I have been prompted recently to think of personality types and the impact they have on children. There have been a couple of high profile cases in the education system that have made me think about this
1) The case of parents who took their child's school to court because the school put ‘unfair’ punishment on their child and consequently their child was going to miss out on participating in a prestigious completion
2) The case of a teenager who made some ‘controversial’ remarks about education in a class speech, was disciplined by the school and then took to Facebook to wax lyrical on the unjustness of it all. She was supported in her calls of the ‘unjust’ educational system by her parents.
Paula Polk Lillard in her book ‘Montessori: The Science behind the Genius’ has a table of parenting styles. This table is adapted from Baumrind who did an extensive study in 1989 on American families. You can read more about Baumrinds work here
The four parenting styles:
Authorative: Affectionate with consistent limits or boundaries for child, encourages child to think and make decisions
Authoritarian: Emotionally absent, bossy, doesn't care about the child's feelings
Permissive: loving, anxious to please, can't say no consistently, easily manipulated
Passive: Emotionally removed, uninvolved, leaves discipline to someone else
The teaching and parenting style that is the most positive for children is the Authoritative model.
The features of Authoritative parenting/teaching are:
Strict rules but a willingness to discuss the rules and if a child makes a logical argument negotiate the rules and alter them to the child's views
freedom within the boundaries.
Interestingly in Montessori classrooms and some ‘Montessori’ parenting I have seen some opt for the ‘permissive model.’ The feature of these parents is they let their child set the agenda e.g. the child says ‘I want to go to bed at 11’ and the parent either doesn’t say yes or no or just ‘goes with it'. Another feature of these parents is that they don't want to see their child experience any 'pain' or negativity which reminds me of the first case that I discussed in my introduction. These parents are also the type of parents who get upset if the authoritative teacher puts a logical consequence in place for their child e.g. if Bobby didn't do his maths work by the agreed date Bobby has to stay in at lunch and complete it. The permissive parent sees this as being 'unfair' or 'cruel.'
As teachers, Montessori permissive classrooms have features such as:
The child getting out a piece of work (possibly with encouragement from the teacher, often without teacher encouragement) and then sitting and doing nothing with it (the work) for an hour. This is because the permissive teacher doesn't see anything wrong with this or doesn't want the child to feel upset.
Teachers who let children do anything they want in the name of 'firing the flame of education' e.g Bobby is interested in physics and wants to drop glass bottles from a great height in the middle of the classroom to see what happens.
Teachers who have no real plan of what they are doing and so jump from subject to subject, curriculum area to curriculum area because they want to find lessons that make the child 'happy'
Teachers who have one rule for one child and a different rule for another and fluctuate between how they deal with children, sometimes a certain behaviour is fine, sometimes a certain behaviour is not.
Unsurprisingly the children of permissive styles have little self-control, are immature, non-assertive and aren’t really that reliable (Lillard p.267-270), not exactly the 'preparation for life' that Montessori had in mind for her pedagogy!
The parenting/teaching style thing is really important in Montessori. In my previous posts I have talked about the prepared environment a lot. However Montessori saw the 'prepared adult' as just as important for the child.
I think I'll leave the last word with her:
"The work of the teacher is to guide the children to normalisation, to concentration. She is like the sheepdog who goes after the sheep when they stray, who conducts all the sheep inside. The teacher has two tasks: to lead the children to concentration and to help them in their development afterwards. The fundamental help in development, especially with little children of three years of age, is not to interfere. Interference stops activity and stops concentration. But do not apply the rule of non-interference when the children are still the prey of all their different naughtinesses." (Dr. Maria Maria Montessori).
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