"Getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, doing the day's work, preparing dinner, going to bed—all are occasions for adults to step back and see the home through the child's eyes."
—Patricia Oriti, At Home with Montessori
The family home, like the Montessori classroom, is a social environment. Children learn to function in the world according to what they experience on a daily basis at home and school. As parents we often forget that the patterns we establish are the foundation for our children's ability to adapt. That's why our routines are so important. And, no matter how much our homes are "child-centered, " we, the parents, set the tone.
Consistency is one of the features of a Montessori classroom, and children benefit from consistency at home, as well. Consistency is particularly helpful around transition times - transitions from sleeping to waking, from home to school, from play time to bedtime. Due to busy schedules and competing interests, families often adapt to the pace and needs of adults rather than to those of children. With a predictable schedule and patterns of behavior, we can smooth the way for ourselves and for our children.
Though young children often seem very wise, they are not little adults. They have their own internal sense of order and usually give us signals when something is askew. It's important for us to try to understand our children's actions, especially when they do not have the words to explain their behavior. When our children show signs of distress, it's a good time to review our routines at home, making sure they meet the needs of our children for secure, reliable transitions.
The morning sets the tone for the day, and no one thrives when rushed and stressed. To experience a calm morning, you might consider:
When things don't seem to be working smoothly, it often helps to step back and look at the situation through your child's eyes. Adjust the schedule if more time is needed. If there is a certain task your child is having difficulty with, such as zipping a jacket, practice when you're not about to fly out the door. Offer help with calmness and respect. Consider the following tips:
An organized home simplifies daily routines. If there is a place where children can easily hang up their coats and store their belongings, less time will be spent looking for "lost" items. It also will become automatic after a while (even though children may need reminders from time to time). Your evening might include the following:
School-aged children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day. Toddlers need more. Even though working parents want to extend the time they have with their children, a reasonable bedtime is crucial. This is another way to respect your child's needs. Some other suggestions:
Being able to internalize even a few regular routines will help children learn, listen, and adapt when new circumstances arise. Once the schedule is learned, there is more room to be flexible and adjust to something unexpected without upset.
"Children thrive when given clear, solid structure, respectful communication and emotional warmth. They fare best when parents set firm guidelines within which their children are allowed freedom."
—Angeline Stoll Lillard, Montessori, The Science Behind the Genius
—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 2012