Sunday, August 06, 2006

The child

I was reading the following rather cynical, but very true, comments today from The Child in the Family by Maria Montessori:

What is the child? He is a reproduction of the adult who possesses him as if he were a piece of property. No slave was ever so much the property of his master as the child is of the parent. No servant has ever had the limitless obedience of a child required of him. Never were the rights of man so disregarded as in the case of the child. No worker has ever blindly had to follow orders as must the child. At least the worker has his hours off and a place to go for compassionate response. No one has ever had to work like the child, who must submit to an adult who imposes hours of work and hours of play according to a rigid and arbitrary set of rules.


The idea that the child is a personality separate from the adult never seemed to occur to anybody. Almost all moral and philosophical thought has been oriented toward the adult, and social questions about childhood itself have never been asked. The child as a separate entity, with different needs to satisfy in order to attain the highest ends of life, has never been taken into consideration. He is seen as a weak being supported by adults, never as a human being without rights oppressed by adults. The child as a human being who works, as a victim who suffers, as the best of companions, is still an unknown figure.

These quotes above struck me because the idea they touch upon was something I was thinking of the other day. Children are not really respected as people in our society. Neither by the schools nor by adults. We've spent too many generations seeing children as nothings who need to be molded into somethings instead of already seeing them as somebodies. And as parents, too many of us do not really see our children as 'separate entities', as people who know and see things differently from us. I know I'm often guilty of it. When I'm able to really see my kids as their own persons, it changes things in me. It makes me less likely to force something that doesn't need to be forced. It makes me more likely to try to understand them the way I might try to understand an adult. It helps me see them as truly amazing and fascinating people, completely contrary to that one mom who wrote an article about finding her children boring.

I need to read more Montessori literature these next few weeks to restock myself so that I can spend more time seeing the kids, including the school kids starting in Sept., for the people they are. I also need to spend some time today and tomorrow planning activities for this coming week. Thinking about the Montessori philosophy and observing my nephew's increasing loudness and hyperactivity during last week have made me see that he needs something else but just doesn't know what it is. It's my job to try to find that something that will satisfy him.

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