In the Montessori environment, where children are given freedom within limits, there are three levels that they move through during the pre school years. All three require an element of character that is innate but requires awareness and proficiency as they mature. At the earliest stage, toddlers, the primary objective is socialization. Instinctively children lean into interest with other children but, at times, can feel anxiety. Without knowing it, many instinctively draw from their kindness reservoir as they share their first job-like experiences while moving about the classroom.
Once a child moves from the toddler level, they arrive in the pre school environment where they experience more jobs that allow them to expand their curiosity and obtain proficiency with their bodies and minds. As the child’s mind expands they will also develop a deeper understanding of social interaction within larger groups. During this stage they will need to remember to use their instinctive kindness as they recognize that they are one of many. Patience stems from an awareness of being kind.
By the time that they move to the pre kindergarten year, they have obtained a certain level of proficiency of self, here they may be able to offer aid to other students or help a younger student when possible. Kindness has become a powerful tool in the development of their sense of self.
Success at each level brings a stronger sense of self and community. Kindness seeding starts the evolutionary progression. In this inaugural issue of Radicibus, we wish to bring it to the forefront so that parents can reflect on the importance of an emotion that is bantered about frequently but not always understood as a powerful tool. A child’s education is a collaborative experience – kindness is its base.
Respected transpersonal psychologist, Piero Ferrucci has put this idea into very clear terms when he noted “…an open contact, fostered through kindness, is a richer and more promising way to approach our relationships. It is an attitude in which the other is seen as a window to a new world, away for us to grow.” Every moment in the Playgroup world gives your child an opportunity to learn how to co-exist with others.
In the youngest ages, such as preschool, kindness is instinctive. Children need to foster their self awareness of kindness when approaching their peers because it can encourage peers in two ways. The first, acts of kindness have a beneficial payback to their users in that positive exchange gives the child a reason to feel good about themselves. Helping others – getting a job tray for a friend who cannot reach it, can make the child feel good about their ability to contribute in their school society. Second, aid freely given to another promotes collaboration. Children are then able to feel connected and open should more opportunities occur. The more the collaboration increases the more stable a child feels. Acts of kindness need to be fostered and embedded into the child’s regular state of mind in order for them to form a better sense of self and build a better community to be a part of.
As your child ages and moves to higher levels of education, the need for kindness does not fall away. Endeavor to foster in your children the idea that they are individuals in a world of many. All struggle to make sense of their lives. As a community we can help our children develop instincts that ensure a safe harbor. Encourage your child to approach every new experience in school on an emotional plain of kindness and see how their confidence flourishes.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless.”
The content and materials of Radicibus are distilled by an alum parent.
Baby Be Kind. Jane Cowen-Fletcher
Simple sweetly presented thoughts for the mind of a baby to two year old.
How Kind. Mary Murphy
One good turn deserves another—and another—in this universal tale about the contagiousness of being kind. Hen gives Pig an unexpected present. “How kind!” says Pig. Pig is so touched, in fact, that he decides to do something kind too. So Pig gives Rabbit a gift. “How kind!” says Rabbit, who does something kind for Cow, who is kind to Cat, who wants to be kind in turn. Where will all of this kindness lead?
The Invisible Boy. Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Trudy Ludwig gently moves the young child through a series of experiences that happen in the course of normal socialization in a school day, showing that a simple word or gesture can change a child from invisible to visible, from black and white to full color.
It is possible to give of yourself and in doing so t o give something to another that is equally as a positive. If everyone could be relied on to approach a situation with kindness rather than aggressiveness, there is a possibly reducing barrier.
Winnie the Pooh (2011). Walt Disney Pictures
Return to the Hundred Acre Wood for a heartwarming original movie, and reunite with the beloved bear and his silly but s teadfast friends for a magical family experience. When sad old Eeyore loses his tail, Owl sends the whole gang—Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga and Roo—on a wild journey to help Eeyore and save Christopher Robin from the mysterious Backson.
Arthur. PBS Kids
Chock full of good lessons and kindness is emphasized at all levels, whether it be towards siblings, classmates and community members.
Mulan (1998). Disney Movie
Disney movie that is often overlooked but offers lessons on acceptance from a heroine who is commended for bravery and kindness. There’s a lot to talk about after watching this movie, including when doing what’s right conflicts with the rules.
Mister Rogers Talks About Kindness and Unkindness (1988)
The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life
Piero Ferrucci discusses benefits of the thread of kindness and shows how it is interwoven into all of the emotions that make life a fuller experience. Kindness sprouts from a base for empathy, warmth, contact, forgiveness, trust, flexibility and patience. He notes in his writing when Alex Huxley and Dalai Lama were both asked about the one trait that would make the biggest difference—Huxley answered “People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is—just be a little kinder.”
Dalai Lama said “My religion is kindness.” Ferrucci then reflects on these statements when summarizing “that kindness is a universal principle that contains all enormous potential for good, and cuts through all dogma, inviting us to concentrate on an essential them and showing us the simplest way to liberation.”
Nice Guys Finish First
Kindness and collaboration in the adult world pays off too. The community that beings in childhood can transfer into adulthood. We simply need to remember its value. The end “work product” can be powerful.
I Remember Mama (1948)
Warner Home Video
Based on a play by John Van Druten, this drama gathers the recollections of a Norwegian family relocated to San Francisco—especially those of Katrin, a novelist who credits her mother, Marta, for her and her siblings’ success. In spite of poverty and the difficulties of adjus ting to a new country, Marta persevered, paving the way for her children’s
Question for Lonna
Maria Montessori believed that children have an innate path of psychology development. The child learns how to be a part of many when they are a unit of one. In essence, children are taught to understand that they are citizens. To conduct oneself as a citizen, a person must invoke skillful knowledge of kindness toward those that they interact with. How does Montessori help lead the child to be an individual in an environment of many while encouraging confidence of self?
Montessori schools are much more about a process rather than a product. The act of gluing beans on paper is often more valuable than the final piece of art. Children see learning through the act of practicing. If a child acts rude or hurtful toward another child, we do not shame or place in isolation. We are very particular about how we phrase things. The process is our work. We might say, “We do not treat our friends this way.” This simple phrase opens the conversation to discuss how we treat friends. We are kind and respectful toward friends. We think beyond ourselves with friends.
We are all good friends. I cannot take credit for the phrase heard in every classroom everyday at Playgroup. Dr. Montessori wrote about the importance of respect. Respect for the environment, respect for the materials and respect for each other. The simple act of referring to the children as friends sets a tone and expectation of kindness. We must be kind to be a friend. We model kindness for the children. Through everyday experiences of the adults doing thoughtful acts for each other, supporting each other and speaking in thoughtful ways, the children see how to authentically practice kindness. Kindness doesn’t come naturally, it takes practice. Two year olds, for example, struggle developmentally with kind behavior. I explain to parents that pushing is developmentally appropriate, but not socially acceptable. It is our work to teach young children how to be socially acceptable, kind and cultivate friendships. Through modeling and practice of being kind to each other, children learn to respect and be respected.
Kindness requires thinking beyond oneself. By encouraging young children to think beyond themselves. Empathy is an important part of kindness and requires one to reach beyond their immediate experience. I ask children to consider their friend’s experience and act in a respectful and kind manner.
Teaching the children how to be kind is often the easier piece, teaching the parents their behavior is absolutely essential can be trickier. Parents should be mindful of how and what they say about those who are in their children’s life. I am forever saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We cannot expect children to be thoughtful and kind if the y see and hear rude behavior. Dr. Montessori wrote about “Education for Peace”. We teach the children we are a community within the world. Being kind in our small school can translate into being kind in the bigger world. Practicing kindness toward the friend in pre school can develop into a life long experience of compassion and respect which ultimately will allow for happiness and personal success.
And at the end of the day, this is what we want for our children.
Executive Director, Playgroup
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