About Me

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I am a full-time mama with a passion for writing and talking to fascinating people. I live in a one horse town with a Cowboy and my son. Thank Lord for cyberspace! I lived a colourful life in Sydney for a number of years. Working in advertising and journalism for FPC and the Sydney Morning Herald. During my time in Sydney I competed in a Dragon Boat race, choreographed a dragshow, used the Share Accomodation advertisements as a way to meet men and was told by Noiseworks frontrunner Jon Stevens that I was a bitch! Then came the decision to move back to country for 3 months to help out my Father with newspaper business while he was having treatment. Convinced I was a city girl I was caught by surprise when I fell in love with a farmer (and no, he didn't want a wife... still doesn't it seems!) convinced him that we needed to see the world, popped off to Vietnam to teach english in Saigon - before realising that the "food" in Nam didn't agree with me... turned out to be Monte - my son who is now with the Cowboy and I back in country NSW! I am in a wonderful stage of my life where I am focusing on the things that really make me tick. Including writing these chronicles.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guest Post: Behaviour Modeling Montessori

And now for something different....

I'll preface this by saying this article is about Parenting. So if you are one of my mates that is without child...you might prefer to flick through my archives and read something else....  Hey, I was you once.. ;-) 

Right Mamas. 

I'd like to introduce you to an absolutely lovely gal from the UK who befriended me via BlogHer.

Her name is Laura and she blogs over here is a Canadian living in a small town in the UK with her husband and 13 month old daughter Ella.
It was amazing when we met because we have so much in common including our first borns were born days apart.
We have formed a friendship based on our motherhood experience and enjoying each others blogs.
Laura is a trained Montessori teacher and this interests me greatly.
Having been thrown into Mamahood head first I have had a lot of crash courses to get through. 
I started reading about Montessori and found it a fascinating and a 'makes sense' (for me anyway) way of raising a child.
Though, apart from googling I have so many questions about it, so I asked Laura if she could be my very special guest and write about some of the fundamentals for raising a child the Montesorri way - I thought there would be others, like me, that would take something of value from it! 

(makes sense since my boy's name is Monte .. eh?)

Over to Laura 

My original intention for this post was to help parents bring Montessori elements into the home for young children. 
How does one maximize the design of our environment so that it is most advantageous for a child’s natural tendency to learn? 
I found as I gathered my points, that I kept coming back to one main point that needs to be addressed before environment. 
As a parent you create your child’s environment with your behaviour. 
So, I want to address this first and come back to tips on your physical environment at a later time.

The cornerstone of being the adult in a Montessori environment is behaviour modeling. 
As adults we often underestimate the effects that our actions have on our children. 
Something which seems so minor to an adult that it would not warrant any notice, is a life lesson to a young child.
For example: I love my morning coffee. 
Almost every morning since she was born, Ella has seen me make, pour and drink a cup of coffee. 
At 13 months old, she is mobile enough and tall enough to get my coffee off tables, from my hands etc. Without intending to, I have taught my daughter that a morning routine includes drinking from a mug. 
Is it any wonder then that she is now attempting to make it part of her morning routine by taking an interest in my coffee?
How many times have we all heard someone say (or said ourselves) “Kids always try to get the things they know they aren’t allowed to have”, enter sigh and shaking of head. 
Ella is not trying to test her boundaries by touching something ‘hot’ and/or taking something that she shouldn’t.  She is trying to follow my lead by mimicking my habits. 
She is establishing her daily life routine.
Of course, I don’t want to give up my morning coffee, and I don’t have to.
 I simply cater to her interests to allow her to explore the routine safely.
 When she wants to sit and drink from a mug in the same way as Mummy, I get her a Peter Rabbit china mug out of the cupboard, put a splash of water in it and she drinks.

Ideally, in a Montessori classroom, the teachers do not exhibit any behaviour or actions that they would not allow the child to mimic.
 In our own home, it is not always that easy.
 You want coffee, you are obviously not going to let your toddler drink coffee. 
So we adapt the behavior for them. I don’t tell Ella no, and leave her confused and stunted in her learning about how she fits into her environment.
 I tell her that Mummy has a mug and Ella has a mug. We each drink from our own mug.

To sum up my coffee rambles...every small action that you take will be noticed and absorbed by your child.

The thing that bothers me the most when I see parents or caregivers becoming frustrated and angry with a child is when you can plainly see that the child is modeling the adult’s behaviour. 
I recently did some supply work at a nursery near us. The staff were unbelievably negative and told me right away about one child in particular whom none of them liked.
 Several staff members mentioned to me that they hated the way he always screamed at them.
 Sure enough, I heard him screaming from his classroom upstairs many times over the course of a few days. 
The next week I was working in his room.
 I watched  in almost perverse amazement as the ‘Trained’ staff of the nursery screamed at him to be quiet. Does it not seem bizarre to use a raised voice to ask a 2 year old to be quiet? 
And they couldn’t fathom why this little boy screamed back at them all the time.

I can relate a million examples of poor and good behaviour modeling, but I think you can tell where I am going with it.

The smallest action, reaction and emotions of an adult reverberate in young children. 

Be calm and your child will be calm.

If you and your spouse yell at each other and show hostility when you are fighting (even if you love each other most of the time!) then your child will learn to show hostility and vent anger the same way as s/he has seen you do.

Be polite and your child will be polite.

Many of us forget to say please and thank you when we address our non-verbal toddlers. 

Telling them ‘NO’ all the time teaches them to tell you ‘NO’ when they don’t want you to do something. 

Yet another behaviour that is met with bewildered head shaking and sighing from adults as to where the child learned to be so rude.

 It is easy to say “no thank you Ella” when I see her heading for the power socket or attempting to use the dog’s tail for a percussion instrument.

Take joy in even the smallest task and your child will learn the joy of completing a task.

Adults often think Montessori theory cannot work in practice because they anticipate the child does not want to do any ‘work’.  

This is a learned response that we are projecting onto our children.

A child enjoys a task for the task itself. 

The child is not aware of a loathing for ‘hard work’.

 The child is not thinking about what they are missing while doing their ‘work’ or rushing through to get to a leisure activity. 

The child’s leisure activity and work are synonymous. 

The child enjoys the task for the discoveries that lie within. 

Perhaps we could even take a lesson from our children here? 

I wish I could unlearn my loathing of housework and my desire to always be moving on to something more exciting.

Maria Montessori said “Knowing what we must do is neither fundamental nor difficult, but to comprehend which presumptions and vain prejudices we must rid ourselves of in order to be able to educate our children is most difficult.”

I am a believer of the old saying that you must ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. 

Montessori showed the world that this is the way to teach children. 

We must try to be the person we want our child to learn to be.

 It is so simple an ideology, yet difficult when put to task. Then again, I can’t think of anything in the universe that would ever be more worthy of hard work than my daughter .

I got a lot out of this and really would love your feedback to see if you did too. Do you want to know more about this, do you have questions?

It is making me really look at what I am doing as a Mother and what I am teaching Monte... oh dear... he is going to need his own little laptop VERY shortly. 

As I am going to launch website soon hoping to have Laura as regular writer, among a lot of other things - but I know I have many mama's who read - let me and Laura!  know what you think!

(pic is of my MONTE ssori and his independent streak)


  1. I totally agree with this method of raising children.

    Ever seen mothers having a tantrum in public and screaming at their unruly children to be quiet?

    A good friend of mine had a situation that I think relates to this. She had always had a tumultuous relationship with the father of her kids. They would have blazing rows that would normally end with someone slamming doors and leaving. In front of the kids.

    At around 2/3 she noticed her daughter was having problems at kindy. The teachers didn't like her. She couldn't interact with the other kids. She was running away. My friend was taking her kid to psychologists to deal with her bad behaviour. I heard all this from phone calls with my friend.

    When they came and lived on my property a few years later it took me oh, about two seconds to realise that her daughter was simply modelling her parents behaviour. There was nothing wrong with her. She'd just learnt it from her idiot parents, poor kid.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I've been interested in Montessori for a while now and am considering sending the girls to a Montessori kindy.
    When Goosey was a wee babe, I had a lady who was training to be a Montessori teacher come and observe her. She had to do a certain amount of hours and we spent many days huddled round my kitchen table exchanging ideas. It was wonderful and she ignited my interest. She now teaches on Thursday Island.

    Would love to hear more from Laura, nothing specific I'd like to know, but always eager to learn more.

  3. Loved this post Sharni. Am constantly reminding myself "mokey see, monkey do" with GG. For example, I never really "taught" GG she had to say thank you to get something, I just remembered to use my manners all the time, including when I talked to her, then when she could talk, prompted her, and voila! People stop me in cafes to tell me how well I've taught her - I didn't teach, I showed...

  4. Interesting! It's difficult to see what your behaviour is like when you are up close and personal with parenting a toddler-it is such a consuming responsibility and the "I" of you tends to be lost. Thanks for explaining the concept of modelling-it makes so much sense. Even though my kids are older this is still useful information-because I know I still observe the way my mother interacts with others and the world and my grown up kids most likely still do-although they wouldn't be aware that they are doing it at all!
    As long as mamas here don't get down on themselves if they aren't perfect mothers 24/7 then this is great advice!

  5. I am very interested with learning about Montessori and the effects it has on children. I think we can all agree that there is something with children of today. And I am sure that has been said for many generations now. I think that the more we learn and understand, the more we are able to do. Thanks for the insight Laura!! Thanks Sharnie for having her a guest writer on your site!

  6. Alex said, "A good friend of mine had a situation that I think relates to this. She'd just learnt it from her idiot parents, poor kid."
    Gee, with friends like you, who needs enemies.


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