Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Be Gentle, Be Safe, Be Kind"

It is said, "Understanding the Ground Rules will set the child free". Montessori teachers say this to illustrate Dr. Montessori's philosophy; often Montessori education is criticized for allowing the child 'too much' freedom. This seemingly contrary statement explains that it is the rules that set the child free, and this is true. It is the confident grasp of 'what is expected here' or the classroom ground rules, that frees the child to independently explore, attempt challenging tasks without fearing failure, and it enables them to relax and enjoy the learning they are experiencing.
Structure equals security:
When you confidently know how you will clean up a spill or where you will put away something after you are done using it, you will direct your efforts and effectively utilize the materials provided for you. The Montessori classroom environment is prepared to nurture the growth of the individual child's self-discipline, by providing him/her with the opportunity to pursue areas of special interest to him/her, make choices and solve problems.
I believe that at home, we as parents can also prepare our environment to support their growth and exploration. By setting clear safety limits and general home 'rules' or guidelines (which ever word you are more comfortable using), you provide your children with everything they need to be successful, healthy and happy.
In my home (and in my classroom) we have three rules: "Be Gentle, Be Safe, Be Kind". One of my wonderful teachers MissE from Northeast Montessori Institute, shared these with me. She uses them in her classroom and her examples of how to use them made us all giggle one afternoon during a long weekend training (thank you MissE).
Almost everything you can think of, can fall under these 3 rules.
For example: Your child is standing on the cat's tail. Is this safe? Is this gentle? Is this kind? If the answer is "No" to any of these questions, it is our job as parents to point this out to our children and help them to move on to something that is safe, gentle and kind.
I'm using a very obvious example but really it's a helpful way for me not to go crazy trying to keep three children healthy and happy. My older children now ask each other and sometimes silently ask themselves, "Is this gentle, safe, kind?". It helps to remind them of what is acceptable behavior for the space they are in. At home those 3 rules cover just about everything, at their schools they learn the ground rules that are in place for that environment. I pray they are similar and hope that if they are not, that possibly our home rules will come into play for my sons when tough choices present themselves.
Remember the 3 rules apply to anyone who enters your home, that includes you and your partner too. These rules are not for children only. Hold your self to the same expectations you hold your children, it's respectful and in showing them respect they will in turn respect you.
As for the photo with this post: My little guy is just learning our 3 ground rules, and bath toys float after all! Gotta love toddlers!

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