We have recently had a most challenging child at school: very, very bright, and struggling very hard to self-soothe during adjustments or transitions.  Any transitions at all, including things that the child wanted to do, like get out his lunch and eat a cookie, caused crying.

What I have learned from this child: patience, empathy, respect for hard work, and also, when the child can be calm, it is his brain which does the most to help him.  Not that a lap, or a hug, or a empathetic look or remark does not help him calm down, a lot.  But, ultimately, it is when his mind is engaged, when he is intrigued or fascinated or curious or observant or amused, and his brain is working, that he is the most calm, during turbulent times.

This does not mean that we try to distract him with flashing lights and funny clowns, but calmly demonstrate something intriguing, and sit back.  We model our own enjoyment, and invite.

There has been a lot for me to learn in watching this process unfold.

Maria Montessori

2nd November 1946: The founder of the Montessori Schools, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in a classroom in Acton, London with a group of children. Original Publication: Picture Post – 4244 – The Woman Who Made School Fun – pub. 1946 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images)

“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole, which has roots in the distant past and climbs towards the infinite future.” Maria Montessori

Image and quote put together by Dirigo Montessori School

I had someone report a comment made about me by a former parent at school; something like “Mary X, but yet my children just love her.” 🙂  Yes, I have thousands of faults (another chapter!), and I have learned a lot about how to be with children, by watching wonderful people be with children. *

What I have learned: be honest, be real, think about how they see things and how they see you, answer the question you think they don’t know how to ask, have clear boundaries, give attention, or do not (don’t try to be “always on”), get down low, sit down, look in their faces and listen.  Ask for help.  Apologize.  Thank them for their help. Take them seriously.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Be prepared to be wrong, and to correct yourself.  Assume that a child who is “misbehaving” doesn’t have a needed skill, then teach that skill.  Correct a child’s negative self talk : “I forgot to….”; “It looks like you remembered about it.”  Be respectful of emotions, if not opinions. Decide  what is negotiable, and what is not, and don’t coach what is not as a question.  Allow natural consequences, when appropriate.  Be empathetic, without rescuing.  Set up routines, and let them be the boss.  Be prepared to keep learning.  Don’t take things personally.

This is comforting to me, that I don’t need to be the most beautiful, charming, witty, funny, entertaining or fun person, although it would be nice to be all of those things.  I can learn to be myself and be with children.

* Barbara Carter, Jerome Berryman, Martha MacDermott, Cheryl Smith, Jon Durham, Terri Reddick, Virginia MacLeod, Vivian Lawson, Jennie Millsapps, Mary Williams, Cinda McGuinn, Carolina Elliott, Mary Boyer, Carole Towers, Erin Kirby, Joy Flint.



Parenting goals

capable child

Another Positive Discipline activity I love is called: Two Lists.  It helps you remember the bigger goals behind parenting, separate from “getting him to brush his teeth”, or “getting her to listen.”  Imagine your child as an adult.  What do you want him/her to be like?  What attributes would you love to recognize in them?

Jane Nelson has a list of seven, to help you focus:

Strong perception of personal capablilities: “I am capable.”

Strong perception of significance in primary relationships: “I contribute in meaningful ways and I am genuinely needed.”

Strong perception of personal power or influence over life: “I can influence what happens to me.”

Strong intrapersonal skills; the ability to understand personal emotions and to use that understanding to develop self-discipline and self-control.

Strong interpersonal skills; the ability to work with others and develop friendships through communicating, cooperating, negotiating, sharing, empathizing and listening.

Strong systemic skills; the ability to respond to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility and integrity.

Strong judgmental skills; the ability to use wisdom and to evaluate situations according to appropriate values.

So, when you are teaching, modeling, correcting, inviting….think about what skills will be taught, directly, or indirectly, by your methods.