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October 12, 2023

Montessori Parenting: Teaching Gentleness to Your Toddler

Toddlers get a bad reputation. Chaos, clumsiness, or "terrible." When in reality, toddlers are little scientists walking through this world exploring all the different ways things work. They need loud, they need big movement, and they need fast. But, as a Montessori parent, I also know that they also need slow, they need precious, they need gentle, and they need real. Yes,  I'm saying we have to trust toddlers and that they can learn to be gentle.

Trusting Your Toddler with Precious Things as a Montessori Parent

So what do I mean when I say "precious things?" I mean things that are precious. They need to interact with animals and babies. They need to hold glass. They need to touch flowers and other fragile items. They have to have the opportunity to learn to refine their movements, make their touch gentle, and move more slowly. We have to show them respect, trust, and teach them. 

This process will not look the same for every child. Some will learn that control more quickly. Some will have more interest in these types of movement. Others won't have the interest or the control. But we can continue to open up these opportunities for when they are ready. 

But,  I don't mean just had a toddler a glass vase of flowers and let them run off. Good luck, kid! No, as Montessori parents, we get to be our child's first teacher. We get to model the behavior we want to see, but we also get to directly show our toddlers the expectation and trust them with this knowledge. 

Tips for Toddlers and Fragile Items

Here's a few tips that I keep in mind when giving my toddler something precious:

  • Don't start with something too precious. Your grandmother's irreplaceable china cup is not the place to start. Start slow, things that you won't be too upset if something happens. 
  • Teach and model. Show your child directly how to hold/touch/interact with a fragile item. Don't assume they aren't capable but also don't assume they know how. 
  • When modeling how to be gentle use very little language. Toddlers can't listen to you talk and watch you move. 
  • Move slower than you think you should - toddlers will move faster than you and they process far slower
  • Stay present and be ready to set a boundary. We trust but we don't just leave them on their own to figure it out. Be there ready if you need to be.
  • Keep connection if something happens. If your toddler touches the baby to roughly, breaks a cup, or rips apart a flower - it's okay. Remember that they are learning, show them patience and prioritize connection in these moments. And try again when both of you are ready again. 

Are you a Montessori parent wondering how to help your toddler gain gentleness with  precious things? Let your toddler take the lead, but stay present to guide and support them. Show them patience and prioritize connection - trust can be learned!

Toddlers are so amazingly capable when we give them the space and time to show us. Gentleness comes like so many other skills they are learning - with time and practice. Giving our toddlers access to precious things gives them the opportunity to learn and show you just what they are able to do!

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