Your day can be ruined when your child tells you that something upsetting happened at school. Maybe a friend wouldn’t play with your child, or a classmate called your child a name, or any number of possible scenarios. The first thing your gut tells you to do is immediately call and complain to someone. The first thing we should do is pause. This is a time to listen and ask questions, not to solve the problem.
First, ask your child to tell you more. “Tell me more about that”, is encouraging in so many situations and perfect when dealing with an upset. Ask about their feelings, then ask how they think the other child may be feeling. You may even want to ask them, what they would have liked to have happened. Pause before you reach out to other adults or try to solve the problem for your child.
Statements and Questions to find out more about an upset:
“Tell me more about that.”
“What was happening before (problem)?”
“How did it make you feel?”
“How do you think (other person) felt?”
“What do you think (other person) is saying about this?”
“If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently?”
If you do need to contact an adult at the school, begin with the guide who was in the space. Through the appropriate communication channels for your school, let the guide know that your child was upset and your child’s version of the event. Be open to the fact that you are hearing only one angle, and work in partnership with your school if you need to provide any assistance in finding a solution.
One time, my older child came to me and said, “T pushed me!” When we asked her about it, she said she did push him. When we began to work with her to think of another way she could have managed rather than pushing, she responded, “Tell him not to jump on my foot.” We realized we had not filled up on what happened before she pushed. So, we received honest but incomplete information from our son. The real help they needed was discussing a different concern that led to standing on a foot and pushing him off. I needed to ask, “Tell me more about that.” •
Cheryl Allen is the Associate Coordinator of the Montessori Family Alliance and is also a parenting educator and a Montessori consultant with the Montessori Foundation.
Cheryl attended Montessori school as a child. After some time as a traditional Secondary teacher, she worked in Montessori classrooms, 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12, earning certifications from both AMS (3-6 and 6-9) and IMC (6- 12). She is a teacher educator, workshop presenter, and member of IMC accreditation teams. Cheryl’s two children attended Montessori from age two through high school graduation.