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Montessori at home: why punishment doesn’t work—but consequences do

Like many Montessorians, I’ve used open, glass cups for my son to drink out of since he was 6 months old. People sometimes ask, “Won't the glasses break? Won’t he spill?” The answer is of course, yes!


This is a natural consequence in its simplest form.

Breaking is a natural consequence of dropping something. Spilling is a natural consequence of rushing or not holding something carefully. In the event of a spill, we stop what we’re doing and clean it up. With time, this teaches a child to be more careful as he sees what happens when he’s not.

Natural consequences can be applied to all sorts of behavior from simple things like spilling, to more complicated situations like treating siblings with kindness.

Montessori schools and homes use natural consequences because we don’t want children to behave well out of fear of punishment, we want them to do the right thing because they understand the impact of their actions.

These articles in Psychology Today confirm that punishment is not an effective way to teach children to do the right thing. Instead, it encourages children to lie about their behavior and shames them into feeling bad about themselves. It also hurts our connection with our children, which is the most powerful tool we have to influence behavior.

Alternatively, a child who understands the natural consequences of his actions will learn to make responsible choices of his own free will, rather than to please you or avoid punishment. He will make good choices even when you’re not looking, because he understands the reason for them. And when he slips up, as we all do, he will hopefully see that the consequence is at least fair, if unpleasant.

Choosing how to discipline your child is a personal choice, and often a contentious one, but if you’d like to try using natural consequences at home, here are 10 examples to get you started:

1. Scenario: It’s time to leave for the park and your son refuses to put on his shoes.

Consequence: He will have to sit on a bench with you at the park rather than play because it’s not safe to play on the playground without shoes.

2. Scenario: Your daughter throws all of her peas on the floor at dinner time.

Consequence: She does not get to eat any peas.

3. Scenario: Your son leaves his toys outside, despite reminders to clean them up.

Consequence: It rains and one of his favorite toys is ruined and has to be thrown away.

4. Scenario: Your daughter calls her sister a mean name.

Consequence: Her sister doesn’t want to play with her.

5. Scenario: Your son is running in the house, which is against the rules.

Consequence: A lamp gets broken and he has to use many weeks’ worth of allowance to pay for it.

Natural consequences are one of the best ways to show children that their choices have an impact, on both themselves and others. However, children must be able to see the link between the action and the consequence for this to be effective.

Sometimes, an undesired behavior does not have an immediate natural consequence. For example, refusing to brush teeth will lead to cavities in the future, but explaining that to a young child is not likely to change his behavior in the moment.

In cases where there is no natural consequence, or the consequence is too far in the future to be an effective deterrent, we turn to logical consequences.

A logical consequence is something linked to the child’s behavior, but it is something we as adults create, rather than something that happens naturally.

Here are some examples of logical consequences:

1. Scenario: Your daughter hits someone on the playground.

Consequence: You tell your daughter that you can’t trust her to play on her own when she is hurting other people. She must stand with you until you know she can be safe.

This should be said in as neutral a tone as possible. It’s not a lecture, you’re just explaining the impact of her choices and making it clear that the behavior is not acceptable.

You can also explain the longer-term natural consequences if your child can understand. You might say, “If you hit other children, they won’t want to play with you.”

2. Scenario: Your son is being rough with the library books you brought home.

Consequence: You put away the library books, explaining that if he can’t take care of them, he won’t be able to read them as they must be in good condition when returned to the library. (If your child is older, you might prefer the natural consequence and let him rip the pages, and then save up to pay the library fee.)

3. Scenario: Your daughter is playing in the backyard. You’ve asked her to be careful of the garden, but she is trampling it.

Consequence: You ask her to come inside. If she can’t be respectful of your garden, she will not be able to play around it.

4. Scenario: Your son throws a tantrum every time he has to leave his friend’s house.

Consequence: You say no to the next play date invitation, explaining to your child that you will not be able to have playdates with that friend until he can leave calmly when it’s time.

5. Scenario: Your child repeatedly gets out of bed at night, waking you several times.

Consequence: You explain in the morning that you’re too tired to make the usual pancakes because you were woken up so many times. It will have to be a simple breakfast of toast or cereal.

The key with consequences is making sure your child understands the logic of how they relate to his behavior. Unlike punishment, this does not shame the child or incite fear. It simply imparts the message that actions have consequences.

You won’t need to lecture or yell because the consequences speak for themselves.

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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 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, is 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 so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it 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?

For me, 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 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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