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June 01, 2022

The Age of Rudeness

When your baby is born and you look into their beautiful face you never imagine (or at least I didn't) that one day they are going to tell you that your hair needs to be combed, that your butt is big, or that you look old. But, guess what, it's actually pretty likely. The age of rudeness is a thing. Maria Montessori identified the second plane of development (ages 6 to 12) as a time of tremendous inner growth for children. They start to get louder, chat more, and push back against limits and boundaries. 

Much of their world starts to revolve around social needs and interactions. They are learning the rules for social interaction, conversation, and what's appropriate and what's not. And, they aren't always going to get it right. Last night, I was having a pleasant conversation with one of my second plane kids and this child looks at me and says, "Mom, if. you let me pick your outfits every day you wouldn't look so old. But, I couldn't do anything about your white hairs." 

Umm, thanks kid! Ha! (Very honest, the grey hair is real in my late 30s.) I could have stopped the conversation and made a big deal about the rude comments. I would have focused on the negative, and lost all the positive. Instead, I responded by "yeah, the grey hairs certainly are tricky."

Changing Our Perspective on "Rudeness"

One thing that I've learned in these years of having second plane children is that we, as the prepared adult, need to change our perspective on our second plane children. These are not mature children. These are no where near mature brains. We need to offer them the same grace that we offered them when they were tiny babies. I like to think of their social abilities as being akin to the walking abilities of a baby. When our babies are learning to walk, they stumble a lot. They start and stop, they make mistakes. They are wobbly and inefficient. 

The same is true for our second plane kiddos who are trying on social expectations for the first time. Through out the second plane they are new at this. They will make mistakes, they will stumble. They will purposefully test the limits of their social knowledge and graces - all in the name of learning. 

So, I find it helpful when these "rude" moments come up, and they certainly will,  to think of them as a baby stumbling around. Treat them with the same care. 

Responding to the Rudeness Through our Environment  

So, what do we do when our children make rude comments? How will they learn if we just ignore or respond with understanding and grace? We all know that eventually they will meet people that won't respond kindly, how can we help them understand? 

I think you do that through our environment - not our physical space - but the emotional (or what Maria Montessori called "spiritual") environment. We need to create a safe space in our home where these conversations are encouraged and practiced. Instead of bringing up mistakes in the heat of the moment, we can make an observation that they need practice in that area. Bringing it up in that moment only serves to heighten emotions, shame or embarrass. 

"Understanding this doesn't mean giving up your own influence on your child's moral development or behavior, but instead, appreciating that that influence will be more potent if it happens in private, connected conversations between you and your child." Catherine McTamaney, Montessori Daoshi

Once we have made these observations, we can have a little grace and courtesy lesson about the behavior or have a connected chat about how to respond in those moments. We also continue to model appropriate social graces to them through our actions, through our conversations with them and with others while they are around. We allow these to be moments of learning and practice, letting go of our own expectations for adult like conversation. 

And, it's not going to be perfect. I'm not perfect. There are times where I've said, "wow, that's rude" or "your words are hurtful" other reactions in the moment. But, I try to make an effort to return to the behavior in a moment of calm. It also won't be perfect when they are in community with other children, especially other second plane kids. And those kids won't be as gracious - not even close. And, that will be hard, but that is a part of their big work for this plane. They will have to learn to navigate those social arrangements and they will love it and be drawn to that work. 

Montessori approach to rude behavior with elementary aged children in the second plane of development

Buckle up and expect the rudeness. Accept that it's part of their learning. Prepare their environment for opportunities to practice. Give them time to fall and watch how they eventually run.

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