Overcoming the Odds: How Parents Can Use Montessori Principles to Raise Children with Agency

kids playing with their dad

Parents want to provide everything for their kids. This is an instinct, and it’s hardly unique to humans. Different species of animals, particularly among birds and mammals, display a variety of parental care methods.

Ideally, parents would want to set aside enough money to afford emergencies and plan for the future. They could then scout land for sale, secure a home in a good location, and send their kids to the best schools nearby.

But the ability to provide for our children in today’s world is increasingly uneven. Rising costs of living make it difficult for many families to make ends meet.

We’re supposed to raise kids who can make a difference in the world, but the present circumstances can make anyone feel helpless. Is there a parenting strategy that can help navigate such challenges?

Revisiting assumptions

To overcome the sense of powerlessness in today’s world, parents first have to challenge assumptions of what’s necessary. There are so many influences in parenting models, but several of them might have a vested interest in promoting a certain product as ‘essential.’

Following hearsay advice and trendy opinions on social media isn’t just potentially expensive. It can condition parents into thinking that there’s a product or service they can pay for, which will solve any given problem.

At the heart of the matter is the common concept of happiness and meaning. Many people think that having everything will lead to a happy and fulfilled life. But that’s not necessarily true.

More money certainly helps, but only up to a point. It can make your life more comfortable and assure in terms of some of the determinants of well-being. But it doesn’t make your life meaningful.

To the extent of their power, parents wouldn’t want to put their children at a disadvantage in life. But kids can prove remarkably resilient. They grow and learn and eventually take charge of the pursuit of their own happiness. What matters most is that parents focus on giving them the tools they need to lead rich and fulfilling lives eventually.

mother and child bonding

Making agency a priority

This brings the focus back to the issue of resources. Sure, you don’t need to buy a specific toy to make your child happy or enroll them in an early learning program to make them smart.

But affluent families are still better-positioned, overall, to send their kids to good schools. They can afford healthy meals. Parents whose jobs are knowledge-based are more likely to work from home and spend more time with their children.

Lower-income families, by contrast, have less margin for error or flexibility. If the parents hustle to do more than live paycheck to paycheck, it takes time away from their kids. The feeling is that if you want to improve in some aspect, you end up compromising on something else.

The answer is not to stop caring, but neither should a parent feel like a failure if they can’t cover all the bases. One area shouldn’t be compromised, though, and that’s the development of a child’s sense of agency.

Using Montessori principles

Through agency, a child can feel confident in their freedom and ability to make decisions that matter. Research has shown that it’s the one common factor among kids who grew up to succeed despite being raised in poverty.

The good news for low-income families is that there’s a proven method of raising children in such a way as to promote agency. It’s the Montessori way, and you don’t have to send kids to a specific school (though thousands do exist). You can begin to apply these methods at home by following the principles of Montessori teaching.

The Montessori method revolves around acknowledging that children are autonomous beings. Instead of imposing obedience or shaping them to our sensibilities, parents must give them attention and stimulation. The child leads their learning activities and is an active subject.

This principle also diminishes the factor of resources because it emphasizes the role of parents. What matters is that parents prepare themselves to be guides and models. That preparation extends to the environment, making it simple, clean, orderly, and suitable for a child’s movement.

By following the Montessori way, parents are encouraging their children to freely explore their environment each day. They feel empowered to choose activities they are interested in and focus on those for as long as they desire. Above all, they practice their agency daily. It will help them navigate their way through life and the world.

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