Ethos: Some guidelines towards a community of care

Some unfinished words of encouragement for the Eimaste Parents Cooperative

– The biggest part of our work is to observe in delight and kindness (positive mirroring),
– Beautifully connect with everyone in the group each morning,
– No adult conversations during child-care hours,
– Weekly adult-only meeting,
– Please avoid using your mobile phone in the presence of children at the school.
– Avoid unnecessary positive or negative commentary on a child’s actions or achievements, prefer to offer warm eye contact, a reassuring nod, and companionable acknowledgement,
– Avoid speaking on behalf of a child, allow the child to make their own connections with people, and give enough time for them to respond in their own way, or not at all,
– Remember how easy it is to love them, even at their worse,
– Often all you need to do to help a child is connect with them and deepen your breathing,
– Don’t expect much peace and harmony: “They are children! Not zen monks” (Erika Wieser),
– Connect beautifully during set meal and snack times, offer food respectfully, but never push a child to eat, and avoid recognizing whether a child eats or not,
– Avoid giving instructions. Show by example. Give children their own tools to perform important tasks that improve our environment,
– Get good at observing yourself, your reaction, breath, feelings and where they come from, before deciding to intervene,
– It’s OK to make mistakes, forgive yourself,
– Build a support system! Find a mentor who understands your goals, can listen to you and kindly help you reflect,
– Avoid threats and rewards, but
– Be flexible: we don’t have to uphold all boundaries all the time. We can only work on one thing at a time. Use imagination and a sense of humor to redirect untimely needs and demands,
– Take the long term view: demonstrate the right example and trust that connection and community will fix things in good time
– Always have your own work to do, something that is OK to have interrupted numerous times, and ideally something that kids can also help with
– Protect your relationship with each child like a precious gift,
– Be careful when using a child’s name, and do so in a beautiful way. Avoid using a child’s name negatively. Take care not to load a name with negative emotion,
– Sing!
– When needed clearly state “We don’t hit” (it’s OK for small kids not to know the rules yet). Accompany a correction with an alternative: “We don’t hit but I need someone to help me rinse the dishes!” — When we say no to something we can always say what we can do instead, and if someone doesn’t want to do it, then they can think about what they do want to do. And while they’re thinking we can start cracking open some nuts, or we can invite them back into doing the previous activity properly.
– Use conflict de-escalation techniques (singing, soft voice, leaving the room, use the gentle arm wisely). Don’t allow things to escalate. Ask for a calm person to help when you’re upset or confused,
– How to handle situations like grabbing toys: Parenting by Connection (2011) The basics of Staylistening,
– How to handle tantrums: Tantrums mean the limbic system is in disarray, we can’t stop a tantrum, or rather, the only way to stop a tantrum is to compassionately listen to it. To acknowledge the emotions. Help the child find privacy from the rest of the group, if possible, and make sure you or another adult is close to them offering warm acceptance and trust that they are have good reason to be upset, and that they are doing important emotional work,
– Connection before Correction
– Sing some more!
– Give an example of full participation in meaningful activities
– Each person has their own energy, speed, and temper. Magic happens when we work together to create beautiful atmospheres
– Always speak to children with respect, you don’t always have to answer but never dismiss them. It’s Ok to say “I’m sorry, I have a headache, I have trouble concentrating at the moment, but I’d like to listen to you later if possible”.
– Use the gentle arm to get in between children: “I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that. I’m sorry, I can’t let you hurt me / each other.”
– It is important that we are able to set our own boundaries well and with kindness. Only then will our children know how to set their own.
– Never help a child who thinks she can do it herself
– Don’t grab something from a child. If you absolutely must remove something, don’t grab but use a firm hold to communicate a steady boundary. Gentleness wins.
– Know when a child needs a good tantrum. If it can’t be avoided, help them find the right place and respectfully listen to them while they have it.
– Apologise to a child when you must! Give an example of honest, well-thought out apology
– Remember that adults aren’t much different! We are all toddlers inside..

Also, from Tamera Healing Biotope’s “Raising Free Children” 
– Say what you do and do what you say – set expectation of reliability towards trust!
– Be attentive in everyday engagements and moments of care like washing and dressing. This makes us trustworthy to the child.
– Be really honest when we’ve made a mistake, forgotten something, gone too fast, something rushed, grumpy, inappropriate, I can say “I was a bit grumpy there, I’m sorry, how was that for you?’ – this means that she doesn’t have to make up for my behaviour. I don’t present myself as the finished article of maternal affection, and she can also give me feedback.
– Give time for answers! Because we tend to go way too fast!
– Give warnings on the way: give orientation. Similar line with adults! Not very different!
– We can’t raise our children in monoculture (e.g. vegan, or vegetarian). We can trust that hard work isn’t undone. Believe in the capacity of children to hold complexity!
– Trust in life comes not from the future, but from the quality of every day interactions: loving contact in the moment, what are we grateful for? Truthful conversations that someone can build a life on. We create a future through each step in the future.
– Feeling that we are safe in the world begins with the body- I can trust in life because I feel OK in my skin. After centuries of authoritarian ways of raising children in western society, recent decades have seen many parents try to do it differently by allowing their children greater freedom. This development offers both blessings and pitfalls as adults sometimes lose clarity about their roles in the relationships with children. These days it is more clear that parents and children hold equal dignity. However, in our perspective, they don’t hold equal responsibility. Orientation-giving is one of the core topics to re-learn in dealing with children, acknowledging the historical background we come from.

The Montessori Decalogue
1. Never touch the child unless invited by him (in some way or another).
Unless there is a very strong reason to (like avoiding an accident, for example), one should never touch a child unless a child requests it. Picking up a child without the child’s consent, even if in a playful manner, or grabbing her hand, pushing her, etc., should always be avoided. If children are engaged, looking at a book, working, playing, resting, the same principle applies. Children invite contact in many ways, and parents and adults in general, who work with children, know how to interpret the signs they send. It is important also to respect a child when she is angry and does not want to be touched or picked up.

2. Never speak ill of the child in his presence or absence.
Speaking ill of a child, or making negative comments about a child, either in the child’s presence or absence, denotes lack of respect for the child. It also sets a frame of mind and denotes an attitude that is negative and conducive to confrontation—and not always open! Preconceived ideas often linger as negative thoughts and breed reactive behavior. If an adult falls into this trap, it is very easy for a lack of patience and negative attitudes to creep in and damage the relationship with the child.

3. Concentrate on strengthening and helping the development of what is good in the child, so that its presence may leave less and less space for what is negative.
If adults focus on negative behavior, children will feel inadequate. This will result in low self-esteem, and a self-fulfilling prophecy like behavioral patterns will take over. Negativity will become second nature. Instead, by focusing on what is positive, the child will feel safe and confident. Children are learning what is and is not acceptable behavior can and cannot be done, etc. They do not need punishments or rewards. Simply to be shown what is and is not acceptable, by adults that model appropriate behavior.

4. Be proactive in preparing the environment, take meticulous and constant care of it. Help the child establish constructive relations with it. Show the proper place where the means of development are kept and demonstrate their proper use.
If the child is presented with a prepared environment, there is little need for much more. Again, modeling appropriate behavior is essential. A child that is shown an orderly environment will likewise feel encouraged to keep it orderly. If a child has available manipulatives she can handle, play and work with, rather than things she cannot touch, she will feel at ease to explore the world around her. If objects are at reach, that the child may break or hurt herself with, she should be shown how to handle them, rather than told “don’t touch!” A kitchen is a world full of wonder for a child! Cutting, cooking, stirring, pouring, etc., are all activities the child will want—and need!—to master in order to become independent. Include the child in as many activities as possible at home, from cleaning to cooking; there is enough to keep any child busy and engaged all day long.

5. Be ever ready to answer the call of the child who stands in need of you, and always listen and respond to the child who appeals to you.
There is nothing worse for a child than to feel insecure and ignored. Abandonment is a feeling no child should have to live with. “If a child asks for attention, then that child needs attention,” stressed Montessorian Margaret Homfray. When people brush a child aside and say, “she just wants attention,” that person is missing the point: a child only wants attention when she needs attention. Children who feel cared for and do not have to worry about being abandoned, even if for a short time, are far more likely to care for others and show concern for and trust others, than those who experience this sort of “cold shoulder” treatment. Also, “timeout” and “go to your room and stay there” approaches are also expressions of abandonment.

6. Respect the child who makes a mistake and can then or later correct it herself, but stop firmly and immediately any misuse of the environment and any action which endangers the child, its own development or that of others.
Avoid rushing to correct mistakes a child has committed. Children are learning to cope and function. They will persist and practice to their heart’s content whatever skill they need to acquire, until they master it. If a child starts throwing things around and disrespecting the environment, by all means, stop her. Yet, explain why you had to stop her. Reason and listen to what the child may have to say. Maria Montessori said that “a child’s first tantrums are the first ills of her soul.” There is always a reason for everything. Try to bring the reason to light. Punishing, isolating the child, etc., will only feed her pain, and burry deep those reasons—she will learn to hide rather than communicate.

7. Respect the child who takes a rest or watches others working or ponders over what she herself has done or will do. Neither call her nor force her to other forms of activity.
A child that is idle is often not idle at all… Children need to be given space to find what it is they are interested in and want to do. Once they do, they pursue their interests with unrestrained passion and perseverance! A child that is observing other children or adults is also learning. If the child is resting, she is not being lazy and doing nothing just lying there—she is most probably processing information, observing, reflecting on something she did, or saw, or is planning on doing.

8. Help those who are in search of activity and cannot find it.
Be sensitive to the needs of the child including differentiating when apparent inactivity is inner activity, or in contrast, a child is simply lost. A child in search of activity and unable to find it is usually restless. If sitting or lying down, it can be noticed that she is not “engaged;” she is not resting, but simply lost and prostrated. There is a thin line that separates these two worlds. It is the adult’s responsibility to observe carefully and find out the signs—often very different from child to child—that can reveal what the child is experiencing. Abandonment differs from rest and contemplation.

9. Be untiring in repeating presentations to the child who refused them earlier, in helping the child to acquire what is not yet her own and to overcome imperfections. Do this by animating the environment, with care, with purposive restraint and silence, with mild words and loving presence. Make your ready presence felt to the child who searches and hide from the child who has found.
A child may need to be shown the right way to do something, say a word, express her feelings or acquire any sort of new skill, many, many times. One should never grow tired of repeating it, such as reading the same bedtime story or singing the same jingle. Children seek perfection in all they do until they reach a level which meets their needs (not what the adult may think “perfect” is, or means.) To be always available but not intrusive is an art. When a child needs help, she will ask for it. When a skill has been acquired and the child no longer needs assistance, adults should respect the child’s new acquired or reached level of independence.

10. Always treat the child with the best of good manners and offer her the best you have in yourself and at your disposal.
Children who are respected will learn to respect others. Giving the child the best one has to give helps the child learn that you are someone she can count on, and teaches her to also give others the best she has to give. It is important the way Montessori puts it, “the best you have in yourself,” as if to say, always reach higher, but do not feel dismayed if you fall short, and “the best” that you can give is not the best you think or know you should give. If your best manners are not always what they should be—a common feeling parents harbor when children seem to be pushing their patience beyond the limits, do not lose heart. The way Dr. Montessori put it, is basically this: have realistic expectations towards the child, and yourself too. Give the best you have to give, but don’t feel guilty if you fall short. Simply keep striving to improve and always do your best. If you commit a mistake, giving the child your best may well be recognizing it and apologizing. “Amy, Mommy got upset and shouted. That was not nice of me. I am sorry.” Children also need to recognize mistakes, learn to apologize, and that parents are not always perfect.

These are basic principles. What Montessori strives for is to protect the child from all sorts of negative influences that can create deviations in the child’s spirit and psyche. To preserve the natural curiosity of the child, help her find her interests, protect her passion for learning, foster it and let it grow in a healthy way. In this way, the child can contribute her best to society. This is conducive to world peace, as Dr. Montessori envisioned it, and Montessorians believe is possible. It takes passion, it takes commitment, and it takes working together.
– Excerpted from Montessori: Committed People with a Passion for Children by the Mammolina Children’s Home Montessori Kindergarten in Beijing, China.

Rights and Responsibilities of the child:
Right: The child is free to work with any material displayed in the environment that he/she has had a lesson.
Responsibility: He or she must use the material respectfully. He or she must not harm the material, themselves, or others. The material may not be used in a way that disturbs the activities of others in the environment.

Right: The child may work on a table or rug, whichever is suitable to the work chosen.
Responsibility: The child may not work at or on a display shelf because it would obstruct access to the other children in the classroom.

Right: The child has the freedom to use he room as his or her needs dictate within the constraints of the rules.
Responsibility: The child will restore the environment during and after an exercises. The child is responsible for mopping spills, rolling up used rugs, placing the chair under its spot
at the table and returning his or her work to the appropriate spot on the shelf.

Right: The child has the right to work undistracted by others. She or he may initiate, complete or repeat an exercise along and without a break in concentration.
Responsibility: No child touches the work of another without invitation to do so. No child is allowed to interfere with another’s learning cycle. If the child must leave the work temporarily he or she may continue at a later time with confidence that it will be as it was left.

Right: The child has the right not to join a group activity. The child may continue working with individual exercises during group activities or may stand apart as an observer
of group activities.
Responsibility: The child is not allowed to interfere or disrupt an activity she or he has chosen not to join. This teaches responsibility to the group.

Right: The child has the right to work alone.
Responsibility: The child is not forced or encouraged to share his or her work. With appropriate materials and reasonable respectful ground rules sharing comes as part of the natural process. Generosity of spirit develops from within as the child matures with a sense of self, grounded in confidence and security.

Right: The child has the right to do nothing. Invariably in “doing nothing” the child is learning through observation, thinking and resting.
Responsibility: The child’s idleness is not allowed to disturb or distract others in the classroom.