Monday, 20 November 2017

How I Strive to be a Positive Parent (Even Though I have a Short Temper)

The Montessori tenant of respect for children and the focus on non-violence is something which has really resounded with me. Maria Montessori wrote in The Absorbent Mind: "Always must our treatment be as gentle as possible, avoiding violence, for we easily fail to realize how violent and hard we are being.” (131, The Absorbent Mind).

According to the Montessori method, childhood is a time of growth and creation that needs to be safeguarded as much as possible. 

Stemming from my love and respect for this aspect of the Montessori method, I wanted to open up about something I am always working on, my temper. I thought it might help others to feel like non-violent parenting, and Montessori, is accessible to them, even if they struggle with something like a short temper.

Controlling my temper and growing in patience is something for which I have worked hard, starting when I was a teenager with little siblings and transitioning to motherhood. By no means am I a raving, angry lunatic, but I definitely find myself apologizing to Jerome for losing my temper probably at least once a day lately, and it is something I am aware of needing to consciously work on.

Last week, I was having a particularly hard time with my temper, and while I cannot exactly remember what Jerome's transgression had been, I responded by chasing him down the hallway and dragging him back into the kitchen. It was not my finest moment. After I had calmed down, apologized to him, and done my best to repair the damage I felt I had done, I sat on the couch and cried in complete frustration.

Montessori parents are non-violent; I literally had just written a post about the positive parenting strategies we were implementing and how successful they were, and not a week later, I was feeling like a complete hypocrite. At the time of writing the post, I had been feeling increasingly patient for a few months and was by no means intending to come across as hypocritical, but there I was anyway.

I have written before about how I do not believe in the terrible threes, but sometimes Jerome is having a hard time and I do not respond with the calm and understanding he needs, and honestly, it is hard to be objective and not feel like a failure as a parent.

That night, after crying, I decided to pray about it, and these are the answers I got.

1. I need to celebrate the child I have

Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It is about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. -The Water Giver

A fellow mom blogger I follow posted a while back about losing her temper and how she realized it often happened in situations when she felt things were out of her control. Reading this helped me to realize my loss of temper often stems from feeling at a loss with a behavior, often because I feel it reflects a way I am failing as a parent. This makes these situations very personal and selfish, taking my focus away from how he needs me to be responding.

As I wrote about in my blog about not believing in the terrible threes, these moments are opportunities for me to help Jerome toward a solution, to share my calm, and to model peacefulness. Jerome is a valuable individual, someone with legitimate needs and preferences, he is so much more than a puzzle I am trying to parent and correct. All of his little quirks, even the things that make him difficult sometimes, can help me to know and understand him as the person he is meant to be, not the person I expect him to always be.

After the fact, I found myself feeling grateful for that moment of temper, as it forced me to evaluate, to surrender, and to seek a beautiful moment with my son: snuggling up to pray a special decade of the rosary with him that night particularly for understanding, patience, and acceptance of who he is and what he needs from me.

2. To not accept that having a temper is my default 

"Come now, let's settle this," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

That night, I read this verse in my Bible and it was a source of comfort to remember that anything I may struggle with, persistent as the struggle may be, it is not the way I am destined to be forever. Just because controlling my temper has been something I have always been conscious of, does not mean it will always be so.

I know that overall I have come so far in my journey towards becoming a more peaceful and non-violent person, and I should not trivialize how far I have come on this journey and how far I believe God can still bring me.

3. Set healthy limits

I am a perfectionist when it comes to my expectations of myself, which of course, carries into my expectations of my parenting and homemaking. In this cycle, I can forget to take care of myself, to cut myself some slack, and to set healthy boundaries.

In order to model kindness towards my children, I should first be practicing kindness and understanding towards myself. It is valuable for them to have me exemplify a healthy, non-violent, whole person, and this can only be possible if I work towards taking care of my own needs and feelings. It is best by my example that they will grow to be individuals who are capable of taking care of themselves in these areas, and modeling kind, non-violent behavior towards others as a result.

4. Keep apologizing 

On the days when I do not keep my temper in check, I believe it is important for my children to see me apologizing. I will never be perfect, just as they will never be perfect, and it is healthy for them to see me owning up to mistakes and growing as a person. Just as it is important for them to learn, by my example, how to take care of themselves and to control their tempers, it is also important for them to see me model what to do when they inevitably fall short, as we all do.

5. Develop an attitude of thankfulness

Last of all, it is much harder to be a positive and peaceful person if I am constantly speaking negativity. Instead of dwelling on all the ways I may have failed as a parent and homemaker at the end of the day, I have begun falling asleep with a prayer of thanksgiving. I will comb through my day, picking out all the moments with my children, myself, my husband, my home that I am thankful for, and it has greatly changed my outlook as I wake up each new day.

For example, I had fallen into the bad habit of walking through the house at the end of the day and noticing all the things I had not been able to accomplish that day, like the vacuuming I had written on my to-do list. When I turned this dissatisfaction around to being thankful for the books we had read together, the sleepy Benedict I had snuggled, the learning we had done, which had taken up the time I might have used for vacuuming, it helped me to see my life through a lens that predisposes me to loving, cherishing, and being grateful for my children and my home.

It is definitely not easy, but I do believe the things we struggle with are ultimately for our good.

I have always found that struggling with something brings self-awareness, which is healthy and necessary. Realizing I am imperfect leads to grace and effort and forgiveness, and I believe the type of humility required for this personal journey is exactly what I need to be the kind of Montessori parent I want to be. My temper draws me in to being a better parent as it causes me to stop, evaluate, and grow, and while I will continue to work towards losing my temper less and less, I know it will have been an important part of my journey.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions about Montessori or our family, please feel free to contact me either through the blog, Instagram, or Bloglovin' (all of which are linked in the About Me tab) and I will do my best to answer your questions, or will point you in the direction of another Montessorian I know will be able to assist you.

God bless,

Monday, 13 November 2017

Preparing Our Montessori Infant Space

As our due date approaches, I have been feeling the push to get everything prepared for the arrival of our little one, and thought, for this Montessori Monday, I would share an update and some pictures of the Montessori-inspired infant space I have prepared. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Understanding Obedience and Why Montessori Encourages Self-Discipline Instead

The other night Jerome was looking at the DVD cases, something he has liked to do since he was quite little, and I noticed he was very particular about putting them away when he was finished, as he knows he is expected to do. After he had been put to bed, he came out of his room, as he always does at least once, to go to the bathroom and give me one last goodnight kiss. As he came around to where I was sitting on the couch, he noticed he had left a few DVDs on the ottoman, and I witnessed a moment of joyful obedience, completely independent of needing to be told, as he laughed to himself and returned the cases to the drawer.

Observing this moment, and simultaneously observing his behavior over the next couple of days, I realized he has most definitely reached the second level of obedience, and sometimes displays evidence of the third, as well (though I do not expect him to be mature and rational enough to be fully in this stage until he is closer to six or seven). With this in mind, I thought it would be beneficial to talk about Maria Montessori's views on obedience for this Montessori Monday, as well as sharing some favorite parenting strategies Tharin and I utilize.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Simplifying Montessori: Following the Child

In my last post, I mentioned feeling there is too much emphasis on the materials of the Montessori method and not enough on the philosophy, and I wanted to talk about this in greater detail for this Montessori Monday, as I feel my saying this may have come across as harsh. Especially seeing as I am definitely not immune to getting caught up in the materials, and believe this is likely the case for most people who are attempting to learn about the Montessori method.

I have been reading the Essential Montessori by Elizabeth Hainstock and really enjoying her frank and objective opinions about the Montessori method. In this book, she talks about how parents become obsessed with the mystique of the materials and the results promised through them, not paying due attention to the “commitment of philosophy which is the core of the method.” Maria Montessori’s ideas were “formulated after she had laboriously observed the needs of the individual child” and the materials were then designed to “serve these ideas.” {The Essential Montessori, page 27}

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

24 Things I am Grateful for On my 24th Birthday

Seeing as today is my twenty-fourth birthday - my champagne birthday, actually, I thought I would write a post on twenty-four things I am thankful for this year. It has been a great year, one filled with a lot of changes and surprises, but, thankfully, a lot of constants as well.

1. Tharin, my husband and my rock. I am so grateful to have him as my support through everything in life, especially parenting. He is such a perfect yin to my yang. I could gush on and on about how great he is, but I've done that on here before, so if you want to hear all about it, I'll let you do that.

2. Jerome, my sweet first born. He is such a source of joy and laughter in my life & I am so thankful for how forgiving he is of my mistakes, after all, he is my guinea pig and there are a lot of them.

3. Benedict, my joy-child. He has brought so much light to our lives & I am so grateful for his little voice saying, "mommy" and the perpetual smile he has on his face. My kids are my joy and my purpose, and I am so incredibly thankful for them.

4. Our third musketeer, the wiggly baby I hold so close to my heart. We are so fortunate to have gotten pregnant three times, even if they have been very close together, and I am so in love with this baby already.

5. My healthy pregnancy. I try not to take for granted how fortunate I am to have such uncomplicated and low-risk pregnancies. Along with this I am grateful for my midwife and for feeling so taken care of along the journey of my pregnancy.

6. The health of my family. I also try not to take for granted that each of us are so healthy, minus a few bumps and bruises along the way (ehem, a broken leg for four months).

7. Our home, even though I prayed a lot for it to sell this year. It has been such a blessing in disguise to have this home as a constant in a year of changes. I am grateful for how I have been able to make this house a comfortable and peaceful home for our family to flourish and grow in.

8. My faith and the freedom to live it. Without my faith there are so many things I would not be able to face so gracefully, it is such a source of peace, of comfort, and of joy.

9. My parents and the support they have given me throughout my life. They always gave me the sense I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to, and I know I owe so much of who I am to their love and guidance. My boys are so blessed to have them in their lives.

10. My in-laws. Honestly, I am so deeply grateful to them for the son they raised, for the values they instilled in him, and for the unfaltering support and love they continuously shower on our family. My boys are so blessed to have them as grandparents.

11. Emilie, my dear sister. I had to single her out, because a day does not go by that I am not eternally grateful for her. There is no one who gets me the way she does, and no one I rely on in the way I rely on her.

12. Good friends. There has never been a time in my life I have not been surrounded by a fantastic network of friends who support and love me. I wanted to especially mention Alicia, Brielle and Abigail.

13. Montessori. Yes, I am so thankful for all Montessori has added to our lives, to my understanding of my children & our parenting journey.

14. Tharin's job which supports us and allows us to have Tharin home more than a typical job. I am also so thankful for the purposefulness it brings to Tharins life, I see him living with so much more joy and enthusiasm than he did in his trade.

15. Laughter. Especially because I am married to my best friend and we make each other laugh so much each day. 

16. The ability to be a stay-at-home mom. Some days it is really difficult to feel purposeful, but I try to be thankful for the privilege of staying home and getting to be the one to watch our boys learn and grow and experience the world day-to-day.

17. Morning coffee and the little joys of life.

18. Great music. On the days when I am feeling most out of sorts, music is sometimes the one thing that can pull me out of it. Special mention of Need to Breathe, All Sons and Daughters, and I Am They.

19. Love of writing and the ability to pour this love into my blog. I have loved writing my entire life, and I am so thankful for this outlet and the community I have found here.

20. Learning from mistakes because honestly, where would I be if I was stuck making the same mistakes and never growing?

21. Showers, because when I have no idea how to do the whole self-care thing, at least I always have showers which never fail to make me feel like a goddess.

22. The kindness of strangers. Even though I have a lot going on with the whole two under three thing, and a big old pregnant belly, I have never once had anyone say anything negative or rude towards me or my family. I know that is not the case for a lot of moms and I am really grateful for that.

23. Having more than we need. I look around my house and think about all we are able to have, and I know we are blessed more abundantly than we really need. In this, I see the overflowing love and blessing of God, taking care of our needs and so much more.

Thank you so much for reading. Last of all, I am thankful for you. Without you reading I would just be out here talking to myself, so you are kind of essential, really. And there we have it. 

God bless,

Monday, 23 October 2017

On Our Shelves This Week

I have been hesitant to do a post on our shelf work, but have been asked to share some of the work we do, so I decided to put a post together for this Montessori Monday.

My biggest reasoning behind not wanting to put a lot of focus on shelf work on the blog is that I feel the true value of Montessori parenting is often lost with people thinking it is all about the work and the trays and what we put on shelves for our children so as to accelerate learning, as opposed to the beautiful philosophy of it. In my opinion, my young children are better served with a lot of freedom to explore our home and to seek the motives their minds and bodies need in the environment. This means a lot of running down the hall, stacking the couch cushions, and free play. Benedict finds himself neat little activities such as transferring all the extra mason jar lids and rings from one container to another, and testing how a stick he found fits into the handles of the pots and pans stored in our island, and I will often develop work for him based on how I see these motives being met.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Simplifying Montessori: The Need for the Work-Cycle

My first intention for this Montessori Monday was to write about Practical Life, but halfway through writing and reading some material in preparation for it, it occurred to me that, in order for me to write on this topic I needed to delve more deeply into a few other key components of Montessori which lead to the importance of Practical Life. This is why I have stripped this component down to something else you will see written about often and in great detail when you begin reading about Montessori, the importance of the work cycle. For this Montessori Monday, this fundamental aspect of Montessori is what I want to focus on today.

I came across an essay on normalization which really spoke to me and which I highly recommend if you are interested in this elusive Montessori principle. Today I am not going to go into detail on what the term normalization entails, aside from dispelling the misconception that it means that Montessori expects all children to be forced to conform in order to reach an expected normal. Maria Montessori found that normalization appeared spontaneously in the children who worked in the prepared environment.