Monday, October 24, 2016

Taking the Long View as Parents

Our staff and I had the pleasure this week of hearing HOS Pam Dunbar, of Montessori Academy of Arlington (Texas), speak about the parent and school relationship in a Montessori environment.  She compelled us to ask parents to paint a visual image of the adult they hope their child will be at age 22.  For most, she stated, the focus is on personal attributes rather than job or social status obtained.  Parents want their 22 year old child to be independent, caring, self-reliant, hard working, happy, able to maintain healthy relationships, and to have passion for their profession and personal lives.
Yet, it is so easy to get hyper-focused on the details and the 'in the moment' challenges for our children.  Often, we end up panicking over their exact academic status, friendship issues, and other factors that take on distorted significance through our eyes, out of concern for their well being.  That often leads to over protection of our children, robbing them of the experiences they need to gain confidence, insight, real skills, and internal motivation.
In Montessori, as most of you know, we are striving to develop this internal motivation, determination, grit, responsibility, kindness, and a life-long love of learning.  We take a holistic view to education and know we are teaching much more than academic subjects.  We are partnering with you to provide experiences your child can have in a safe environment, to learn life lessons.
It seems I am not the only Montessori HOS to be writing on this topic.  Beth Heller Atencio, Head of School at Montessori School of Evergreen, Co, recently blogged on the topic, stating:
"Parenting for the long view is the classic case of knowing in our rational brain what we should do and not giving in to our emotional brain’s desire to protect our child from difficulty....
Parents have good intentions, but that good intentions can have disastrous consequences. Nationally, students entering college are making poor choices because they haven’t had the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. They haven’t gained the experience that comes from bad judgments. Recruiters at college job fairs have even begun bringing kits for parents since they are now key in the job search process."
Essential Parenting newsletter, written by a pediatrician and parent educator, informs us that 3 stages one goes through in developing self-discipline are: 1) being ruled by instinct and impulses, to 2) developing some behavioral control through an internal judge who sets rules to follow, to 3) finally growing into the capacity to read situations and people in real time and make heartfelt decisions about how to act in the face of conflicting needs and complexity (the authentic self).
If we rob our children of experiencing and learning through their own actions, we need to be prepared to take responsibility for them well after the age of 21.  Although we each do our very best everyday as parents, it's important to stay focused on the long view.  After all, we are raising adults, not children.