Seven suggestions from collaboration, to good leadership, from observation to opportunity. What Montessori values can you use in your parenting?
Foster a spirit of collaboration with your child
Building collaboration with children involves taking an interest in them as human beings – let your child know that you enjoy their company. Listen to your child – make time! Know who your children are and what makes them “tick”. Delight in your child and give the consistent message, “you are an important person in my life”.
Have the confidence necessary for good leadership
Show conviction in your role as a parent; remember you are responsible for your child. Find respectful ways to redirect your child; for example, use description to direct attention and invite action; “The car is muddy, and you can help scrub the wheels.” Be positive and tell them what they can do, rather than what they can’t; ‘You can help me with dinner or write a letter to Grandma’. Be prepared to hear your child’s point of view, but remember you are the parent. Try always to model acceptable behaviour yourself.
Observe your child
Observation is a tool used by Montessori teachers to understand a child and their needs. Take some time out from your busy life to step back and observe your child – it may help you understand why they behave the way they do, what they are interested in, what they do well, what they are struggling with, and how you can support them.
Offer your child the opportunity to contribute to the life of your family
Are you really favouring your children when you offer to do everything for them? Will this help your child develop the real sense of self-esteem that comes when they are trusted to make a real contribution? Independence is one of the greatest drives for the growing child. How can you help your child at home to develop and demonstrate their abilities?
Children delight in making a contribution to family life. Trust your child and give them opportunities to help. Children can contribute to cleaning up, meal preparation, setting the table, dressing, bathing, organising their toys and possessions, gardening, washing the car, stacking the firewood, planning weekly menus, and making afternoon tea for guests. Make it fun and appreciate all their efforts, however slight.
Involve your child in family decisions
Let them be part of the team. Find ways to involve your children in making decisions appropriate to your family. When the child is small, they can help decide what to have for dinner or whether to go to the park or the beach. Older children can do research on the internet to inform family on decisions like pricing holiday destinations, finding the cheapest computer deal, and what movie to go to on the weekend. Being part of the decision means children will accept the limitations of what is possible more gracefully,
and as they get older, it will help them understand how far the budget can go.
Give your child as much freedom as they can handle with responsibility
Expect that your child will act within the limits that are set. Limit choices and direct the child who needs help. Lend the child your “control” until they have developed their own. Talk as a family to establish your family boundaries for acceptable behaviour. The limited choices will change as your child grows older – but they will always need you to support them and show them the ‘right’ direction.
Give your child the gift of time
Give your child the time to concentrate and focus without distractions. Give your child the time and quiet space to think and daydream. Do not force your child into immobility in front of a mesmerising TV or computer screen. Consider the role of technology in your family’s life – is it adding to the quality of your life?
Spend time with our child. Use every opportunity you have in your busy life to talk and listen to them – in the car is a great time. Involve your child in exploring the world you enjoy, whether it is fishing off the wharf, watching a sports game at the park, exploring the sand dunes, discovering the bush, going for a family bike ride, listening to music, or dancing . . . enjoy the opportunity to rediscover the world through your children.
Author: Ana Pickering, MANZ.
First Published: Montessori Talks to Parents, 2009.