As soon as I heard the words “A la gran pu%#!” (the Spanish equivalent of “Holy Sh*&”), I wheeled around in shock. Had my ears deceived me? Could it be that my son had said that? From the looks on the other children’s faces, I knew I had heard correctly.
My immediate instinct was to giggle. After all, there was no way my 6-year-old had any idea what he was saying. He’d just started going to school the week before and had no doubt heard the new vocabulary word from one of his classmates. “Here we go…” I thought.
It’s normal to expect your child to come home with new behaviors and vocabulary once they go to school and start interacting with other kids. Now, it was my job to deal with it.
So, how did I deal with it? What’s an appropriate way to approach “bad” words in the spirit of Montessori parenting? Here’s how I approached the topic:
Bad Words: What Are They?
First, a note on “bad” words. I’m not an anti bad words person. I don’t use them myself, but I don’t mind if other people use them. For me, bad words are words that have very strong meanings that can also be considered rude and offensive by others.
Montessori believed in teaching grace and courtesy to children. Social skills are important! Without them, we can’t get along well with others, create friendships, help others and enjoy a sense of community. These are among the most important things in life!
Maria Montessori, creator of the Montessori method, believed in the spiritual preparation of the teacher. We should be calm guides, ready to walk with our children through not only their academic learning but also through learning grace and courtesy. And of course, we are the main example to follow.
For parents, that seems like an impossible ideal, right? Between the spaghetti flinging, temper tantrums, mud-slinging, butt wiping, snack begging, whining and crankiness (of course there are some smiles in there!), you’d have to be a saint to stay calm in every moment. There are those days when things seem to run smoothly and you’re sure you could easily win a parenting trophy. But, as any parent knows, the next day is most likely to be the complete opposite and full of not so proud moments.
As flawed parents that we are, we are on a continuous journey of learning and improvement. Montessori’s observation that teachers and caretakers of children must prepare themselves spiritually and emotionally to do their work is spot on. We’re much better guides when we’ve prepared our spirits to be excellent models. To become better guides, we must seek out strategies that help us keep our anger, impatience, and frustration in check. But, also remember, it’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, so all of these strategies must be coupled with regular self-care and time for yourself.
How can you keep the angry mom or dad at bay? Here are a few tricks and strategies for helping you keep your calm:
“No!” my five-year-old declared, “Cleaning up toys is boring.” He’s usually pretty helpful cleaning up his room and enjoys helping around the house, but sometimes he gets in a mood. When that happens, it can be tempting to turn his defiance into a power struggle. Should I force him into cleaning his room, using my power over him as his mother? It’s certainly tempting. But, what’s the Montessori way to approach defiance?
Here’s how we try to respond to defiance the Montessori way:
Don’t we all feel frustrated or upset when we are faced with doing something we don’t really want to do? I know I don’t always feel like cleaning or doing work, but, I don’t always get to do exactly what I feel like doing. Sometimes I like to vent to my husband or friends about a task in front of me.
Parenting and discipline go together hand in hand. As parents, we must guide our children towards respectful behaviors and interactions with others. But boy is it tough! Creating a balance so that our children feel close to us, but also follow rules and respect boundaries is tricky. The Montessori philosophy offers a wonderful way to approach discipline in a loving way that meets both the children’s and parent’s needs.
This post is going to offer a basic explanation of Montessori discipline and examples of how you might use it. But, before we get to that, I want to take a moment to affirm ourselves as parents. Just about every parent that I know whether they are familiar with Montessori or not (myself included), struggles at times. Perhaps we have a philosophy and ideas for how we’d like to interact with our children and deal with discipline, but, man does life ever get in the way! Emotions, stress, overstimulation, extended family and more can make it seem impossible to stay on track. That doesn’t mean you’re failing! It doesn’t mean you can’t always try to improve either. What I’m getting at is that you should have confidence in yourself as a parent. Since the day you welcomed your child into your family, you became an expert in your child and your own parenting style.
That being said, let’s take a look at how you might make use of a Montessori discipline approach in the home:
The child who concentrates is immensely happy. – Dr. Maria Montessori
The first step of Montessori discipline is avoiding the issues in the first place. Montessori noticed that children were happy when they were concentrating and had an opportunity to contribute to the classroom (or in this case, your home). That means that children need important work to do in the home that they’re interested in and excited about. Whether it’s practical life projects, an art center to enjoy, the ability to engage in a dance party or work in the garden, being busy is the antidote to poor behavior. Permitting independence is another essential part of the method.
“I’m bored” “I don’t know what to do.” “What can I do, Mama?” The sounds of summer for some, the sounds of just about every day all year round for others. Kids get bored.
Does it stress you out?
This may not be a popular opinion, but you don’t have to create a boredom plan for every moment of your child’s life. Or maybe this opinion would be more popular if it were more acceptable to follow this advice. Relax, don’t let a bored child get to you. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it may be the beginning of something good!
Do you ever feel like you need to entertain your children every moment of the day, all day? Perhaps it’s due to an overdose on Pinterest scrolling or the fact that a lot of people you know have enrolled their children in more activities than you can count on one hand. Whatever it is, there is definitely pressure to keep your kids busy with the right activities to help them in their development. Maybe you’re scared that if you DON’T keep your kids busy, you’re not providing them with what they need to succeed.
Rest assured that this is certainly not the case. You can actually help your child by allowing a bit of boredom in their life. Why? There’s a long list of benefits to letting your child figure out how to use their time on their own. What are some of them?
Benefits of Boredom
If your child is allowed to be bored at times, it’s likely they’ll develop the following skills:
- Independence – Your child will independently find a solution, meaning that they feel more in charge of themselves. Rather than being dependent (the opposite of independent) on an adult to direct them, children find something to do.
- Creativity – When your child is bored, they are more likely to work hard to come up with something interesting to entertain themself. If you’re riding in the car or in a waiting room, your child might begin imagining a story in their head, searching for certain kinds of cars out the window or similar. However, if your child watches a video or plays a game on your phone instead, this opportunity is lost.
- Problem-solving skills – The problem? Boredom. The solution? It could be anything really. That’s the beauty of being bored. Your child has the chance to work through this real-life problem and explore their possible responses and reactions. Sometimes your child might whine or get angry. Sometimes they might wander around the house or wherever you are to seek ideas for what to do. You can help your child cultivate healthy coping mechanisms for boredom. More on these later.
- Boosts self-motivation – Ever used an exciting opening to get your child to try a new activity? You might use an enthusiastic tone of voice, or explain what the benefits of the activity will be. When your child is bored and allowed to struggle through it until they pick an activity on their own, they have to be their own motivator. With no outside voice telling them how much fun it will be to build a Lego replica of the empire state building, they’ll have to discover the motivation to undertake such an activity on their own.
If you’re curious to learn what psychologists are saying about the importance of children experiencing boredom, check out this article.
What did Montessori say?
Montessori believed that children needed to build skills to become independent. That’s one of the reasons why she emphasized practical life so strongly, especially for the youngest students. In addition, in any Montessori classroom, children are in charge of picking meaningful activities to engage in. Although guidance is provided from teachers, children are largely responsible for picking their own work.
“Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!” is about the way a few hours of every day goes for me with my 17 month old. She insistently calls for me and wants to be held, hugged and paid attention to. So, we read books, sing together, cuddle, and
sometimes often times I find myself completing tasks with one hand while she’s happily perched on my hip.
But, like many moms, I put up with it and try to enjoy it as much as I can. She’ll only be this little so long. I know that it’s only a matter of time before she becomes more independent.
My nearly four-year-old on the other hand is quite independent. He likes the occasional snuggle and asks to be played with from time to time. But, most of the time he can be found happily digging with his trucks in the dirt, coloring pictures beside me while I work or making up an intricate story line with a few model dinosaurs. He also likes to help wash dishes and hang up laundry or page through a book.
As a baby and toddler, my son was similar to my daughter. He was attached to me or his father at most times. While he enjoyed wandering off on his own to play for a while, he was more often than not like velcro.
That’s my real life experience that shows me that being close and connected leads to independence. But, there’s more to it than one mom’s journey.
It must be some sort of rule. All toddlers seem to LOVE water play. And have you ever noticed how at a certain stage, babies become determined to move on their own, struggling until they achieve the ability to walk?
These are examples of sensitive periods.
Throughout childhood, children experience a number of sensitive periods. Some last for years at a time, and others may only last several months. Montessori coined the phrase “sensitive periods” to refer to times when children have an especially strong motivation and interest to learn about a particular subject or master a certain skill. In her observations, she discovered that many children share a lot of the same interests around the same time in their development.
How Can You Use Them?
As parents and teachers, we can take advantage of these sensitive periods to help guide our children’s learning. A perfect example is language. Montessori noticed that children experience a sensitive period in language from birth through about age 6.
There are so many parenting hacks out there, but not all of them are mainstream. Each parent finds their own unique ways (or parenting hacks) of dealing with the joys and challenges of parenting. Some of mine are on the wacky side – I’d definitely say some of them are unconventional…but they also keep me sane (well, most of the time, anyway). These are the parenting hacks I notice others occasionally give me a raised eyebrow about…but hey, to each their own and I’m glad to say that I’ve found what works for me. Here they are:
Positive reinforcement is a popular parenting technique. Basically it means parents and caregivers praise good behavior. This way, children are motivated to continue their good behavior due to the positive attention they’ve received. Positive reinforcement can also include sticker charts and other similar incentives. All sounds good, right?
Yes and no.
Positive reinforcement can be very helpful for children. It can help them learn that good behavior is appreciated and that their efforts pay off. But, it can also turn into a big happy praise fest that teaches your child that they are the BEST, in the worst cases resulting in narcissism.
One of my parenting goals this year is to teach my oldest about advent. What better way than through an advent calendar for kids plus daily activities? The combination of reading a bible verse and doing some fun holiday activities such as making decorations, baking cookies and setting up the nativity scene not only teaches about the meaning of Christmas, but will also bring us closer together as a family.
Make Your Own Advent Calendar for Kids
We had lots of fun making the advent calendar together. The basic idea of this calendar is that each day we’ll break open one of the numbers. This is very appealing to Peanut…he can’t wait to punch through the paper to see what’s inside! I also find it quite tempting, I must admit. Inside are 2 slips of paper, one is a Bible verse and one is an advent activity, and a small piece of candy for each of my kids.