“The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” Maria Montessori
Montessori developed her now world-famous educational method for use in schools, so when she was writing she directed her words towards the adults who would become guides in classrooms. However, I think the concept of the prepared adult is equally, if not more important, when we are thinking about our own “preparation” as parents.
The prepared parent
For many parents, when we find out we are expecting our first child we begin to prepare for their arrival. We buy baby clothes, weigh up the pros and cons of different nappies, research the best breast pump or co-sleeper crib or or sling or stroller. Perhaps we also prepare for the birth, signing up to antenatal classes or reading books about birth. We might hire a doula or a birthing pool, choose between home or hospital or midwifery-led care. We might even read some books on baby care, on infant sleep, on child development in those early months.
But how many of us truly seek to prepare ourselves for the enormous shift which is about to happen to us?
Preparing ourselves as parents might include (but certainly isn’t limited to):
- Having conversations with our partners about our parenting hopes and dreams.
- Getting clear on our values, and taking time to explore how we can live and raise our children in alignment with these.
- Informing ourselves about intentional parenting in order to rewrite some of the harmful messages we have internalised since our own childhoods about children and the role of adults, and replace them with a positive, joyful vision for parenting: this might include reading books and articles on peaceful and conscious parenting (you can find some of my favourite books here, here, here and here), listening to podcasts, attending workshops, working with coaches, having conversations with other like-minded parents, or joining supportive communities on social media.
- Learning about child development so that our expectations are developmentally appropriate (this brilliant book belongs on every parent’s book shelf!).
- Choosing to view our children and others around us with Unconditional Positive Regard.
- Reflecting on our own experience of being parented (perhaps through journalling, therapy, meditation, or other forms of reflection), paying special attention to truly understanding our own parenting triggers so that we can break the cycle of parenting through the lens of shame and control.
- Having hard conversations with our partners, family, friends, and others in our community in order to show up as an ally for our children.
- Modelling the behaviours and values we want to see reflected back in our children, from resting enough to nurturing ourselves intellectually, and from how we speak to each other to how much time we spend on our phones.
- Committing to taking responsibility for working towards our own healing, seeking help from others including professionals where appropriate.
- Taking care of our own needs (and getting really clear on what these truly are), so that we can best meet the needs of our children and our communities (and also because we deserve care too – self care is not selfish).
- Communicating our needs peacefully and effectively to others (I cannot recommend this book enough).
If this sounds like a whole lot of hard work, that’s because it is.
Choosing to parent in a peaceful way which centres connection, empathy and joy and leaves aside traditional parenting methods of control, shame, and power inequality is not the easy route. To do so requires continual inner work, reflection, growing, and the humility to acknowledge and apologise when we get things wrong (because we will get things wrong ALL the time, no matter how long we have been preparing ourselves as parents!)
It is hard work, but it is worth it.
I believe that peaceful parenting can be a truly radical act. More than that, I believe that changing the way we raise children is our only hope if we want a fairer and more just society. The way in which we raise our children can have a profound positive impact on our families, our communities, and our world. We owe it to our children, and we owe it to ourselves, to prepare ourselves as best we can.
It is hard work, but you’re not alone in doing it.
This month I am taking part in a project on Instagram all about the concept of “The Prepared Adult”, and I thought I would share some thoughts here too with a post each week of August. If we’re not already connected on Instagram, come along and say hi!