I start my parenting seminars by saying, "Anyone here who is not having any trouble parenting, please raise your hand." Everyone laughs, and of course no one ever raises his or her hand. Parenting is hard.
I continue the seminar by brainstorming two lists with the attendees. First, parents share the problems and concerns they currently have with their young children. This list incorporates issues such as whining, power struggles, back talk, hitting, morning or bedtime hassles, tantrums, sibling rivalry, difficulty sharing, and other poor behaviors. While one person shouts his or her concern, most other parents nod in agreement.
After brainstorming this first list, I tell parents to close their eyes, fast-forward in time, and imagine their children at twenty-five. They are coming home for Thanksgiving dinner. I ask, "What characteristics would you like your grown child to have? How would you like him or her to be?" I create another list from their answers. They would like their grown children to be responsible, kind, resilient, capable, confident, independent, happy, passionate, honest, creative, and more.
We look at both lists side by side. The list of challenges is where the group is right now, and the second list is where the group wants to get. We must work toward all those wonderful life skills that make up the second list. This second list is the big picture-the goal. Those parents have learned to embrace the challenges with a positive state of mind. Knowing that who our children become as adults is directly impacted by the way we handle every issue we have with them today. Next time your child is having a tantrum, a power struggle, or a playground conflict, see it as a unique chance to teach him or her valuable social-emotional and life skills.
Parents desire to be the best they can. Even before the birth of a child, parents begin their quest to provide their child with the best chances for success. Even after consulting much material about how best to parent, many are left hopeless. Learning begins at birth and continues throughout life. However, a child's early developmental period is the most crucial. In the first seven years of life, a child undergoes striking physical and psychological development. The foundation is laid for all future development, and it is arguably the most important time for both fostering a love of learning and allowing children to reach their potential. Parents are their child's first and most influential teachers. They have the greatest impact on the child's social, emotional, and academic success. It is logical, therefore, that parents take full advantage of this unique period to help children reach their utmost potential.
Parents are the master planners of the child's surroundings, schedule, and activities. Even so, many parents lack effective tools to raise an independent, resilient, responsible, capable, and emotionally stable child. Are we teaching our children to manage their time and help themselves, or are we controlling every aspect of our child's life? Are we fostering their independence, or are we doing for them what they can already do for themselves? Are we encouraging them to solve conflicts, or are we constantly intervening and refereeing?
Young children want to do things for themselves, and they like to help. When simple items needed to perform everyday tasks independently are not accessible, when we decline their help, and when we insist on doing things for them and go around fixing their attempts, children often stop collaborating with parents. They start to act helpless and feel frustrated and discouraged. When children feel discouraged, they misbehave. When children misbehave, parents often try to regain collaboration. They try to turn bad behavior around by using some of the most common parenting tools:
We don't want the two-year-old to help clear the table because we don't want him or her to break the plate. We save the dish but break the child's courage and confidence. A child puts on his or her shoes, and we say, "That shoe is on the wrong foot, sweetie." When the child attempts to help, we say, "Let me make the bed, honey. Those covers are too heavy for you." When children fight over a toy, we take it away. We also often take away the chance to learn about conflict resolution. Children receive the message that they are
We obliviously continue to demonstrate our superiority and our child's inferiority day after day. Lacking faith in the child's ability, courage, and adequacy robs his or her sense of security and hinders the development of self-sufficiency. Are we taking away our child's sense of purpose?
To achieve our lifelong parenting goals, we need to use everyday challenges as opportunities to teach valuable life skills to our children. Remember the list of challenges and desired characteristics of children? That is our road map.
Parenting Challenges (Today) Desired Characteristics of Children (Future)
Power struggles Kind
Back talk Resilient
Morning or bedtime hassle Confident
Sibling rivalry Creative
Problems sharing Passionate
Toilet training Honest
Modern research from many philosophers, educators, psychologists, occupational therapists, and brain specialists states that in order to acquire valuable life skills, children need to experience the following:
There are three key components to helping develop a purposeful child: the child, the environment, and the adult.
We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.
-Dr. Maria Montessori
Children develop through a natural process. For centuries adults have mistakenly approached young children convinced they know exactly how to teach and what to pour into children's minds. However, research now shows that children's own curiosity guides them to learn and explore. The child's sophisticated neurological network is built as the child engages with the environment and physically explores his or her surroundings. Tremendous development will not happen unless the child engages in purposeful and experimental interactions with the environment and the adults around him or her (especially the parents).
We learn to do something by doing it.
There is no other way.
An intentionally prepared environment can develop feelings in a child of being capable, confident, and competent. Young children show interest in real-life activities by pretending to cook, clean, take care of a doll, or carry out adult conversations. But children would much rather do real things.
Lorena Seidel is a Montessori teacher, a social-emotional consultant, and a mother of three. She helps teachers and parents build a more peaceful, positive and purposeful relationship with children. This is accomplished through providing children the optimum learning environment - both physically (home/school) and emotionally (climate set by the adults). Lorena is a certified Montessori teacher by the American Montessori Society(AMS) and has taught for many years at the Whitby School, located in Greenwich, CT. Lorena is a trained Positive Discipline Parent and Teacher Educator and has helped thousands of teachers and parents through coaching, workshops, lectures, parent-child classes, and school consulting. Lorena's goal is to help children develop valuable academic, social-emotional, and life skills using everyday life as opportunities to teach and learn. With Lorena's help parents and teachers are bring up more independent, resilient, responsible, capable, and emotionally stable children. Lorena has received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education and Linguistics from the Pontificate Catholic University in Brazil and a degree in Literature from the University of Connecticut. Lorena has a Master of Arts of Elementary Education from Sacred Heart University, and she is also an International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) trained teacher. Lorena is the founder of The Purposeful Child and has authored interactive parenting e-book "Everyday Montessori" and "The Purposeful Child" DVD series. Lorena lives in Connecticut with her husband Andrew and her sweet daughters Pollyanna, Annabelle, and Julliette.