It was at our pediatrician’s office where Montessori hit me in another powerful, unsuspecting way.
My son needed a finger prick blood test, and while the nurse was prepping, I could sense his worry building. When she went to grab his little finger after a brief warning, with promises of a cool sticker and lollipop, he refused and asked, “What is that?”
I gently answered his question in a way I never would have prior to Montessori’s influence on my parenting. I was upfront. No fluffy, distracting, bribery-backed answer.
“This is a finger prick test. You will feel a quick poke, like mama’s nail touching your skin.”
“Why?” He asked.
“It is to check your blood to see how healthy you are. It is one of many ways doctors check our bodies.”
“Are you ready to work with the nurse and see if she has any instructions for you?” I asked. “I’ll be right here by your side.”
He wasn’t afraid of the test, he was afraid of the unknown. We were able to comfortably proceed, free of tears. Later, he curiously asked about blood, and it opened a conversation about his body and how it works. Of course, he still got a lollipop and an amazing dinosaur sticker, but these fun things didn’t replace the answer to his questions. We didn’t need to bribe him because the truth, given in steps he could grasp, was so valuable to him.
This calm exchange over an otherwise stressful event made me aware of just how often we as adults might overlook and underestimate our children’s questions. This concept of logic and honesty flowed natural to me now, but it wasn’t always that way. It took time for me to first see him as capable, and it took patience to slow down and choose my words thoughtfully. I began to see our everyday struggles as opportunities to lean in.
When we went to get his haircut, he was offered an iPad upon sitting down with the stylist. He was nervous. Instead of encouraging distraction as a coping skill, I talked him through the steps of his haircut. I encouraged the stylist to show him her tools, how they worked. I asked him questions about how he wanted his hair to look. I leaned in.
When we gathered around the family dinner table last week and he asked what those bright pink vegetables were on his plate, I let go of the urge to “sneak it in” and nonchalantly replied, “Radishes!” When he hesitated, I explained what they are and how they can fuel our bodies. I leaned in.
When we were running late for morning drop-off at school, I didn’t bribe him with chocolate to get him to move faster. I took a deep breath and explained to him my visible impatience. “Being on time is an important gesture of respect. That’s why I’m stressed right now. If we are to show up on time, we must leave now. Can you help me by moving quickly?” I leaned in.
And, before you think I must have a lot of patience, leaning in is sometimes done out of the exact opposite – moments of losing patience. Being an honest mom is not rooted in perfection; it is rooted in humility. I do not hesitate to apologize to my son when I know I could have handled my emotions better. I lean in then, too.
This honesty policy we’ve grown into has brought so much trust and respect to our home. Seeing how capable their absorbent minds are at processing real things allowed me to see that they deserve real answers. They deserve more of our attention, not distraction. They deserve to be equipped with coping skills, not just lollipops and dinosaur stickers.
Our children are capable. We must not only think about this in terms of giving them freedom to try new things. We must also think about this in terms of giving them guidance to overcome hard things.
From birth to age 6, learning is as heightened and effortless as it will ever be in their lives. Their questions and worries are rooted in trying to make sense of the world, and so we should answer in a way that helps them do that.
About the Author
Jenna Wawrzyniec is a writer and Montessori-inspired mother of two children under the age of four. Her two dogs also count as children. Read more of her work at itslittlebird.com.
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