As a first-time stay-at-home mom in 2019, I remember struggling with many things as they related to spending time with my kids. From sleep and eating challenges to entertaining them for hours on end – sometimes it all felt like too much. How was I to “do” this whole “parenting thing” well, with multiples at home? Add a move plus a pandemic to the mix, and I was sure in for a year of growing pains as a mom.
At the beginning of COVID-19’s impact on our city, I discovered the Montessori approach to child development, and our home has since never been the same. The primary way I think it’s shifted our family dynamic is this: we are all more freed up to function in the ways we are best suited to at any given time.
Montessori parenting focuses on cultivating independence.
From transitioning our toddlers from cribs into floor beds to not reprimanding them for opening the fridge to get their own snack, the Montessori approach has taught us to enable as much independence as possible for our kids. And the best part is, we’ve seen the fruit of doing so as SO good and worthwhile. While we still set boundaries and limits of the options available, we’re watching our kids thrive and develop in incredible ways, all because they’re leading their rest, play, snacks, and more. We spend lots of time reading, working, and playing together too. But they also have options to do all of the above on their own at any time, available at their level and in their particular areas of interest. Both girls can get ready for the day in many elements of self-care all on their own, and they love having the option to ready themselves without my assistance or intervention. Not only is this fun and developing for them, but I’m no longer chasing toddlers to brush their teeth or cleaning up breakfast on my own. The desire to take ownership and responsibility for things is innate, and it’s been a joy to watch our girls grow in this way.
Montessori parenting welcomes your childs’ feelings.
Before discovering Montessori, I carried a lot of anxiety about how to tend to my kids during times of heightened emotions. One of my favorite things about this approach is the emphasis on respecting our kids in their feelings just like we would an adult! For example, we’d never tell a peer to “stop crying. It’s not that big of a deal” (or if we would, they may not feel very cared for by our response!). But why is that a common practice in parenting? To shut our children’s emotions down because we don’t think what they’re feeling should matter as much?
I’ve found it so refreshing personally and restoring parentally to shepherd our kids through naming and feeling their emotions with tons of permission to “come as they are.” Sure, there are plenty of times they’re disproportionately reacting to something insignificant. But what’s wonderful about the Montessori approach is the reminder that to our kids, it IS significant, and we can respect them by acknowledging their reality, meeting them where they’re at, and seeking to remain unphased by their highs/lows. Helping my kids regulate their emotions has taught me to regulate my own better and enabled me to remain calm even in the midst of chaos. And when I react in a way that doesn’t align with my values, I don’t have to stress about it and instead apologize to my kids. Again, normalizing my emotions right along with their own, we get to welcome feelings and all the imperfections that can accompany them.
Montessori parenting relaxes your environment.
The other overall game-changer Montessori introduced to our home has been fostering independent play. I used to carry so much mom-guilt about cultivating opportunities for my kids to play independently and didn’t even know how to initiate this kind of time. As a result, my kids were dependent on me for entertainment 24/7 and pretty uncomfortable with me leaving the room. The Montessori approach has enabled me to know each of my kids better (seeing what types of play they gravitate towards and preparing our home accordingly) and have independence myself! This was foreign to me before 2020, but now I can read a bit of a book, cook a meal, make a phone call, or simply shower and get ready, all while my kids are happily entertaining themselves. And when they want to be with me, but I have a task needing tending to, we do the work together. These girls are big fans of dishes and laundry by now!
Montessori has enabled us to set the tone for our home, rhythms, and routines in a way that fits our family’s overall vision and meets our kids right where they’re at. While 2020 threw plenty of unexpected challenges our way, having Montessori practices in mind completely shifted how our year went versus 2019. We made room for our own interests as adults, involved our kids in daily tasks (in Montessori, this is called “practical life activities”) instead of only accomplishing what we could while they slept, and further pursued each of our girls’ individual interests and stages. I’m so thankful for this at-ease approach to parenting and for how it’s changed our experiences at home all day for the better!
Have you ever utilized any Montessori approaches in your home? How has your child responded if so?