The Work Begins With Us: Foundations for Positive Behavior Guidance

We wanted to share with you some of what our teachers learned this month during a training on positive child behavior guidance within a Montessori environment. While the training dug into strategies and techniques, it emphasized that strategies cannot take the place of a healthy foundation. This is important not just for the classroom environment and teaching, but for the home environment and parenting.

It Starts With Relationship

First, a solid relationship between the adult and the child is foundational to positive behavior guidance because without connection and relationship, there cannot be trust. Without trust, the child and the adult cannot successfully work with one another. It’s important for parents to intentionally build connection with their child and to become students of their child: knowing their child’s temperament, triggers, interests, abilities and developmental stage

parent holding hand of child

Here are some ideas on how to strengthen your relationship with your child.

  • Make it a habit to observe your child. Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and just watch your child at play.  See what they gravitate towards and how they interact with their environment.  What can you learn about them from this?
  • Make it a habit to appreciate your child. What are their strengths?  What are their interests?  What do they enjoy doing?  What is a positive characteristic they have? 
  • Notice what triggers your child. Is it transitions? Surprises?  A certain time of day?  Now evaluate whether there is something you can better do to support your child, and to identify if your child’s physical needs are all being met.
  • What things are difficult for your child? Perhaps it is a fine motor movement, a gross motor skill, a social interaction.  Is it a challenge specific to their stage of development?  How can you support them?
  • Spend one-on-one, focused time with your child daily. This might mean 15 minutes on busy days, or an hour on other days
  • Invite your child into your daily tasks–cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, yard work, pet care—this tells them that they are not just valued but that they are capable!
  • Be interested in what interests your child—this may be building a car track with them when they are a toddler, or watching a soccer game with your teen, or asking your elementary-age child questions about their newest video game.
  • Show your love and affection. Be intentional to provide touch points every day – snuggles, hugs, hand holding, back rubs, eye contact, smiles, laughter, kind teasing – gentle, loving touch and attention is an important connecting point!
  • Say “I love you”. Actions may speak louder than words, but it’s important that your child hear you say “I love you!” 
  • When your child tells you a story, pause what you’re doing, make eye contact, and be engaged in the conversation.
  • Don’t dismiss your child’s feelings – the things which turn their world upside down may be insignificant to you, but everything to them!  Give your child space to feel, but be there to help them navigate the feelings in a healthy way.
  • Routine and traditions. Whether it’s eating a meal together, or breakfast in bed on a birthday, create family routines and traditions that show how much you value and love one another!  Children thrive on routine and cherish traditions!

Know Yourself

“Conscious parenting means that in our interactions with our children, we ask, “Am I dealing with my child in an aware manner or am I being triggered by my past?” The focus is always on us as parents, requiring us to look within and ask, “What am I bringing to this relationship in this moment that is mine to own and not my child’s to receive?”—Shefali Tsabary

We will look at more positive behavior guidance strategies in the coming weeks, but meanwhile, remember it always starts with us, the adult.  Are we building connections and trust with the child?  Are we modeling healthy behavior?

“The work begins with us.”
Dr. Maria Montessori


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