Happy New Years to all our Mangrove Families. I hope your break was filled with joy and celebration, relaxation and reflection as the new year begins.
Montessori focuses on observation and reflection, and many of you do the same as you create resolutions for the new year based on growth (or lack of growth) from the past year. I challenge you to include a resolution that can develop your relationship with your toddler, perhaps using the Montessori philosophy to guide you.
As parents, we can easily become overwhelmed juggling the endless pull and tug from your work, your extended family, your home, your community, yourself, and of course, your children. I often find myself in a house full of dirty laundry and an empty fridge, emails that need to be written and children who need my attention, with a personal energy meter quickly depleting. When I am functioning from that space, my family, the ones we cherish the most, do not get to see the best side of me. Yet I realize that when I spend more time observing and reflecting, I find myself functioning from a place of promise, not a place of discouragement. And when I function from a place of promise, my interactions with my family become more meaningful and full of connection. I wish that for every one of you because although life with a toddler can be much like a roller coaster ride, full of highs and lows, it is also the most beautiful and rewarding ride you could ever take.
So the challenge:
Observe your day with your toddler. Then reflect on your day.
What is working? What are you struggling with? How are you responding to those joys and those struggles? What can you do differently to support your child? What are you willing to do to support that growth?
Then put it into action and try it.
Sometimes it can be the smallest adjustment that can bring about the greatest change. And sometimes the smallest adjustments take the most preparation from the adult. But as we Montessorians often say, growth comes in the struggle.
If I may, here are some things to reflect on and see if they are ideas that can be incorporated into your family’s resolutions based on the needs and developmental stage of your toddlers. Toddlers are going through the oppositional stage in which they are coming into an understanding that they have an impact in the world and a voice, and they want to use it. If they are not offered opportunities to voice their opinions or work independently, opposition occurs (often in the form of screaming, crying tantrums – we have all been there!). If this seems to happen a lot, my suggestion to you is to find times in your day for your toddler to express themselves with as much independence as possible, within reason. This comes in the form of offering limited choices where you, the parent, is also satisfied with whatever choice the child picks. The choice technique can be used throughout the day for various situations such as what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, which book to read, and even which toy to clean up first.
It goes like this:
Parent: Would you like ______ or ______?
It appears simple.The child gets to make a choice, the child gets the feeling that their opinion matters, the child is honored and validated, therefore satisfied. In order for the child to realize this technique will be validated and followed through on, they will push the boundaries first and that is where is becomes complicated.
It may go like this:
Parent: Would you like to wear this blue shirt or this yellow shirt?
Child: Yellow shirt.
Parent: Great, you can put on the yellow shirt.
(Yellow shirt goes on)
Child: I want the blue shirt
Parent: You chose the yellow shirt. Today you are wearing the yellow shirt.
Child: I want the blue shirt.
Parent: You chose the yellow shirt today. You can choose the blue shirt tomorrow.
Child: (loses his/her mind)
It gets hard before it gets easier and the tips we follow are:
Offer only two choices
Do not give in or back down
If child doesn’t make a choice, you let him/her know that the choice will be made for them and then that choice is final.
If the child’s choice changes, after the final decision has been made it is no longer a choice.
Child can try again making choices the next time
If you have more question about the choices technique or anything else, please ask.
Remember, that the little changes we make in our lives (our little resolutions) can actually make a much bigger impact than we may even realize. My favorite Montessori quote is, “The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” Just think, the work you do today to support your children and help them to reach their potential will ultimately effect the future because that is what our children are – the future! (Sappy but true). So, make some resolutions and then go give your future a good squeeze!
Our relationships with our children are among the most important in our lifetimes, so why not make these simple promises to bring you closer than ever before.
– Creative Child
Ms. Liz and Ms. Sonia