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When We Parent...

April 17, 2018

 

Someone asked me a question recently that began with, "When you parent..." 

 

When don't I parent? 

 

For years, a poster hung in my house that I'd received from a children's advocacy group. "Live your life as though someone is watching," it read, "because someone is." 

 

Parenting doesn't happen in checklists or by chapters. In the Montessori classroom, we design spaces that are intended to evoke and support particular kinds of engagements all the time, so that children's authentic, lived experiences in the classroom can help to propel them. Parenting works in the same way. We don't parent in hour-long segments or one topic at a time. We share a space with our children, modeling for them in a thousand little messages who it is we believe they are and what we believe they are capable of becoming.

 

For example, we often tell our children that we want them to demonstrate particular behaviors that we may not notice in ourselves. Your child leaves their plate on the kitchen counter and it's a major offense, but you might leave your own coffee mug there for hours without noticing. Your child squirms at the dining room table and they get in trouble for wiggling, but you get up and down from the table whenever you choose. 

 

Children are watching us, all the time, and even when we don't know they're paying attention. Indeed, children are watching us even when they don't know they're paying attention! The norms of our environments become internalized for children as "How We Do Things Here." That's why modeling matters. Your child learns far more from what they watch you do than they'll ever learn from what they hear you say. 

 

Think about the things you hope for your child, and ask first how you can model valuing those things. Montessori reminded us, "Children become like the things they love." If you want a change for your child, you might first have to make it in yourself. 

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