Ideas from the Montessori Classroom
"Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child."
How often do multi-tasking parents wish for some "peace and quiet,” especially with the busy holiday season upon us? Some parents say they retreat to the bathroom for time alone, only to find their children knocking or calling through the door. How can we keep our own inner composure and help our children learn to be thoughtful of others and content with themselves? In other words, what makes peace happen?
Recent research confirms that behavior change often precedes changes in attitudes and feelings. And Maria Montessori got it right by modeling calmness and respecting children's needs as she helped them learn the Silence Game, the lessons of Grace and Courtesy, and how to care for themselves, the classroom and everything in it.
If you've visited a Montessori class, you've seen this in action. There is a peaceful hum as the children engage themselves in work either separately or together. It is easy to adapt some of Montessori's principles at home.
Rhythms & Routines at Home
You no doubt are already providing your child with a sense of security by your regular routines of daily living. Knowing what to expect makes room for peace of mind as there is no need to be anxious about what might happen next. As your child learns to help with chores and play independently, he gains the ability to feel in control. You can continue to build both inner and outer peacefulness by adapting the following ideas to your routines:
Recite and repeat a familiar poem or song. Help your child to learn it, too. Repetitive sounds and rhythms help to quiet the brain. You might start with what you know, singing together the ABC song or reciting a favorite nursery rhyme.
Stop to observe and listen to nature: a sunset, an animal, the ocean. Or, just stop anytime, take a deep breath (better yet, five) and listen for a moment.
Practice and model courteous behavior at home. Say "hello" and "goodbye" directly and with meaning, and of course, "good morning, " "please, " and "thank you."
Establish a bedtime routine that provides time to transition from the busy to the quiet. Read, sing a song, or say a prayer together before the final "good night." If your child does not already have special "security " objects and routines, help them to find self-soothing methods (arranging pillows, dolls, curtains, lights, etc.) that are comforting for solitary peacefulness.
Holidays at Home
As the holiday season approaches we have many opportunities to help our children learn about gratitude, empathy, generosity, and courtesy. By incorporating some of the following ideas into our homes, we can create a more peaceful world.
Take time for a moment of gratitude before a meal.
Talk about the magic of the season: bright and twinkling lights, celebrations with family and friends.
Make plans together for sharing with others: making cards or gifts, baking goodies for friends, visiting shut-ins, planning surprises. Do take the time to savor the joy in your heart and the peace at home. Happy Holidays!
By Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2011