Children crave structure, routine and boundaries. A watchful parent can provide the structure needed while balancing the obvious need for safety, love and security. It is a difficult observation when an older child is first on their own as a young adult and confronts troubles, difficulties, tragic consequences, and just can’t seem to gain their footing. What a sore sight to know that your child is not prepared for the real world when realizing in hind sight that maybe too much assistance, enabling, helping, and co-dependency had been fostered. This post will focus on how to aid your child in the developing years to allow them to be the most successful, capable, independent human.
Allowing your child to struggle is a struggle for YOU as the parent! It is so hard to witness a struggle knowing you could easy step in, take over and end it all in an instant, saving time in the end. This is very difficult to overcome as a parent. No one teaches us as parents how taxing it will be watching your own child grow and develop. It can be beautiful and rewarding, but also very hard at times. Finding that delicate space between frustration and concentration in our children is a true art. Frustration indicates it is time; time to step in, with permission, and assist as little as needed. Concentration, which usually absorbs time, time that is often hard to give up as parents, allows for the most penetrating of lessons.
If you can first, take the time to relax and observe your child at work or play and just notice when they encounter difficult things. Take special note on how they confront the problems. This will indicate where you could start. If your child gets frustrated often, it may be an indication they are either helped often, perfection is the standard or there are other outside factors contributing. Encouragement should be offered first and foremost followed by assistance when needed but only after you can determine how little help is needed. If you happened to catch your child in a moment of fierce concentration, let them be. Watch from a distance and take note of how long they focus, how long they may struggle with OUT asking for help and be careful not to make yourself known. Being present in the most absent of ways is incredibly powerful in these circumstances. If you can see your child through to completion as you observe, watch the satisfaction and contentment on their sweet faces after they have resolved the issue. It is amazing.
As a parent, allowing for natural consequences when able with your child can be quite a rewarding and lasting experience. I will attempt to provide some examples. I have a child in his adolescence now who has been and is still quite forgetful. We try to help him with coping skills and some things have worked and stuck. He will forget his lunch box. Often. One has gone missing entirely, to our knowledge, and has not made it back home. His natural consequence now is his lunch is made in a paper sack. Disposable. Everything has to be disposable. This means no lunchmeat, as it would require a cold pack. We won’t send a cold pack because we are afraid it wouldn’t return. Peanut butter and jelly it is. Every day until he gets sick of it enough that he searches hard enough for his lunchbox. He would loose winter jackets. Yes, JACKETS. We are talking multiple in one season. When he ran out of what we provided, he would just need to layer up on his clothes until he could help earn enough to get a new (new to him, but we only would buy a used) jacket. My four year old is learning about the changing weather and the clothes or shoes required. Lucky for us, she tends to overdress, meaning she take a layer off once she begins her day. There is nothing wrong with making a simple statement as you are dressing, “I’ll be wearing long pants and a sweater today since the weather will be chilly.” Or, “Today, it is raining. I think it will be smart for me to wear my rain boots to keep my feet dry.” These statements should be made within earshot of your child, but not necessarily directly to them. This allows for engagement, trust, and choice.
We had guests for dinner a few nights ago and upon spilling juice on the table which spilled over on to her chair and the floor, our daughter stood up, asked what she should use to clean it up and proceeded to get the job done as the rest of our family and our guests continued with their meal. A guest made the comment, “That was the most relaxing spill I’ve ever seen.” There was no need to get after her for making a mistake. We want our children to make mistakes and feel safe making them. If they are making mistakes, they are trying. That is the point here. Allow your children to try. The more they try the more they will begin to succeed. Let’s teach them as young as possible and raise confident mistake makers. A confident mistake maker will be a person that does not quit, perseveres, is dedicated, focused, loyal and in the end a success. Let your child try. Let them fail. Cheer them on, from a distance, and as quietly as possible. Offer your silent, approving looks versus, disapproving, disappointed faces. Your child is a gift. Your child is not your own. They are their own. Helping them find themselves is an amazing journey we have the blessing to observe and assist with when necessary. Provide a safe environment. Provide a consistent model of appropriateness. As you do this, your world and your child’s will open to such an amazing level of understanding and learning.
Children are so capable. We often overlook their abilities due to the demands of OUR day and OUR schedules. Children who are immersed in an environment that fosters independence and confidence are content, happy and satisfied as they feel a regular sense of success and control.
As a parent, it is difficult sometimes to give up a sense of control to someone so small and that we may deem as dependent simply because they came from us. We have seen them from day one and often misjudge their readiness because it tugs on our heartstrings. Maybe they won’t need us anymore? To some it is comforting to know our little people are dependent on us. It allows us to feel loved by feeling needed.
Changing this thought process can be difficult but quite powerful. Paula Polk Lillard said, Montessori is for you “…if you can raise your child knowing that he belongs not to you but to himself and that your job as a parent is one of temporary privilege and responsibility; the aiding and observing of another life as it unfolds.” There is a new sense of pride and satisfaction that overpowers other less desirable feelings of dependency, inadequacy, and enabling. As parents we should focus on striving to raise noble, confident, capable young people. This is done more successfully by building line up line, from the time our little ones are infants to adulthood, success upon success.
In the formative years, it is important for a child to feel a sense of security and love. Allow your child to struggle through some safe experiences. Allowing them to take each new step toward success in each new area of their life requires consistent support and encouragement. Understanding when to step back and when you are not needed allows for a successful separation later.
Take care to take note of messages you send as their parent at different times of struggle and completion. For instance, if your child is focused on trying to put their shoes on alone, you see it is taking some time and you may be running late, try to remain patient, calm, and silent. If your child is focused, concentrating and gets the shoes on after a little struggle, but they are not on the proper feet, LEAVE THEM BE. Congratulate them on their achievement of completion. Praise them concretely for working so hard on this task. You may ask if the shoes feel comfortable on their feet but by allowing them to leave the house with dignity intact and confidence soaring, their spirits remain whole.
Allow for further independence in the home by altering your child’s clothing storage so they are able to access and make choices for themselves when dressing. You as the parent still have control in this situation by selecting WHAT they have access too. A drawer with socks, underclothing, a drawer with pants and shirts or dresses hanging on a low rack can contain a few selections versus an overwhelming account of everything they own. Your child will develop trust in themselves through this process of taking into account the weather and the type of activities they will participate in. There may be some trial and error. Allow for the error. Clothes may end up on backwards or inside out but this does not last very long. There should not be added pressure to hurry due to your time constraints. Adjust accordingly to allow ample time for your child to dress. Once completed, your child will feel a tremendous amount of self-esteem knowing they are accomplishing this task, so encouraging through concrete praise once again is most appropriate. There is no need for reward. Their feelings of accomplishment will be enough. A child has simply longed to be accepted by the adult world and a gentle, encouraging hug or smile without the words or looks of discontent are very important.
Your loving support as the parent in an environment that is now meeting their changing developmental needs teaches that your child is capable, enough, wise and noble. There are many more ways to foster this independence within the home, while out on errands and in public places. Allow your child to walk whenever it is safe. Slow your pace to meet theirs. Ask if they want help before assuming they even need it. Children yearn to be doing the tasks they have seen done within the home their whole lives. Allow for more time. Children need more time. Learn to follow your child. Let them imitate the actions within the environments they find themselves. Paying careful attention to our efforts of communication and correction and slowing our reactions will go a long distance in your child’s development. Michael Olaf stated, “How many of us would be better at ‘loving ourselves exactly the way we are’ if our own attempts at self-construction had been respected early in life? There is a connection.” We are helping to lay a foundation for the rest of their lives. The world is a wonderful place to be, why not do all we can as parents to foster trust and a positive self-image.
We are excited to be able to announce that we are offering two new classes!
Community Spanish Classes
Montessori Children’s House of Bay City is proud to announce that we are now offering community spanish classes for ages 2.5-6!
The class will be offered Wednesday mornings, beginning September 14th through November 16th, a ten-week course for $100 per child.
Click the button below for more information!
Early Childhood Music Classes
Based on the research of Edwin Gordon, Classes will include singing, chanting, moving to music, playing assorted percussion instruments and pattern instruction.
Ages birth to 5 years are welcome (must be accompanied by a parent).
Thursday day and night classes starting September 15th through November 17th, a 10 week course for $140 per child.
Click the button below for more information!
The play area is an area of the home that gets me FIRED up! Toy boxes are the most confusing, chaotic, frustrating item you could possibly have in your home. If you have one, don’t even give it away, find another purpose for it. The toy area should not be within the bedroom if it can be helped, but a separate area of the home. This allows the bedroom to be reserved for simple, peaceful bedtime routines and sleeping alone. When preparing your child’s toy area, simplify, simplify, simplify. Keep less within the room and rotate through the toys every month for example. This will allow for a better chance for maintaining order and engagement. By limiting and simplifying what is within the play area, your child will be able to select and concentrate on activities without distraction. Have you ever observed your child at play within a toy area that is jam packed with toys? They most likely do not sit and play with one toy for very long. Their focus and attention is interrupted and there may be a sense of restlessness and discontent. Once the toys are limited to a well-rounded range of activities, assess where they are to store them. Each toy should have a child-sized storage area upon a low shelf that makes sense. Toys that do not belong together should not be stored together. Clean, simple, orderly, simple, beautiful, simple. Just remember simple.
The bathroom is easy. There shouldn’t be much there; bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, small cups, a brush (and accessories if needed) for grooming and a mirror. It is nice if you can also have a cupboard set aside with some safe cleaning supplies the child can use to keep the bathroom neat, orderly and clean. We all know the blue toothpaste blob in the sink so well. Have your child be responsible for taking care of the area once they are done using it. It will instill a sense of investment and the child will begin to take responsibility for their actions as it effects the environment they use daily and are in charge of keeping clean.
The bedroom again should be simple, clean, child-sized and prepared so as to allow the child success in dressing themselves daily. The child’s closet could have a low rack to hang a select few outfits to choose from, a low dresser with drawers containing the remaining items of clothing needed and the room should include a clothes hamper for dirties. The bed should be easily accessed by the child to allow them to make it daily. I like to have a night stand or low shelf containing a CD player or other music player for bedtime listening as well as a book shelf containing a select few books again that can be changed out frequently to maintain engagement and curiosity. That is it. The bedroom should be simple thus maintaining order and ease with bedtime routines enabling the peace needed for good nights of sleep.
As you can see, there is not a lot needed to create a Montessori home environment, it is actually the opposite. Less is more in this case. Just remember to slow down and observe how things are actually working in each environment of the home. Does each space lend itself easily to success for each member of the family? Simplifying, de-cluttering, filtering out systematically to instill a sense of order is all that is needed to create the “Montessori” feel at home. I get such an eerie feeling when I walk into a SUPER clean home that I know children live at and there is NO sign of a child living there. The home should reflect the entire family in the most functional way possible. Each family is different and has different needs. I hope by reading this you have been able to glean a few things that could be implemented to assist in ease of your family’s routine which would in turn be a direct reflection on the level of order and simplicity within the home.
Humans thrive in order. Children, less tainted by worldly experience, are even more sensitive to space that is in order. For a child to gain the most out of each interaction, each dealing, she must feel a sense of order. This post will focus briefly on the home offering some personal thoughts and hopefully creating a space within yourself as a parent to review your needs within the home resulting in an even more beautiful space, an even more creative environment all while fostering an even more simple, enticing atmosphere where love can abound and the child can develop without hindrance. Before jumping right into changing every detail of your home to make it “Montessori,” observe your child within the home first. Take the time to watch how they interact and whether they have success within each area of the home to better assess the need for simplifying. Once you have identified some areas of concern, then it is time to adjust.
Let’s begin with the entryway. When your family enters the door at the end of the day, if you are anything like my family, it is a dumping ground. This space collects the most dirt, shoes, coats, backpacks, bags, hats/gloves etc and is often a breeding ground for tragic accidents. Installing hooks at your child’s level, enough for each child to hang all of their belongings, (not enough hooks just perpetuates the problem, you may as well not even have hooks at all if there are not enough,) having a simple shoe rack with the shoes they wear regularly, and a container to catch the miscellaneous hats/gloves would suit each family well. Having an organizational system in place to handle the things they need to bring in to the house is the next step. This may include a tray for each child to lay their homework papers/folders and papers for parents to sign/read, a clean, child-sized area for doing homework that includes all the necessary items to allow them to be successful at completing their homework, and a system for bringing in lunchboxes and having your child empty, clean and prepare their own lunch for the next day. Yes, your child is completely capable of making their own lunches. That can be another topic. These systems need constant attention especially if you live in an area with changing weather as the amount and type of jacket/coat your children may be wearing will change as will the shoes/boots. Children grow. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Filter these items out as soon as they are no longer needed.
The kitchen is a wonderful place to allow independence if order and simplicity abound. Without order, it can be overwhelming and chaotic. Anything that is within your child’s reach you should not only expect that a child will have access to but you should allow them to. Chores within the kitchen are some of the most sought after tasks from young children. You may have noticed at a very young age a child asking or simply participating spontaneously in things such as dishwashing, dishwasher loading and unloading, cooking, sweeping, mopping, table setting, among others. Keep a child sized caddy that includes a small broom and mop, an apron, a stool to reach the sink to assist with dish washing, utensils that are safe for a child to use to assist in the food prep/cooking process. Low drawers and cupboards should contain dishes and food/snacks appropriate for a child to use and eat. By simply showing a child, in the most non-verbal way, how to utilize the area within the kitchen for tasks such as cleaning messes, assisting with chores, preparing a snack or a simple meal, they are sure to be successful and most importantly happy and fulfilled.
Preschooler’s love feeling they have choices. They love feeling control. If they do not have enough of a sense of control within the environments they spend a majority of time, they will create it often in negative ways”: eating difficulties, potty training hesitancies, speech delays, negative behavior, etc. The earlier we as parents can recognize this, the easier the toddler and early childhood years will be. How can you be armed with choice ideas? My answer is: it is not easy. It will take time. You will build a repertoire of choices as you encounter experiences. As the parent, be on the lookout for these experiences throughout the day. It may start in the morning. Once you wake up your little one (which could be done with an alarm clock on their own by this age) a gentle reminder it is time to dress themselves and that they may choose their outfit in the closet and you will be waiting in the kitchen once they are finished. Now, my job as the parent is to control the environment prior to offering the choice. I have set up my child’s closet with a low rack containing several (not too many as to overwhelm) outfits that are weather appropriate. She knows how her dresser is organized with each drawer containing the other needed items of clothing to complete her outfit. I have to be ok with what she chooses to wear and let it go, even if it does not match. She is happy. She is warm. Her body is covered in clothing I am fine with and most importantly, she feels successful. I may comment not on how good she is or how pretty she looks, (as these are empty praises and will teach her eventually over time that she needs to seek out others opinions before feeling she is good or pretty,) but how helpful she is, how big she is getting to be able to do this task on her own. The morning will continue with hair combing, preparing her own breakfast, cleaning up after herself, brushing her teeth and preparing to leave the house ready to start the day. THIS TAKES EXTRA TIME. So, you need to weigh this as you decide what is worth it in the long run. Waking up a little earlier, getting a little less sleep to allow your child the happiness and fulfillment she deserves or a rushed, tense, frustrating morning.
There is choice within control. The child does not even feel the control as I have prepared the environment ahead of time; rack is low, her drawers are organized and accessible, the dishes are low, the breakfast is out and ready for her to use, the brushes and toothpaste are accessible and she has a little stool for ease, her coat and boots are where she put them the night before and the hooks are low enough for her to reach. The environment is structured and there is order. Children will thrive in an environment that is rich with choice and control, structure and order all pleasing to not only the child but to you as the parent as well.