Last week we explored the question of, “Is Montessori Right for Me?” in relation to academic learning.
Today we are going to explore your approach to caregiving and parenting. If you agree with most of these statements, Montessori may be the right choice for you!
- I believe that children are deserving of respect.
Montessori schools view children as humans, and that all humans are inherently valuable and deserving of respect. We do not talk “down” to children, but treat them as equals. We ask permission before we assist with their physical needs, look them in the eye and speak gently, and use clear and concise but accurate vocabulary to communicate. When children are hurting others or themselves, we do not shame them or rebuke them, but instead, respectfully ask them to step aside and then calmly explain how their actions are hurtful to others or themselves. We invite them into the problem-solving process and listen carefully to what they are communicating. Children discover that there is much freedom in a Montessori environment, and yet respect is given when we provide them with developmentally appropriate boundaries. In other words, freedom with limits.
Traditional parenting and caregiving tends to be authoritarian, and a common modern parenting style is what is known as permissive Science says both of these approaches bring negative outcomes. Instead, research seems to support that the authoritative style (limits with high levels of warmth and responsiveness) provides the best outcome for the child. In Montessori terms, freedom with loving limits.
- I believe in supporting a child’s independence
In a traditional classroom, little emphasis is put on encouraging independence, perhaps because there is so much pressure for children to learn the curriculum (academic knowledge).
- I believe emotions should be acknowledged rather than dismissed.
Montessori believes that teaching and parenting must be done with an understanding of a child’s needs. Emotions are a natural response to circumstances, and often are a symptom of a greater need. A child is still developing their “emotional brain” – it is difficult for many adults to sort out their emotions, let alone a child! With this understanding, we respond to the child’s big and small emotions with compassion and empathy. A child should feel safe to express joy, frustration, excitement, fear, and anger (in a way that is not harmful to themselves or others). Our response is neutral, calm and patient. We also offer them connection, if it is wanted. If not, then we also respect a child’s need for space. Most importantly, we take our role as a guide and model seriously. We understand that there are times adults may struggle to model a healthy way to deal with emotions, and in those situations, it is our responsibility to take a moment or two to regulate ourselves before responding to the child. When we are able to do so, we can talk about our feelings with our children. “I am feeling sad right now, and I would love some cuddles.” “I am upset right now and I just need a short break. I will be back in two minutes.” “I’m going to take some deep breaths right now so that I can calm down before I talk to you.” Healthy emotional processing must be modeled, not just taught.
Traditional parenting and caregiving tends to offer correction without connection, and encourages apathy over healthy expression of emotions.
- I believe effort should be acknowledged rather than praising results.
Montessori schools emphasize intrinsic motivation, meaning motivation that comes from within the individual. Children cleaning up their dishes because they enjoy the process (swirling their hands in the warm, bubbly dish water) and result (a clean space)! We also believe that teachers and caregivers need to be careful not to interfere with this natural joy that springs up from within by offering extrinsic rewards, such as praise – “Wow! You did such a great job washing your dish!” Instead, we offer acknowledgment. “Did you notice how clean the table is now, and that it is ready for you or a friend to work there?”
In traditional parenting and education models, there is a tendency to offer rewards in the form of praise, grades, and even material things. “You got an ‘A’ on your test! Let’s go get ice cream!” “Wow, that picture you drew is SOO beautiful!” These kinds of responses draw the attention on to us–what makes us happy, what we find worthy of praise—and teaches children to work to please us rather than out of their enjoyment of what they do.
- I believe that calm, orderly and minimalist surroundings help children learn best and that brightly colored, cluttered rooms with an abundance of options can be overstimulating.
The Montessori classroom is very neat and orderly – “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Children are naturally drawn towards order. (It may not seem like it from the state of your toddler’s playroom, but have you ever seen your child neatly lining up their toy cars? Building with blocks in a very precise manner?) In order to make a choice, there needs to be not too much and not too little. The materials need to be presented in such a way that a child can glance at them and see what their purpose is. The materials need to be complete with no missing pieces. We primarily use earth tones and natural materials: wood, glass, ceramic, bronze, etc.
Traditional classrooms and playrooms may use bright primary colors, have shelves filled to the brim with plastic toys, have no apparent order to how “toys” or “educational materials” are displayed. Often, the excess clutter and visual stimulation overwhelms the child. Perhaps you’ve seen it in the Target toy aisles – row after row of toys for a child to look at, and if they are told to choose one, they have a difficult time making a choice. Overwhelmed by options, they usually end up dissatisfied with the choice they DO make!
- I believe success to be when a child is happy, well-adjusted, and self-motivated.
Traditional parenting and education models may rate success as an IQ, test score, grade, degree, career or income level.
But Montessori views success as a child becoming a happy, well-adjusted, and self-motivated adult. Montessori answers these questions: 1) what is the type of person you would like your child to become and 2) how do I model and foster that today?