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June 17, 2022

Second Plane Parenting: Family Expectations

Summer break is just beginning here and so is a whole new routine for the next few months. Henry, Nora, and Gus* are all home from their respective Montessori schools and enjoying a relaxed summer of following their interests and enjoying self-directed activity. But, with that comes a whole lot of time at home, a lot of togetherness, and plenty of second plane disorder.

One of the first things we did as we began our summer was to sit down and talk about our family's expectations for everyone's summer. We talked about the good - what do we want to do together - and the challenging - what kinds of things do we want to avoid - we talked about it all. But it wasn't a parent led discussion, because as second plane children, they need to lead. 

In her book From Childhood to Adolescence, Maria Montessori was clear that children from 6 to 12 are sensitive to moral justice. They are an increased awareness and burning sense of fairness, they start to understand social rules, right from wrong, and organizing social relationships. They have the capacity to be involved in these types of conversations. 

"One of the most curious characteristics to be observed is the interest that occurs in the child when he begins to perceive things, which he previously failed to notice. Thus he begins to worry about whether what he has done has been done well or poorly. The great problem of good and evil now confronts him." Maria Montessori (From Childhood to Adolescence p 5) 


In other words, second plane children are ready for abstract conversations about behavior and expectations. And, more than that they are ready for them, they are sensitive to them. They are in a sensitive period for moral issues. When they are part of these conversations, they are more likely to understand their expectations and meet those expectations. 

Plus this is one way we create a culture of community in our family. When everyone is listened to, everyone gets to speak, and everyone's ideas are respected, then everyone feels a sense of responsibility in upholding the rules that make it easier to be in a community together. 

The exact rules that we listed really aren't that important for everyone to know because they are what felt good to us as a group for our time together. And, if you choose to do this, I would suggest really chatting about what makes you all feel like being home is a happy and good place. What makes it hard, and how can we change that? What do we all need to remember? What do we all need help with? 

And, by we I really mean "we." Morgan and I are both agreeing to uphold these expectations too. Not just the children. This isn't a we create the rules and you follow them. But let's all agree to some norms that will help us all feel happy, calm, safe and loved this summer. 

*Gus is only 5, so while he was present for these conversations he was far less interested in or dedicated to them. He is still very much a first plane child. He will still be best served through grace and courtesy lessons and adult modeling. This was not a conversation that Teddy (2yo) participated in. 


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