From what you see on Instagram, many people assume my girls are practically angels! While that’s certainly not always true — social media is mostly the highlights, after all — they do have an amount of patience and perseverance that I attribute to
my amazing parenting skills Montessori. There are so many skills that I’ve combined from my Montessori training, my years as a Montessori teacher, and experience as a parent that have helped guide the way I interact with the girls to help nurture their patience and perseverance.
There are several ways to encourage patience and perseverance within the Montessori classroom just through the way the materials are designed!
Repetition Repetition Repetition
Repetition is a quality that is built into many Montessori works, and one of the reasons is because it helps to lengthen the attention span. One of the areas of the classroom I always recommend for children who have a hard time working for a long time with something is the Practical Life area. This area includes many repetitive motion works that promote concentration and focus while building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Repetition to completion requires a certain amount of time and perseverance. To help build that up, begin with smaller tasks and build it up over time. For example, with a transfer work: begin with a smaller number of objects to transfer from one bowl to the other, then gradually add a bit more as you see the child’s attention span lengthen.
In a Montessori classroom, there are no huge, intimidating projects to be done. Instead, you’ll find individual work trays to isolate each skill. Once each of those individual skills is mastered, the child can put them together as she sees fit to create a larger project. For example, the sewing sequence begins with needle threading [You could actually argue that it begins long before that, through other works promoting hand-eye coordination and the development of the pincer grip, but let’s just start here]. After that, the child must master knot tying. Only after the needle is prepared can the child move on to learning one kind of stitch, then another. Sewing on a button. Sewing a seam. Eventually, the child will have mastered all of the skills individually, and she can combine the ones she needs to sew a purse or a pillow. But if you skip the scaffolding of individual skills and just hand her the supplies and tell her to sew a pillow, she will be immensely frustrated and give up.
In addition to the innate characteristics of Montessori materials, there is a certain attitude that a Montessori guide or parent must have to help nurture patience and perseverance in young children.
As with all things when interacting with young children, the actions you model are noticed far more than the words you say. So model the way *you* handle frustration and persevere! Talk out loud to yourself when you “mess up” or something doesn’t go your way. “I thought that would work, but it didn’t. I wonder if this would work instead?”
When your child is fully engaged with an activity, an important part of building patience and concentration is to not interrupt her! So many parents are quick to ask questions or try to become involved — it’s a natural instinct, I think, because we love them so much and just want to be part of their lives — but it can really interfere with the child’s ability to focus. Instead, just observe happily and save your questions for when she’s finished.
Sit On Your Hands
This was an expression that the teacher trainers used often during my Montessori training, and for good reason — it’s *extremely* difficult to do. As adults, when we see a child struggling to do something, our first instinct is to step in and help — or to even just do it ourselves. When you feel that urge, try sitting on your hands instead — metaphorically or literally. Don’t jump in to help or fix right away. Wait. Watch. Sometimes just a few seconds more is all it takes for the child to figure it out. Sometimes she still won’t be able to do it — the way *you* would do it, anyway — but she is content with the way she is doing it. And other times she won’t be able to do it *and* she’ll be extremely frustrated with it. And then she has the opportunity to ask for help — another useful skill.
Of course, there will be times when your child does need your assistance, and there are ways to provide that while still building her self-confidence so she can develop that patience and perseverance even while asking for help.
When your child asks for help or appears extremely frustrated, instead of immediately fixing it for her, make an “I wonder…” statement. “It seems like you are very frustrated that the glue is not holding those pieces of paper together very well. I wonder what you could use instead…” That will probably be just the nudge she needs to consider that there might be another way to do it, leading her to persevere and problem solve. She might come up with some ideas that seem outlandish and inefficient to you, but just go with it! This will help build her self-confidence.
“Which part do you need help with?”
Sometimes your child just needs a little bit of help with something, and we are tempted to help with the whole thing. Instead of taking over, ask which part she would like help with. Then help with that, and nothing more. In addition to showing your child that you believe she can do most of it herself, it helps to break the larger project down into smaller chunks — which is more manageable for your child to plan her way through.
Of course, adopting all of these practices is not going to be an overnight fix — you’ll have to employ some of your own patience and perseverance!
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