The Role of a Montessori Parent as a Teacher
There are two basic types of education: formal and informal. Informal education is where the person is self-taught, without any help or guidance from a proper educator. The person gathers knowledge and information from their surroundings, making their self-education a priority.
Formal education comes through established institutes and teachers. These institutes cater to the children according to their ages. Kindergarten, primary or elementary school, high school, college, and universities are examples of such institutes. The roles of parents and teachers work parallel to each other. The child and their parents and teachers are connected in a triangle, all three interlinked with each other. Both teachers and parents have responsibilities they have to fulfill according to the needs of the child.
The Montessori Directress
Dr. Montessori referred to educators using her method as “directress”, rather than “teacher”. This is because “teacher” is a common term given to a person who teaches their students. But because within a Montessori environment the child is learning through guided instructions, not by the traditional method of learning, the educator in charge is only offering the child guidance.
A directress is in charge of preparing a safe environment with lots of physical and mental activities for the child to explore and learn. A directress should let her presence be felt and offer instructions to the children, but never interfere or make restrictions. As mentioned before, Dr. Montessori believed that the restrictive attitude of adults could shatter a child’s self-confidence.
Dr. Montessori proposed to major roles for a directress. One is preparing the environment for the child, and the other one is the preparation of the adult as an observer and guide who knows how to prepare and take care of the child. A directress should guide children and make them spiritually strong. To accomplish this, they need to understand the child’s needs.
According to Dr. Montessori, a directress is a scientist who connects with the child in a way that enables the child to explore the world around them. Instead of knowing how to teach, a directress should know how they can become a better guide and exploit the child’s full potential. A directress should be a refined observer, be fully aware of their spiritual and scientific approach and above all, their ultimate goal: to serve children and to help them to discover their hidden qualities.
A Parent as a Directress
A parent has the toughest responsibility of raising a child. They are responsible for bringing a child into this world and addressing their needs before and after birth. Even so, a parent should acknowledge the fact that they are their child’s caretaker, not their sovereign. It's their responsibility to provide a child with a safe and well-prepared environment for their potential growth.
The parent is the first formal educator in a child’s life. From infancy, and throughout their lives, a parent will stand by their child’s side, offering guidance as the child needs. Of course, we’re talking about the parent as a guide, not an adult who forces their views on the child. Restraining, pressuring, and controlling the child will never yield positive results, for a child or parent.
A parent should realize the difference between guided instructions and forced behavior. They should give the child enough freedom and independence to develop the confidence needed to survive in society. Letting the child make their own choices will enhance their decision-making skills in the future. They also are the judges of whether their choices were right or wrong, and will eventually learn to make sensible decisions.
Parents should build a strong connection with their children so that they can learn how to build trust in others. A parent should also address their child’s special needs or wants. If the child is hyperactive, for instance, special care and a sensible approach are needed to enable them to learn better.
For this purpose, parents have to learn to become keen observers so that they can sense the needs of their children and act accordingly. They must also learn to control their temper since outbursts of anger can harm their child. If a parent displays a positive attitude, their child is sure to pick up on this and live a happier life because of it.
SPECIFIC LANGUAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
Your relationship with your child is just like every other relationship. For it to thrive, healthy communication is crucial. In simple terms, communication is when you send and receive information to and from another person. This information can be visual, auditory or some other kind. We have already discussed the differences between verbal and non-verbal communication in previous chapters.
Communication builds trust, and as such, you must get it right, especially in the early stages of your child’s development. If your child feels like you understand them, it will be easier for them to relate to you and form better relationships in the future.
A healthy, open and expressive communication with your toddler will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Everybody loves to be understood, appreciated and respected. Toddlers and children are no different. When you communicate with them often, it makes them feel you value and respect them, which boosts their self-esteem.
Parents and educators who communicate openly will often have more obedient children. When you can communicate effectively with your toddlers, they are more willing to do the things you tell them to do. They see reason in what you are telling them to do, they understand you and they do these things not only because you asked them to, but because they want to. Remember, they are independent.
Communication with toddlers can be very tricky, though. You have to know just the right things to say in the right situations and what to avoid so as not to hurt their feelings. Here are a few tips on how to tread this slippery road.
- Ask and wait for a response. A child’s mind is always wandering. They could be completely absorbed in an activity one moment then run off to play the next. This is due to their need to explore anything and everything around them, so, when you ask a question or give an instruction, wait for a response. When they wander off or begin to talk about something else, draw their attention back to the subject and, nicely but firmly, ask for a response.
- Children have spats with one another, it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone involved is a troublemaker. Human beings and conflict are inextricable from one another. However, what you do in these situations goes a long way in the development of your child. If your child has a disagreement with another child, instead of settling the issue, guide them in resolving their problem. This instills social intelligence in everyone involved, teaching them that disagreements and misunderstandings can and should be solved by dialogue.
- It’s frustrating when children refuse to share. It causes a ruckus and it seems like there is no just way to settle it. So, Lisa wants to play with Chloe’s doll but Chloe doesn’t want to share. Lisa gets hurt and begins to wail but Chloe is set on her decision: it is her doll, after all, and she is not sharing. Instead of taking the doll from Chloe and handing it to Lisa, ask Chloe to share. If she refuses, let her be. Children are wired to think of themselves first but can be giving when they want to. Find something else for Lisa to play with, then when Chloe is done, she can have the doll.
- Let your child know that you understand them. When they’re sad, instead of just assuming to know why ask them about it. Prompt them to talk and listen without judging. Ask them why the situation is making them sad, then ask them what they want to do about it.
- Always ask questions. At this point, you probably already know the importance of asking your child questions instead of jumping to your conclusions. You might think you have a handle on what the problem is, but hearing them talk about it will give you a fresh perspective. It also allows them to vent and express themselves. This step will also make them feel like they can talk to you about anything, no matter how big or small it is.
- Never turn a blind eye to the feelings of your child. When you have hurt them, whether you think they deserved it or not, acknowledge it and apologize. Explain why you did it and call a truce. Children are human beings with real feelings and they are infinitely more sensitive than the average adult, so the smallest things can get to them.
- Try not to lie to your child. The truth is children are very observant of what goes on around them and even though it may not seem like it, they know when you lie to them. The child may not call you out on your lie or contradict but they still know.
- Use the proper words for objects. Avoid slangs as much as possible; we don’t want our toddlers picking up on wrong words, right?
PLAYING IS VITAL, BUT IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE WORK
Dr. Montessori always considered work to be the foundation of the Montessori method. She clearly understood that children take the tasks assigned to them very seriously if these tasks include tools and utensils meant for adults.
She chose to use the word "work" rather than "play" because this shows more respect for the child's inner strength and directs them to become a better adult.
She understood that play in the form of work—that is, practice and repetition—is what children must do to achieve this goal.
Dr. Montessori never put into question that "playing" was an appropriate and necessary activity. Rather, it is what allows children to "work" with real tools rather than plastic toys. In this way, the child can participate in real life activities instead of being relegated to a playroom.
She suggested giving the children the freedom to choose where to work and give them time to perfect their skills.
Perhaps if Maria Montessori had lived in our time, she would be appalled by the lack of freedom to play that children today have. Adults nowadays constantly try to control their children’s activities, which stunts their development.
It is right for parents to watch over children until they reach adolescence, trying to keep them away from danger, but they should still try to make their passions blossom and let them cultivate them as they wish.And let's not forget that usually there is always a lot to learn from difficulties. Crises have given rise to the best ideas because the individual has to fight and work hard to find the solution