Generally before I buy a book, I will check Amazon or Goodreads to see if I’d like it. I try not to get too many spoilers but I do tend to “check with the internet first.” This book was different.
Back in February (before we even thought about social isolation!), I was loitering in a newsagent at the train station waiting for my next train. And found myself drawn to this book – The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry. I’d seen it at my local book store and a few times here and there. But I had this strange feeling that this book would be compatible with the Montessori approach. And I wasn’t disappointed. So I thought I’d share my favourite takeaways with you (or areas that align for me with the Montessori approach).
The author is a psychotherapist and has an easy to read entertaining writing style (rare for parenting books) including anecdotes from her own family, from patients, and research thrown in too. In fact, whilst it’s kind of like a parenting book, it’s more like a book on the psychology of families. Fascinating.
It’s one of those books that pulls back a bit to give a big-picture view of parenting. Less of “how do I get my kids dressed” to “what values are we wanting to instil in our families?” and “what kind of relationships are we building?”; what the research says works in to have healthy parent-child relationships; as well as healthy dose of practical advice on setting boundaries, understanding that children’s behaviour is communication, and handling our feelings and our child’s. From baby right through teenager.
I also enjoyed that it starts with the work we need to do on ourselves, a part of parenting that is easy to overlook when we are trying to “fix” our children.
Interestingly, this is not a Montessori book and I didn’t know if the author had any association to Montessori. In researching for this newsletter I found out that she did discover the work of Dr Montessori when she was looking for a school for her (then) young daughter and now champions Montessori’s work.
So, let’s not wait any longer. Here are 10 of my favourite quotes from The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read.
1. About feedback rather than praise
“Human beings change and grow all the time, especially small ones. It is far better to describe what you see and say what you appreciate rather than judge. So say, ‘I like how hard you were concentrating when you did those sums’ rather than ‘You’re great at maths.’ Say, ‘I’m impressed how much thought you have put into this drawing. I like how the house looks like it’s smiling. It makes me feel happy.’ Not ‘Lovely picture.’ Praise effort, describe what you see and feel and encourage your child without judging. Describing and finding something specific to appreciate is far more encouraging than a non-specific judgement of ‘Great job’ and far, far more useful than criticism. If a whole page of writing is nearly a completely untidy mess but the letter P is perfectly formed, all you need to say is, ‘I like how neatly you’ve written that P.’ Hopefully, next time, you’ll like another letter as well.”
2. The importance of a healthy family, no matter how it is structured
“Research has shown that family structure itself has little effect on children’s cognitive or emotional development…It matters more than most adults think that family life does not veer too far towards the battleground end of the scale. If children are preoccupied, if they are worried about their security, their safety and how they belong, they are not free to be curious about the wider world. Not being curious impacts negatively upon how they concentrate and learn.”
3. How to argue and how not to argue
“Most families argue – but it’s how you work through any conflict (or don’t) and how it’s resolved (or not) that matters.”
4.How to support your child’s feelings
“This is what a child needs: for a parent to be a container for their emotions. This means you are alongside them and know and accept what they feel but you are not being overwhelmed by their feelings.”
“Being able to be a container means witnessing anger in a child, understanding why they are angry and perhaps putting that into words for them, finding acceptable ways for them to express their anger and not being punitive or overwhelmed by the anger. The same is true for other emotions too.”
5. Distraction is a trick
“…distraction is a trick and, in the long term, being manipulated will not help your child develop a capacity for happiness.”
“Distracting a child away from a toy another child is holding to ward off a conflict will not help them to understand, and nor will it help them learn how to negotiate a struggle. Avoiding difficult feelings is not how we learn how to deal with them.”
6. About the gift of observation
“When I didn’t need to do anything, instead of playing with my phone or picking up a book, I would pay her attention. I realized that, instead of always trying to show her stuff, if I looked at what she was looking at too, let her show me what she liked, it was more rewarding. She would look at things and I’d bring them closer to her or take her to them and look at them with her. She taught me to stop and to look, because I’d forgotten how to do that.”
7. Less is more
“Children, just like adults, become overwhelmed and frozen when given too much choice…With too many toys, they’re more likely to flit from activity to activity rather than engage deeply in one. Buying more toys is often indulged in by parents because they hope it will mean that the child will want them less. But guess what? It doesn’t work.”
8. All behaviour is communication
“What is their behaviour trying to say? Can you help them communicate in a more convenient way? What are they telling you with their bodies, with their noises and with whatever words they may choose? And, a really hard question to ask yourself: how is their behaviour co-created with yours?”
9. How our children learn to be polite
“Children learn their behaviour from how they are treated. They really learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when gratitude and respect have been shown to them. They can then embody them. If you only drill your child into saying these things, they may never learn to feel them.”
What to do then if our child has not yet learned to say ‘thank you’ for a gift, “…we can give thanks for the present ourselves so the giver doesn’t feel unappreciated.”
10. Without connection there is very little cooperation
“…It’s important to spend time with our children whatever their age, and to listen to them…We need to make sure we connect with them as well as live with them.”
“If you are not willing at all to be impacted upon by the opinions and feelings of your child, they will be less likely to allow your influence and wise counsel.”
I’m curious if you’ve read the book too. I love seeing mainstream books bringing the ideas of Montessori into more and more homes, just as The Montessori Toddler has, and The Montessori Baby, and The Montessori Child (coming soon).
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