Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The tool Pay Attention is an ever more important tool in this day and age.  With the portability and availability of media, our attention is constantly being split an bombarded.  Children have more to compete with now than they ever have before.  Parents have more distractions then ever before.  This can be an obstacle to your relationship with your children.

Here is my confession.  The other day my baby was sleeping, his one and only nap of the day.  I finished up my chores and sat down to read some blogs on my computer, when my daughter asks if I want to play Sorry.  I agree to play and tell her to set it up, while I quickly scan through a few more posts.  Once she has it all set up, I am completely immersed in something and really would like to use my "break" to just sit and read.  I feel guilty about that, so instead I take my laptop down to the floor and attempt to play and read at the same time.  My daughter has to keep reminding me that it is my turn.  And I keep losing my place in what I am trying to read.

Neither one of us is getting what we need at that moment!

The tool card says to put down whatever you are doing and focus on your child.  This may be easier said then done.  With your cell phone ringing, the game on tv, emails coming in and music playing on you ipod, your child may be taking a backseat to the media in your life.  Children need our undivided attention.  The don't need it all the time, but depending on their age there is minmum amount of one on one time that they need regularly.  I went over these requirements when we worked with the Special Time tool card.

By trying to read and play I was sending her a message that what we were doing together was not that important to me.  I really didn't intend to send that message, but I see how it could easily be perceived that way.  In the end, we only played for about 15 minutes before the baby woke up.  That 15 minutes could have been much better spent focusing my energies entirely on her, or not!

The thing is, children do need our undivided attention, but not all the time.  We should not be at their beck and call either.  I know some parents who will drop what they are doing, including having an adult conversation to attend to their child's request for attention.  I don't think that is very healthy for the child either.

Once again we must find a balance.  Spend quality time, with all your attention on your child on a regular basis, but then allow them to have time to themselves, to find things to do and figure out problems on their own.  When your child asks you to play with him decide whether or not he has had enough one on one time today or not, and then decide if you are able at that moment to tune everything else out and focus on your child.  Children need to know that we are there for them and that we enjoy our time with them, but they also need to know that there are times when we are busy with something else and they need to wait or figure it out on their own.  If you let them know that you are busy with something and that you will do what it si that they are asking when you are finished or at a designated time, they can feel assured that they are important to you and they will have their time with you.

It is easy to make children feel loved, it just takes a little time and attention!

Next week: Small Steps!

Friday, August 24, 2012

I love this!

This is a great reminder for the start of a new school year.  Print this, bookmark it, frame it, share it and LIVE it!

Thank you to Beautiful Sun Montessori!

Beautiful Sun Montessori: Meditation for teachers.: When I graduated from my training, in my diploma folder was a copy of the "Montessori's Ten Commandments". I framed it and put it over my...

Things are getting "friendly" around here...

Positively Montessori is now on Facebook!!!  I will use this forum for sharing articles that I find interesting, helpful or maybe crazy.  I will also use it to share little bits of information I think you might enjoy, as well as some major milestones that we reach in our home.

I hope you "like" it!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kind and Firm

One very important aspect of Positive Discipline is to be Kind and Firm at the same time.  This is a very difficult concept for many parents and teachers to master.  Instead of doing them both at the same time, people often fluctuate back and forth between too kind and too firm.  I know I have been guilty of this. My daughter pushes my buttons until I snap.  I yell or say something I don't really mean, and then I feel guilty for having been so tough on her and I try to make up for it by being extra nice.  It is a vicious cycle, and hard to get out of.  Sometimes one parent is too nice, so the other parent tries to make up for the perceived lack of firmness and is extra strict with the children.  Both scenarios are very confusing for children.

In Montessori we have a similar expression, Freedom and Discipline.  The two concepts are dependent upon eachother.  When Montessori talks about discipline in the child it is something that comes from within.  A mastery and control of one's self is to be disciplined.  This is something that children gain during their first six years of life.  Freedom to the child, is to be able to follow their inner teacher and to fulfill their needs completely.

Just like Kind and Firm,  Freedom and Discipline must come together.  Too much of one and the other is sacrificed.  Freedom in the Montessori classroom means choice.  Children are free to choose what they will work with depending on their interest.  It is kind to allow children to make choices for themselves and do as they desire, but it will not work unless there are limits.  Montessori limits are clear and simple.  1. All actions must take into consideration the greater interest of the group, and 2. Knowledge precedes choice.  With these two simple ideas children can find a balance between what they desire to do and what is acceptable.   A teacher or parent can kindly and firmly implement the limits.

How does this look in real life?  A child who takes out the scissors and attempts to cut a piece of paper, but hasn't yet been shown that lesson will gently be reminded that he has not yet had that lesson and will need to put it away.  Another child, who as had a lesson with cutting paper, takes out the scissors and attempts to cut another child's hair.  This child will be reminded kindly that the scissor are only for cutting paper.  It would not be in the greater interest of the group to allow children to cut whatever they want with the scissors.  In neither situation would the teacher yell, shame or punish the child.  A clear reminder of the limits with a kind tone will often solve the problem.

I am not saying that this is all that will be necessary.  Further action is often necessary, and that is when another tool might come into play.  The important thing about the Kind and Firm tool, is that you continue to use it at all times.  It is beneficial to approach each interaction with your children both kindly and firmly.  Rules are rules, and they can and must be enforced, but it can be done in a kind and respectful manner.  Shame and blame are not kind and aren't even more effective at teaching then a more respectful approach would be.

Children need to feel free to make choices for themselves, but they are not ready to make all their own decisions yet, and that is why they need limits.  Limits allow the children to acquire self discipline.  When they know what to expect and what is expected of them, they feel confident in their ability to make choices and do so happily.  If you kindly implement consistent limits in your home, you will feel like a better parent and your children will gain self mastery, a trait that will carry them throughout their life. Remember, children do better when they feel better, and children feel better when they are approached with kindness and firmness at the same time!

Coming up next: Pay Attention!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toileting Part 2

I just wanted to give an update on our progress, or lack there of in the toileting department.  As you may recall, we started with potty training our youngest back in february, and then went full steam ahead in July.  We have been putting him in training underpants while awake since July 1st.

The point is for him to feel when he wets and desire to change right away, and eventually want to avoid wetting all together by using the potty.  So far, it has been DIFFICULT!  I know we are not supposed to compare our children, so I am not saying that he is more difficult, but I have had a much more difficult time with toileting this time.

He is wet almost all the time.  There are times that he pees in his underpants, so I take him to the potty, he sits there and pees a little bit, we put new underpants on and walk out of the bathroom, and he pees AGAIN!  I think, or at least I am telling myself, that this is his learning process.  The only reason he could possibly be going three times in a matter of minutes is because he is practicing his control over urinating.  He realizes that he is going and stops himself - good, then he sits on the potty and begins to go again - good, then he stops himself and we put clean underpants on and he finishes the job - not good!  I am hoping that this new found control will eventually turn into an ability to choose to go on the potty and not in his underpants, I will keep telling myself that it will anyway.

Another clue that he is learning from the process is that he says uh-oh and grabs his penis when he starts to go.  Unfortunately, he almost always does this right after I put on his diaper for nap or bed.  Diapers, even cloth are designed to pull the wet feeling away from the body right away.  This is good when your baby is an infant, but not so good for toilet training.  For that reason I am researching training pants that are more absorbant, enough for him to be able to sleep comfortably in them, but will still allow him to feel wet when he starts to go.  I will let you know what I discover as I go through this process.

I am once again reminded that each child is different, and requires a different path to get to the same end point.  I am going to stick it out, continue with the training process, and do it as positively as possible.  I just can't promise that I will enjoy the job!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This weeks tool was Motivation.  This tool always takes me back to the Parenting with Positive Discipline training that I took.  I remember walking into the room, seeing a group of chairs forming a large circle, finding my seat and then looking around reading hand written posters on the walls.  The very first poster I read said, "Children DO better when they FEEl better."  I thought to myself, "Wow, that is a really nice idea!"  It seemed a little obvious, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that is isn't the mainstream way of thinking.

Later that morning, as we began learning more about Positive Discipline, we discussed the common idea that we have to make children feel bad, or sorry, for their actions to get them to do better.  As common a belief as this is, I was instantly struck by the irony of it!  Why would anyone be inspired to do better when they are made to feel worse?  I know for a fact that when people make me feel bad for mistakes or choices I have made I am not very often inspired to do better.  In fact, I am usually discouraged and feel like giving up, proving them right by doing worse, or doing better in a spiteful and angry manner.  People, in general, Do better when they FEEL better.

I think this idea makes sense to most people, but so often we hear parents and educators saying things like, "Children need to pay for mistakes".  Somehow we have associated suffering or punishment with teaching a lesson.  A lesson should not be hurtful, shaming, blaming or humiliating.  Remember, discipline does not mean to punish, it means to teach.

If we want children to learn from their mistakes, we need to make them feel good first, then teach them kindly.  To motivate children to do better you should look for solutions to problems with them.  When children are a part of the solution they feel respected, self confident and encouraged.  All this feeling good goes a long way when we are talking about learning from mistakes.

I can anticipate critiques of the post saying that what I am describing sounds very permissive, so I will address that quickly and in greater detail next week when we look at the tool: Kindness and Firmness.
A parent who is too permissive or too strict will do an injustice to their child.  Children need freedom as well as limits, but there needs to be a balance that is respectful to the child, all other involved individuals and the situation.  I will discuss what this looks like next week!

Monday, August 6, 2012


The tool card we worked with most recently was Empower Your Kids!  When Jane Nelson shares this tool she does so in comparison with enabling your children, as in Empower vs. Enable.  Which would you choose?  Which are you currently doing?  It is surprising to many parents when they discover that the things they do in the name of love or protection, are actually enabling their children.  When you enable your children they get the message from you that they are not capable or competent.  I am sure no parent would choose to give this message to their children, but without knowing we do it all the time.

One type of enabling that I see all the time is: Doing things for the child that he could do for herself.  Parents love their children, and they think that the way they should show their love is by "helping" their children as much as possible.  In Montessori we see this as one of the biggest obstacles that parents create for their children.  Montessori said, "Any unnecessary help is a hinderance to development".  Every time you do for a child what she could do herself, you might as well tell her aloud, "You are not capable of doing that, let me do if for you"!  Of course parents would rarely say it in words, but their actions are saying it loud and clear to the child.  By allowing your child to complete the task on his own to the best of his ability you empower her.

This form of empowerment starts at birth.  As soon as the child is capable of doing something, you must let her.  When the child is capable of digesting food, feed her solids.  When she is able to grasp a spoon, let her do so in attempts to feed herself.  No, all the food won't make it to her mouth, and you may need a second spoon to ensure that some of the food does make it in, but don't take that opportunity from her.  This continues as they develop: drinking from a glass, crawling, walking, using the toilet, running, climbing, spending time away from you, all the way to driving, and eventually living alone!

Children must be allowed to do for themselves, and know that you are behind them, believing in them and supporting them from a distance.  We can't constantly protect them, hover over them, make excuses for them, over protect them, and rescue them, and then expect them to be able to do things for themselves.  When we enable them we break them down, and when we empower them we build them up!

You can start empowering your children today.  Express your faith in them, work with them to find solutions to problems and teach life skills, try to step back and let go, a little bit at a time.  When we let go and give children power over themselves they rise to the occasion.  When they have to go behind our backs to use their power they often make undesirable choices.  They will make mistakes when you empower them too, but they just need to be reminded that mistakes are wonderful opportunities for learning.  Check out an older post on embracing mistakes.  Children who are given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them get stronger, smarter, and more confident in their ability to handle what life brings.  That is what I want, children who grow up to be confident capable adults!

Next week: Motivation.