Does your child see you as “The Boss?” Do you see yourself that way? Maybe your spouse is the boss. I’m not talking about the lovable Tony Danza type. I’m talking about the Donald Trump, King Henry type.
In generations past, the patriarch was exactly that. “The Boss.” “Coffee is for closers.” “My way or the highway.” “Because I said so.” Teachers were that way, too. Thankfully, things have changed since then, but in some homes (and many schools), perhaps not as much as they should.
What image does the word “boss” project in your mind? Assuming it’s not Tony Danza, it’s probably something pretty negative. The working world has come to realize that the stereotypical boss/employee relationship is not a productive one. Traditional school systems are slowly following along as teachers begin to realize they have much to learn from their students. But the best kept secret out there is that Montessorians have known this for more than 100 years!
The patriarch of old expected complete subjugation. The old school teacher sought compliance over understanding and the 20th century boss told everyone what to do. It was me versus you. Us versus them (which makes it all the more amazing that Dr. Montessori was able to accomplish what she did). If you have this situation in your home, it can be a recipe for disaster. You may not realize it, but because of this relationship, even in the best case scenario you’re entering into each parent-child interaction at a significant disadvantage.
At home, there should be no boss. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Certainly mom and dad have the authority and the final say, but the ideal parent child relationship is more of a partnership –and that is exactly the relationship that Montessori teachers work to cultivate with each student.
Consider the following scenarios.
Imagine you proudly bring a new idea to your boss at work who says “We can’t focus on that now. We have other more important work to do first.” That answer would very likely deflate your enthusiasm for your new idea (at least temporarily) and would turn the “more important work” into nothing more than a barrier to your plans. If the goal is simply getting past the work, there isn’t much hope that we will give our best effort . With a few simple words, your boss just created problems for both of you.
If instead, when your boss sees your new idea he/she says “Yes. I want to hear more about that, and we’ll take a look at your idea right after we finish this.” In this scenario, wouldn’t you be more interested in cooperating with the boss’s request? It’s a subtle difference but all we did was to change the phrase from negative to positive. With that simple change in language your boss became your partner.
Now read that again putting yourself in the boss’ position and your child in that of the employee. Which scenario is closest to the one that most often plays out in your home? Now, the comparison may need to move beyond the literal, since most children aren’t submitting power point presentations to their parents. So think of situations where your child needs your assistance or approval, or even situations where you want your child to do something that he/she may not especially want to do. How does that compare?
If you find that the first scenario hits closer to home, there are things you can do. First, but gradually, give your child as much responsibility as he/she can handle by physically making your home a place where he/she can be successful in simple everyday tasks without you. This can really help to reduce unnecessary interactions and arguments.
Second, when you do have these interactions, always try to enter the situation with a specific goal and a basic plan to achieve it (What does my child really need and how can I help him/her meet this need?) Say what you mean, phrase it positively and don’t repeat it unless absolutely necessary. For example; Don’t ask a child to clean up his room unless you are prepared for him/her to say “no.” If it’s not a question, don’t make it one. Instead simply say “clean up your room.”
These are just a few ideas. Contact your child’s teacher to learn techniques that will apply to your specific child. In any case, don’t expect to go from boss to partner overnight. Montessori teachers require years of training to successfully apply these techniques in the classroom. Some of these changes may yield immediate results. Others may work more behind the scenes. None of the above ideas are one-and-done solutions. Parenting is a marathon. Not a sprint. Consistent, pro-longed application of these concepts is the key to their success.
The fact of the matter is that whether it’s in the classroom, boardroom or living room, human beings respond better to cooperation than domination. Sorry for the alliteration. I had to do it. But don’t let that obfuscate the points, here, which are many. At the risk of oversimplifying I’m going to bullet point them below:
- If applied properly, Montessori philosophy works anywhere.
- Children, like adults, respond best to cooperation.
- When it comes to parenting, it is better to be a partner than a boss.
- Choose your words carefully. Phrase things positively. Say it once and mean it.
- Tony Danza is a brilliant actor.
Remember, as a Montessori parent, you have access to a nearly limitless resource in child development. Give us a call. Send an email. We are here to help.