The Essential Triangle by Sue Pritzker
The Essential Triangle
By Sue Pritzker
From the very beginning of her work, Maria Montessori attributed the success of her approach to the relationship between the child, the parents, and the teacher and described it as “The Essential Triangle.” In providing a homelike environment for children, she recognized the value of social life and included parents in all that she did and taught in regards to an environment for optimum growth and success. In the early years of the 20th century, Americans flocked to Italy to watch and learn about the “revolutionary” system of working with children. A consistent message brought back to the U.S., primarily to parents at that time, about turning the tables on how we think about our children’s achievements and progress as well as how to use the Montessori techniques in child rearing. At a time when trends took months and years to develop rather than in minutes (and seconds) as is the case on the internet, parents were fascinated by how they could look differently at raising children. Check out these three messages to learn more about the Montessori Method, written at the time by Americans who took the trek to Italy and returned with advice for American parents:
In 1912 Dr. T. L. Smith, an early advocate of Montessori focused his message on changing our “reward approach” to child rearing: “Reward comes in the child’s own sense of mastery. Failure is a negation showing that the child is not yet ready for that particular exercise”.
Dorothy Canfied Fisher wrote in 1913: “Not only does every child differ from every other child but, not being a fixed and inanimate object, they are in a constant state of flux, and differs from [themself], from day to day, as they grow. Everyone who wishes to adopt her system, or to train children according to her method, must learn constantly to repeat to [themself] and to act upon, at every moment, this maxim, ‘All growth must come from a voluntary action of the child [themself].”
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey wrote in 1915: “not commands, but freedom; not teaching, but observation Doctor Montessori begs of [parents]”.
And here we are a century later, still marveling at how you, as parents, are intrigued by this Montessori system. You spend hours at parent nights, in conferences, on email, and with books at your bedside in an effort to be in alignment with your child and the Montessori approach. It is not always intuitive for us as Guides and staff to do things in a way that fits the child’s need and I am sure that is true for parents. But as we come to the end of another year, I want to celebrate your efforts to understand and build community and simply wrap your mind around being a parent and doing it well.