Becoming an architect of conversation
Montessori has empowered children across the world to feel confident in expressing who they are and being proud of their unique abilities. In Montessori, everyone has a seat at the table and the ethos promotes the child's right to be heard and respected. This isn't achieved in a vacuum and there are numerous principles within the Montessori ethos which allows this metamorphosis from needs driven infant to social being to take take place. In this post we will explore these ideas and how they can be introduced in to your home.
You will find a multitude of parenting blogs that will point to adults responding to all of our children's needs straight away. Montessori absolutely agrees with this and would encourage responsive parenting, ensuring our children build secure attachments and confidence that their needs will be met appropriately. There is however, a shift when instinctively responding to our child's every desire can start to become problematic, particularly when thinking about early introduction to conversation.
Children aged two and above are desperate to communicate and connect. This is where all of the wonderful work you have been doing since birth, will come to fruition. Sentence formation comes on rapidly as does a plethora of vocabulary which can at times be quite astonishing! At Rozey days we encourage rich conversation by having lots of tables with two seats. This deliberate layout encourages rich conversation and for children to pick up on the back and forth nature of conversation. Anymore than two children and some two years olds will actually loose their confidence as they have to "fight" to be heard amongst a crowd.
We also understand that group work is also very important for children and this is where you will se a Montessori teacher really flex their conversation muscles. If you watch carefully you will note that a teacher will ask a child to wait, whilst they gives their undivided attention to the child asking the question. They will then turn to the other child, thank them for waiting and motion for them to speak. This happens repeatedly until all the children have had their say. Sounds simple enough? Not always! The teachers often have to do a lot of work in the grace an courtesy curriculum before children are ready to part take in group work and this is something that you can also do at home.
If your child wants your attention as you are speaking to somebody else, hold their hand and carry on your conversation. This allows the child to feel heard and not ignored. When you are finished, thank them for wating and turn to give them your undivided attention. It is far better to be present in the moment and really listening to what they want to say rather than hurrying through an interaction so that you can get back to your prior task. It will take a few attempts before your child understands that this is what you will be doing with them but it helps to build their confidence. They learn that sometimes we have to wait but also, that our participation in conversation is meaningful and important. As they mature, they will continue to understand the importance of giving everyone a voice and ensuring that they continue to feel heard and a valuable member of family life. It is important to note that the art of conversation and how to socialise is not designed to produce quiet, obedient children! On the contrary, it allows children to build confidence and contribute actively in social situations. The aim is to promote friendships, mutual respect, family values and to introduce our children to social norms of the society in which they belong.
Now as I mama myself, I know the above seems like a tall order. I will set the scene for you in our home. I have come home from work, I get an urgent call from work to which I must respond. My younger child is desperate to tell me something very important about their day ( they have both been in school all day!) and I can hear "mama, mama, mama" on repeat whilst I am trying to have a very important conversation. The easiest thing would be to put the phone down and give my attention to my child and of course that would be the ideal scenario. However life happens and being a nursery owner can often mean I am "on call" long after I leave the nursery. So in this situation I hold my child's hand, this often turns in to a cuddle whilst I talk on the phone. After putting the phone down, I thank my child for waiting and then give them my undivided attention so that they can tell me all about exactly how many times they scored during a game of four square at playtime. I absolutely appreciate that my son is older than the average pre schooler but this is something that we have been working on since he was two and had very little language. As a Montessori teacher I have seen first hand that many two years old are capable of working towards these long term goals and that waiting and respecting peoples boundaries and space gives children the confidence to participate fully in interactions.
Now of course there are some caveats that you will need to think through when considering how to be an architect of conversation with your children. Here are a few to consider:
1) Please take your child where they are. My son in the above example, is "neuro typical" This isn't to say neuro diverse children can not work to the same goals but we have children in our nursery where a pictorial sign is more effective than physical touch for example to indicate "waiting".
2) You can modify this to fit your family. In our home we ask our children to hold our hand, in your home it may be a tap on the shoulder to indicate to your child that you know they are waiting.
3) Of course in an emergency or when a child desperately needs you, I would always advocate responding asap. This is more about teaching your child how to wait, whilst being respectful of their feelings at the same time.
4) Be mindful that your aim is to be an architect of conversation. Not only teaching children to wait but to model thanking everyone for their participation and showing the child that undivided attention is essential in building connection.
I hope you have found the above tips useful, please do let me know how you get on and if you have any further questions.
Much Love and Peace,
Rozey- Mama, Teacher and proud citizen of the world