By Sara Bloomberg
“The liberty of the child ought to have as its limits the collective interest of the community in which s/he moves ….” Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child
By now, I am sure that everyone you know (possibly even you) has either mentioned, created or tweaked their family schedule a million times. As the days lapse into weeks, families establish their communal rhythms that ebb and flow, much like the tides of the oceans. Hopefully, by now, each unique family flow works best for the littles as well as for the adults. Even better is the possibility that you, the adults, have adapted and have productive work schedules, too, and that you are all (somewhat) enjoying the unfolding days. If you need help setting up a daily rhythm with your children, be sure to download the visual schedule cards that are included in the Bonus Library that comes with the Montessori Parent Coronavirus Survival Guide.
As we start living under one roof, with few or no breaks from each other, we might be leaving the honeymoon stage. In schools, the honeymoon phase lasts about three or four weeks. During this time, children are on their best behaviors. Everything is new, and we don’t really see your children’s true selves until they begin to realize that this thing we call “school” is indeed an everyday thing. As the honeymoon phase ends, some families reference their rides on the “struggle bus.” Some family members are the drivers, others the conductors, and some might be the passengers all the way at the end of the bus. Some days that bus might break down and need a tow much like “The Little Engine that Could,” and other days, the bus might chug along, its engine purring. As we co-exist in our communal living, we might come to discover our non-negotiables. We might endure the straws that feel like they are breaking our backs.
At this very moment, it is helpful for you, and even healthier for your child to have some boundaries in place. Your children, no matter how old they are, need boundaries. You do not always need to be their friend, in fact, you are not their friend, you are their parent, and your primary job is to keep them physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe and secure.
Part of the safety is making sure they are physically safe. They may not race through the house wearing roller skates, well, because your home is probably not a roller rink, and it’s just not safe. Everyone’s emotional safety (especially in these topsy-turvy times) needs to be supported and nurtured too. Yes, their needs are pressing, they might be hungry, but they can come to understand that their cheesy egg brekkies do not magically appear when they shout at you.
Your children, no matter what their age, need you to create some non-negotiables. They need some hard no’s. They need some rules and procedures that are in place for the physical and emotional safety of everyone.
So what are your non-negotiables? What’s your tipping point? The point at which you absolutely want to pull your hair out or race down the street, much like David, the character from “No David!” (an excellent book by David Shannon)?
Tips for 3-6 Year Olds
You can role model a few things for your 3-6-year-olds that will begin to make everyone’s life more bearable.
- Bend down and say, “please and thank you,” as you smile and look into your child’s eyes when you talk to them. (Let that smile move from your eyes to your mouth and to your heart!)
- Be on your child’s eye level as you quietly say, “Please do not yell at me. It hurts my ears when you yell, and I cannot hear you.” (In return, take deep breaths every time you want to yell at them and remember they are always observing and learning from you.)
- Take a breather with your child when things are going well and look them in the eyes, take a breath together, and acknowledge the peaceful moment.
- Set your child up for success when they are working. Don’t put too much out at once. Help them with the clean up so that they don’t feel overwhelmed and are unable to complete their tasks with success.
Tips for 6-12 Year Olds
With your 6-12-year-olds you can have non-negotiables such as
- Their beds should be made, and their rooms should be clean before their work cycle begins. (This will help them in the long run when they leave your nest and live on their own.)
- Before work time begins, everyone should use the bathroom and get their own glass of water so that they can focus on their work. (This is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives, especially when they are at work later in their lives.)
- Your children should be your sous chefs and help you make dinner. (All children need to learn to become proficient in the kitchen.)
- Use the Elementary Daily Schedule worksheet from the Bonus Library that comes with the Montessori Parent Coronavirus Survival Guide if you need help getting started!
Tips for all ages:
- Using sand or baking timers as visual and auditory cues with regards to how long their work cycle is. (Make sure that the times allotted are developmentally appropriate too.)
- Creating communal chores such so that the whole gang helps to:
- Cleaning up after each meal, including washing and drying the dishes.
- Loading, unloading and folding laundry.
- Sweeping and vacuuming (just understand that children’s final products might not be the same as yours!)
More than anything, understand that it’s the little things that make for smooth sailing. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” These days are, in fact, a blessing, they are helping your children learn to be flexible, they are teaching them that flux is the one constant. In addition to this, you will be helping your children develop lifelong skills that they will need as adults. Together you can be a great team who supports one another as you all evolve into better versions of yourselves.
Here are some websites that might further help you evolve your days into mostly smooth sailing adventures.
- Janet Lansbury: Our Children Crave Boundaries
- Empowering Parents: How to Set Healthy Boundaries with your Child
- Teach Middle East: Help Your Child to Set and Respect Boundaries
- Mind Body Green: Why It’s Important to Set Healthy Boundaries with your Kids
- Parenting.com: Why Kids Need Rules
- Positive Parenting Free Webinar: Get Kids to Listen While You’re All Stuck at Home (affiliate link)
About Sara Bloomberg
Sara is a teacher trainer at Duhovkha Montessori teacher education program and head of Orange Tree Montessori play group. Sara is a LGBTQIA+ presenter, author, and activist. Sara consults with families helping to integrate the Montessori pedagogy into their daily lives.