As promised, here are some of the things that help me in dealing with the difficult side of Montessori Parenting. It was encouraging to see that most of us deal with the same issues. This was a hard post for me to write because I am by no means done with the ‘fights’ but they get better when I do the following.
Take care of yourself: I have realized that parenting this way is really hard when you are exhausted and not nourished in the ways that count. Most of my struggles happen when I am exhausted or just feel like I have been giving too much and not receiving back. So seriously find ways to nourish yourself… eat well, sleep, Permit yourself to take a break, take a nap, hang out with other adults, leave the kids with someone – your spouse, your parents, a babysitter, someone… just give yourself a break! For a long time I felt like I needed to be the one doing everything. I needed to be mum, educator, discipline facilitator, chef, cook, cleaner, model… all while still working. I was afraid to leave my children with anyone because God forbid the person turns on the TV for a few minutes or gives them some juice. Lol! I actually find it hilarious now. and my mum is probably having a good laugh reading this but yes, give yourself a break! Parenting is not meant to be done in isolation. A local proverb says “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is so true. Ask for help when you need it and allow your village (if you have one) to play their role. Being a Montessori parent does not make you superhuman.
Let go of expectations and of perfection: A lot of times we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves and our children based on what we see on social media or whatever our interpretation of Montessori parenting is. I actually limit my time on social media because the thing about pictures is that they do not communicate context or sound. They are a moment in time and usually a perfect moment. So if you create expectations of yourself and your children based on the images you see online, you will be setting up yourself for disappointment. This process of parenting CANNOT be perfect. There are too many variables. My reality is messy but beautiful, loud but joyful, hard but rewarding. Letting go of perfection and expectations allows us to accept our shortcomings more easily. It allows us to follow the child in front of us instead of the child we think should be in front of us. It eases off the stress and allows us to go on this journey with more openness and humor. A friendliness with error and imperfection is actually a good lesson for our children. Our shortfalls are opportunities to model resilience.
Arm yourself with knowledge: It is important to truly understand whatever philosophy you have chosen to follow. A deep understanding helps build commitment and allow you understand what is really important. A shallow understanding can make the journey even harder. Read, read, read (books not just blogs). Take a course if you can afford to (I have two really good ones), ask questions and constantly add tools to your toolbox. It is helpful to study positive discipline philosophies and read compatible books (I should make a list of books that have helped me).
Don’t fight every battle: I have found that most times, it is a waste of time trying to convince other people about your beliefs or arguing about it. I try my best to live my beliefs and hope that it is a light that will shine and spread and for those who don’t agree, It is best to peacefully agree to disagree. Somewhat along this note, I get a lot of questions about grandparents or other family members who choose to buy toys or just do things that go against your choices. I personally think that it is important to focus on the intent and remember that the relationships are so much more important. These are opportunities to model grace and courtesy to our children.
Find a tribe: Find like minded parents that you can ask questions, share concerns and triumphs and just walk this path with. It’s great if you can find them physically but if not, have a virtual tribe helps too. For me this means having a few Montessori mamas that I trust and respect and whose children are slightly older than mine or about the same age who I can message when i have a question or just talk to and they get it. They can empathize and support me when I need it.
Document triumphs: This is a learning process for most of us, so there will be days that feel like we are getting it right and others that just knock you down. It is important to document the triumphs – the good days, so that you can remind yourself on the hard days. Take pictures, keep a journal, blog or just post about it on Facebook.
Judge not, lest ye be judged: Try not to judge those who have made different choices or just other parents. I have learned on the journey that most people are doing the best they can and you really never know until you are in their shoes. I have had days where my boys are complimented for their behavior and days where I wanted to pretend like I didn’t know them. I remember a time when I would have judged another parent in my mind but now that I know the how it feels to think you are being judged, I have learned a strong lesson.
Finally, Be kind to yourself and remember this is a journey. Think long term instead of short term. See this as a process of growth and evolution for yourself as much as your child. Evolution is a slow process. It is a series of small progressive changes. Our consciousness and efforts, no matter how small or imperfect add up. There are different stages on this journey of parenting, each with its ups and downs. Pace yourself and try to enjoy the journey!
Your fellow traveler