should be lived. It is the independence of the intellect, which knows what to do and which makes the will free to choose the good, that is the distinguishing characteristic of the human being. The more we set appropriate limits to the child's actions in the first two stages of development, the more we are helping them develop themselves as thinking, loving human beings. If we don't give this help in the first two stages, problems of instability and rebellion can arise in the third stage. 12 to 18: Help Me Find Myself Dr. Montessori saw parallels in the life of the adolescent to that of children at the first stage of development. In Dr. Montessori's writing she refers to this time as the "second toddler-hood." The adolescent is in the process of finding and creating their individual personality. It is a time of great vulnerability that calls upon us to treat them with great tenderness, delicacy and love. They may be full of self-doubt and hesitations and need our support, understanding and patience. We need to stand by and help them think through for themselves their moods and reason themselves out of them. During this time, especially the years from 12 to 15, we want to help them appreciate and cultivate a sense of humour that keeps situations light and helps them to weigh and measure themselves without taking themselves too seriously. It is vital that we set limits to their behaviour and to their use of language as we instil our family values during the first two stages of development when the child is open to our input and direct involvement. In this third stage of adolescence we will only have indirect influence as we model our values in our day-to-day lives. We help them develop to their fullest potential in the first two stages because the third stage is coming! It is an honour and a privilege for us as parents and educators to be with our children, not only is there no higher way to serve humanity, but this experience of guiding the development of children will lead us to an ever-deepening level of consciousness. Maria Montessori said in The Absorbent Mind, "It is clear that nature includes among the missions she has entrusted to the child, the mission of arousing adults to reach higher levels." First Stage of Development: 0 to 6 years Help Me Do It By Myself Preliminary Activities - pouring and transferring liquids and dry ingredients without spilling - using scissors - opening and closing lids - screwing and unscrewing jar lids - stirring Care of the Environment - wringing a wet cloth - washing a table or counter top - sweeping the floor with a broom and dustpan - mopping the floor - vacuuming - polishing silver or brass - polishing wood furniture - polishing shoes - sorting laundry by colour - matching socks - folding towels and wash cloths - folding napkins - ironing handkerchiefs or pillowcases - sewing on buttons - washing dishes: pots and pans; plastic-ware; silver (flat) ware; glasses; plates - watering and caring for houseplants - flower arranging - caring for pets - cleaning up spills - putting materials and toys away - sorting recycling materials Care of Self - washing hands - washing face - washing hair - blowing nose and properly throwing away the tissue - sneezing - brushing teeth - combing hair - trimming fingernails - running water in the bath - hanging up towels after use - dressing oneself (including learning how to button, zip, snap, tie, buckle, Velcro) - putting on a jacket - hanging a jacket on a low hook - putting clean clothes in a drawer - measuring liquid and dry ingredients - peeling fruits and vegetables - using kitchen tools (fork, spoon, grater, blunt knife, ice cream scoop, bulb baster, peeler, chopping board, rolling pin, whisk, pitcher, cookie cutters, melon baller, apple corer, etc.) - spreading (like butter, peanut butter, a mixture) Grace and Courtesy - how to greet someone - how to answer the telephone - how to get up from the table - how to carry a chair properly - how to open and shut a door quietly - how to interrupt when necessary - how to excuse oneself when passing or bumping into another - how to hand someone something - table manners - carrying objects without dropping or spilling - walking without bumping objects or people