Monday, January 25, 2021

Temper Tantrums, Whining and Begging...not fun for anyone.

We wonder, is it too much to ask our children to cooperate, to accept no as an answer, to understand they cannot always have what they want? 

And yet for many of us, this is a daily struggle.  The necessary tasks of life become a battle ground:  getting dressed, putting away belongings, helping out around the house and brushing teeth.
At the grocery store we are begged  for candy or toys, although we have said no many times.  And the list goes on.  

Lucky for us, there are some tried and true ideas that have worked for many parents.  These are not magic (wouldn't that be great?), they require hard work, lots of patience and possibly most important of all, consistency.  That last one was nearly my downfall. 

Let's begin with one simple response to begging and pleading.  We'll use the grocery store and asking for candy as an example.  Now, of course, before we leave for the store we make sure we say that there will be no candy purchases made today.  

As you begin to check out, the display of candy catches the child's eye.  "Mom, look.  That's my favorite candy!  Can I have one? "  "No, I told you, no candy at the store today."  "But, mom, I really want one.  I'll be good.  The next time I won't ask, I promise."  "I said, NO CANDY."  Our patience is wearing thin at this point, and we often follow up with "How many times do I have to tell you, NO."  Ah, and then the tears begin and the voice gets louder.  People are starting to give us "that look".  You know...why doesn't she control that kid look.  And everything goes downhill from here, including threats of punishment when we get home, never getting candy again and increasing anger on both sides.  

Instead, try this (I promise you it works!):  "Mom, there's my favorite candy!  Can I have one?"  "Oh, I know you really like that candy.  Today is the day we are not buying candy."  " But I really, really want one."
Now, here is the magic:  we choose a simple phrase to repeat every time the child argues, begs or whines.  I like "I know."  Some others are:  I see.  That's sad.  Oh my.  You get the idea.  And we must say this with the most quiet, bored voice possible.  No anger, no frustration, no sarcasm.  This is the hard part.  There may be a full fledged temper tantrum, but stick to the same words.  If necessary, leave the store.  Before long the child gets the idea that begging, pleading, anger and whining do not work.  Children will only continue with behavior which gets a result.  That result may be making the parent angry (I am powerful.  I can make mom mad.) or getting the candy (Mom doesn't mean what she says) .  
Another idea that can work wonders in some situations is to turn our no into yes.  Now, that does not mean letting the child do whatever they want.  Often we can rephrase our response to a request like this: 
"Dad, can we go to the park and play ball?"  Now it is not possible.  You are busy, it is nearly dark and dinner is ready.  Of course, no is the answer.  Ah, but how about this: Yes, that would be a lot of fun.  We can go to the park on Saturday morning.  It should be a sunny day and I will be finished this job by then.  Or would you rather go on Sunday?  I can do either one.  The child may say he wants to go now and we respond: I know. Me too! Would you like to go on Saturday or Sunday?  Almost always the child will like having a choice and be understanding about the delay.  Save the no for those times when there isn't an alternative.  

 You may leave questions and comments by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of the page.  Have a great week!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Parenting with Montessori and Love and Logic


Many parents of AMCS students have attended our in person Parenting with Montessori and Love and Logic meetings.  These two books are an excellent starting point for getting ideas that will make parenting effective, less stressful and even fun!  As we are not able to have in person meetings at this time this online space will give us a format to get the same information with the opportunity to comment and ask questions.  

We welcome your input and ideas.  There will be a new post every two weeks beginning on January 18th with advance information on what will be discussed and resources you can use on your parenting journey.  Our first post will address getting cooperation; a very important topic during these times.  Have a great week!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Making Holidays Happy ....Can It Be Done, especially now!

Is this the scene we all imagine when we think about the winter holidays?  For most of in Houston that rarely (if ever) means snow and a blazing fire. 

There are a few challenges that come with this time of year.  If your family celebrates Christmas the rush of decorating, buying presents, finding a tree, hosting parties and family gatherings can be overwhelming, especially this year when gatherings may or may not be possible.   If your family observes other holidays that do not occur in December it can be difficult to manage all of the excitement in the air. 

Each family must choose how, if and when they participate in the holiday events.  One thing that is common to all is the coming of winter.  It is easy to decorate the home with winter in mind, to arrange a trip to ice skate or play in one of the "snow storms" that are set up around the city.  All can enjoy the lights at the zoo, in our neighborhoods and at Discovery Green. 

Of course there are many who are less fortunate, who find it difficult to put food on the table, to have warm clothing for their family, to provide even the most simple of toys.  The joy of giving to others can bring a sense of belonging, of being of service, and feeling that we have done some good.  Perhaps your family can do a food drive in the neighborhood, go through their toys and donate gently used but outgrown ones to charities.  Children can raise money for the homeless and food banks. Simply  baking some cookies and taking them to a lonely neighbor can lift our spirits and bring our families together. 

Take a winter walk on the beach, or go on a hunt for winter pictures, play board games, visit a park and roast marshmallows, sing, tell stories and gather together in person where possible, or virtually, to celebrate a season of family and caring for our fellow human beings.  Most of all, remember that we really are one world.  

Have a wonderful winter holiday.  Look for another post in a week with a funny, true and workable solution to an overload of toys!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Books for Parents!

 Welcome back to our parenting blog!  Today I am posting a number of books that will give more insights into Montessori education, the Montessori child and some just for enjoyment of a glimpse into the child's world.  You are always welcome to comment, ask questions or add ideas. 

Learning about Montessori:

The Discovery of the Child

This is Dr. Montessori's own book which is an essential part of every teacher's education and training.  We read and reread this brilliant insight into how children learn and grow. 

The Joyful Child:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three:  Susan Mayclin Stephenson

Child of the World:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Ages 3-12: Susan Mayclin Stephenson

These two books are a great introduction to Montessori and understanding the development of the young child. 

Montessori Today:Paula Polk Lillard  

Looking at the benefits of a Montessori education and a readable and comprehensive overview of Montessori life. 

Books to enjoy:

You Can't Say You Can't Play:  Vivian Gussin Paley  

The Girl With the Brown Crayon Vivian Gussin Paley

Paley is a former teacher with a joyful and deep understanding of young children.  She has written many books filled with humor and joy.  

Some of these books are available in the public library and online (do a search).

Friday, September 18, 2020

What is Montessori? For new and returning parents!


This year we return to a very different experience for our students, parents and staff.  Even as we navigate the best approach to provide the closest Montessori learning possible, there are challenges and necessary adaptations.  

Today I want to share with you an important part of my experience through over 40 years teaching and being an administrator in both public and private Montessori schools. 

If we return to Dr. Maria Montessori's teachings and her own knowledge of children we learn that every child has the same basic needs and interests.  It is our responsibility not to put barriers in the path of the child as they grow, learn and mature.  Montessori called these needs the human tendencies.  

These are true for all children and adults everywhere.

Order:  At home or at school, a sense of order helps the child to organize their thoughts, to feel secure and confident, to become more and more capable and independent.  In the classroom, everything has a place and that place does not change.  At home, the child's room can be set up to provide this benefit. 

Communication:  Communication comes in many forms:  words, actions, symbols, signs, body language and behavior.  In Montessori talking with friends when appropriate is encouraged.  Teachers make time to talk with each child every day, to tell stories and share ideas.  At home, family time together to talk, sing, play games and share a meal helps the child to feel valued and understood.  Language is the tool of the intellect.  

Orientation:  This is the ability to fit in, to relate to a place or group.  Orientation gives the child a sense of direction and belonging.  If the child is disoriented he may be insecure and unsure of himself.  In Montessori every child has grace and courtesy lessons that teach manners, respect and ways to resolve problems.  These lessons are given as information, not as correction or disapproval.  At home, helping your child to understand what is expected as a family member and how he or she can contribute to the good of the family will aid in achieving orientation.

Concentration:  We all want our children to be able to concentrate.  To build concentration skills it is important that the work is interesting and attractive to him.  Montessori lessons are designed to build on the child's interests and abilities.  At home, reducing outside interruptions will help develop the ability to focus.  If you are reading with your child or engaged in a lesson or conversation giving full attention will demonstrate the importance of the book or task, and of course, show the child how important he or she is.  

Repetition:  Learning takes place through repetition.  Children have a desire for perfection and for this reason it is important to allow time for repetition.  As the child repeats the work they become more confident and ready to move on to the next challenge.  Remember that when we try a new activity it takes time to feel confident and strong.  Mistakes are just the steps to competence.  We must honor the effort and not just the result as the child repeats any skill. 

Perfection: All human beings have the desire for perfection.  We achieve perfection by practicing skills, following our abilities and interests, and staying with a task until we succeed.  It is important that children have the time and support to work toward perfection.  This will differ with every child and in every endeavor so patience on the part of adults while encouraging and supporting effort will be most helpful.

Exactness:  The human tendency for exactness shows in our ability to do intricate work, to choose the right words when speaking, to follow a recipe, drive safely and in many other areas.  Children develop this ability in the Montessori classroom with many activities which require increasing exactness, culminating in the ability to do complex math, solve difficult problems and be orderly and precise in their work.  

Exploration:  Young children are sensorial learners.  At a very young age they will spend hours building towers with blocks, using clay, playing in the sand.  In school many of the primary Montessori materials use this tendency to encourage exploration of size, sound, touch and weight.  As they progress, later work encourages discovery of results of experimentation, exploration of the history of the world, the secrets of science and math.  Without the tendency to explore mankind would not have progressed. 

Abstraction:  The human tendency to seek abstraction begins with a base in reality at the youngest ages.  For this reason we offer only real information to the primary child.  As the child forms a solid base in reality (no talking animals, etc.) the ability to begin thinking beyond what they know and move into the world of imagination and more complex creativity becomes possible.

Movement:  Movement is essential for all humans.  Children who are free to move about will show increased ability to concentrate and focus.  In the Montessori classroom children are free to move about, to choose different kinds of work as long as they do not disturb others.  In my early days of teaching I went to a child who was just wandering about and suggested he choose some work.  This four year old replied "I am working.  I am thinking about numbers."  I learned a lot about movement from this young boy.  As parents let's help our children to have activities every day that involve moving:  gardening, playing ball, washing the car, cooking...all of these will built confidence and skill. 

Work:  Every human needs to engage their mind, body and spirit in a purpose.  Work helps the child feel productive and useful and gives a sense of belonging.  In Montessori we call our lessons work because we want the children to respect and enjoy work.  As adults when we show respect and enthusiasm for our own work we teach a valuable lesson to the child. 

Activity:  This is a new dimension of work.  Purposeful activity gives all people a sense of value and importance.  Donating time to a cause, helping a neighbor, caring for someone who needs help, planting a garden...all of these are examples of how we build self esteem and confidence.  Children can contribute to the good of the family.  Even the youngest child can help in many ways.  Think about calling these activities "contributions to our family" rather than "your job".  These important activities are part of every classroom as the students care for plants and animals, clean up after lunch, keep their materials in a neat manner and enjoy being a real part of the school through their activity.  In the adolescent community (middle school) the students take on projects and community activities which are the culmination of earlier work in the classrooms. 

I hope this gives you a glimpse into the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and her deep understanding of the needs of all humankind, especially children. 

Next week I will post some books if you would like to explore the world of Montessori further.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020



We strongly encourage you to implement these ideas every day.  Consistency is important in any educational experience, and especially now.  It is important that you help your child realize that although they are at home it is a school experience. These suggestions will help your child to feel more as if they are in the actual classroom and will increase concentration and attention.  


Make sure you know your child’s class schedule and set an alarm at least 15 minutes ahead so they can be ready on time.


A paper calendar with the days and times for class time noted and posted where it can be seen will help prepare your student. 


 It will help your child to be more attentive and prepared if they are wearing appropriate clothing:  our school uniform or a nice tee shirt, pants, skirt, hair brushed, shoes on.  Make it a pleasure to “get ready for school”.  

Have a regular, dedicated space with a desk or table, a comfortable chair, pencils and any other books or supplies the teacher has suggested.  Try to keep this space the same every day. Have a dedicated place for materials to be kept between sessions.

/Be sure to keep distractions at a minimum.  We know you are at home and there will be some disruption.  Perhaps ask friends and family not to call during school time, turn off television, cell phones and music while your child is “at school.”

It will make the time for class more useful if your child uses the bathroom beforehand, and, depending on the specified time, is not hungry or thirsty.  


We know that you will join us in doing everything possible to help the children have the best possible experience.  Please show a positive attitude toward the remote learning experience, emphasize the positive and know you are contributing greatly to your child’s education.  Our faculty is working hard to achieve that same end.  We are all in this together.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Getting Outside....Safely


Most of us are either at home or spending our days working.  

Families are busy helping children with remote learning, navigating the pages of information about the virus, deciding what is safe to do, how to get groceries, manage changing finances and all of the other challenges we face together.  

Children, especially young children, cannot really understand all of the changes in their lives, even with loving parents and teachers doing their best to support them. 

An essential part of a healthy life for everyone is spending time in nature. Walking through a garden, observing birds and wildlife, listening to water create a musical backdrop to a stroll through a forest; these moments can make worry and fatigue fall away.  

Finding these safe havens can be a challenge.  We are fortunate that we have many parks and natural areas close by the Houston area where families can be safely distanced from others and be safely outdoors.  Explore the options with your family and go experience some of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of our city.

It is good to be prepared.  Bring snacks, drinks or even a full picnic.  Pack hand sanitizers, masks for those that can wear them, wet washcloths in plastic bags, and sunscreen if needed.  It is summer in Houston, after all.  Make sure everyone uses the restroom before leaving to limit stops in public places.  Go over the rules for safety and go have fun!

Most of the following places can be visited safely, especially if you go early in the day.  I routinely walk at Mercer Botanic Gardens at 8 a.m. and am often the only person there.  The picture at the top of the blog was taken there. 

Mercer Botanic Gardens:

Miles of hiking trails, fountains, flowers, a children's garden, picnic tables and a playground make this a great place for family outings.  If you are lucky you might see deer, rabbits, armadillos and lots of birds!  Best of is free. 

Alexander Deussen Park:

309 beautiful acres on Lake Houston with lots of room for bike riding, hiking, a duck pond, a dog park, fishing and boat ramps are all open and free.  Lots of room to spread out, play ball, read and relax.  

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center:

A gem in the heart of Houston!  Visit the web site for a map of the many trails.  Be sure to check the link for restrictions due the Covid19 as they change frequently.  

Brazos Bend State Park:

Ready for a "wild" experience?  Come hike the miles of trails, fish, picnic and see the wildlife.  Alligators, birds and other animals are common sightings.  Be sure to check out the link (more info !) for current information on restrictions due to Covid19. 

For more places to get your nature on go to the Texas State Park website.  

'Parks are listed by location and have full information.  

Play safe!  Let's get outdoors and have some fun!

Look for the next post for ideas on how to make being at home a positive experience.  We are doing this together!