The Most Important Montessori Principle to me as a Mother and Teacher
Maybe its because the materials are so tangible and visual that they seem to be the first thing that parents grab onto when striving to create a Montessori environment for their child or children. Yes...the materials are important and yes... the prepared environment in which the materials are stored is important, but coming from a teacher perspective they are only one component of a successful learning space where children can thrive intellectually, as well as socially and emotionally.
The interactions we have with our children are what makes or breaks this philosophy. At its core Montessori is about creating an environment that respects the child, the environment and the adults within it. A couple of months ago I visited my school, which I was on maternity leave from and the amount of big hellos, warm smiles and loving cuddles I received left me feeling uplifted and very much loved. It also reaffirmed that the relationships I have with the students are based on trust and respect. Maria Montessori was amazing in her discoveries of the child, but if there is one important thing that I have learnt from her; it is to trust the child and follow their lead. For he/she knows what is best for them as they strive for independence. As parents and educators our job is simple...create a path free from obstacles but with controlled limits and prepared with love, patience and understandings.
Below are 5 simple ways to interact with your child that will pave the way for a respectful relationship…
1. Speak with respect to the child… From the moment your little one enters the world (and even in the womb) your words will have an impact on them socially, emotionally and intellectually. Consider your tone of voice; when your child is very young your voice should not be high pitched or too dumbed down. It is also very important to consider the content of your words; the way in which you deliver them and the richness of your interactions.
2. Allow the child to concentrate… Be respectful when your child is concentrating on a task. This means not interrupting them with praise and applause. Instead, allow him/her to feel proud of their own efforts without having to rely on the parents for reassurance.
3. Respect the child's actions and choices… Giving choices to the child makes him/her feel that you respect his/ her opinion. Choice also allows the child to feel control over their own environment. When the child is young a simple two choice offer is usually enough for them to feel empowered to make a decision. As the child gets older more choices may be offered.
4. Provide a prepared environment… Respecting the child’s right to learn about the world around them by providing an environment that allows them to do so. Make their space beautiful, ordered, based in reality and free from clutter, which excludes toys that have no purposeful learning opportunities.
5. Respect the child’s freedom... Freedom to explore their environment is essential for positive development of their self-identity. Apart from the car seat and pram my son doesn't have any baby restraints, like a high chair or Jolly jumper. If you do use child restraints try limiting their time in them and instead allow more time to explore their environment within safe limits. Take the child out into nature as much as possible.
Remember that children are a reflection of us. In respecting the child we set an example so they can follow our lead in respecting their environment, themselves, and others. I hope you enjoyed reading,