Follow The Child
Follow the child is a popular hashtag on instagram, but aside from letting kids pick their own books and toys what does it look like in practice? Sometimes it means trusting them when they tell you “I’m ready.”
Our parenting instincts scream at us to keep precious, breakable items out of our children’s hands. After all, our experience is witness to the fact that they throw, drop, shake, squeeze and bang items as frequently and as easily as they blink!
Therefore you’ll understand the horror I felt when Alfie made a beeline for a very precious and very delicate teacup that I had been careless enough to leave in plain sight.
The Wrong Reaction
My first reaction was inspired by my fear and not by my knowledge of my child. Forgetting all the times I’ve seen Alfie be gentle and ignoring all the good work we’ve done on showing care to delicate items I immediately exclaimed “Oh no Alfie!” and snatched the cup from him. A complete Mom fail.
This demonstrated a tendency that was strong in my pre-parent days; to react instead of respond. While I have learnt so much through Montessori about patience, following the child and establishing trust in their abilities, the old habit is still there.
Alfie was understandably very upset by my reaction; he screamed, he stamped, he shouted. There were tears. I had treated him without respect and been deeply unfair to him and he was justifiably angry.
My stupidity continued, while he was in this state of righteous rage I handed the cup back to him. What was I thinking! Alfie immediately started to shake the cup out of anger and frustration, and I just as quickly grabbed it back. That really improved the situation!
Responding NOT Reacting
I knelt down to Alfie’s height, made eye contact and quietened my voice. At first he didn’t want to listen, who could blame him?! So I apologised. I explained that the cup was precious and special to me and very delicate – just like the flowers we’d played with before. I quickly modelled how to use cup, holding it in my finger tips and carefully setting it on the table.
Then I took a deep breath, sat back and trusted this little boy who time and again had proved himself to be gentle, careful and trustworthy, who had never thrown anything breakable before and who regularly carried eggs from the coop to the fridge.
Alfie was a champ! Speaking to him like a respected person and showing him what to do was the exact right thing to do, he lifted the cup very gently by the handle just as I had and examined it very slowly. Then he asked for water, I filled it up for him and he enjoyed a drink from the most precious and breakable piece of china in our house.
It was a surprisingly quiet and calm anticlimax to a situation that had escalated thanks to my failure to trust my child.
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Disclaimer: All my good china is now safely out of sight, just like it should be in a well prepared environment. Also, I accept no responsibility for good china destroyed in practicing this technique!