Children’s behaviour is the product of their environmental experience. From birth as new developments appear, they need to be exercised and strengthened.
An ideal environment is a place where children can assimilate culture without the need for direct instruction. This environment sharpens their senses, refines movement and they become more settled and orderly. Above all children need to feel loved and accepted.
Children find it easier to adapt to familiar settings and routines. This gives them a feeling of security rather than uncertainty. Any anxiety delays their ability to adapt to the environment.
Children take in the world through their senses, and the environment can offer the appropriate materials to test each sense. Parents can prepare natural materials at home for this purpose. When the senses are refined and the awareness tuned, the perceptions are also formed.
For example – As he carries a tray with objects, carefully pours a cup of tea from a small teapot, or puts on a lid, he sees the consequences of disorderly movement as the objects slide from the tray, the tea overflows, or the lid won’t fit. These are self-correcting exercises.
The environment needs to be safe, interesting and appealing. There should be access to a range of natural materials to manipulate and use in inventive experimentation and play. Through the interaction with the environment, his coordination improves and he begins to recognise order, resulting in more discipline.
Teachers, parents, siblings and friends are all part of the environment. Being in the company of understanding adults who gently nudge the child to a positive course of action and do not judge him is the ideal.
Showing the child how to take care of the environment is an important role of the adult. Giving orders, being told what to do and think, makes the mind dull. The child needs to be in a place where he can make choices, stand and think and act on his own intuition. He needs time to recognise and enjoy the reciprocal influence between himself and his surroundings.
It is best for adults to observe rather than to direct, and to allow children to choose to engage in activities that intrigue them when they are most interested in them. Any aggressive form of behaviour management can cause an aggressive response, and has a negative effect on the child’s other developmental skills – particularly social and emotional factors. An ideal environment gives the child a hint, in an indirect way, of what he can do to act in harmony with it.
In preparing a child for a richer life, it is important not to interrupt him when he engaged doing his work. When the task that he has chosen matches his skill, and it still holds a challenge, then he experiences a state of flow. There is a sense of timelessness and intrinsic motivation. Children who experience this state of flow are learning to be creative thinkers, they enjoy it, and whatever it produces has its own rewards. It is work for its own sake. Preparing an environment where there is an understanding of flow, and where it is valued, contributes to the child’s development, success and happiness in life. To protect this fragile state there should be an area that is peaceful and quiet, creating the circumstances for children to experience this state habitually. As he succeeds in mastering skills he feels empowered and his efforts are tireless.
Children are not experienced at controlling their moods. We can help them with various calming methods.
- Cool them with a damp cloth
- Put their feet in water if they are hot.
- Move them in a quieter place.
- Play some calming music, or massage them.
A Montessori exercise that has a calming effect is Walk On The Line. The teacher draws an ellipse on the floor in chalk and the children walk on the chalk line. This is a good centering exercise.
When we encourage everyone to help with the chores in the house, children take this way of life for granted. Things have to be set up to make it possible for them to participate in life and not just watch on. It is in the early years that we form habits, and because it is easier for us to do the chores ourselves, children often become useless at performing simple tasks. In actively carrying out these tasks they are strengthening their self-esteem and coordinating their actions and adapting to life.
Electronic devices now dominate the modern household and overuse by children can block their adaptation to a particular environment. They have a fascinating appeal, but they can take over the child’s full attention, limiting their real life experiences. Young children see many things on TV but they are passive onlookers. They are not in charge of what is presented and are not part of it. When exploring the real world they get a sense of adventure, take charge on how to proceed and wonder at the possibilities.
Movement is important for young bodies and passively sitting for long periods makes kids lethargic. They then find it difficult to transition into any other activity when they have been involved in fascinating games, music and entertainment on devices.
The music he hears in the home, the type of illustrations he sees, the smell of food cooking, construct a unique memory of that particular home.
It is important for them to have time to play, as playing has a role in allowing kids to adapt to the world.
Children need to respond to their environment, or better still, fall in love with it. It is through their work in a suitable environment that children become self-disciplined, orderly, inquisitive, inventive, courageous, creative, imaginative, alert and happy.