Montessori parenting may initially seem like a complex, foreign concept. However, many parents are surprised to discover that using the Montessori method for parenting actually feels quite natural and easy.
What is Montessori parenting?
The term Montessori parenting is often used to describe parents who choose to raise their children using practices and principles based on Maria Montessori’s observations and guidelines. Montessori parenting varies in some ways from a traditional parenting style, but is actually more common than one might think.
The use of Montessori parenting methods at home does not always mean that children are sent to Montessori schools or follow an entirely Montessori-based educational path. However, Montessori parenting does involve many of the same principles as those seen in Montessori schools.
What are the principles of the Montessori method?
Regardless of whether you follow the Montessori method at home or in school, with a baby, toddler or teenager, the principles remain the same. Every parent, teacher and caregiver can successfully practice the Montessori method by following these principles.
- Respect the child: the underlying theme behind Montessori parenting is to treat your child with respect in every way, throughout every situation and at every age.
- The Absorbent Mind: Maria Montessori observed that children learn simply by living. They learn from and internalize each and every action, word and activity they do or see.
- Sensitive Periods: Montessori parenting utilizes the 11 sensitive periods to help guide the introduction and practice of specific skills. During these sensitive periods, children are more interested in and able to learn certain skills.
- The Prepared Environment: The key to successfully utilizing the Montessori method at home is having a prepared environment that provides children with activities that meet their current skills and interests.
- Self-Led Education: Children who are able to freely choose their activities and lead themselves through the day will learn naturally and at their own unique pace.
- Freedom and Discipline: Provide freedom within safe, consistent limits allows children to explore and learn naturally. Positive discipline helps them learn limits and manage emotions while still maintaining an equal role in their relationships.
These principles help guide Montessori parents as they implement this method at home. Through observations and interactions, Maria Montessori created this method to help parents and educators set their children up for emotional, educational and physical success throughout their lives.
What age is best to start Montessori?
With the terms practical life and independence thrown around so frequently, most people assume that Montessori philosophies can’t be implemented until children are much older.
However, Montessori parenting can actually begin as early as the parent is ready – even from birth. Montessori parents often begin this style of parenting right away. Simple acts of providing your infant with options or allowing them to watch you complete practical life activities, to bigger choices such as forgoing the crib for a floor bed allow Montessori parents to begin their journey right from the start.
If you have a toddler or older child and are just now looking to begin Montessori parenting, it’s important to note that it is never too late to start using Montessori practices. Children will pick up on the changes you are making and begin to adapt more quickly than you might expect.
Whether you’re just beginning a Montessori parenting journey or are looking for a few ideas to refine and improve your practice, here are 8 simple tips for success.
Montessori Parenting: 8 Tips for Success
These tips will help you succeed as a Montessori parent. With a little preparation and a few simple adjustments, transitioning to a Montessori parenting style can be a breeze.
Follow the child
One of the key elements of Montessori parenting is following the child. In a Montessori home or school, children decide what activities they would like to do. As your child grows, they will be able to better communicate their interests and desires in a given moment.
Your role as a Montessori parent is to guide the child through their day. Have a general structure for the day, but allow your child to make choices based on their interests at the time
Be sure to create a safe environment and enforce consistent limits while allowing your child to navigate through each day based on what they feel drawn to at the time.
Observe your child
In order to follow your child, you’ll need to observe them to discover what piques their interest. Each day, make a point to sit and simply watch your child while they play or work. Take note of what activities hold their interests, and what they choose when faced with different options.
Observing the child helps Montessori parents get insight as to what their children are interested in. With this knowledge, they can plan activities that provide opportunities to practice those skills in which they seem the most interested.
Over time, children’s interests will naturally change and evolve. When you start to notice your child gravitating towards different things, you’ll be able to switch up your activities and toys to meet their changing interests.
Practice mutual respect
One of the biggest differences between a Montessori parenting style and traditional parenting is that the parent and child have more of an equal role in the relationship. Rather than taking on the typical authoritarian role, Montessori parents allow their children to have more say in decisions and control over activities.
That’s not to say that Montessori parenting is about letting the children get away with anything they want. A key aspect to the Montessori method is practicing mutual respect. Respect your child and treat them with the same dignity as any adult in your life – even when they are an infant or baby.
Use real words with your children from the start, rather than baby talk. Practice more positive parenting, without the use of punishment or alienation tactics, to teach children what is wrong. Explain the boundaries and take the time to share why these boundaries exist. Do not belittle or children or complain about them. Practice speaking about yourself, your child and other relationships positively.
Provide a prepared environment
The key to success using the Montessori method at home is having a prepared environment. Use the 11 sensitive periods, along with daily observations of your child, to provide you with helpful insight when planning activities.
Keep the environment orderly – as Maria Montessori said, “everything has a place, and everything in its place”. Prepare activities and “work” ahead of time, place them in an accessible location, and be sure the activities are purposeful.
Montessori parenting usually involves finding and providing activities or toys that are purposeful and require children to be actively involved in using them. As a Montessori parent, you’ll want to avoid passive forms of entertainment most of the time.
Allow for independence and freedom
Montessori parents allow their children to foster as much independence as they wish to and are capable of, even from an early age. Providing choices for your children whenever possible will help them feel in control and capable.
As children grow, they will able to become more involved in the activities of daily life. Once your child begins to show an interest in participating, allow them to try and guide their experience.
Keep the environment safe and accessible for children to allow them to play independently and freely at every age. A popular phrase to remember for Montessori parents is “teach me to do it myself”.
Involve children in practical life
One main element that differs between a traditional parenting style and Montessori parenting is the involvement of children in practical life activities from an early age. Once children are mobile and able to get around independently, they can start to participate in practical life activities.
Montessori parents complete chores and household tasks with their child, involving them as much or as little as the child would like.
When able, try to spend time outdoors, expose your children to nature and provide them with activities to explore. Involve them in hands on activities to help them foster a sense of independence and encourage their confidence from an early age.
Use natural consequences
A popular method of discipline with Montessori parents is using natural consequences. As children gain independence and begin to test limits, be sure to create and maintain safe boundaries. Within those boundaries, when children begin to test what is okay and what is not, allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions.
Food being thrown on the floor might result in less for them to eat at meal time. A misplaced toy or activity will result in them not being able to play with it. As children learn the natural consequences of their actions, they are able to learn for themselves why it is important to avoid certain things.
Montessori parents try to avoid harsh punishments or alienations. Instead, the offer children a place to calm down, provide emotional support and empathy, and help them learn practical ways to control and manage their emotions if they are upset about a consequence.
Practice positive discipline
Similar to using natural consequences, the Montessori parenting style uses positive discipline to teach limits and boundaries as opposed to harsh forms of punishment.
Treating your child with respect is especially important when it comes to discipline in the Montessori method. Yelling, be-littling, or intentional separation do not usually have a place in Montessori parenting. Provide a calm down space where children can take a break and learn ways to positively manage their own emotions.
Celebrate within moderation, but also teach children to take pride in their actions even without needing celebration or encouragement from parents.
Montessori Parenting for Babies vs. Older Children
While Montessori parenting techniques can be implemented right from the start, these practices do change as the child grows older and more mature. Montessori parenting for babies involves more leadership from the parents than it does with toddlers and older children.
Here are a few ways Montessori parenting might evolve from babies to toddlers to older children:
- Providing more opportunities for independence as children get older
- Involvement in practical life changes from observation to hands-on
- Toddlers can be introduced to a Montessori three-part lesson
- Child-led learning centers around more specific skills as children grow
The Role of a Montessori Parent
It might seem that Montessori parenting involves less work from the parents, since the approach is more child-led. However, because Montessori parents prepare so much ahead of time to allow for their child’s success, they still play a key role in the day-to-day life.
Here are a few of the main roles of a Montessori parent:
- Guide the child
- Create a safe environment
- Foster your child’s strengths
- Allow children to make mistakes and learn
- Provide opportunities for children develop autonomy and control
- Maintain a positive environment in all circumstances
Montessori parenting may feel foreign and a bit strange at first, but after a bit of practice most parents are surprised to find that it flows quite naturally for both them and their child.
Taking the time to learn, adapt and grow during your parenting journey will set you and your child up for maximum success.