Perhaps one thing that people from all walks of life can agree upon is the impact that school had on them. From poor teachers to influential ones and shoddy curriculum to information that has never left your head, school has likely shaped you. One such school system that is growing in popularity across the world is Montessori.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to this system just as with any other school system, one thing the curriculum an Montessori teachers excel at is effective communication with young children.

7 Key Phrases Montessori Teachers Use (and Why You Should, Too)

Children who attend Montessori schools are at a crucial stage in their development. A lot of the language they use is picked up during these formative years, therefore the way you choose to phrase sentences can have an incredible impact on how children continue to develop. So, we’re going to explore seven phrases that Montessori teachers use in their classroom that children can also benefit from hearing in the home.

1. I saw you working hard.

Have you ever heard poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination”? That’s what this first key phrase seems to be getting at – the child’s process, not finished product. Of course, if a child creates a piece of art, it’s only natural for a parent or teacher to want to compliment the work they just finished. However, by recognizing and praising a child’s work process, they can slowly begin to realize the importance of the ‘journey’ and that there’s always room for improvement.

What this looks like at home:

To keep with the art example, instead of saying “You’re a great artist,” say something like “I noticed you didn’t stop painting even when you used the wrong color.”

2. Which part would you like my help with?

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As parents, it is only natural for you to want to provide for your child, to do everything, and have them know that you actually can. But there’s a danger in doing everything for your child. In fact, it can be detrimental to their development. Children love being independent and doing things themselves, parents just aren’t providing them opportunities to do so. Don’t get us wrong: we aren’t saying leave your kids to their own devices at all times. Fortunately, there’s a way to help without taking away a learning opportunity.

What this looks like at home:

Let’s say your child has been playing hockey all evening and, at the end of the night, he’s just too tired to clean up the sticks, balls, and pylons. Instead of letting him off the hook and doing all the work for him, ask him what he needs help with. Find those compromises that look something like you picking up the sticks and him putting away the balls and pylons. This teamwork with foster a sense of family and hopefully solidify the fact that most activities are done better together.

3. Where could you look for that?

Knowing that people depend on you is a nice feeling when you can happily provide for them. But there is also huge value in fostering independence. How many times has your child or a child you know lost something and just looks with their mouth? Yes, it would be easy to hand them the toy they think is lost. But prompting them with questions will help them think of creative solutions to their problems.

What this looks like at home:

If your child did misplace a toy, instead of finding it for them (because parents know everything), ask them questions like “Where did you last see it?” or “Could it be in your bedroom?” Eventually, they will take it upon themselves to ask those questions and show initiative.

4. What do you think about your work?

One of the most unique aspects of Montessori is that teachers aren’t teachers per se, but guides. In a way, children who attend Montessori are, in effect, their own teachers. If you haven’t noticed yet, the majority of these key phrases are questions. By asking children questions about their work, it allows them to reflect what they’re actually doing instead of another check off of that day’s to-do list.

What this looks like at home:

If your child has a question, ask them guiding questions in response to arrive at the answer together. Doing this will also help their ability to arrive at conclusions more quickly, effectively, and independently (without always seeking approval).

5. Don’t disturb him or her, they’re concentrating

An integral part of Montessori’s philosophy is protecting children’s concentration. There’s no better time than now to emphasize this philosophy in the classroom and at home because the technology is diminishing young people’s attention spans at an alarming rate. The average Montessori class allots children about three hours of undisturbed work time. Practicing and improving their concentration will help their learning ability in the long-term, especially as responsibilities become greater with age.

What this looks like at home:

If you see your child concentrating on a Lego structure they’re building, an instrument they’re learning, or something their drawing – as tempting as it is – try not to interrupt them. Instead, take note of it and mention that (like the first key phrase) you noticed them working hard.

6. In our class or home, we…

Without a set of rules, guidelines, or understandings, life would be more chaotic than it already seems. So, as a parent or teacher, reinforcing this sense of order – not militantly – can help children understand acceptable and desired behavior. For anyone worried about defiant children, there are two things you need to remember: 1) there will always be defiant children, but 2) children loving being a part of something, be it communities, classrooms, friend groups. So, creating a sense of community is key to having a cooperative kid.

What this looks like at home:

Outside of school, you can say things like “In our family” or “In our home, we take off our shoes before we walk inside the house” or “we wash our hands before dinner.”

7. Follow the child.

This last key phrase is not one you tell children, but other teachers and parents. Following the child, in essence, means trusting that each and every child is on their own unique journey of development from the moment they’re born. This hands-off approach may frighten some parents, but it’s crucial to children’s development.

What this looks like at home:

If you have a child or need to take care of a child and you’re unsure how to entertain them, simple don’t. Observe him or her and let them take the lead. Then, you can use the phrases above to help foster an environment that helps them develop as much as possible. Arguably, children learn most effectively when they’re spending time exploring hobbies, passions, and gifts they choose.

As we mentioned at the start, Montessori is more of a philosophy than anything. The more that parents and teachers effectively use these phrases with their children and trust in their journeys, the more their independence and personal development will grow. So, try incorporating these guiding phrases onto everyday life, as it can help children in any environment.

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