According to recent research, even just a few years of Montessori education makes a person more likely to score high on measures of "well-being" as an adult. With that kind of press, it's no wonder parents are flocking to Montessori schools and Montessori homeschooling. Still some parents want to go one step farther. These parents are trying to create a Montessori lifestyle in their homes and parenting styles.
Is Montessori parenting right for you and your family? If you're wondering what Montessori parenting looks like, you're in the right place!
Many people aren't sure where to start with the transition to a Montessori lifestyle. And, it's easy to understand why. The sheer volume of information discussing the term "Montessori" is daunting. It is enough to overwhelm anyone, not the least of which is an overtired mom of a young child. If you're that parent and wrapping your head around all of this Montessori homeschooling “stuff” seems like a huge mountain to climb, rest assured, you are not alone. So, I'm going to break down the dos and don'ts of the Montessori lifestyle in a simple and accessible way.
Read on to learn more.
Dos of Montessori Parenting
First, let's talk about some of the things that parents should do when they're trying to follow the Montessori lifestyle for their children. But, please know that no parent is perfect. I don't do the "right" things all the time and neither will you. That's ok. If we are able to cross the half way mark and incorporate Montessori principles at least the majority of the time, our children will benefit.
The goal is to (at least loosely) follow Montessori values in a way that meets the needs of your family. You may make modifications and there will be times in which the Montessori lifestyle won't be convenient or even doable. Just do the best you can and follow your child's lead!
Here's an overview of the "dos" of Montessori parenting.
Observe and Follow Your Child's Interests
Pay attention to your child's interests and provide them with opportunities to explore those areas. You may be surprised at how much your child can learn and grow when you encourage their unique quirks and goals!
Offer age-appropriate materials and activities that align with their current developmental stage. For example, if your child loves the ocean, you may provide them a toddler with a board book full of real life ocean pictures and simple words like fish, ocean, coral and so on. For an elementary school child, you might provide an appropriately levelled nat geo reader with lots of info and fun jokes. Throw in a fame that features undersea creatures, and if you allow screen time, consider an educational show about the ocean, such as Octonauts. For older kids, you could help them conduct research on and write about a sub-topic that interests them, like the Mariana Trench or conservation of endangered ocean animals. You could also take children of any age on a trip to an aquarium.
Know that your child will likely develop many unique interests over time, and you will not be able to dive deeply into all of them. But, in general, keep their interests in mind and create a home environment that gives them opportunities to play and learn in relation to their interests. Don't drive yourself crazy, but do your best to cater to their interests when it's possible to do so.
Create a Prepared Environment
Remember that your child is a small person in a big world. Do your best to give them a home where they can feel capable and competent with furniture that fits them. Help them navigate on their own with child sized furniture and accessible toys and manipulatives. This helps them build independence and confidence.
Design a safe and organized space for your child to move freely and explore. Arrange the environment to be child-sized and accessible, allowing them to choose and use materials on their own. Keep in mind that safety means different things at different ages, so do some research on safety dos and don'ts for your child's age.
Your child will adapt to using adult-sized things over time, but at least in their own personal space, do your best to provide an accessible environment.
Speaking of independence, the Montessori parenting method is excellent for molding an independent child. Do your best to foster independence so your child is ready for the "real world."
Encourage your child to do things for themselves, such as dressing, eating, and cleaning up. Offer tools and guidance but allow them to take ownership of their tasks. And, remember the famous Montessori quote: "Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed."
This doesn't mean that your child should be doing everything without help. You should, however, let your child explore and try simple things on their own before you take over as long as there's time to do so.
Allow Uninterrupted Play
Avoid interrupting your child's concentration while they are engaged in an activity. Let them work through challenges and learn at their own pace.
Is your child working on a puzzle? Before stepping in, let them work it out on their own. They may surprise you!
Is your child struggling with an obstacle course or balance beam? Watch and see what they do, even if they don't seem to be doing it the "right" way. Exploration is excellent for development!
When these awesome times of triumph occur, praise their effort instead of the result. For example, I can often be heard saying "I like how you didn't give up!" or "Wow! You did it."
Promote Real Life Experiences
Include your child in daily housework and activities such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, and shopping. This involvement allows them to learn practical life skills and they can start to feel like valued contributors to the family.
What simple tasks can your child help with? Can they push a small cart in the grocery store? Can they put away dishes in low drawers and cabinets, or dust baseboards? Can they fold the dishrags?
There are so many age-appropriate chores and tasks for children! Don't overwhelm your child with tasks, but let them help.
Praise Efforts, Not Results
This can be a tough one for parents. While we all want to see our children succeed, children need to understand that their efforts matter most, even if they "fail" at the end of the day. This teaches them the value of hard work and perseverance as standalone things rather than things that lead to an end goal.
This isn't to say that you can't congratulate or reward your child for doing well on a test or winning a game, but you should also praise them while they're working toward that goal. Make it clear that you're rewarding their hard work, and be consistent with those rewards when your child doesn't succeed.
Children who are only praised for success may develop problems with perfectionism or worse, develop a need for extrinsic motivation. When you focus on efforts, you help your child be proud of themselves instead of looking to others for affirmation.
Don'ts of Montessori Parenting
So now that you know what to do, what shouldn't you do? What are some things that parents should avoid when it comes to following a Montessori lifestyle?
Again, while these are "don'ts," they're not "off-limits." They're things you should avoid when it's possible to do so, aiming for that "majority" of the time measure we discussed earlier.
Children can become easily overstimulated, and that can make them uncomfortable, cranky, hyper, and otherwise upset. It's okay for occasional overstimulation (during events and holidays, for example), but you want a generally calming environment so children can focus and relax.
Limit the number of toys and materials available to your child at any given time. Too many options can lead to distraction and prevent concentration. One practical strategy to deal with too many toys is to rotate toys based on developmental stage and interest. Toy rotation can be weekly or even monthly if you get busy.
Avoid Punishment When Possible
Instead of punishment, focus on positive reinforcement and guiding your child's behavior through clear and respectful communication. You don't want your child to fear you, and you don't want them to make choices based on arbitrary punishments or rules that they don't understand. Perhaps most importantly, you don't want to create a situation where your child begins focusing on how to be sneakier and how to get away with more, in the future.
Children want to know why they should or shouldn't do things. Explain rules, values and consequences to your child in a developmentally appropriate manner.
Again, this isn't to say that you'll never punish your child. Most of the time, however, you should rely on natural consequences.
Avoid Excessive Screen Time
Screen time is unavoidable for most modern families, but you can cut down on it. It's okay to have movie nights and allow your child to play educational games, but don't go overboard.
Limit screen time and prioritize real-life interactions and experiences. Screens can hinder the development of important skills and may lead to overstimulation. Further, excessive screen times takes away from time for reading, playing and using their imaginations.
Don't Disregard the Value of Movement
Encourage your child to move and be active. Physical activity is crucial for their overall development and learning.
Many children don't have enough physical playtime. Let your child go outdoors and burn off energy. Let them explore and tire themself out.
This is great for their brain, their motor skills, their health, and more.
There's No "Right" Way to Be a Montessori Parent
These Montessori parenting dos and don'ts should help you get on the right track with your child. Remember, the Montessori lifestyle can be modified to suit your family and your child. It isn't supposed to be restrictive.
You can make the Montessori method work for you. These dos and don'ts are suggestions for the majority of the time. Exceptions will always exist.
Whether you're new to Montessori parenting or you're looking for additional materials to help you along the way, the Multisori shop is full of helpful materials. Check out our free curriculum sample and visit the shop to expand your resources today.