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Reaching out to a friend who has children a bit older than yours can be a very comfortable way to get advice about your own parenting. When you are a part of the Montessori Family Alliance, the people to reach out to have very helpful pieces of advice.

Christine Lowry

The Montessori Foundation

Being a parent is both the most challenging and rewarding thing we can do. My advice is to respect your child’s sense of dignity. Children (especially young children) have a remarkable sense of self-worth, self-direction for their own growth, a sense of their value as people, and being worthy of honor and respect.

I had a sense of its importance as a parent but didn’t have the right language for it until I partnered with parents in my school. We often underestimate our children’s rich emotional life; their natural attunement to us, to their environment, and to the world; their need to explore, do it themselves; and struggle until they get it without our help. Their ‘inner guide’ is the motivation for everything they do. Sometimes, they ‘push back,’ and we feel that they are challenging us. Perhaps, if we could take just a moment to reflect on our child’s intense sense of dignity, we could more easily let go of our need now and see their need in a different light.

Cathie Perolman

Montessori Teacher Educator

If I had the chance to enhance my family, I would have created more family traditions during our younger years. We would have started with a weekly family pizza dinner and game night. This could have started with very simple frozen pizza and evolved into family-made pizza as the children got older and could cook. The games could have started out very short and simple and grown into more challenging games as the children grew. Initially, we could have included just our nuclear family, embracing their friends and other family members when they were tweens or teens. Perhaps this prediction would have carried over into their own families.

Other traditions might have included special breakfasts that we all helped plan, cook, and enjoyed on holidays, days off from school, snow days, etc. Remember, it only takes doing something twice for it to become a beloved family tradition. This could also have been true for something special after school on the last day of the school year or the first morning the family wakes up on summer vacation. I had a friend who said that weeks, months, and years needed to have “punctuation in the book of life.” Looking forward to doing things together helps a family want to spend time together, which is so important.

David Rotberg

Guide at Pines Montessori, Houston, TX

My wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and, instantly, we were parents. As a new parent, a new part of me seemed to come alive; a part of me that I didn’t know even existed.

As a young parent, I began to feel that I needed to ‘know’ how to raise a child ‘the right way.’ I read countless books about raising girls. We tried so many things, and yet none of it felt natural because it wasn’t us. We were just doing exactly what the books told us to do.

We spoke with friends and mentors who had older children (or were empty nesters) and asked for their advice/wisdom. Well, fast forward three more children (all boys), and we discovered there was not that one book, that one class, or that one person with all the answers. We eventually found what worked best for our family and what felt right for us. In addition, I also felt a responsibility to help our children live as themselves as much as possible.

By trying to fabricate experiences, read books, and schedule playdates, I tried to force their development too much and redirect their personalities. It didn’t happen at any moment in my parenting, but just gradually, over time, I realized that I had to trust what my wife and I were doing. Our children would be exactly who they were meant to be, and, to an extent, their personalities were hard-wired. I felt that I could breathe more and just trust my children’s growth. It took about five or six years and a few children to learn that, but hey, who’s counting?

Allowing children to make their own decisions and helping them to accept the natural consequences, positive or negative, of their decisions is my best parenting advice. As parents, we support our children by modeling decision making and helping them weigh the possible outcomes. Sometimes, allowing children to fail is what allows them to grow.

Lorna McGrath

The Montessori Foundation

When your child seems to be struggling with something, it can become an ongoing struggle, weighing them down or weakening their self-confidence. Talk to them. Help them with their self-talk and assure them that everyone struggles with something. Most things can be overcome with practice, time, support from others, and determination.

Be empathetic without trying to make it all better. They must do that. Don’t pity them; instead, be confident when they are not. Show them your strength, patience, and willingness to receive help from others. Let them know, “You/we got this!”

Margot Garfield-Anderson

The Montessori Foundation (retired)

My best advice to parents and grandparents is not to spoil anyone with things; instead, be invested and present when you have time with them. Bring them to places to show them there’s a world out there. Expose them to all the arts; take them on nature walks and teach them how to fix something when it’s broken or how to put something together. My favorite is to get them into the kitchen to cook— anything that helps them unplug from those devices. Help them learn to be of service in their communities.

I try to do this with my four granddaughters as well. We do art projects, listen to musicals, watch old movies, play board games, and do puzzles. We knit or crotchet, we paper mâché, we go to museums and science centers; we are going on a cave exploration this summer. I try to create times they will want to replicate and look back upon with the fondest of memories.

Dr. Nora Faris

Montessori Guide, NewGate School

One of the most revelatory experiences for me as a mom and as a person new to Montessori was just how wonderful the notion of Practical Life could be. As a new mom coming to Montessori twenty years ago, I was amazed as I observed what the children in the Primary classrooms could do by themselves. Not only did James (my husband) and I enroll the children in a Montessori school as fast as they would let us, but we left determined to see what else they could do for themselves at home, which turns out to be a lot! Adopting the motto “If you can do it for yourself, you should” has truly helped our children develop into the confident, capable young adults they have become.

As we get the occasional texts from our college-aged kids that read, “Thanks for teaching me how to do my laundry and cook,” or “Thanks for teaching me how to do hard things,” we are grateful for the lessons learned as new parents. Letting go of perfection-oftask thinking to make way for independenthuman-in-development activities was the best decision we made as parents. And, once we understood that anything could be broken into smaller steps towards a larger goal, we created a home environment that allowed our children to become confident and selfsufficient. This worked for driving practice, talk practice, form-completion practice, and more. As James and I look towards retirement, we wonder what practical-life lessons lay in store for us, too. We are eager to learn and set practical-life goals for ourselves as well.

Tammy Willen

Head of School, Bay Montessori School (Lexington Park, MD)

Through my time as a parent and a Montessori educator, I’ve learned many things I wish I could have put into practice when my children were young. As a child, I was a Montessori student, and as an adult, I became a Montessori educator. Therefore, I was very knowledgeable of the “Montessori Method” and did my best to parent along a similar path. Now that my kids are teenagers and I have life experience and more training, I’ve learned a few things I wish I’d done when my kids were young.

Many parents think we know what’s best for our children. Although my heart was in the right place, I often forgot to listen to my child, both through their words and through their actions. Most parents think a three-year-old still needs a nap and a four-year-old needs to eat at each meal. We think a seven-year-old should know how to read, and a ten-year-old should know how to speak kindly to a friend. We often spend a great amount of time trying to control our child’s behaviors. What I encourage others to do is to observe, model, follow, and guide.

If I could go back to my children’s preschool years, I’d throw my expectations (and everyone else’s) out the window and watch my child show me their full potential. In schools, I hear many parents say, “He should be…” or “I wish she could…” or “When she does ….” My advice to parents is to eliminate should from your vocabulary and let your child blossom at their own unique pace.

Cheryl Allen

The Montessori Foundation

Family meetings, held regularly, give every person in the family a chance to be a part of decisions and solutions. Knowing that your topic of concern or interest will be addressed goes a long way in helping to develop confidence. Having a voice in the family can make connections stronger and allow the family to work together.

Renee Duchainey-Farkes

The Montessori Foundation

I would advise parents to be focused on a partnership with the school and the teachers, because we are all working for a common purpose: the child. Parents should attend as many school events as possible, even those that are not focused specifically on their child; it helps build school community.

Share expectations and goals for your child with the teacher and get affirmation that these are the right ones for your child. Learn from your child’s teacher.

Share your family’s culture, values, and parenting practices with your child’s teacher. Attend PTA meetings and get involved, if you can, to support the school to be the best place for children. Actively help teachers and the school to recruit volunteer parents to help. 