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Montessori at home: Why we don’t force kids to say ‘I’m sorry’

Have you ever seen a kid push someone, glance up to see if an adult saw, then shout “Sorry!” in a sing-song, anything-but-sorry voice, and run away?


It’s pretty clear this does nothing to help the injured child, or to convey any sort of lesson to the aggressor. But what else can you do? How do you teach children how to really make amends, see what they did wrong and have empathy for others?

There is another way and it’s surprisingly straightforward.

If you want to teach children to resolve conflict beyond the hollow “I’m sorry,” try this simple process that Montessori teachers use.

The role of an adult in Montessori conflict resolution is to be a neutral mediator, to ask questions to guide the children in sorting through their feelings and talking to each other. With practice, the children do as much of the resolution on their own as possible.

First, separate the children

If the conflict is violent, the first step is to separate the children so that no one gets hurt. This is done firmly, but without anger. Keeping your own emotions out of it can be hard but remaining as neutral as possible keeps the focus on the children, and helps them feel safe to talk about their feelings and to be honest about what happened.

When the children are relatively calm and in control, they are ready to talk to each other.

Then ask questions: What happened? How do you feel?

Start by asking each child what happened. Then ask him how he feels.

Repeat what he said to make sure you understand and that it’s clear to the other child. “You feel sad because Johnny said he wouldn’t play with you and then pushed you.”

Then give the other child a turn,“Johnny, you feel annoyed because Timmy was following you around the playground and poking you.”

What could you have done differently?

Instead of doling out a punishment, ask the children what they could have done to handle the situation more appropriately. hey may need help coming up with answers, especially at first, You may need to give them a few alternatives for how they could have responded.

For example, you could say, “Johnny, pushing is never okay. You could have asked Timmy to stop following you or asked me for help when he was poking you. Timmy, you could have asked Johnny to play with you instead of chasing him.”

With time, the children will be increasingly able to do this on their own.

What do you need to feel better?

Many times, the children will be calm after this conversation. Sometimes though, someone will still be hurt or upset. You may ask them, “What do you need to feel better?”

Children often request a hug or sometimes a drink of water or an ice pack if they got hurt. It helps both parties feel better if the children help each other with whatever they need.

All together, we call this an “I message”— I feel…when you…and I want…It is a simple formula, but it helps children focus on expressing themselves and how they feel, instead of just hurling accusations.

But what about punishment?

You may notice that there was no mention of punishment in this resolution. Montessori focuses on natural consequences rather than punishment. Often, there will be no need for consequences outside of the conflict resolution, but if someone is acting unsafe or repeatedly breaking the rules, there may be a need for additional consequences.

For example, “Johnny, that’s the second time you’ve hurt someone on the playground today. I can’t trust you to be safe right now. You need to stay with me until you can be safe.”

What about apologizing?

While Montessori teachers don’t generally force apologies, being willing and able to apologize when you’re really sorry is still a great life skill that children can practice. Instead of making your child apologize, try modeling it for them.

Practice apologizing to your child, or to your partner in front of your child. Giving them this model will go much further than making them say “I’m sorry.”

You can also try asking your child if they want to apologize if you can tell they’re upset about something they did. Help them work through the words they could use and how it might help them, and the other person, feel better. Some children might be more comfortable writing an apology note.

There is certainly a place for apologies, but children’s conflicts offer an opportunity for so much more. Let’s slow down and give them the tools they need to talk through disagreements, express their feelings and be peaceful people in a world that so desperately needs it.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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