Praise vs Acknowledgement: a Montessori perspective

I have been thinking about this article for months and I was waiting for my head to finally feel ready for it. Praise versus acknowledgement is an important subject when it comes to self-esteem and confidence.

We went from one extreme to another, in the past, people were expected to work hard, and no praise was given or expected and on the contrary, negative criticism would be given to fix mistakes. A few decades later, we reached the other side of the spectrum, people are scared of hurting children’s self-esteem so they started to praise and “GOOD JOB!” and “GOOD GIRL/BOY!” were heard all over schools, homes, stores, everywhere.

But the irony is that none of these did any good to children’s self-esteem or confidence. They were both focusing on giving an opinion of the result of what a child or an adult would do. The old times created people with low self-esteem and the latter created a generation expecting constant external validation without which they cannot feel confident.

Psychology studies seem to find that an in-between is best. Montessori falls into this category.

pink tower process
It is the process that counts.

 

What we want is to have children happy and proud of the work they did and the process they used, we don’t want to focus as much on the result. Why? Because the result can be depreciative when a lot of work has been put into it but what we want is not to discourage people (child or adult). Being discouraged will make the child stop trying. However, an acknowledgement of the process keeps the child making effort until she can realize she succeeded. Montessori activities provide a control of error that helps the child see if she reached the result that is expected. Be patient, the child will get there by herself.

 

 

What can we say instead of “Good job!… Amazing!… Good girl/boy”

In Montessori we :

  • Acknowledge the result (« You did build the tower”, “You helped me put the dishes away, thank you!”, “You read that word all by yourself…)
  • Encourage the effort or the process (« You put a lot of effort into this work”, “I see you used a lot of blue, do you like blue?”)

 

It is more about showing the child we have noticed what she is showing us. If it is the first time they do something, you could comment on the result but you don’t have to, especially if the child still seems very focused and is not asking for external validation. We also acknowledge (but not praise) when the child seems to want us to notice what she did.

happy smile
The smile of inner self-esteem and confidence growing after a lot of work has been put into this button frame.

This is why we think our activities through, what is offered to the child has a meaning to us, the child needs to work at it and she might feel frustrated at first because it is not easy but with acknowledgement of the effort, she can keep on going until she is satisfied and happy of the result herself. What we want is to avoid the NEED for external validation that is very present nowadays. A friend told me recently that her partner has been praised constantly as a child and later on. He is now constantly frustrated because his boss does not seem to care about his work. How is he going to overcome this ingrained feeling that he does not need someone else to feel validated.

My final word would be : “Let yourself be proud as a caregiver/parent but let the child be proud without you, in all independence.”

As a parent/teacher, I do feel proud of my child/students and when I do, I pat myself on the back because it took some work to prepare the right environment for them and I reward myself at time (your choice of glass of favourite drink, little sweet indulgence such as a croissant for example) but I let the child build her confidence. I also watch for these satisfied, inner happiness smiles children have when they feel proud of themselves: they did it by themselves and for themselves.

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Our journey into toilet awareness – from 3 months to 18 months (1)

Hello everybody,

I am excited to talk about what everybody calls potty training. Why ? Because it seems like a lot of parents are struggling and many books are being written to help parents do it the right way and fast.

Well… in the Montessori world, we follow the child and make sure the child is respected so instead of stressing about it and rush it to have a child independent on the toilet in a few days, we take our time.

A little background first… I am from France and I have many children in my family and around me and potty training is not discussed as much as it seems to be in North America (where I live now). I asked my mother and other moms coming from France like me and indeed, no stress, no fuss, they just do it over time. HOW ? Well everybody seem to follow more or less the same process where children are in underwear and have a potty and well that’s it! In certain household, parents remind their child to go to the potty  on a regular basis until they get it and go by themselves; in other families, they just tell the child that this is where we will try to pee and poo and accept the ‘accidents’ until the child is ready for the potty by herself. When you hear them, I swear it does not seem like a big deal! I will add that in France, School (preschool) starts at 3 and often 2.5 years old so children are definitely going independently to the toilet on their own beforehand. In average, I would say, it’s being taken care of right before they turn 2 or before when the child shows signs of readiness. In my family, it looks like I was toilet independent by 21 months and my brothers around 22-23 months. So why not ?!!

Now, back to where we are in our home. I have been reading and reading and talking to people and sometimes feel stuck in between what works or not and the stress it seems to be for some parents. My husband and I have decided to follow advice from Montessori people (infant/toddler teachers or training centre) from the start:

  • Our child is in cloth diapers from birth (except at night because we could not find a good fit to avoid leaks or when we go on long trips). Cloth diapers help the child realize she is wet so this natural sensation gives a potential discomfort that makes the child tell you when it’s time to be changed. Our daughter would scream as a young baby whenever she was wet and felt happy the minute we would tell her that we were going to change her. She is still in cloth diapers and is now, at 18 months, able to tell us when she peed or when she needs to pee (before it happens) hence we can now make it to the potty on time.
ALexis potty 3 m
Only picture of our daughter at 3.5 months being held by my husband on the potty, she always loved it and would usually smile.
  • Our daughter has been put on the potty as soon as she could sit and hold herself enough to be comfortable on it but we would still hold her to be safe. We had a great Babybjorn potty and my husband was devoted to put her on the potty anytime she would tell us she was wet. After a few weeks, she would pee in the potty almost every time and would still wet her diaper (which is normal). This way, the potty is a very familiar thing, there is no big fuss around it or fear of it. It was part of the changing area in her bedroom.
  • When there are signs of readiness (peeing or pooping in corners), saying they did it, holding their diaper when they wet it…), cloth diapers can go away and training pants are introduced (they are thicker in the middle than regular underwear and hold a little pee but the child still feels it go down).

After that, it depends on the child and how she has been doing around the potty. Like I said earlier, you can just go with the flow and if there is a pee in the underwear, then, we go remove it, go on the potty (to potentially finish), clean and put new underwear. After a while, the child will end up just going to the potty with no ‘accidents’ in the underwear. Others would remind the child, regularly to go to the potty (to avoid the ‘accidents as much as possible) and eventually the child will also be able to go to the potty when she feels she needs to go instead of during or after it happens.

It’s part of the child and the family’s journey. Take it slow, follow the child and choose cute diapers and panties, it makes it even more fun for everybody !

bathroom set up
18 months old – our bathroom set up : a basket (with diapers, toilet paper, cloth wipes (in the box) and a book. A. loves to choose the diaper she will wear next ), the potty (this one is from IKEA and works well as she is older and can get on it on her own easily), a little step stool where she sits to remove slippers, pants etc or sit to put pants back on; it also doubles as a step stool for reaching the sink to wash hands. Soon, the diapers will be replaced by training pants.

In our home, our daughter is 18 months and is still using her cloth diapers and also show signs of being able to tell us before she needs to go or when she just did it in her diaper, like she has been for a while. However, I can feel a difference in the way she manifests it is happening, she tells us more often than before and yesterday, told me : “caca” (which is her word for pee, poo, potty and toilet) and went straight up the staircase to go to the bathroom. I thought, she was telling me she had done something and needed to go on potty and get a change. Surprise!!! The diaper was dry and she peed in the potty only. So I know she is getting there by herself.

As soon as the weather and temperature becomes nicer, hoping for when she is around 19-20-21 months, diapers will go away and will be replaced by training pants to began our last part of the toilet awareness journey.

No stress, just pee in the potty!

I hope you can also be stress free when it comes to your child’s independence on the toilet. Let me know your experience.

Our Montessori household and screen time

Hello everybody,

I wanted to write a quick post this week about screen time. I seem to encounter a lot of parents telling me they cannot be parents if their child has no screen time, that it gives them time for themselves to do things during or at the end of the day. I understand the struggle, I am a parent and yes it is hard to be able to work, cook, shop, pay bills, etc when your child(ren) need nurturing and attention.

My Montessori take on this is that I trust my child to be able to do certain things by herself and that by preparing an environment for her developmental needs, then she can get time by herself – and she needs it – so I can get things done, SCREEN FREE.

As a teacher I have always advocated for no screen at all under 3 years old and very limited and supervised screen time or not at all under 6 years old. When I was a classroom teacher, it was quite often that I could pinpoint the children who would have screen time and those who would not as I would observe reactions, focus and concentration on activities and so on. So YES it shows. I am not a fan of : “I watched TV as a child ans turned out fine!” because what you don’t know is how better it might have been for you in life without it.

Now, the point is not to feel guilty and think we are bad parents if we feel like we cannot do it any other way. NOT AT ALL. You are just trying to make it work. We all are. Sometimes, we feel ill-equipped.

Our choice, in our house, for our daughter’s brain sake and development is to make sure she does not get much access or not at all to screen technology – the only one we have is skype with the family abroad, we keep it real, there is no artificial people, lazy watching or games to play. Just talking to people we cannot see otherwise.

I might get less time for me but this is something I work out with my husband to get time for myself as he spends time with her and vice versa. As per cooking, well, I use nap time or I have my child involved in the process, we cook together often, she loves watching, pouring, mixing and see the final result in our plates afterwards.

baking
NO SCREEN, just an apron and some real life responsibilities she loves. 

If you feel like you need to read more about this, please go to https://www.screenfreeparenting.com/tech-wise-parenting-articles/

This website has researches and tips to help parents. It can help making an informed decision and give you tips on what to do to be screen free if you are seeking this path for your family.

I hope this helps, I find my life quite simpler and less stressful without screens all around us. We keep our screens out of reach or hidden until our child is ready to handle this responsibility, because what is to understand is that using screens smartly is a (part of our parental) responsibility.

Would you be ready for a screen free month with your child(ren) ? 

 

Nutrition – the new Canadian guidelines

Hello everybody,

this is a different and less Montessori related post than usually. However, I thought it was important to mention that our Canadian food guidelines have changed and they DID CHANGE.

We used to see 4 food groups (vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives) and with that a very detailed plan of what you should eat everyday and how many portions of each. Early childhood establishments (daycares, preschools and schools) had to follow these guidelines per law request. This ended up, in my opinion, in a lot of personal interpretations and since children were to eat several portions of each group every day, the cheap and easy solution was to offer children crackers and a lot of cheese and milk and it was fine since it was always accompanied by a fruit or a vegetable.

Personally, I think crackers are tasty but have you looked at the ingredients and the amount of fat and everything it has in it… this is not healthy for a child (or us I guess as well).

The new guidelines are out and we now have 3 food groups (vegetables and fruits, protein food and whole grain food) and no portion only this:

food gudie 2019

As guidelines it says:

  • Have plenty of vegetables and fruits (left part of the plate)
  • Eat protein foods (top right part of the plate)
  • Choose while grain food (bottom right part of the plate)
  • Make water your drink of choice

 

It seems easier and healthier to me. It also has some tips and recipes to help, like before with the older guidelines. I cannot wait to look into it a little more. So far, I like the ” cook more often” to avoid ‘prepared food’ full of preservatives and other things we don’t always understand.

I can hear parents say they do not have time to cook… When you are a working parent or even at home with your child(ren) all day, it is difficult!!!

My trick is to MEAL PLAN, every weekend and it guides my grocery list, then I order online for pick up so I don’t have to spend a long time in the store and get tempted by food we don’t need or that would be unhealthy temptations. Then I block some time (usually nap times) to cook my heart out, I love my slow cooker, instant pot and other useful appliances that makes it easier for my busy mommy/teacher life.

I would love to know what you think about these changes.

Is it going to help you make good choices for your child(ren) ? 

How we operate with food and our toddler(s)

Hello everyone !

I was thinking the other day about how stressful the holidays can be for parents trying to have their children eat at the table on Christmas day. As I was reflecting on what I have seen – myself as a child, my nephews and nieces, cousins… well, everybody has their own way of dealing with food, from: “You need to finish what is on your plate before dessert” to “of course sweetie, you can eat all the cookies and non of the meat on your plate!”.

We fall somewhere in the middle, in a Montessori way to respect our child(ren) but also teach them to eat.

I am writing this article thinking about our young toddler aged 16 months but also about the toddlers we used to care for in BC and many other older toddlers I have seen and taught in the past years and still now.

For babies, we use Baby-Led-Weaning which can almost translate into Division of Responsibility when they grow older.

To sum up what you can see on the link I dropped above, this is what DOR (Division Of Responsibility) is:

The adult is responsible for What, When and Where to eat.

The child is responsible for How Much or whether she eats – you have to trust your child will eat what she needs until she is not hungry. If she chooses not to eat, we don’t make a big deal. She will eat eventually.

We provide a variety of food from each group and trust the child to eat a variety over time.

lily cooking
Cooking with a lovely 16 month old student. She was involved in making healthy pancakes.

To help getting there we also make snack and meal time an occasion for fun (i.e. make the table beautiful with flower arrangements, centre piece made by the child, a occasion for the child to participate (i.e cooking together, harvesting our own veggies…) and we try – to the best of our busy life ability- to make meals on the same schedule everyday.

So far, I have to say it has been working, I do not worry about what they eat as long as they eat something at some point.

I do not offer sweets or salty snacks that would be unhealthy as some of them could only choose that and let’s be realistic they do not need it.

Snacks are made of at least on fruit or veggie along side another food from another food group such as cheese/yogurt… or a piece of bread or a homemade muffin.

I hope this can help ease the holiday meal time – even if this is one full of sweets !

If you have any questions or need some help or advice, feel free to ask in the comments.

Have fun cooking to prepare some fun Holiday meals and snacks!

 

PS: Here are links to our dishes used for babies and that we still use for our toddler and also the dishes we use for our preschool students and our girl.

plate with succion cup to hold it in place on the table and also the bowl. These are awesome quality and come with a spoon made as the plates and bowls of bamboo and silicone.

-I also found these bowls at a cheaper price but I am not sure about the quality of the products as they are made of plastic – we do avoid plastic for environmental reasons ourselves but I know plastic is sometimes hard to get away from.

-If you are ready for using breakables that are however very solid, use the set from IKEA. 

 

This article has affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Montessori Christmas reading list for parents :)

As I was writing the last posts about Montessori friendly toys for babies, I realised that I should also write about the books I find useful for parents interested in Montessori or a Montessori approach to raising your child(ren).

Here are some of my favourites by Maria Montessori herself:

The Absorbent Mind – this is one of the latest books she wrote before she died in 1952, it is the easiest read to understand her philosophy of education.

The Child in the Family – I read this one while pumping milk during my training morning breaks. It is an easy read, a very interesting one to see the child through Montessori’s eyes. It is a good reminder of who the child should be in our family, its own person and not only what we want her to be.

 

Other books I like not about Montessori education:

  • The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies, AMI Montessori toddler teacher in the Netherlands – she is a treasure of experience and information. This book can also help you set things up in your house for your child.
simone book
Simone Davies is such an inspiration you can follow her on the Montessori Notebook.

Other books Montessori approved:

aubrey book
Aubrey also wrote a book  called Babies First years Milestones.
  • Oh crap ! Potty training by Jamie Glowacki – this vision of potty training is what some Montessori parents apply with their children. Seeing this phase as a learning and a natural process without rewards or punishments. The author is a very entertaining, experienced educator helping parents around her.

 

I could go on and on but I chose to give you what is for me the simplest books to understand Montessori and to help parents raising their child in a respectful ways incorporating positive discipline and respectful parenting. I hope you will like it as much as I did.

My goal is to read even more in 2019 !!!! What about you ?

Our first year of toys (2) – Christmas shopping list

As I get deeper into Christmas decorations and activities with the children, I am more and more excited about the family time we will spend together as my niece is coming to spend the end of the year with us in our new home.

xmas board
Our Chrismas welcome board in the cloakroom, decorated by the students with star stickers !!!

As promised, here is the list of the material our daughter and her friends used from about 6 months until they turned 1 year old and over. Enjoy !!

Stacking rings made of wood, I love it and so did the children, we still get some use out of it and she is 15 months. I would also consider the one that rocks to add some challenge to it.

Nesting, stacking bowls – can be used over and over for different purposes.

We also had and still have a basket with different everyday life container to open such as a little container with lid, a little bottle with a screw lid,  mini money purse with different types of opening (zipper…)

Any types of wooden blocks work, we got ours from an Etsy shop such as this one.

Play silks and other types of fabric that are really sensorial for the babies. Here is a version a little less expensive though I don’t know what they are worth in quality.

Pots and pans – that was a big hit and you can use it to mix food in it.

We also added closer to one year old the velcro dressing frame, however our daughter started using it before 12 months for sure.  Ours was a little different but it is not being made anymore. This one seems like a close one.

I would advise to never underestimate the power of a table and chairs at the children size such as this one. We also love the IKEA versions: cheap but won’t last forever LATT or the SUNDVIK table and chair a lot more sturdy.

Last but not least a coordination mirror – best thing ever. They loooved it and for a long time.

If you have any question and you want to know more about what our daughter and friends used in our environment – please feel free to ask questions.

 

Have some merry fun !!!

 

Our first year of toys (1) – Christmas shopping list

Hello everybody,

I am in Christmas mode today as the first snow hit Halifax. We got out for a walk in the snow and it was delightful though my daughter does not understand what the big fuss is about yet.

With Christmas spirit comes the baking and reminiscing about our last year with our daughter and the baby students we had back on the West coast.

So I though I would put together a list of the toys, material that were a big hit from birth until one year old. It might help some of you gather nice things for a baby you have at home or love outside of home.

From 0 to 6 months:

The first thing I used was this black and white book. You can also use a Munari mobile.

black and white book

 

There are also nice sets of Montessori material for babies and we got ours from Etsy or a local Montessori company in BC Canada (http://www.beginningmontessori.com/five-pack/).

baby toys
Our 3 month old baby with 2 of the toys you can find in sets of Montessori toys.

You can also find alternatives in wooden toy store or on the Internet.

As you go you can use all the different Montessori mobile as you mix and match with the grabbing toys:

 

Here are some of the toys I did not get for Alexis but I would have liked. I got them for other babies around me since then like the colourful bead grasper or its natural alternative.

After a while, some of these toys would be used as teether of course and we found other alternatives so her senses could be enhanced:

  • teether ball from the sensory balls
  • A wooden teething ring
  • a silicone teething ring that she also eventually used as a bracelet
  • someone offered us one like this one that was going into the freezer, it was a big hit for her when she was hurt, but always make sure there is no leak and that they are safe to use prior to give to baby and after each time you wash it.
  • last but not least our famous French Sophie la girafe.
sophie la girafe
4 months old baby and her giraffe.

 

I was looking at our last Christmas pictures and what she had on her blanket on the floor was pretty much a bunch of these teethers including the interlocking disks and always a few board books, never forget books.

I will come back soon with what worked for us from 6 to 12 months.

Have fun shopping for these little ones !

It’s still Autumn !

Hello everybody !

As much as I want it to be Christmas already, I realize that we are still in a Fall mood, weather is cooling down, the leaves are still falling making the ground beautiful with warm colours. I LOVE FALL !

As we are more settled in our new home and as we are welcoming a new student in our home preschool, we still have some Autumn fun !

girls in fall leaves
Playing in the leaves !!!

Today, I took the girls out for a little outing and we ended up spending quite some time in the garden, raking leaves (best Fall practical Life activity ever !) and playing in the leaves we had raked in big inviting piles!

It’s not a matter of age, I had fun, my young toddler had fun and our new girl student also had fun ! It was so beautiful and nice! This was enough exercise to all be hungry for lunch!

fall poking
Art activity: Poking !

Right before nap time, our student and I had time to do some drawing and poking. I love poking as an art activity because it refines fine motor and is an alternative to scissors to cut shapes.

We will enjoy the last days of coloured leaves falling on the ground and will welcome Christmas time with open arms.

 

I hope you will as well ! ?