A Montessori teacher shares some ground rules established at Montessori, which help adults talk effectively with children. Go slowly, be gentle and use your words!
We have a classroom “rule” which says Go Slowly. If you are going slowly, you have time to react to situations as they arise. Contrary to general assumptions, children don’t have to run everywhere. That hurried energy is partly an imitation of our energy – we hustle through our days, bustle the family out the door, hurry everyone up, and never carry just one thing when we can carry half a dozen things at the same time. We need to show our children a slower, more peaceful way to proceed. We have to model it daily.
We have a classroom rule which says, Be Gentle. Are you treating the materials gently? Are you handling the book gently? Are you using gentle words? Are you playing gently?
Use Your Words
We have a third classroom rule which says Use Your Words. We give lots of grace and courtesy lessons about appropriate words to use.
For example, we teach:
How to greet one another using both words and body language:
The words say ‘hi,’ ‘hello,’ ‘kia ora’…. while the body offers a hand out to touch, to hold, or to shake hands.
How to get through a crowded space:
Stop your body, then say, “Jack and Emma, could I get through here, please?”
It’s amazing how responsive children are to these words if you’re not trying to talk and push your way through at the same time. It’s important to go slowly, one step at a time.
How to invite sharing:
“Can I play with you?” or “Will you play with me?” Offer your hand and tip your head to one side questioningly.
How to refuse an invitation:
“I’m playing with Max right now.” or “I want to do this by myself right now… (hold your hand up in a very gentle stop sign…) but I can play with you later.
How to apologise:
“I’m sorry!! It was an accident. Are you okay??”
How to set limits on a friend who is not listening:
(extending your hand in a definite “no” and using a firm voice) “Please go away! We don’t want to be disturbed!
How to be strong in the face of rejection:
“Well, I’m still your friend. Let me know when you want to play!”
“Go slowly, be gentle and use your words”.
Notice that these three rules are what I call “DO Rules.”
The list of “DON’T Rules” is enormously long – don’t run, don’t kick, don’t hit, don’t push in … in fact, it’s endless.
Do Rules guide the mind to consider what to do.
Do Rules paint pictures in our children’s minds of what’s right.
Don’t Rules paint pictures of what’s wrong.
Do Rules are effective.
And when we’re discussing what went wrong, they are a good ground to touch base with; “Well, did you use your words?”, “Are you using gentle hands?”, “What words could you use next time?”
Author: Pam Shand, Montessori House of Children, Blenheim, New Zealand
First Published: 10-11-2011.