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Notes to a Montessori Parent. Torn between Idealism and Reality.

Otto and Otis at How we Montessori  three months and three years  Brisbane

"I am a firm believer in the Montessori method, but I do recognize its collision with reality at times. My experience is that the reality is not that following the Montessori method would result in a self-centered child. Rather, it is extremely difficult for parents to truly carry out the Montessori methods. The deep respect for the child that Maria Montessori promoted is very challenging to implement in a daily life with young children, especially when parents are overwhelmed with balancing work and home. I fail constantly and it pains me greatly. The introspection and humility required in a Montessori parent sometimes go directly against our human psyche. How do we parents balance following the child with being an effective leader amidst so much weaknesses and imperfections in ourselves?"

I read this comment on another site recently and I could really feel the parent, it hurt to read. We can put too much pressure on ourselves, we can feel torn between idealism and reality. I believe the Montessori philosophy sets a framework and offers guidance and support to parents, it's not about the pursuit of being a perfect parent. My advice to myself and to others who may feel the pressure to be more or feel like they can't always parent in a Montessori way is to:

  • Parent from the Heart first. This is the only way to be honest and true to yourself. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. There have been lots of minor and not so minor decisions we've made along the way from weaning, sleep to finding a school for the boys, but first and foremost was how the decision made me feel inside, what felt right. Reading about Montessori has given me lots of guidance, ideas and inspiration but my personal goal has never been to be a Montessori parent but the best parent I can be at any given time.
  • Give yourself time. A friend of mine and parent at our school recently shared how she is having trouble staying calm and not snapping or yelling at her boys. I find our parenting styles to be similar however I could see that she wasn't giving herself time. Her children were testing her and she was reacting without giving herself time to consider a response. I'm not going to suggest counting to ten or taking a deep breath but just give yourself time, then parent from the heart. 
  • Don't take it personally. My friend as mentioned above spoke of one situation where her children were acting in a completely age appropriate, testing the limits kind of way. It should be expected. Yet her response was personal, emotive and hurtful. It can be difficult to take the heat out of the moment but keep in mind your children's behaviour most often will not be aimed at you personally, most often they will be acting in an age-appropriate way, most children will test their parents, they will push the boundaries they need to know where they are. Not taking it personally can change the way that we react. 
  • Don't feel the pressure to conform. You need to parent in a way that is true to you, and possibly your partner. Sure, talk to teachers, read books and blogs maybe, talk a lot to friends and parents of your children's friends, gather ideas, hear how others approach different issues, but don't feel the pressure to conform, don't feel like you have to be like or act like anyone else or do something just because it's the Montessori way of doing it, it has to make sense to you! 
  • Allow your children to see your flaws. If we pretend we are perfect our children will get an unrealistic view of the world. I am socially awkward and often let my children see this and sometimes laugh about it afterwards. I own up to my mistakes in front of my children. I apologize to them for when things have gone wrong. Handle difficult situations with grace, we all make mistakes it's how we handle them that counts. 
  • You set the tone. You as the parent set the tone of your home. You can have a calm home in times of stress, I know you can. You can slow down your home life in a fast-paced world. 

Over the years I've got to know a lot of Montessori parents, teachers and bloggers and feel like there is never an intent to apply pressure to parent in a specific way or to be free from fault, rather the intent is to support and provide ideas and suggestions to others. If you are feeling frustrated, like you are failing or you are feeling undue pressure, let me know, perhaps there is a way we can support each other. 

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