by Rohini Batra
Recently a parent asked me about teaching children `Delayed Gratification’ and when does a child really develop this ability to wait to obtain something that they want. I thought that was such an important question!
In today’s world, parents are so focused on academic grades, extracurricular activities and so much more, that we all are forgetting that life’s success depends less on the college your child lands into and more on whether they have it in them to work hard and persevere during tough times.
Our cultural norms are also encouraging us to seek Band-Aid solutions and temporary comforts - basically, whatever it takes to ease our discomfort now. We often make our life choices according to how we can avoid pain or obtain pleasure in the moment and, in doing so, fail to see that the path of delayed gratification is sometimes where the real solutions to our problems lie.
At the preschool level, it can be compared to a hungry child insisting on having a cookie just before dinner. Parents who often cave in for a child’s request, may not be teaching their child one of the most important skills of their life-time, delayed gratification.
Choosing to have something now might feel good, but making the effort to have discipline and managing your impulses can result in bigger or better rewards in the future. For instance, eating a cookie before dinner may satisfy your child’s hunger but may leave them full yet cranky. And in the long run if that keeps happening over and over again, it may not be good for the child’s health.
Similarly, children who learn to control their impulses and delay satisfaction, thrive more in long term goals like their careers, relationships, health and finances. Look back and think if delayed gratification helped you in the long run. I am pretty sure it did always help to study than watch a movie, the day before the test.
You may have heard of the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment by psychologist Walter Mischel on `Delayed Gratification’. In this study, a child was offered a choice between one immediate reward, or two rewards if they waited for a period of time.
During this time, the researcher left the room for about 15 minutes and then returned. The rewards were either marshmallows or pretzel-sticks, depending on the child's preference. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by their educational attainment and other life measures.
Now that we know delayed gratification is key for a child’s social emotional development, you may wonder how do we teach this both in the classroom and home setting.
In a Montessori classroom setting, we always have only have one set of material for a particular lesson. If one child is using it, another child has to wait for it until the work is put back on the shelf.
Similarly, when a child is interested in having snacks in the classroom, they do not just go and help themselves. They follow guidelines of first wearing a snack necklace, then waiting for the table to be available for them. These simple grace and courtesy lessons are big building blocks for delayed gratification.
To emulate this behavior in home settings, you need to create an environment where the child knows the routines and understands that everyone needs to follow the routine. If your child is still having a hard time to leave his Lego and come to the dinner table, try giving him extra Lego time after dinner or even better try enticing him with special daddy or mommy time after dinner is over. And as always, the choices you offer should always be what you can follow through.
The education of a small child therefore should not just aim at preparing them for academic success, but for life! So, when you are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life and parenthood, take comfort in knowing that the Montessori education, you choose for your child is doing just that for you!
Rohini Batra is a Lead Teacher in an MCH Early Childhood classroom. You can reach her here.
The wisdom gained in retrospect, once becoming a parent, is invaluable because it could never be understood in the shoes of a child.
by Sunanda Bhaumik
Since it is February, the month that celebrates love, I chose to talk about a special kind of love.
A love which is near and dear to my heart, Parental Love.
I have been blessed with a set of parents and the gift of children, hence becoming one myself, so I have experienced all the manifestations of this love. The wisdom gained in retrospect once becoming a parent is invaluable, because it could never be understood in the shoes of a child.
Only once you are a parent or a guardian can you understand a lot of the reasoning and loving behind a parent’s care. As a child, a parent’s strictness may seem unfair and mean, but their foresight far exceeded our limited perspectives and emotions. There were emotions we may not even had yet, and this signifies the gap in emotional understanding between parents and children.
For example, the feeling of motherly love I felt when I held my children after each of them were born is something, they may never experience the love I felt in that moment, until that moment comes to them in their lives.
Yet and still, despite the differing levels of experience, a child still connects with a parent. With the guidance of a parent, a child comes to understand that the help which comes in a troubling situation, and the warm embrace of a parent’s arms, the sacrifices, these symbolizes the love parents and children share.
Sunanda is a Lead Teacher in an Early Childhood classroom. You can reach her here.
by Sara Davies
Regardless of age, sleep is a very important part of a person’s day. It is the time when the body restores and rejuvenates itself for the work that all parts of the body need to accomplish the next day. Infants are no different.
Sleep is just as important for them, if not more so, than someone like an adult who is much older. Sleep for an infant serves several purposes. Not only does it help to aid in their overall development, by the length and quality of sleep, but it also plays a role in an infants’ overall temperament and ability to function during the hours they are awake.
It is important to remember that sleep occurs in various cycles that are broken into stages. It is not one continuous action when a person’s body is at rest.
Each sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes long and is followed by a R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle. Four sleep cycles occur when a person’s body is at rest. The last two cycles of sleep are the most restorative for the body and are known as deep sleep cycles. These cycles are the most important for brain development because they are the cycles during sleep that repair, restore and rejuvenate the body by repairing cells and tissues in the body as well as retain or eliminate information that has been learned during the day.
Lillard and Jessen state in their book Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age 3 (published in 2003) that these stages of deep sleep are the most important for young children because it is the time when “the body receives almost half of its daily dose of human growth hormone” which encourages the growth, maintenance and repair of muscles in the body. If a child becomes sleep deprived, they will not be able to function as well overall.
Sleep deprivation is something that can happen easily if a child misses naps or starts to go to bed past their usual time. Sleep loss can be connected to a child’s learning ability and in-turn harm their overall development. This is all important information to better understand just how important sleep is to a young child.
Establishing a sleep routine is important to do as soon as it is possible and practical to start one. A sleep routine helps to establish the quality of sleep your child will likely receive and a general routine to wind down at the end of the day.
Establishing a sleep routine helps to form healthy sleep habits that will continue as your child grows. Newborns are unpredictable with their sleeping habits and this continues until about the third month of life. They nap several times a day which can vary from 15 minutes to four hours at a time. By three months old, infants begin to have more organization in their sleep patterns and take about three naps a day.
The first nap occurs between one to one and a half hours after waking. The second nap is dependent on the infants’ personal schedule and can last from one and a half to three hours and then the third nap of the day usually occurs between 4-6pm for about an hour. Keep in mind that each child is different and unique, and each have their own personal needs regarding sleep. Another thing to keep in mind is that as your child grows older, their sleep needs will change, but they will greatly benefit from a sleep routine that you helped to establish early on in life.
Just like adults, sleep helps to improve how infants’ function during the day. Adults in the infants’ life help to facilitate important sleep habits and patterns by understanding the need and importance of sleep for their child as well as maintaining a regular routine at bedtime as much as possible. Young children thrive on routines and this is one that is going to serve them well for years to come. A child who is overly tired will have a much more difficult time falling asleep than a child who is well-rested.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s website, these are the recommended hours your child should sleep each night:
Lillard and Jessen (2003) state that a parent’s “first responsibility to newborns in regards to sleep is to help them sleep through the night as soon as they are capable of doing so.”
To learn more about safe sleep practices, go to:
Sara is the lead teacher in our Infant Classroom. You can reach her here.
“Sleep is a paradox; it is a passive state that is highly productive. ”
Kim Berude is the Infant/Toddler Program Director at MCH. You can reach her here.
Nicole Champoux is the Elementary Program Director at MCH. You can reach her here.
By Marc Cobb
The changing of seasons has long been a reliable marker of time. Early humans used the unwavering journey of the sun to track the hours into days — and then the days to track the sometimes subtle, often blatant transitions between seasons. In modern times, we find our calendars themed to match the seasonal catchphrases and we each look forward to our own favorite time of year.
Back to School
For teachers, back to school was its own season. It is filled with eager lesson planning and engagement with students, colleagues and parents. The children settle into their refreshed classrooms, and before we realize it, life begins to hum along straight into autumn. It can be easy to let each day flow quickly into the next. Often, it’s the students who end up reminding me one day later in fall that the colors are changing, balance has been achieved and the community has reached a calm pace of ease and independence.
Now, as we approach Winter Break, life is busy inside and out of the classroom. Students and teachers alike participate in the balancing act of finishing school projects, attending holiday events and more, as the days move ever more swiftly. Before we can blink, it seems the holidays arrive on our horizons and move past just as quickly. Finally, when we all return from break in January, it can sometimes feel like the break was over before it began, making those first months of the new year feel like they will stretch out ahead forever. In the past, I’ve personally noticed that it can be hard returning to school, finding it hard to get motivated while waiting for the days to get longer, and the light to return.
Opportunity for Change
This year, though, I plan to approach the early months of the new year with a renewed sense of hope and opportunity. If Fall was a time to harvest knowledge, winter after the holidays can become a time to reflect on experiences from the previous year. It is a chance to ask, what awaits me in the coming months? What have I learned and how can I apply that learning to the rest of the school year? How might new connections inspire the present environment? Regardless of what your needs and interests may be, perhaps you too will choose to embrace creativity amidst the chaos of new changes. For though fall may bring the vibration of newness, it is my hope that Winter brings us all a chance for peaceful reflection and the gifts of peace and quiet contemplation.
Have a wonderful break, we can’t wait to see you in 2020.
Marc Cobb is the Middle School Program Director/Lead Teacher in our Middle School Program. You can reach him here.
by Tammia Streuber
Maria Montessori wrote, “The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.”
If we adhere to these powerful words of Montessori then we are to believe that our young infants and toddlers are absorbing all that is around them, and are really creating a version of their future selves. If we want these future selves to be emotionally mature beings who have empathy for others and aren’t afraid to express themselves then it is our job to teach these children how to identify and respond to these emotions, and maybe most importantly of all that it is ok to express and have these feelings.
Talk About the Emotions
Labeling how your child is feeling in the moment may be one of the most helpful tools in learning about emotions. It allows the child to have a real example of what it means to be sad, frustrated, or even angry. When we put the words, “I see that you’re sad,” or “I know it’s frustrating” into context with their tears or angry outbursts we are helping them understand what is going on inside of their body. The words sad or frustrated begin to have a context and meaning apart from just being a word that adults use. It gives these children a way to eventually start discussing their feelings with others.
Not only is labeling a child’s emotions helpful, but we can also label our own feelings for children. When we lock our keys in the car and have a moment of frustration that could lead into a not so pleasant expression of words; we can think twice and say, “I’m so frustrated.” It’s OK for our children to see our vulnerable expressions of feelings. It again puts a context to the words and makes it more real for the child. Saying, “I’m sad right now. I can feel the tears on my face,” may be exactly what your child needs to see and hear to know what sadness means.
Go beyond just labeling emotions, and let your child know that it’s normal and OK to express their emotions. We want to create humans who are in touch with this side of themselves, and don’t hesitate to let others know how they are feeling. When your child is throwing themselves on the floor because they didn’t get that toy they wanted; feel free to say, “I see that you’re angry right now. It’s OK to feel that way. I get angry sometimes too.” The simple words of “it’s OK to feel that way” may be the magical words that stop the tantrum.
Most importantly they are the magical words that your child will remember when they are the adult who may be feeling angry, and instead of bottling up these emotions they will be able to express them in a healthy way.
At the infant and toddler level we need to remember to keep our responses simple and to the point. Once we’ve labeled and empathized with our child then we can give some words and directions that will hopefully help our child self-sooth and manage their emotions. Taking a deep breath and exhaling can often work wonders for the child who is very upset. This moment of taking a breath often relaxes their body in a way that very few things can, and lets them begin to focus on what comes next.
When taking a breath doesn’t work we can also offer the option of needing some time and space. It’s ok to tell your child that it looks like they need some space, and slowly step back to give them the time and space they need to work through their emotions. Not all emotions have an easy resolution, and sometimes the best thing is to allow the toddler to feel the emotions and let it pass. Other times asking them if they need something or asking them if they would like a hug is a sign of respecting them but offering a tangible connection they may need to work through their emotions.
Dealing with emotions is not always an easy thing to do. However, the work you put in now will only help to benefit your child’s future self!
Tammia Streuber is MCH's Lead Teacher in the Infant/Toddler Program. You can reach her here.
by Angela Spayde
It turns out, hugs are more important than candy.
As the children walked down the hallways of Aegis, trick-or-treating at the doors of residents (one of whom was 101 years old!), we ran into Betty taking a stroll on her way to the dining hall. Betty didn’t have any candy to give out at the moment and asked the children if they would like hugs instead. As almost all of the children lined up to give Betty hug after hug, tears streamed out of Betty’s eyes as she joyfully embraced each child and chaperone. She explained how her children were all grown, and that she doesn’t get to see children much anymore.
This first verse from a William Blake poem feels like a nice way to describe what took place at Aegis that day:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Over the last few years, MCH and the Aegis community have established a growing relationship. Aegis is a local assisted living community that serves memory care patients. This year we have partnered with Aegis Redmond, and we couldn’t be more excited. Once a month, residents come to our campus to participate in various activities in our Early Childhood classrooms. Our elementary students are also visiting their community once a month.
This intergenerational connection is invaluable. The young, the old, and the in between are making lasting connections, and it’s impacting both of our communities in beautiful ways.
Angela Spayde is the Student Support Director at MCH. You can reach her here.
by Joan Dietrich
The goal of raising an independent, capable child without encountering endless power struggles on the way is an age-old dilemma for parents.
One of the prime goals in a Montessori education is to foster independence and critical thinking skills in each child. Sometimes, though, successes teachers see at school don’t necessarily translate in the home.
One of the most frequently raised concerns in my own years as a Montessori guide have centered around the goal of fostering greater independence in the home. A recent talk led by our wonderful consultant, Jonathan Wolff, opened up a great dialogue on the topic. I’d like to share some practical ideas for helping your child to develop those great skills at home.
1.) To strategize getting out the door, try selecting clothes the night before.
I know very well how difficult it can be, for example, to get out the door on time in the morning, and how tempting it can be to do things for your child in order to be on time. My daughter and I commuted together every day for seven years, and I remember, red-faced, grabbing all of her items to just get in the car and go, darn it! Her seven years of Montessori education, fortunately, were enough to overcome some of those tough moments and I am happy to report that she is an independent and capable person today.
Check the weather forecast together, and have some practical clothing suggestions at hand (ideally, a choice of two or three items) when the selected clothes are, say, a tutu and water shoes for a cold, rainy day! Lay out the clothes with the agreement that this is what will be worn tomorrow. If your child changes their mind in the morning, try having a set agreement that the second preferred outfit can be worn tomorrow instead.
Jackets hung on hooks at your child’s height will help them to remember to grab them before you leave. When you’re shopping for a winter coat, try, if you can, to test out the zipper. Not all zippers are made alike, and some can be challenging for small children to fasten. See whether your child can zip themselves, if you help them to place the pin in the channel first. Until they have learned to tie their own shoes, Velcro-strapped shoes are ideal for small hands to master.
2.) In the kitchen, try providing a cupboard or shelf space that is at your child’s height.
Stock it with cups and bowls that are just their size. In the refrigerator, a shelf or drawer that is stocked with snacks that they can access whenever “hangry” moments loom can allow them to tend to their own needs. Fruit, vegetables, and something protein-rich like hummus or cheese all stave off cravings well without taking an appetite for dinner away completely.
You could take the snack preparation a step further by having your child help to prepare snacks. Food preparation is a familiar activity in just about any classroom. Keep a small pitcher of water in your refrigerator from which your child can pour their own drinks. When it’s possible, have your child help to prepare meals by washing produce, tearing greens, or setting the table.
3.) Show them how to clear the dishes from the table, and have them assist in the process whenever possible.
Montessori children learn to care for their classroom, taking ownership in a place that is theirs. Introducing the language of caring for your home together, because it is theirs as much as yours, will help them to invest in chores like sorting laundry, tidying their toys, or putting away their clothes.
None of these suggestions are a magical fix, and mastery of any skill by your child is often accompanied by an apparent backsliding in some other skill that they once had. Parenting is never a linear process! However, the more ways you can involve your child in the day-to-day tasks of running your home, the more invested they become in caring for it themselves, and the more independence you will gradually foster in your child.
Joan Dietrich is MCH's Early Childhood Curriculum Coordinator. You can reach her here.