How to talk to children about how to talk to people


This might be me. Prickly and cute, or cute and prickly. It might be me at my best, maybe. I don’t see myself objectively, but I just reflected on this as I responded all judgey to a post on Facebook. To another Montessori teacher, how ironic. My apolocy: “G & C fail.”

That is, “grace and courtesy fail.” That is, sorry, I should know better.

Montessori created the only educational system that I know of that contains “how to talk to people” as part of the curriculum. That’s what she called it “grace and courtesy”, very 19th century of her. It is part of the curriculum area: “Practical life” (also called “everyday living”). How practical, that it would be helpful to teach young humans things that will help them live, like how to blow their noses, how to greet people, and how to ask for help.

Some days in the classroom, I feel that this is 80% of what I do, to give those words: “You could say: ‘Will you come get me when you are done with that?'” “I might want to say: ‘Leave my work’ if someone did that to me.” “You could say: ‘I don’t want to be wet!'”

And then, of course, I am reminded of how I am supposed to talk to people. Good reminders. I need them every day.

We all know that it’s important to listen, but….


Great blog post on the importance of listening to your kids when they are excited to tell you something.

But what do you do when it is boring, or off topic, or they are interrupting Gramma, or you are trying to get them to put their shoes on and get out the door?

Make some clear boundaries around listening. It is a(another) life lesson.

1) Try the phrase: “I’m not available (right now).” Yes, you’d think that they could tell that, as you are covered in poop from their sister’s leaky diaper, but they can’t. If they were good at everything, they could move out. It might be followed with ” I will be available when…” Then, remember, you are not available. (I.e., follow through)

2) Or try: “You are not available right now, (because your shoes are not on, your bottom is not wiped, you are picking up your books, we are leaving, etc.)” Again, do not listen until they have done the next task, or you are in the car, or whatever.

3) Remember to become available, and make that clear. You may need to set a limit: “I can now listen to your story about rabbits, but that is the only story I can hear until_____.” Try to make your “availableness” very obvious (sitting down, lean toward child, gaze into their eyes, put down phone, do not continue cooking, or listening to NPR, or reading that article.)

It may seem that you are supposed to be “available” every minute, but by the time someone can sit up (and before), they can start to wait, and can learn to be able to give others both the freedom and attention that we all deserve.