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Realistic and Relaxed Parenting

Children Making PizzaScarcely a day goes by without a reminder about how parents need to talk to their babies, feed them healthy foods, keep them safe, limit screen time, get them outside, etc. The demands are endless! Being a parent today can be stressful, but it can also be relaxing and enjoyable.

By implementing a few Montessori principles, you can become a more relaxed parent, secure in the knowledge that your child has what he needs to grow, learn, and thrive. Dr. Maria Montessori developed her theories early in the twentieth century, based on careful observations of infants and young children. Though our world has changed greatly since then, the basic nature of the child is universal and has not changed.

Three basic steps will keep you on the right track. These steps are often intertwined, not always separate. They are: Observe, Prepare, and Respect. It might be good to memorize these three active verbs.

Observing and Preparing

Take a moment and recall how you prepared for the arrival of your first child - learning about pregnancy, staying healthy, knowing what to expect, fixing the nursery, reading childcare books, taking classes, researching products, procedures, and possibilities. Then remember how in the first few weeks at home with the baby, there was little time to focus on anything other than diapering and feeding.

But, as you practiced being a parent and perfected new skills like changing diapers, waking in the dark to feed a hungry baby, or fitting your baby into the car seat, it all fell into place and became somewhat predictable - at least for a while.

One day you observed that the clothes no longer fit, so you got the next size up to make your child comfortable. As the baby began to be mobile, you rearranged the nursery so he could safely explore the toys you carefully placed within his reach. The nursery was originally organized to make it easy and convenient for you, the adult. Now you, the adult, must adapt the environment to address your young child's needs.

The observe/prepare sequence will continue and repeat as your child grows. There are many resources available to help parents understand what children need at different stages such as Montessori Insights for Young Children by Aline Wolf. In a Montessori Home outlines specific ideas for preparing the home environment. You can also refer to our Ideas and Insights Article Archive.

Respecting the Young Child

You can learn to understand how your child thinks, and then teach him how to perform the tasks he wants to accomplish. Adapt household jobs according to his age and ability. He will feel proud to be a contributing member of the family. Keep in mind the following:

  1. Respect your child as an individual member of the family. Do this by observing and putting yourself in her head. Stand back and leave her free to work things out for herself - even if it takes her ten minutes to put the cap back on the toothpaste. Try to understand her unique rhythm.
  2. Give your child simple norms of behavior - children appreciate knowing what to do and how to do it. You can explain to them, "This is how we do it in our family." Continue to show your child how to perform a task until it becomes an internalized routine, as repetition is important in developing a skill. Once learned, your child will take pleasure in this continued repetition.
  3. If your child is not mature enough to understand abstract reasoning, do not try to reason with her. Somewhere between the ages of five and eight, her ability to reason develops. Logical consequences are not appropriate before a child is able to reason. Accept your child's egocentricity; wait for maturation patiently.
  4. Teach by teaching (demonstrating), not by correcting, as children might give up making an effort when they are corrected. If your child makes a mistake, demonstrate the correct way on another day, so she can try again.
  5. Organize your home so your child can explore, move, and touch. Have child-proof rooms where toys are within reach. Allocate a cupboard or drawer in the kitchen for your toddler. If there is space, add a child-size table and chair for projects and snacks. Exploration, after all, is the key to learning.
  6. Do not interrupt a child who is trying to figure things out or who is concentrating on an activity. However, be realistic and maintain the family schedule - the parents are the keepers of the routines. It's fine to interrupt with a reminder that in five minutes we'll be leaving for school or eat dinner.

Follow the Routine and Relax

Be as consistent as you can - routines give children a sense of security and calm that enable them to learn and adapt to new situations. Rest assured, your child will grow and thrive even if you aren't perfect (no one is). Just follow these basics and relax.

"Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is acquired not by listening but by experience in the environment."
- Maria Montessori , The Secret of Childhood

—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.

—Originally Published 2015

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