Today’s ideas are less practical than those in part 1, but the concepts have been helpful to me in understanding Liam.
5. Independence: I touched on this in my last post. The concept of building independence for the child’s sake (rather than the adult’s, as most parenting books advocate) is so refreshing. Many of the practical ideas are geared toward building independence. For example, I try to resist over-helping Liam. If he is reaching for a toy, I let him struggle a bit to get it on his own. He is so proud when this happens. I am also trying to facilitate future independence by talking him through the rhythms of our day (so I tell him what I am doing when I am dressing him or making a snack for myself). However, independence isn’t forced (we’re talking about a five-month-old baby, after all!). We don’t push Liam to roll or stand. It’s all about providing opportunities and letting him develop at his own pace.
6. Concentration: When an infant is playing well and focused on something, it is important to let him or her maintain that focus and develop concentration. As a first time mom, I initially wanted to and felt like I should constantly interact with and pick up my baby. But this advice has been so helpful. Through giving Liam more time to play quietly and concentrate, he has been able to focus for even longer periods of time, something I definitely want to encourage.
7. Order: This one really challenged me! The authors talk about how order in the environment encourages order in the thinking process. It makes me think of how some of us have to clean our rooms or find a clean space before we can study. Liam notices if anything is out of order; if I leave the vacuum out, that is what he chooses to stare at. Sometimes he is so distracted by something new in the room that he won’t go to sleep.
I want to teach him order from a young age which challenges me to have a place for everything (and to get rid of what we don’t need–more on this in the future). In his room, we have a little shelf that houses just a few toys. Children need a very clear idea of what goes where from a young age. I also try to put up toys or books when we are finished with them, and I talk to him about this.
8. Discipline: I wasn’t excited about a chapter entitled “The Developing Will.” I assumed it would be more incredibly complex discipline advice. However, this chapter may have affected me more profoundly than any other. The authors explain what one can expect from children of various ages based on their brain development and resulting capabilities. I don’t know why I never thought about how cognitive development should feed into what we expect from young children. Christian parenting books are often so wrapped up in the concept of “born in sin” that they see everything the child does as utter disobedience from birth.
Montessori believes that a child needs control of himself or herself and a definite sense of respect for others and authority. However, this doesn’t mean the infant is deliberately disobeying when he crawls into an area the parent told him not to. The authors write, “This slow development of abstract reasoning and of understanding social behavior has strong implications for the adult’s response in aiding the child’s formation of will in her first six years” (200).
For example, trying to reason with a child under six is difficult because it takes years for the capacity for abstract thought to develop. So when you try to explain to a two-year-old why she can’t have the vase, “Sweetie, the vase is very important to Mommy. Her grandmother gave it to her, and it is breakable. The vase needs to stay on that shelf,” all she hears is, “Vase! Vase! Vase!” cementing her desire for the vase. This would have changed a few of my more difficult babysitting and teaching moments! Instead of reasoning, redirection is crucial.
With an older child, redirection takes the form of language rather than sensory redirection (they give the example of the child who doesn’t want to potty. Instead of making it an issue, the teacher just asks, “Would you like to use the red potty or the blue potty today,” using language to redirect the child). I also love the authors’ strategies for preventing common battles (like getting dressed). I will have to come back to this when Liam is a little older (and I’m sure I will have the ability to re-evaluate it then, as well).
It is important to create an environment where the child has as much freedom as possible. In education, experienced teachers often say that an engaging lesson will prevent many classroom management problems. While it doesn’t fix everything, an engaging lesson does make a difference.
In parenting, providing structure (in the form of routines) is crucial, as is providing a place where the child is free to explore. We are still working on this. I want Liam to know what to expect–to feel the rhythms of his day. However, some days are still more survival focused.
On a humorous note, I this commercial during the Macy’s Day Parade. This may or may not be our house at times. While we don’t use flash cards, we do have a mama playing a guitar quite poorly. However, he is all smiles for it, so I guess we’ll keep on!
Watch for a family update post today or tomorrow. Bug has his second round of shots today. Why can’t the mom take it for the baby!?