Montessori at Home: The Mindset of a Montessori Parent

Mindset of a Montessori Parent

“One test of the correctness of educational process is the happiness of the child"
- Maria Montessori

Aspiring Montessori parents are usually familiar with the term "Prepared Environment". The phrase immediately brings to mind pictures of a well designed kids room or play space, well lit and beautiful, with pretty shelves and carefully selected books and toys. However there is another, invisible, yet crucial part of a Montessori home - the psychological environment. It is the mindset of us, adults. A mindset required to make child's space nurturing and safe. It doesn't always come naturally, and may take time and effort to cultivate. The Montessori philosophy, deeply rooted in respect for the child and their natural development, is a guiding light in this endeavor for parents and educators alike.

Let's explore the key aspects of what it means to adopt the mindset of a Montessori parent.

Observe and Adapt

Maria Montessori emphasized the importance of 'sensitive periods' in a child's life, times when they are extraordinarily open to certain aspects of learning. As parents, our role is to be keen observers. Notice what captivates your child's interest. Are they drawn to colors, shapes, or perhaps the intricate way things fit together? This isn't just a phase of fleeting interest; it's a window into their current developmental needs.

Ever notice how toddlers want to touch literally everything? As parents we may not always like the object of their interest, however experiencing different textures is an important aspect of child's development.

Let me share a story. A few months back, a new teacher joined my daughter’s preschool. When introducing herself, she mentioned keen interest in applying the Montessori method in her new role. The other day I asked how it was going, and she gave me an example related to my daughter Alice. See, Alice took a liking to running around a carpet they have in the preschool. Other kids would notice and join. The classroom would quickly devolve into chaos.

So how do you deal with that? The teacher could introduce a “no running in the classroom” rule, or impose a different flavor or a restriction. Instead she gave Alice a spoon and a pom-pom, and challenged her to walk around the carpet without dropping the pom-pom from the spoon. As expected, this slowed my toddler down quite a bit, while still encouraging her gross motor development (and letting her move around her beloved carpet). Brilliant!

Instead of dictating their learning path, shift your perspective from authority figure to facilitator. Respect your child's natural abilities and intrinsic motivation. Encourage their curiosity and allow them to lead their exploration.

Respect Independence

You've shown your child how to sweep the floor. Great! Now step back. It's tempting to jump in, especially when they miss a spot, but true learning happens through doing. Allow them to complete tasks independently, offering guidance only when necessary. This respect for independence is not just about skill-building; it's about instilling a sense of capability and self-reliance in your child.

Children can put on and take off shoes as early as at 2 years of age (unless they have to lace them - this will come later.) 

Guide Without Domination

Our role is to guide, not command. Pose open-ended questions that provoke thought and encourage problem-solving. Active listening is crucial here. It shows your child that their thoughts and opinions are valued, fostering confidence and independence. This approach is about helping them find their voice, not just in the tasks they perform but in the decisions they make.

Allow Mistakes

Mistakes are not just inevitable; they are an essential part of learning. In Montessori philosophy there is a popular concept of “natural consequences”. A simple way to summarize is that we learn best from our own experiences. And young kids are excellent learners.

Now, the exact boundaries of the mistakes you are willing to allow your child to make are up to you. Are your children allowed to run at home? They will inevitably fall, or run into a corner. Do you let them wear their favorite sandals even though it’s raining outside? Do you let them carry a plate with food, or a cup full of milk on their own, or do you help them with it for now? As parents we know that it’s not just our kid who experiences the consequences of their learning mishaps. We are impacted too. Every parent has to determine their own capacity for co-experiencing “natural consequences” with their child.

Natural Consequences - this is fine

But know this: “mistakes” will be plenty, and your kid’s development depends greatly on how you react. When your child spills something or breaks a glass, it’s a learning opportunity. Respond with empathy and understanding. This response teaches them that mistakes are part of the journey and that they are in a safe space for learning and growth. Do not punish - that will teach all the wrong lessons.

Be Mindful of Anger and Pride

Parenting is a test of patience, especially when your child seems to be pushing boundaries intentionally. Remember, young kids are supposed to challenge you. It's part of their natural development. What better setup to learn the boundaries if not the safe space with their caregivers? While your response will not always be positive, you must not respond with anger. That will damage the psychological environment you want to have. Instead of learning their way around the world, they will instead start learning their way around your reaction.

Keeping your emotions in check, especially anger and pride, is crucial. Respond with calmness and understanding, even when tested.

Be Open to Feedback

Finally, embrace feedback, both from your child and others in your support circle, whether it be your spouse, partner, nanny, or fellow parent. This feedback is invaluable in helping you adapt and grow as a Montessori parent.

Watching your kids achieve their small victories is a wonderful experience. On the other hand, it’s no secret that parenting is a demanding endeavor, which may sometimes push us to exhibit our less-than-perfect qualities. Understanding what to expect and getting into the right mindset will help you deal with most challenges along the way, and maintain a safe and supportive psychological environment for your little ones.

Adopting a Montessori mindset is about nurturing your child's natural path of development. It's about being a thoughtful observer, a respectful guide, and a patient listener. It's a journey that requires as much learning on our part as it does on our children’s. But the rewards - seeing your child develop into a confident, independent, and thoughtful individual - are immeasurable.

Now that you have a good idea about parent's mindset, learn what practical steps you can take to create a fantastic learning environment for children at home.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Pikler triangle development toys

Looking to Montessori-up your home?

In addition to offering the best information on incorporating Montessori principles into your daily life, we carefully curate a selection of the finest children's furniture to help you design your home spaces.

We are continually expanding and enhancing our collection. Check it out!

1 of 3