Montessori Primer: Praise and Intrinsic Motivation

In an earlier post, we addressed the Montessori principle of avoidance of extrinsic rewards and cultivation of intrinsic motivation. Today, we dig deeper into this idea, exploring the appropriate role of praise in our interaction with the child.

All parents want their children to be independent, self-reliant, and have the opportunity to be creative. In an effort to support the child, parents often say “good job” for the simplest successes. However, praising interferes with natural learning and come become a form of control. Children learn their actions are celebrated and can begin to perform for adults versus interacting with them.

Here are a few findings about children who are over-praised:

• Praised children do not perform as well as intrinsically motivated children
• Praised children produce lower test results
• Praised children become dependent on others
• Praised children become less successful at tasks

Studies have shown that children’s motivation, creativity, social interactions, and overall cognitive functioning are negatively affected by extrinsic rewards and false praise. Children know when they deserve the praise or recognition for a job well done – they also understand when do not deserve it. Many times children will stop performing or begin acting out because they feel there is no standard they must reach.

Instead, encourage your child. Encouragement is powerful self-esteem boosting tool. Focus on:
Effort“What a great effort you made today!”
Improvement“Wow, you did five more sit-ups today.”
Contribution and Involvement“Your team worked well together today. I saw you work together with Johnny on that play that scored.”
Confidence“I can see how proud you are.”

As a parent, it is difficult to know the fine line between appropriate praise and encouragement. Instead of praise, find opportunities to intrinsically motivate your child. Be specific on what you are complimenting about to your child. For example, instead of saying “Great job on that picture!”, say “I really like how you took your time to color in the lines.” Instead of saying “Good work!”, say ” It looks like you really tried to use your best handwriting on this piece of work.”

So remember…we should encourage and display gratitude instead of praising the smallest tasks. Your children will thank you for it later in life!

For more information on this topic, please read “Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job’” by Alfie Kohn, a leading author and speaker on education, parenting, and human behavior.

Please join us on Friday as we discuss How to Reach Joyful Obedience.

Montessori Primer: Nurturing a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning is jargon that has been floating in the educational world in recent years. But what exactly does a lifelong learner look like? The Montessori method provides the framework of the ideal habits of learning – habits that will sustain students the rest of their lives. Surprisingly, the phrase “lifelong learning” has roots not in the educational world, but as jargon in the 1970’s that was popularized in European intergovernmental agencies in the 1990’s. Europe was seeking to change educational policies to create a stronger global economy. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, governments around the world adopted this platform to make education a priority.

So what does a “lifelong learner” look like at MASS? We believe that constant self-improvement and pursuit of passions is a natural human tendency that begins at birth. If fostered, this urge never goes away. We witness the child who engages in play outside with his friends, peace conversations between two students with opposing views, and the sense of confidence as the students share their research. We believe parents are the best role models for their children. To encourage lifelong learning in your child, it is important to demonstrate what it looks like.

Lifelong learners:

Challenge Their Minds
Regularly reading, writing, and completing puzzles keeps the mind engaged

Exercise Their Bodies
Habits of fitness lead to positive self-image, and building core strength increases ability to focus and concentrate.

Stay Socially Connected
Interacting with family, friends, or volunteer improves communication skills and ability to work together with others

Stay In School
Take classes in areas you love (sewing class, programming class, yoga)

Are Confident
Those who can control their feelings, control their choices

Manage Stress
Stay as calm and positive as possible in all situations

Join us Wednesday as share more content from our Montessori Primer!

Montessori Primer: The Child Whisperer

We have all been there. Embattled in a test of patience in the middle of the store as our child is throwing what we think is largest temper tantrum seen by man. We stand there waiting, cheeks warm and red, as we scope out the nearest possible exit doors. We have read every book on the topic; we should ignore it, talk it out, remove the child, leave the child at home, but none of that works. Here we are again, not winning.

The Child Whisperer by bestselling author Carol Tuttle delves into the topic of personalities and parenting to the personality of your child. Children tell their parents every day how to parent them by their behavior. Children are unique and so should be the way they are parented. Honoring children begins with recognizing who they are.

The Child Whisperer reveals to the reader the key to raising cooperative children by simply understanding and responding to the nature of your unique child. After reading, you will find that this will help you customize your parenting to your individual child.

Join us on Monday as we continue our Montessori Primer with advice on helping your child become a lifelong learner!

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 5

Today, we conclude our series exploring how to interact with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a key to addressing negative behavior, Logical Consequences.

Logical Consequences

When there are behavioral problems, use logical consequences. Logical consequences should be respectful, relevant, and realistic.

  1. Stop the behavior
  2. Teach an alternative to the behavior
    • Have the child state the rule
    • As a parent, pull back the limits
    • When child shows a working understanding of the rule, extend limits

When handling misbehavior, it is important to use a normal tone of voice and speak directly to the child. Focus on the behavior and not the child’s character. Be firm; this is not a time to negotiate. When deciding on the consequences make sure the punishment fits the crime. The time frame needs to make sense to the child. A punishment that is either too long or too short is ineffective.

An example: Johnny is playing is in his Brother Grant’s room. Johnny has been told that he cannot play in his brother’s room without permission. Grant is at his friend’s house playing and Johnny sees Grant’s new airplane. Johnny says to himself, “I just want to touch it. I won’t break it.” He wanders into Grant’s room and is flying the plane around the room when the dog rushes in and jumps on Johnny. Johnny drops the plane, and it breaks. Johnny starts yelling at the dog and runs downstairs and tells his mom, “Spot broke Grant’s plane!” But did Spot break Grant’s plane? Mom investigates and finds that Johnny was not following the rules their family has in place and did indeed break Grant’s plane. An accident, but an avoidable one if Johnny had been following the house rules. When Grant arrives home, Mom sits Grant across from Johnny. Johnny admits his fault to his brother and apologizes. His brother is very upset. Mom then explains that Johnny will now earn the money to purchase Grant a new plane by doing a set amount of chores for the next two weeks. Johnny also promises not to go into Grant’s room again. Two weeks later, Mom takes Johnny and Grant to the store to purchase a new plane. Johnny pays for it himself and then hands the plane to Grant. This is a teachable moment for both Johnny and Grant. Johnny and Grant have both learned about accountability, consequences, and forgiveness.

Raising children is an awesome responsibility. No one will ever say it is without challenges. But the rewards are amazing!

If you would like more help in parenting your child, we recommend the book Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children.

To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any powers of control is to betray the idea of freedom.
– Dr. Maria Montessori

Join us on Friday as we share another of our favorite resources for parenting tips and gaining a better understanding of your child!

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 4

Today’s topic is Part 4 of our Montessori Primer on interacting with your child in a Montessori way, and is a foundational principle of building a great relationship – Mutual Respect.

Mutual Respect

The most important part of discipline is respecting each other and each other’s opinions. As your child grows older, respect his decision-making ability. Children who feel respected are less likely to rebel.

So, here is your wonderful five year old little girl who has decided that she wants to wear a fireman’s hat with her favorite dress and cowboy boots out to dinner. Your first instinct may be to say, “You look ridiculous. Go change your clothes.” Your child then either refuses and melts down or does as you ask with a sense of sadness. Fast forward 12 years later and your daughter announces she is going to her friend’s house, and they are going to the mall. Unbeknownst to you, she arrives at her friend’s house and changes into an outfit that is completely inappropriate. Her outfit receives unwanted attention, and she is not equipped to handle the situation. This example may seem extreme, but it does happen.

Set up the framework for trust. Discuss with your child the “why” behind their choices and pick your battles. Children are their own individuals who will make their own choices. You want to be their guides in life, and want them to respect and share with you. Respecting who they are and the choices they make will create a fantastic relationship.

Join us on Wednesday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, Logical Consequences.

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 3

Today, we continue exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a seemingly contradictory but key principle: Freedom Within Limits.

Freedom Within Limits

According to Maria Montessori, “A child’s work is to create the person he will become.” Freedom within limits is a Montessori principle that is very important. Freedom allows children to follow their interest and become more independent. Limits give children the latitude to be creative while establishing boundaries. If you observe a Montessori morning, you will find a 2-3 hour uninterrupted work period. During this time, children are receiving individual or small group lessons. It is also during this time that students choose their own activities. A child may begin in any area of the classroom, reading a book, washing clothes, using golden bead materials; the choices are boundless. As long as the child is engaged in meaningful work, the teacher does not get involved. She will observe. This freedom is not unlimited – the teacher has constructed an environment and invisible structure that the child has internalized. Each child earns his independence over time. In that same observation, you may notice one child who is always sitting next to the teacher or next to another students watching him/her work. The teacher is providing opportunities for that child to see how an activity is started, worked with, and then restored. The child observes this over and over again and will then ask the teacher if he too may have a turn to do such work. The teacher will present a lesson and step back to see if the child can work independently. If he works successfully, he will be left alone. If he needs more guidance, the teacher will provide him more opportunities to observe.

At home, parents should provide activities that engage the child’s interest and opportunities for the child to play alone. Televisions are not interactive and should be used sparingly. Puzzles, blocks, dolls, and other activities that stimulate imagination are encouraged. Avoid interrupting your child as they play.

Do not worry that you need to entertain your child. A bored child is a child who is not yet able to solve his/her own problems. Create a jar with suggested activities for the child and continue to add to it. Suggestions are:
Create a book (or picture book for young children)
• Build a fort
• Ride your bike
• Brush the dog or cat
• Listen to music and dance
• Clean out the area where you sit in the car
• Create a treasure hunt with clues
• Bounce a ball
• Journal
• Play with costumes

Join us on Monday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, Mutual Respect.

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way – Part 2

Today, we continue exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by examining two core values of a Montessori classroom: Structure and Stability.

Structure and Stability

Every family has its own structure. In a Montessori classroom, there is a schedule or rhythm that helps the children stay focused. Routines give children a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. As humans we have many fears – one is fear of the unknown. Children are constantly confronted by change – change in themselves, the places they go, and the people they meet. With a predictable schedule, children feel safe to develop and master new techniques and adapt to changes. As a young child this adaptation may mean adjusting to a new babysitter; as the child matures, it may mean being prepared for a sleepover at a friend’s house. Constant, unpredictable changes erode the sense of safety for the child and lead to anxiety or an inability to adapt to change.

Structuring the child’s surroundings and developing a routine teaches children to how to control themselves and their environments. Children not taught this skill at a young age may find it difficult to care for themselves as adults. Structure allows the child to internalize healthy habits.

Join us on Friday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, Freedom Within Limits.

Montessori Primer: Interacting With Your Child in a Montessori Way

As discussed in previous posts, following Montessori principles lays much of the foundation for discipline. Using practical life activities helps children learn to care for themselves and their environment, and exhibit grace and courtesy to others. Children that are given opportunities to control their movements will automatically develop concentration and self-discipline. In the same way, foundations are laid for your child’s future development based upon your interaction with your child.

Today, we begin exploring the benefits of interacting with your child in a Montessori way by looking at a core activity we engage in as parents: Teaching Values.

Teaching Values

As parents, you are your child’s first teacher. From the moment you first met your child, you yearned to nurture your child’s sense of goodness for life. Sharing with your child what is truly amazing about your culture and others; that peace is attainable once fear is placed aside.
As parents and educators we teach values, ethics, love, kindness, and confidence. We help children to see and respect the differences in people. We want to help them see they can be the change in the world; celebrating differences in each other. In order to do celebrate differences, children need to establish an identity separate from their parents yet part of a larger community. Our obligation is to guide the child. We should show them through our actions our values and present the world and its problems honestly. Each child, equipped to make his or her own choices, will form opinions. We need to ensure that as they mature into adulthood, they are surrounded by trusted, morally competent adults.

Join us on Wednesday as we explore our next opportunity to interact with your child in a Montessori way, Structure and Stability.

Montessori Primer: A Day in Our Lives, Part 2 – A Daily Timeline

Today, we continue our look at a day in the life of a Montessori student with an overview of the timeline of a typical day in the Montessori classroom.

7:45 to 8 a.m. – Day Begins
Guides are greetings students at the door with a warm handshake. The students are learning confidence as they greet their teacher with eye contact and a hearty handshake. They then place their items in their cubby and set out to choose their first work.

8 a.m. – Three Hour Work Period Begins

Students work independently. The teacher is providing individual and group lessons. The assistant is reinforcing the importance of the environment’s rules and routine. Children will choose pre-reading work such as spelling, sight words, big movable alphabet, while others will choose golden bead addition or stamp game. Younger children are building concentration in practical life by pouring water or spooning. Others who have a bit more energy may be scrubbing tables. It is wonderful to see the child with a great imagination using the farm for not only creative enjoyment but language work as they label the nouns on the farm.

9:30 a.m. – False Fatigue Occurs
It is generally around this time that noise levels tend to escalate in a Montessori environment. Usually there are several wanderers who are restless from their work. As Maria Montessori observed classrooms, she referred to this time as “False Fatigue.” To an outsider, this time may seem disorganized. The Montessori guide notices this phenomenon and remains calm. The students will feel this ease and the restlessness will subside and the students will continue their work until 11:00 a.m.

10:45 a.m. – Clean Up and Outdoor Playtime
The guides ring the bell to signal it is time to clean up. The students tidy their environment and everyone joins in for line time. After line, everyone lines up for outdoor play. Everyone plays 30 minutes outside in our beautiful Montessori outdoor environment. Our outdoor space is perfect for running, gardening, riding tricycles, climbing, and having fun on the slide. And before anyone realizes, the 30 minutes is over!

11:15 a.m. – Lunch Time
Some of our friends go home for the day. The rest of the class begins washing their hands for lunch. Grace and courtesy lessons are practiced during our lunchtime: napkins in laps, using utensils, please and thank you, and restoring the environment.

12:00 to 2 p.m. – Rest Time and Kindergarten Work Cycle
By this time, students have finished their lunch and restored the environment. As the younger students are preparing for a one-hour rest time, the kindergarten students are practicing more complex lessons. They are working one on one with the teacher in math and language. Students may be learning the bank game, advanced language lessons, and reading work.

2 to 2:15 p.m. – Saying our Goodbyes
At the end of the day, everyone sits for one final line time. The Montessori guide reads to the students as the assistant helps prepare the students to go home. After the line is over, the students line up at the door, say goodbye to their friends, and are escorted to car line.

What a wonderful day everyone has had!

Montessori Primer: A Day in Our Lives

The Montessori classroom is a “living room” for children. Self-correcting lessons are displayed on the shelves awaiting the children. The environment’s purpose is to in unify the psycho-social, academic, and physical development of the child. As guides, our purpose is provide children with a solid foundation that includes positive self-image of oneself and school, security, sense of order, curiosity, and persistence. This foundation will help the child become self-disciplined, and have a sense of responsibility to others.

We have parents who observe our classrooms and wonder, “How does the teacher manage the students?” What a wonderful question. The answer is, “The guide designs an environment that allows each student to engage in what interests them.” The students in a Montessori classroom become engaged and involved in their community. Respect is the foundation from which great work stems. The environment works so well because the children have respect for themselves, each other, and their materials.

This wonderful video from Montessori School of Los Altos provides a beautiful view of a day in the life of the Montessori student.

Join us tomorrow as we take a deeper look at the progression of your child’s day with our timeline of a typical day in the classroom!