Coming Up In Week 4: Limits and Language
We will discuss the importance of limits and how to embrace them within your family. We will cover adult interaction styles, self-confidence, and staying “unruffled” in the face of children’s discomfort. We will build up our “toolbox” of helpful language to use with children, including Positive Phrasing and Grace and Courtesy.
Please come prepared having read:
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents: Chapter 3
Week 3 Recap:
We explored new definitions for the terms “freedom” and “discipline,” discussed natural and logical consequences, and discussed how we can rise above the paradigm of reward and punishment.
“To have real freedom, we have to be able to consider the consequences of our choices, and agree to accept those consequences. We accept the consequences that we foresee, but also the unintended consequences, which we did not foresee. This is responsibility.”
—Sarah Werner Andrews, MNW Training Course Article Freedom and Discipline
- Three Guiding Principles of Limits:
- Limits are for the protection of the individual, environment, and other people within the environment
- Limits are defined by the individual’s capacity to act independently. This means that limits are flexible and have individual parameters. (mixed ages)
- Limits are defined by the context in which the activity takes place
- Respect is the commonality of each element of limits
Natural consequences: feedback about the choices we’ve made. We allow these to happen the way we allow feelings: as calm, confident, compassionate leaders.
Logical consequence: adult-directed consequence that is related, reasonable, and respectful to allow a child to learn from her actions. These can be pretty similar to enforcing limits.
QUESTIONS FROM THIS WEEK:
What does “allowing feelings” look like in practice?
How do you avoid conveying pity when empathizing/accepting emotions? I think my attitude comes across as more “poor baby” than “I see you. I hear you. I care.”
We may not always be able to truly empathize with our child’s feelings. Instead of faking empathy, our goal is to acknowledge.
The first step in this process is being truly okay with feelings in the first place. As adults, our instinctual reaction when feelings arise is often to escape, through a variety of mechanisms. When we hear children processing feelings, our instinct is to stop those feelings because it makes us uncomfortable. We might do this by distracting, reasoning, or minimizing.
The more we can intellectually understand how important it is for children to process emotions, the more we can step back and allow the feelings. When a meltdown arises over a specific incident, we can see clearly: this small incident provided a trigger for a much-needed release. We don’t have to try to understand why our child is upset, and we certainly don’t have to stop them from being upset. The role of a loving caregiver is not keeping a child happy all of the time. When we are comfortable with a child’s discomfort, that child can be an adult who is comfortable with the feelings that come up throughout his or her life.
- 7 Reasons to Calm Down About Babies Crying
- What To Do When Your Baby Cries: Aware Parenting
- Would You Pick Up This Crying Baby?
- The Hardest Thing to Remember When Your Child is Upset
- The Baby Manipulator
Questions around being “on the same page” with a parenting partner:
Questions around sibling rivalry:
What are the best resources that would give us ideas about materials we can have in our home that might prompt our children to engage/focus more deeply? I’ve seen the Montessori book that details the work used in the classroom, and wonder if we should have other elements to focus on in our home instead of repeating the same things they do in their classroom?
We never advocate bringing Montessori classroom materials into the home, for several reasons. Maria Montessori herself lamented that people often focused on the “materials” rather than the theory she was advocating. Although the materials are incredibly intuitive, concrete ways to manipulate and understand specific concepts, it is really the approach to seeing children that defines Montessori education.
The principles that govern the Prepared Environment can certainly be applied to any environment! A prepared environment is beautiful, natural, and accessible to the child. It offers the child the experience of practicing free choice within reliable limits and living in a community to which she is highly accountable.
To support the process of normalization, we seek “real work, done with the hands, accompanied by concentration.” What does your child have access to that is “real?” In what ways is your child accountable or counted on? At home, we advocate for a few open-ended, natural toys, a small amount of high-quality books, access to nature, and most importantly, “the work of the home,” or, Practical Life!
“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility.” -Wendell Berry
- Blocks, Play, Screen Time, and the Mind
- Montessori Toddler Practical Life Activities at Home
- Help Your Child Find Her Work
Do children indicate when they are ‘done’ with their focused work by moving on to something new? I’m wondering how we establish the dynamic in our home that we ‘expect’ our children will focus on their ‘own thing’… and also want to know how we honor when they truly are ready to move on to something else.
In the classroom, showing a child how to put a material away when he is finished is a significant part of every lesson. After the lesson, we might say: “Now you can choose this anytime you see it on the shelf. When you are finished, you can put it back!” We call this the Three Part Work Cycle: gathering, using, and putting away are all equally important parts of choosing an activity. Children get accustomed to this by their first or second day in the classroom.
Children generally recognize when they are finished, and the prepared environment allows them to independently put the activity back and discover something else. (or, sit and do “nothing” and process what he has just experienced!)
The adult steps in if the child is harming or misusing a material or seems obviously psychologically “done;” he is no longer getting anything out of that activity.
“I see you using these blocks as drums. I’m going to help you put these away and find the instrument basket!”
“I see you using the scissors to cut your clothing. These scissors are only for cutting the paper in this basket. I’m going to put the scissors away in my cabinet for today.”
Establishing this dynamic is another one of those “unspoken messages” we keep hearing about! We establish a prepared environment that invites safe exploration, we set limits around this free exploration, and then we get out of the way! We don’t try to encourage or convince a child that he can play by himself, we simply find our own activity to do and model everyone doing their own thing.
Did Maria Montessori break down the amount of time a child will spend focused on her own work based on age? I’m wondering what would be normal to expect of our 18-month old with regard to her independent, focused attention vs. our 4 year old.
The short answer to this is that the younger a child is, the shorter her individual “work cycles” will be. An infant may concentrate by staring at a mobile for 15 minutes before she is done; an Elementary child may continue to work on the same project for an entire day and be able to break concentration and then pick up where he left off.
Some things to keep in mind: concentration is a natural ability that every child has at birth. The amount of time spent concentrating on each particular activity will vary depending on age and on the activity itself, and how many opportunities the child has had to practice concentration. The environment and limits in the Primary classroom are largely designed around protecting concentration.
Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, Chapter 4
Advice for a child who spends time in other environments that rely on reward and punishments?
Our advice is to continue offering the child the best of yourself during the time you do have together.
Thank you all for your open hearts and minds. We will see you next week!
Maggie and Jane