The Perils of Montessori Parenting

I love using montessori philosophies at home. K is completely able, for example, to chop produce with a sharp knife and she uses real glasses and china dishes without breaking them. I can trust her to use her art materials appropriately.

As a result, my house is not “childproof” in the traditional way. There are real glasses and dishes in the cupboard of her play kitchen. Art supplies, including paint, are kept within easy reach. My home isn’t childproof – my children are “homeproofed”.

But then I’ll occasionally have reminders that not all children have been raised the same way. One little boy – about K’s age – came over to play. He was rummaging around in the play kitchen, removed a glass from the cupboard, and proceeded to throw it on the floor. This was not an infant, folks. He was at least 3 years old at the time. Anyhow, he looked shocked and surprised when the glass shattered – he had never before handled a fragile object. He didn’t even seem to know that such breakage was possible. We didn’t make a big deal of it, we just made sure everyone was safe and we cleaned up the glass. But it did make me think.

A few days ago a dear friend left her daughter with us for the afternoon. The kids all went down for naps, and I put our little friend to bed on the couch in the playroom. When I went to wake the kids up I was greeted with the sight of a cloth diaper, scribbled on with blue fineliner. Now, it wasn’t a big deal – this was the absorbent insert of a cloth diaper, easily bleached and not generally seen anyway – but I told her mum about it. Her response was completely reasonable: “Why was a fineliner left unattended in a room with a two-and-a-half-year-old?” Good question. The long and short of it is that I didn’t think to check for that kind of thing before putting the kid to sleep. My Montessori kid knows that markers are for drawing on paper only, so I wouldn’t even worry about her using it for other purposes.

(As an aside, I would worry about N getting into something like that, which is why it was placed out of his reach.)

This isn’t to say that her level of responsibility negates the possibility of mess and disaster. In fact, that’s one of the major perils of having a young Montessori kid. Early on in the school year I learned that K may have the skill and coordination to perform a task, but not the judgment to know when to use those skills. Take pouring, for example: there was a period of time where K would climb up to the bathroom sink with a couple of containers, fill them up, bring them to her play kitchen, and pour. And pour. Everywhere. Needless to say, she got to use her newly acquired “wiping up” skills quite frequently.

And yes, she wants to stir things and doesn’t remember to do it gently, and she removes snacks from the fridge and spills them all over. But these are generally exceptions to the rule. On an average day I can trust K to go about her business, ask for help when she needs it, and use household objects responsibly.

But man, oh man, there are definitely days when I wish I’d kept her just a little more helpless. Thank goodness they’re few and far between!

K chopping strawberries for the family

K brushing (gasp!) raw chicken breasts with mustard glaze

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