Stories of Discovery

Seek First to Understand

Categories: Faculty insight, Learning through discovery, Parent's perspective, Uncategorized
Date posted: December 9, 2013

Below is a short article by Maren Schmidt.  By visiting www.marenschmidt.com you can sign up for free online parenting articles linking parenting advice and Montessori education.  You will also have access to register for online workshops.  Maren Schmidt has over 25 years of experience working with children and is holds AMI teaching credentials. 

 

One is none.  Two is ten.

-Icelandic proverb about children 

 For a while, this parenting stuff can seem like you’ve got it under control. Then comes the second child. As Uncle Norm told me years ago, “Before I had children I had ten theories about raising children. Now I have ten children and no theories.”

 As a new parent a cold lack of confidence in the pit of my stomach seemed to never go away. I appreciated the humorous assurances “my elders” could give me. Know I know that there are guiding principles of human relations that can give us confidence about heading in the right direction and calm our apprehensions about raising children.  Principles from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, are some that I have found to be invaluable. One is “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

 Part of our training as Montessori teachers is to observe the child at work. At its essence, observing the child engaged in an activity gives us a window to understand who he or she is.

 What an uncommon thing it is in our lives to have someone desire to understand us. Someone who will put their own work, attitudes and prejudices aside to observe us, searching to understand our uniqueness.

 As we observe children work (engaged in purposeful activity) we get an understanding of who they are, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. These observations allow us to be truly helpful to the child, especially a child whom we may view as difficult, unpleasant, or problematic.

 As we seek to understand through observation, we will see patterns emerge in a child’s behavior. Perhaps a tantrum frequently occurs between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m. Offering a snack at 9:00 a.m. results in no more tantrums.

 Perhaps a child who is “naughty” (one who does what he or she should not) picks all of the neighbor’s tulips. Our first impulse might be to make the child understand what he or she did wrong. If we seek first to understand, then we might see the incident as an insight to the child’s personality. We could try to be understood first by saying, “Don’t pick the neighbors flowers.” By seeking first to understand, we might see the child’s love of flowers, desire to be helpful by making a flower arrangement, and desire for beauty. Understanding the child first, will help the child understand us.

 

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