On Thursday, October 12th, Ms. Wood was available for a two-hour live AMA (Ask Me Anything) session here in Primary.
Even if you weren’t able to join the live discussion, you can still benefit by reading through the thoughtful questions posed by Primary parents and the insightful answers from Montessori educator, Ms. Wood.
Read all questions and answers below, and get your questions ready for the next AMA session coming soon.
Primary parent: I have the hardest time getting my child out of bed in the mornings. Any tips?
Ms. Wood: Some days are easier than others, especially with these changing seasons. Have you tried implementing a routine? Children love a routine. Get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, whatever needs to fit into the morning. When you know what to expect, it’s a bit less tumultuous.
Primary parent: I really don’t want to have confrontations with my son, but want him to understand the concept of no. Do I have to be ok with tantrums for awhile? He’s 18 months…
Ms. Wood: Understanding and being comfortable with “no” is a life skill. Tantrums aren’t uncommon when a child is on the verge of something – learning to walk, almost ready for conversational skills – because they’re acutely aware of what’s just beyond their abilities.
Sometimes it helps to phrase things differently, rather than simply “no.” For example, “The park sure is fun, but today we’re going straight home.” or “I don’t like being pulled, could you hold my hand and show me?” 18 months means not yet in control of emotions. Be patient with yourself and your child, you’re teaching an incredible concept.
Primary parent: My 19-month toddler has acquired a taste for throwing or banging things (toys, spoons, food, books, you name it!) whenever he’s over excited, bored or tired. We keep on trying to help him be gentle, more patience and careful, and end up saying “no, no, no” quite more often than we’d want…but it doesn’t seem to change anything for him. We also try to change the focus of his activity, but his mode is not really affected much by that either. Any ideas on how to manage this? Thank you!
Ms. Wood: Sounds like looking for an exciting outlet! You’re the expert in your child, are there cues he’s getting to the point and you could redirect that energy before it takes hold? Sometimes a big “doing” activity is what’s needed when we’re seeking stimulation. Running outside, stacking or moving books, even using a handheld vacuum!
Very young children love to work their big muscles, and engage in activity that uses all their coordination and focus – the Montessori term is “Maximum Effort.” They also love to contribute and do whatever you do, such as helping with chores. Sorting flatware or putting dishes away, perhaps some scrubbing, matching socks fresh from the dryer. How might he contribute, and use that energy for Purposeful Work? Thanks for the question!
Primary parent: Thanks for doing an AMA! My daughter used to be very independent, completely content exploring the back yard alone or eating lunch in the dining room while I went outside for a moment. Lately she has completely refused to be alone outside OR inside, she seems to be afraid of being along. Any advice on how I can help this new behavior?
Ms. Wood: This can be challenging for families, especially when we’ve reveled in their independence and joyful exploration. It’s the ebb and flow of childhood! It can sometimes be paired with big life questions from a child, and is absolutely natural. We can reassure a child “I’m right here.” It’s an especially important time to follow through with promises.
There comes a keen awareness that sometimes the world has scary things, like a busy street or the dark, and it might be counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to push back toward independence. The same safety and security she felt that made her feel at ease and courageous before, can pave the way back toward confidence. “Sometimes I’m scared, too, but I’ll always be here, and I’ll always love you.” Hand-holding is just part of the process. Are there situations where she’s feeling successful, or where she’s especially tentative? Thanks for sharing!
Primary parent: My 4yo son seems to have anxiety, he’s always seeking reassurance that his father and I aren’t mad at him. How should we respond to these questions in a way that makes him feel secure while working to relive this reoccurring anxiety?
Ms. Wood: “Mad at” could also be understood as “out of relationship.” Parents are a child’s Most Important People. When these questions come out of nowhere, “I will always love you” is very reassuring. Also, asking a child, “are you worried about something?” Can open the door to an unfolding of what’s really bothering them. Conversations can lead to solutions!
Primary parent: My question is: I love the idea of Montessori for my daughter but wonder if she might need more structure?
Ms. Wood: You know your child best, trust your gut, the only bad decision is the one that doesn’t feel right to you. That being said, sounds like Montessori might be great for your daughter! Montessori is education of the Whole Child, including developing self-control and self-discipline, comfort with natural and logical consequences or limits.
The older children in a classroom help younger children grow into the best versions of themselves. It’s a really lovely dynamic. If you have the opportunity to observe a Montessori classroom, that can be a helpful decision-making tool.
Primary parent: My super son is mischievous and naughty. I am worried how he would behave in school next year? Any suggestions to prepare him. Right now I am loving his acts ;).
Ms. Wood: Aren’t we adults a conundrum? We might be worried about something, or think “hey now” about a behavior, while simultaneously thinking it’s funny, or loving a child’s impish side. Children know we’ll tolerate a lot, and they’re so adaptable. They quickly figure out what will fly at home, and what a peer will think is fun. This is one of those “trust the child” moments. As long as we’re not supporting anti-social or unpleasant behaviors, it is perfectly reasonable that some things will be appropriate for school, while others remain at home.
Primary parent: Whenever we have to put our 5 year old son in timeout, without fail, he will mischievously try to sneak away fr leave his spot. It can be soooo frustrating. Do you have any advice to build proper respect towards time out and what it represents? Thank you!
Ms. Wood: Testing limits is part of a child’s vocabulary, that’s for sure! Is this adult consistent? Do they mean what they say ALL the time? Is this still the rule today? Cool, just checking.
5 is old enough to understand consequences, how their behaviors affect others. What types of situations evoke a time-out? In the classroom, we use a Thinking Chair, where you can think about what work you’d like to use, or how we move in the classroom, or what a better way to handle a situation might have been. When you’re ready to talk, I’m ready to listen. This gives a child Agency in their own behavior, instead of just waiting out the clock, throwing “sorry” around like confetti expecting it to fix something when they don’t really mean it, or even just being sneakier with misbehavior.
When we talk through consequences, ask a child what they think should happen, and support the learning that my behavior affects others, we’re helping them learn, no one will Make me do anything, I am in charge of my behavior, and thus privileges and opportunities, and even how others see me! Following through is so important, and so hard. Hang in there! You’re among friends!
Primary parent: My lo is 2.5 and has just started in a Montessori. She is a very sensitive child. The transition hasn’t been smooth for her. I try to talk to her about me returning after school to pick her up etc, but she still gets really nervous and cries. It’s been 7 days since we started. How to help her feel better or how should I help ease her anxieties about going to school? Thanks in advance:)
Ms. Wood: New situations can pull at the heartstrings, can’t they? While we can feel enthusiastic about a new school, and just KNOW this is the right place for a child, 7 days is still a new situation. It takes a bit of time to adjust to a new routine, to different friends and adults, to feel settled. We like to say, give it six weeks. The greatest gift we can give a child is time and space.
Additionally, this might be a moment for self-reflection. When I’m feeling stressed or unsettled, the children’s strong empathy picks up on it, and it whips through the class like a whirlwind. Their excited energy sets me more on-edge, and it’s a terrible cycle. When I can see, oh wait, I’m the problem here! And take a moment to breathe, to sit and get out of the way, the children “magically” settle back into their peacefulness. We sometimes think we’re so good at hiding our worry that a child will have a hard drop-off, or if we’ve made the right decision, or if perhaps she’s too young, but we can’t hide that from a child. What were the signs that helped you identify this was the right school for your child? Remind yourself of these, take a deep breath, and believe in your child. Wait six weeks, stay positive, and know, it’s okay. Where talking down anxiety might actually be more of a stressor, time, patience, and love might be the key to success. Keep us posted! After six weeks, perhaps you can observe your child in her new classroom. Knowing she’s well-adjusted at school might help you feel more assured in your decision, which can translate to a smoother drop off.
Primary parent: What’s your greatest joy in working with parents?
Ms. Wood: I really do love working with families. I think parenting can feel isolating and even scary, since it’s a bit unknown. Every question or concern or joy has been felt by parents for generations, and we educators, advocates, and allies can remind families, your’e far from alone! If you’re willing to put a worry into words, it mysteriously loses its power, and solutions appear.
Thanks for reading, and we hope you join us next time for a live AMA with Ms. Wood!
Do you have suggestions for the next AMA? Let us know in the comments below.