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November 05, 2020

Montessori and Waiting - 2 Solutions We Use at Home

Here's something about me - I have very little patience. It's true! Patience is something I struggle with immensely. I don't want to wait for anything. So, I empathize with my kids when they struggle with patience. And, because they are kids, they struggle often! Waiting is hard, especially when you consider that children's brains aren't fully developed and their impulse control is just significantly less mature. 

As a Montessori family, we use two different techniques to help with waiting. Both work really well so I wanted to share them in case you struggle with waiting in your family. These are both techniques that I have picked up observing in Montessori classrooms and have had success with at home for many years. They both involve keeping the waiting child's hands busy and working on some connection so they know they are being heard as they wait. 

Hands Behind the Back

I often call this our observation stance! Hands behind the back is something that helps with children that are waiting for their turn to use something. So for example, Gus was using our juicer to make some orange juice the other morning, but Nora also really wanted a turn. Without knowing how to wait, it's very likely she would go and start touching Gus' work, or trying to wiggle her way into the work. Which would cause Gus to get upset and lead to a whole sibling meltdown. Instead, Nora knows that she can stand near Gus and put her hands behind her back. Her hands can grab each other - feeling that connection - and work as a reminder to keep her body out of Gus' work. 

I start to teach this as soon as my toddlers can stand steady. If there is something where they need to stand back and wait, I will help them by standing with them, and gently move their hands behind their backs. I also always make sure to model this when I'm observing something they are doing or one of the other kids. Teddy is in this phase right now, and I expect that he'll pick it up very quickly since all the kids do it naturally while they wait. 

Even in these pictures of Nora, she naturally goes to that pose since she is "waiting" to get her picture taken.

Hands on my Shoulder 

The second trick I use is when my kids need my attention but I'm not available. They need to wait until I can switch focus and see what they need. Sometimes it's because I'm presenting work to someone else, or talking with another adult or on the phone. Instead of interrupting, they can place their hand on my shoulder (if I'm low to the ground, which is often) or on my back/side of my leg if I'm standing. Once they place their hand, I use my own hand to touch theirs to acknowledge that I know they are waiting. 

As soon as I am able, I will switch my attention to them, thank them for waiting, and see what they need. It's an easy way for them to get the connection they need in the moment and support them through their need to wait. This is something that I don't think toddler's do super well. So, it's usually around age 3 that I introduce (through a grace and courtesy lesson - so like role playing) to my children. We will play a little game and pretend to wait and show them what to do instead of interrupting. 

These two simple tricks have really helped make our home a calmer more patient place! Do you have any ways that you help your children learn to wait? 


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reeba said…
I love both of these ideas and am going to give it a go with my three year old.

Please could you elaborate on the grace and courtesy modeling. Would you role play for a few days and then at a time when it’s required remind them of it? (Or avoid the reminding but after role playing they will realize themselves)

Would love to hear more of your thoughts about grace and courtesy in general - some practical ways to implement it at home, or topics that are used...